I used to think that allowing myself to eat whatever I want would mean having a very unhealthy diet. I imagined that if I let myself eat whatever took my fancy, I would end up living exclusively on processed junk and fatty, sugary foods. Over the years I have found that it is the total opposite. In fact, the more I listen to myself and tune in, the more I make a point of eating what I truly want, the healthier my diet becomes. It's when I don't listen to myself, when I don't make the time and effort to feed myself food I like that I tend to veer away from my ideal of a healthy diet.
Take this last week as an example. It's been mad busy and, for lots of reasons, we've been out of our usual routine. I have found myself constantly rushed and behind schedule and as a result I have not made the time to tune in and ask myself what I really wanted to eat. On the other hand, I made sure that my son and my partner were well looked after - my son has a thing for sweet-corn and mushrooms and avocados at the moment so there were plenty of those in the fridge and I made a point of preparing J's favourite spicy bacon pasta sauce for him to have on the night I was out. And yet on the one evening I was at home on my own I didn't make time to plan ahead and think about what I might want to eat like I had done for the rest of my family. I just thought: "The fridge is full of food, I'll cobble something together...".
By the time I had put my toddler to bed and answered a few emails I was hungry and ready to eat. I looked in the fridge and nothing really appealed, I was too tired and hungry to be creative and whip up something yummy from the kitchen cupboard staples and I didn't want to wait 45 minutes for the sushi delivery man (my no fail fallback option - I always fancy sushi!).
The result? I ended up picking at a piece of cheddar that had seen better days, a little bowl of peanuts, a couple of crackers with butter and marmite and a slice of leftover birthday cake. Although I don't think of any of these foods as particularly unhealthy, and sometimes they are just what I fancy eating, they don't really fit in with my ideal of a healthy meal most importantly because that is not what I really wanted to eat at the time.
As I sat there eating glumly I tuned in and realised that what I really fancied was a steaming hot bowl of creamy tomato soup with a slice of crusty sourdough bread topped with a chunk of tangy goats cheese. I also realised that if I'd put myself a little nearer to the top of my priorities list I could have nipped to the shops to get the ingredients earlier on in the day. All I would have had to do then is shove the tomatoes into the oven to slow roast (while I did bath and bed) and then zap them with my trusty blender, unwrap the cheese, slice the bread and I'd be eating this yummy - and in my opinion healthy - meal instead of the disappointing compromise I was looking at.
So to answer the question in the title of this post: yes. I do believe that I can eat whatever I want and have a healthy diet. In fact, I think it is the only way to have a healthy diet.
It's when I put myself last (and aren't we women sooo good at that?), when I don't make time, when I don't look after myself that I end up eating foods that don't nourish and satisfy me instead of foods that do just that and that are made with real, fresh ingredients that I like and taste good. That's my definition of a healthy diet.
What's yours? How much time do you make for yourself - to listen and to tune in to what you really want?