When you want to make a change, it’s wise to identify what barriers might stand in your way.  This would be true for starting a new business, moving, changing sleep patterns, buying a house, starting a family…the list is endless.  It’s also most definitely applicable to adopting healthier behaviors around food.

I would like to help you in identifying those barriers and by and large the biggest one I see is the all-or-nothing mentality.  RIGHT!?  If you’ve had any experience with diets or a rigid mindset around food, I’m sure you would recognize this restriction/chaos cycle:

1.  Start a diet with strict rules
2.  Lack of variety creates boredom and feelings of deprivation
3.  Break strict dietary rules and “cheat” on diet
4.  Feel guilty for “cheating” and give up altogether
5.  Eat all the foods you weren’t allowed on the diet

And then you start over.  While many may assume that restriction is a solution for chaos, I believe it causes it.  Why would we need to rebel if we didn’t have a set of unnecessary and rigid rules to begin with?  As you move forward, I believe your biggest asset will be to increase your window of tolerance around food.  Increased flexibility with a wide variety of foods will allow you to challenge this black and white thinking.

I find it common for individuals to avoid fundamentally healthy foods because of past diet rules.  Things like bread, potatoes, corn, avocado, nuts and seeds, oils and fats, certain fruits, beans, cheese, dairy products…satisfying and inherently nutrient-rich foods!  I’ve said it (a million times) before, feeling full and satisfied from your meals is your solution, not your problem.  Including a wide variety of satisfying foods will work to prevent you from entering the restriction/chaos cycle – which is where the real trouble is.

At the very least, I would encourage you to choose a carbohydrate, a protein, a fat and a fruit and/or vegetable at each meal.  Be flexible and include a wide variety from meal to meal and day to day.  Also, if you are going more than 3-4 hours between meals, be sure to include a snack from 1-2 food groups listed above to, once again, ensure balance, variety, flexibility and satisfaction.

My #1 goal for anyone I work with is to first normalize eating behaviors.  While it may sound simplistic, I know that giving yourself permission to eat a wide variety of foods is the way to beat the all-or-nothing mentality, and therefore extreme and unhealthy behaviors around food.  Be sure to include a wide variety of foods from each food group in a way you find physiologically and psychologically satisfying!

Emily Fonnesbeck RD, CD