When sitting down for a meal, what do you see?
Something delicious? Something necessary to get you through to the next meal? Something to enjoy? A mixture of numbers or a scientific breakdown?
For the health conscious, one of the great benefits of the modern age is that we can enjoy limitless access to information and resources to support us as we build a personal understanding of what each of us can do to lead a healthier life.
When it comes to what we eat in particular, the wealth of information telling us what we should, or shouldn’t eat or drink has become very complex.
If you’re willing to make the time and do the research, you’re looking at an infinite number of diets and regimens, most of which place the loss of weight as a priority, but many more that suggest various other benefits such as increased energy, focus, better metabolism… and so on.
Well, isn’t that a good thing? The more educated we are about our food, the better the choices we can make about what we eat, and how we can be healthier in those choices.
Yes, broadly, that’s true. But consider this: by paying such close attention to our intakes, could we be cultivating negative behaviour?
Perhaps when looking at that meal, you find yourself thinking through everything on the plate, rating it in terms of fat content, whether it’s processed, how much sugar….
Is too much analysis good for you?
Making a positive change in how you eat is something that’s individual to each one of us. The fact that it requires willpower is true for us all.
Willpower is a good thing; taking your own steps to improve your health and lifestyle is an empowering act; just making the decision to cut down on fast food for example, or increase the whole foods in your diet, are positive actions you should be happy about.
But when people adopt a cast iron, inflexible discipline that in one stroke requires them to live life in a radically different way then there’s a potential for concern.
Some misguided intentions on that kind of scale can sometimes lead to bad outcomes. Anxiety over accepting dinner invites in case the host puts something unhealthy in the recipe; becoming overly fussy about the purity of food, or ruling out an entire foodgroup.
For others, it’s about control. There’s so much information bombarding us, every day about all the unhealthy practices and temptations of modern life…one of the few things we can control is what we eat, so when we hear those warnings, we feel in control of their impact on us through our diet.
In recent history, this phenomenon has actually garnered increasing attention, with schools of thought suggesting that this kind of overanalysis, characterised by a fixation on policing foodstuffs, can be more unhealthy than healthy. People who obsess over their intake to this extent are at best always fretting and fussing over food, or at worst may be withholding important nutrients from their bodies in the name of ‘diet’.
In reality only a very few people ever find themselves affected to that extreme, but it does shine a light on how ‘healthy eating’ could actually become compulsive in a manner few of us would think to consider.
Eat Well – not just by the numbers
Breaking food down into numbers and ratios really will take all of the enjoyment out of what is a major part of our everyday life. There’s a definite case for having a think about what you’re eating. But perhaps take the educated approach in developing a reasoned view.
For example, it’s good to understand that processed foods have often been stripped of nutrients to give them a longer shelf life, or had their flavours enhanced by additives. Where you can, try to buy organically grown, or food that isn’t full of artificial ingredients. Ideally, a good basic diet should be rich in organic fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, free range eggs, fresh fish and lean organic meats.
Applying knowledge of the best food sources and creating a balance that suits you is a great approach; – you don’t need to make it a doctrine that rules your life. There’s a limitless potential for new meals and combinations that can satisfy both your stomach and your curiosity – if you use a little imagination and have the time to do so, of course!
With balance, enjoying the food we love is not something to be worried about. A little chocolate, wine, your favourite indulgent dishes – it’s fine to continue enjoying these things along with measured, positive changes to your overall diet.
Eating well has so much more to offer us than just a physical breakdown of our food. Taking pleasure from, enjoying and being creative with our food is all part of a healthy, holistic approach. For an ideal balance, this should never take a back seat to having the “perfect diet.”