Thursday 7 October 2010

Can I eat whatever I want and have a heathy diet?

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?


  1. I agree that we are good at putting ourselves last, or feeling guilty when we put our needs before someone else's wants. It's not a bad thing, considering that we do the pregnancy and breastfeeding part of parenting, both of which demand putting someone else's needs before ours for a limited period of time, but then we feel guilty when we finally decide to lie down instead of blitzing the house or making ourselves a nice meal instead of just eating leftovers from the fridge.

    I agree completely that once we start tuning in, really tuning in, we find that we want food that makes us feel good, and that is usually REAL food (not low fat or full of sugar or sugar free!).
    Thanks for putting that all out in print.

  2. So THAT's how you make really good home-made tomato soup! Thank you.

    Yes, I know exactly what my husband's and daughters' favourite foods are and wouldn't dream of feeding them what I feed myself if I'm alone. If they're away I wander round the supermarket stumped. We have to treat ourselves as if we were our own best friends.

  3. agree!!!!!!!
    I often found myself eating after my daughter/husband, only because I feel bad throwing out food. I understand it is not a good habbit and could not imagine that I could feed someone with such leftovers...have to work with myself!!!!

  4. It is sometimes hard to remember to put ourselves, as women, at the top of our own list - there are so many other people competing for the spot. Doing it once and really noticing how much better it can be, will encourage us to do it more often. I too will be using Audrey's recipe for tomato soup and the sourdour bread and warm goats cheese accompaniment sound heavenly!

  5. Completely agree! I realised that I was doing just that (not putting myself first) just a few weeks ago and I've been feeling much better since I started doing it. Amazingly, I've also found out that it's helped me slow down, tune in and get and eat EXACTLY what I feel like eating - and it is indeed, on the whole, VERY healthy! (Something I've also been worrying about for at least 2 years!) Thank you Beyond Chocolate!
    Also wanted to say that today, I've sent the 'I'm part of the BC campaign' email to one of my friends, who I suspect is still trying to lose weight with WW (we haven't talked about this for a while, but I doubt that she'll have heard of BC, unfortunately... Well now she has!)


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