It was a cold Saturday afternoon and I was walking to the shops with one of my dancing friends. We were at rehearsal at the theatre up the road and went for a walk to grab a snack on our break. We rushed into the supermarket where I grabbed a muesli bar and an apple juice and started walking back to the theatre for our afternoon session. One of the young dance teachers saw us sitting outside eating our snacks and said ‘Those aren’t very healthy choices.’
‘Mine is!’ I said as I held up my muesli bar and juice. My friend (who was at least a quarter of the size of me) had bought a Mars Bar and a chocolate milk.
The dance teacher showed me the nutrition panel on my muesli bar compared to the Mars Bar. It was almost identical, except that my muesli bar actually had MORE fat in it. I was gobsmacked. She also showed me how the juice had as much sugar as a can of Coke.
I know some people will think the dance teacher shouldn’t have said anything about the food we were eating but personally, I was very grateful to her for pointing that out. I had NO IDEA the ‘healthy’ food I was eating was as high in fat and sugar as the non-nourishing foods I’d been trying to avoid.
Since then, I’ve been even more conscious of the food I eat. My body knows exactly what to do with excess calories – store them as fat. I once had a doctor tell me I’d be the last one standing in a famine. Which would be excellent news if I was living in Ireland in 1845. Unfortunately for me, my metabolism isn’t suited for a modern life of trying to stave off heart disease and other obesity-related issues. This is why I need to give a shit about my eating habits. This tweet is basically my life.
It’s not just about weight loss, it’s also about general health. I lost 10 kgs last year by giving up sugar and eating a low carb high fat diet. My partner also did this and he’s an absolute beanpole. Very tall and very lean without an inch of fat on him and he’s looked like that his entire life, no matter what he eats (the bastard). He read that eating low carb high fat was good for energy levels and focus so he decided to do it with me. We’re both thrilled with the results and we feel the best we’ve ever felt. We haven’t so much as had a slice of pizza or a dirty pub burger in over a year. And honestly, we don’t even miss it. We’ll occasionally have a sweet treat like a slice of gluten-free apple pie if a mate makes a special dessert for us but sugar tastes strange to us now and if we go overboard it gives us horrific nightmares. For real, sugar nightmares are an actual thing and they’re terrifying. I’m gobsmacked at how much food can affect us, weight gain/loss is only the very tip of the iceberg. Caveat: I’ve lost interest in almost all ‘yummy’ foods except dumplings and ice cream. They’re my forever treats. I’ll never let go Jack.
I’m certainly not suggesting that everyone goes out and quits and sugar and adopts a strict eating regime but I know that a lot of people want to get on top of their eating habits so here are a few tips that might just sort you out.
I’m also not trying to food or diet shame anyone. We all have times in our lives when it’s all we can do to pour some hot water on a pot noodle and call it dinner and that’s fine. Although in my humble opinion, Mi Goreng is better but you do you. Instant noodles 4eva.
This post isn’t for people who have bigger things to worry about right now or indeed people who don’t really give a crap about what they’re eating. This is for those people who want to break their everyday banana bread habit or make healthier choices at lunchtime.
5 ways to totally nail your eating habits…
1. Make plants a priority
This is one of the easiest ways to make healthy choices without obsessing over calories. If you’re at a cafe for lunch, pick the thing with the most vegetables or at least a 70% vegetables to ‘other stuff’ ratio. Choose the beef/tofu salad with quinoa over the pulled pork burger that has only a shred of lettuce and a slice of tomato. Easy.
2. Don’t obsess about food
I found making healthy choices difficult when I was younger because I had this real victim mentality. If I had a salad it meant I was ‘missing out’ on the pizza/lasagne/nuggets/chips. Choosing the healthiest option is exhausting if you maintain the attitude that you’re missing out or it’s some kind of punishment to eat nourishing food. Once I changed my mindset from ‘I’m missing out!’ to ‘I’m making a consciously healthy choice’ it made it far less upsetting to have to constantly choose the healthiest option. It takes work but honestly, I don’t even think about ordering anything other than a salad or a plant-based meal when I’m out. It’s just a no-brainer good habit now.
3. Notice how you feel after you’ve eaten certain foods
It took me a while to separate the pleasure I got from eating non-nourishing foods and how crap I felt after I’d eaten them. It wasn’t even a guilt thing. Fatty, fried food made me feel nauseous and sluggish and sugar gave me a hollow, buzzy headache. I’m not saying I never eat foods like this (hello dumplings and ice cream my old friends), I just make sure I’m prepared to feel a little bit rubbish after I eat them. Or I eat those foods super slowly and in small amounts so I don’t overdo it. The next time you eat a food that you’re trying to cut back on (like chocolate or Chinese takeaway) really focus on how you feel after you’ve eaten it. You might just feel like garbage which is an excellent thing to remember the next time you feel tempted.
4. JERF – Just Eat Real Food
Let’s be real here, no one is exactly going out hunting for food these days but I love the analogy of eating real food. So imagine you’re hungry and all the shops in the world are closed, what food could you theoretically get? Nuts, fruit, vegetables, milk and meat. Those are the foods you should be eating most of the time (obviously not ALL of those foods if you’re a vegetarian or vegan and we should all go easy on meat in general for our health and the environment). A small handful nuts is an excellent snack, as is half an avocado. Celery sticks with peanut butter can really keep you going in the afternoon and some full-fat Greek yogurt (that counts as milk right?) is an ace mid-morning snack.
5. Be strict when you can so you can relax when you can’t
Making healthy choices can be really hard if you’re out for dinner and everyone is sharing dishes but you know what? Fuck it. Just eat the wonderful food and enjoy it. You know when it’s NOT hard to make healthy choices? When you’re packing your lunch, cooking your own dinner, shopping at the supermarket or ordering at a cafe during a meeting at work. Many, many years ago I resolved to always make healthy choices whenever it was in my power. This meant not grabbing a chocolate bar to have after dinner on the couch by myself or not ordering a muffin with my coffee because I felt like a sweet treat. It meant not choosing a burger for lunch instead of a salad. This means I can eat an amazing dessert a friend made for me or go out for yum cha with my family and not give a crap. I save non-nourishing food choices for when I’m not in control of the menu and it works out quite well.
Here are a few more food-hacky posts you might like…