You are what you eat. I know, it’s a cliche! But if that is true, then why does this most natural and simple activity seem like a struggle?
With an overload of information in the health/food area, various diets and fine marketing ploys by big food companies, it can be a daunting exercise to know what healthy eating means. To top it, the information is misleading. To find the signal in the noise, I have three simple insights that can get one started.
1. The Role of Food
This conversation is an important one! And since conversations these days happen mostly online and hashtags are oh-so-important, let’s look at a few trending hashtags on Instagram around food.
#foodgasm, #foodcoma, #foodoholic, #foodmania, #foodbeast and my all time favourite, #foodporn.
FoodPorn! Now, when you start associating food with language and emotion synonymous with porn, it will essentially become that. Unreal, addictive and, on top of it, unhealthy!
When food and eating is treated as an extreme sensory experience, and the pleasure of the senses is the sole goal, you lose sight of what you’re eating, how much of it you’re eating and when to stop. This is one of the main reasons that the picture of a molten chocolate cake on your Instagram feed makes you drool and instantly long for it. You might even have a go at it on the same day.
But, how do you change the conversation?
a) Change your relationship with food
Stop the mind-numbing indulgence and the urge to pig out on that tub of ice cream just because you broke up with your fifth boyfriend or your cat died! Food is not your shrink and neither will it solve your emotional problems.
Eating is a nourishing activity that fuels your body and mind. It needs to be done in a timely and controlled fashion, while being appreciative and grateful for your body.
b) Change your vocabulary around food
Comfort eating, binge eating, getting a sugar high; don’t these expressions remind of you substance abuse behaviour?
The language around food is extremely important. Language provokes thought and thoughts lead to feelings and feelings to action. And you will not realise that in the blink of an eye you just devoured that extra-large portion of nachos with melted cheese and a tub of salsa! Meant for four.
Avoid the language of excess. Think satiety, contentedness and nourishment when you think of a meal and your choices and portions will be wiser.
c) Create mindfulness.
Ever wonder how you are able to stuff your face with a ton of caramel popcorn, while watching a movie? Exactly! That’s you eating without awareness of any kind.
And trust me, when there is distraction around food, you will eat a lot more. That’s the reason tubs of popcorn are getting larger and more expensive at the movies.
Make eating a priority while eating, whether alone or with friends and family. Stop texting, looking at cat videos or watching that stupid soap on TV. Go old school. Mealtime is family time with simple food and yes, awkward conversations.
2. Think Global, Eat Local
The farther the food travels to reach your plate, the broader your waist will be! Period. And this I feel should be absolute common sense!
There is no way that your favourite brand of couscous from North Africa has found its way to that fancy super market shelf without a 100 artificial preservatives. And that will pile on the kilos.
Meals that are prepared with fresh, locally grown and seasonal ingredients have a key role to play in keeping your weight in place. Not just that, it helps maintain the ecosystem around food; namely, the local agricultural economy, financial health of millions of farmers, price imbalances and year-round demand-supply balance.
The reason why olive oil, couscous, quinoa or some other exotic ingredient that your grandmother has never heard of, gets so much visibility is because big food companies spend mega marketing bucks to sell them. And by the way , it only costs Rs 600 for half a kilo.
So ditch that quinoa, grab that bajra, jowar or ragi. It will be light on your wallet and waist!
3. Learn to Read Labels
Do you ever remember your grandmother eat fat-free or diet anything? No, right? And yet probably, like mine, has lived a healthy 90 years, is up and about, while you pant like a dog on heat, climbing four flight of stairs.
Be mindful at your favourite grocery store.
Low-fat cheese, fat-free yogurt, diet cola, high-fibre biscuits, flourless cake! Run a mile away from products that have these and other such gimmicks on their label.
Such labels only mean that fat, sugar, dairy, whatever the product is free of, has only been replaced by something artificial and you are better off with the original version. Nice block of cheddar with full fat!
While its not practical to completely do away with processed food, it need not be your go-to option every time. Stop reaching out for biscuits, savoury snacks, muffins, sugary drinks and instant meals. Instead, make the effort to include healthy options like fruit, home-made yogurt, almonds and walnuts to satisfy your snacking requirements.
I am not a qualified nutritionist or an expert. But I don’t think one needs to be an expert to understand anything I have said here.
I have been following this practice of eating right for over two years now and you can stalk me on Facebook or Instagram and figure for yourself if it’s worth your while, or not. Go now! Make that call to your grandmom for some food wisdom.
(Sangeetha Aiyer is a media professional by day and a dreamer, drifter and seeker by night. She is a keto enthusiast and a strength training evangelist. She believes that life is always work-in-progress and that it’s important to love the process than the result.)
(This is a blog and the views expressed above are the author’s own. FIT neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)
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