“I’m eating cardboard now, so at least you’ll be happy.”
That opening line came right after I introduced myself to new client. He had recently suffered a heart attack and had been “put on a diet” by his well-intentioned wife, who had brought him to see me for reinforcement.
Many people think that they have to choose between healthy food and food they enjoy. “If it tastes good, spit it out,” goes the old joke. Not so! Nutritious, wholesome food can also taste great. That’s the Sweet Spot.
Here are six tips to help you find your Sweet Spot:
- Figure out what works for you. There are many ways of eating that promote and support good health. Honour your preferences, use your common sense, and don’t feel pressured to follow advice from your neighbour, sister, favourite celebrity, best-selling author, website, TV doctor…
- Eat mostly plants – It’s not necessary to be a vegetarian, but ideally, most of what you eat will be veggies, fruit, whole grains, beans, nuts, and seeds, with some fish, milk products, and lean fresh meat if you like.
- Eat minimally processed food – Eat mostly foods that are close to their original state – oranges vs. orange juice, veggies vs. veggie chips, whole grain vs. white bread – with minimal added salt and sugar. That goes double for sweetened beverages – pop, juice, fancy coffees, and more.
- Focus on what you are eating, not what you cut out – Vegetarian, low-fat, low-carb, grain-free, or gluten-free diets can be very healthy, or quite poor. That’s one reason dietary studies sometimes give conflicting results. It’s what you do eat that matters.
- Think about why, how, and where you eat – With food being available everywhere we turn, it’s easy to overdo it. If it happens too often, look beyond what you’re eating to why, how, and where you eat. Identifying and addressing the root causes of overeating, such as a lack of sleep or eating while emailing, can help you more easily control your eating habits.
- Perfection is not necessary – Strive for the healthiest diet you can truly enjoy. If that means a sprinkle of salt here or a cookie there, so be it. Some people find the 80/20 rule helpful – if you’re eating 80%+ healthy food, you’re doing pretty well.
And what happened to my frustrated client? To his surprise, I asked him to tell me more about what he was missing, and together we came up with some ways he could bring pleasure back to eating. It’s not realistic to expect someone to give up enjoyment of food for life, and there are lots of ways to make healthy eating taste good. That’s the Sweet Spot. How do you hit yours?