The holidays are officially behind us and the new year ahead. As we come out of our festive coma, we look at the past year and reflect. We remember the good times, the bad times and everything we didn’t accomplish or did (you go-getter you!). We also remember the savory meals, the delectable desserts and satisfying sweets, and how many pounds we gained eating grandma’s fudge. We resolve to do things differently, the first being that we will never eat sweets again. Well, until we pass the nearest ice cream shop. (And then we will only get one scoop instead of two.) The second typical resolution usually revolves around body image; we are going to get thinner, be healthier, lose weight, eat better, go on a diet, etc. We start the new year, focusing on food, what we will eat, what we won’t, which foods are healthy, which aren’t, fatty or lean, and it goes on and on and on. With so many options it’s no wonder that when we decide to change ourselves we start with what nourishes our bodies.
Our bodies are rather wonderful things. What a body does with food is astonishing – breaking down components (carbohydrates, proteins, fats) to usable amino acids and sugars. It’s amazing how our cells absorb those amino acids and simple sugars to make energy that keeps our bodies going. What we put into our bodies is really important, and that’s why we resolve to cut back on the ‘bad’ foods and increase the ‘good’ foods. But, which is which? If you have a piece of pizza with kale, chicken, light sauce, cheese, and fresh tomatoes is that bad? What about gluten-free spaghetti noodles with turkey sausage and a tomato sauce? Or, are canned fruits and veggies better for you than fresh? Or, are free-range organic eggs more nutritious than their non-organic caged counterparts? Talk about first world problems. But what does healthy really mean? ‘Healthy’ means to be in good health. ‘Health’ means “the condition of being well or free from disease”. So when you eat a single Twinkie as a treat, and don’t get sick, does that mean it’s healthy? Or you eat an entire bushel of fresh peaches and get the runs, does that mean it’s unhealthy?
With access to more information and a plethora of sources to get information from, deciding what you eat has become something of a hassle. Throw in economic status and household income and diets can drastically differ between people who live in the same city. Celebrities influence diets, doctors suggest a different diets and many have decided to eat like Neanderthals (know the Croods anyone?). Instead of trying to figure out what’s ‘healthy’ what’s ‘unhealthy’ and which diet will help you lose the most pounds, we should be developing a healthy relationship with food and understand how it affects our body. Maybe there is no such thing as ‘bad’ food. You can eat a variety of foods, considered healthy or unhealthy as long as you understand what it will do to you and for you. Everything in moderation. Those who have a good relationship with their food understand the balance one needs when managing diet.
Here are some tips to improving your relationship with food:
- Know the difference between a treat and eating the entire pan of brownies (Too much of a good thing can actually be a bad thing.)
- Eat breakfast every single morning (This jump starts your metabolism and helps you burn calories throughout the day.)
- Eat when you are hungry, but don’t over indulge (Listen to your body. If your stomach growls it means you are running on empty and need to refuel.)
- Stop eating when you are full (Eat slower so you can better determine when you are full. You can also measure out portions. Tip: most portions should be smaller than you think.)
- Eat in servings, don’t eat the ice cream straight from the container (Portion control is huge. Simple tricks like using a smaller bowl or plate can really help.)
As we resolve to do better, be healthier and make this year the best it can be, don’t shy away from losing those pounds or eating better. Go out there, get active! Research your foods and decide what you feel is good for you. Go see a nutritionist. Get educated about your food and how it affects your body. Eat in moderation, but don’t forget to treat yourself occasionally. May this year be the year of food and smart eating.
– Rheba Yost is a guest blogger for IALF. She works in ag media and holds a degree in agriculture from Kansas State University.