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When we become obsessed about anything it can be all-consuming and means we may not be giving attention to the other things in our life that matter – and healthy eating is no different.
Is this something you can relate to in terms of what you eat?
You may have gone vegan for the animals or for environmental reasons. This can then lead you into finding out more about the health and nutrition side of things.
It’s great to be more aware of what you’re eating, of course, but it’s important to not get obsessed.
Eating healthily is incredibly important, for your mental and physical health, now and in the future, but it’s not the only thing you need to give time and space to in your life.
In my work as a health coach and weight management adviser I’m often asked very specific details around food. People come to me because they’ve decided they want to start eating more healthily and want to adopt a plant-based way of eating.
But they’re confused and don’t know where to start. It’s hardly surprising when we’re bombarded with so much conflicting information.
Not all research is without bias
It’s worth bearing in mind that some of what you read will be anecdotal and some may be biased because of vested interests, such as councils and associations commissioning research to give results in their favor.
This is why it can be easy to get bogged down and not know what to believe.
Focus on healthy foods
Rather than getting caught up in the detail it’s much healthier to focus on eating nourishing food most of the time.
This means basing most of what you eat on whole food (food that’s had little or no processing), with a small amount of processed foods. Foods such as:
- vegetables – can be fresh, frozen or tinned
- fruits – fresh and dried
- wholegrains – brown rice, oats, wholewheat pasta, wholemeal bread, couscous
- pulses – beans, chickpeas and lentils
- nuts and seeds
- dairy alternatives – yogurt, milk
- source of B12, such as nutritional yeast flakes, yeast extract or supplement
Focusing on these foods means you’ll be getting plenty of fiber, which is only found in plant foods.
Most people in the UK don’t eat enough fiber and this can have serious health implications. You’ll also be getting a mix of healthy fats, good sources of carbohydrates and protein, along with vitamins and minerals.
If you’d find a visual guide handy then check out the Eatwell Guide from Plant Based Health Professionals UK, which you can download here.
Your routine may already include familiar meals and recipes you like to make on a regular basis.
This is great because it can save you time because you’re not having to learn a new recipe. Just make sure you include a wide variety of foods to ensure you’re getting the nutrients you need.
What you eat MOST of the time is what matters
Focusing on whole foods most of the time doesn’t mean you can’t ever eat vegan options for chocolate, cake, crisps, ice-cream and biscuits.
Nor does it mean a take-away pizza or veggie burger and chips are off the menu.
It’s what you eat MOST of the time that really matters.
Don’t ban foods
If you ban certain foods it can be very easy to obsess about them.
If you decide to change what you’re eating you can make life a lot easier for yourself by not giving yourself rules about what you can and can’t eat.
For some people this does work, they are just all or nothing people, but for most of us, having guidelines, as opposed to rules, is much more sustainable, in terms of our behaviour and health.
This is because your brain can’t deal with being told to not think something, such as ‘I must not eat chocolate’.
To demonstrate what I mean, if I said to you, ‘Don’t think of pink elephants’, what pops into your head?
If weight loss is your aim, recording every calorie and how much you’re eating of everything can take over your life. What you’re eating is far more important than counting up your calories in a day.
Counting calories is a diet, and for the majority of people diets don’t work in the long term. As Dr Michael Greger states in his book ‘How Not To Diet’, “The reason diets don’t work almost by definition is that people go on them, and then they go off them. Permanent weight loss is only achieved through permanent lifestyle change.”
Focus on the positives
Try adopting a more positive approach by focusing on eating more healthily and being aware of when you’re hungry and full.
Enjoy how it makes you feel to be giving your body what it needs to thrive and to feel energetic and healthy.
In the long-term this will reap rewards for you both in your mental and physical health.
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