When it comes to using food to help you lose weight and/or just be healthier, there can be a lot of confusion about what constitutes the healthiest eating plan. Patients have expressed to me how they are hesitant to try eating a healthy diet because there is so much conflicting information out there. When it comes to eating to promote your best health, we should not get the idea that one eating plan fits all. Take me, for example, a 65 year old prediabetic with a history of hypertension and childhood obesity. A LCHF (low carb healthy fat) lifestyle along with regular exercise is the approach that has made me healthier now than I was 20 years ago. Others whose medical profile or personal preferences are different might not find this approach either desirable or sustainable long term. That said, I believe there are some universal concepts that hold true no matter what WOE (way if eating) we choose. One of those concepts is that you must learn to love the foods that love you back!
Often when I try to advise patients on healthy eating they tell me that they cannot sustain a long term healthy eating plan because they “love” ice cream (or chips or cookies or cornbread, etc). My response to anyone who has struggled with their weight for this reason is, “what has ice cream ever done for you?” Having an unshakeable love for foods that are unhealthy for you is like being in a relationship with someone who is physicalIy abusing you. We keep letting that person back into our lives and expecting it to be different this time but it rarely is! We can’t keep returning to eating french fries and other junk foods every day and expect them to make us healthy this time around. That is part of the reason why 95% of people who lose a significant amount of weight gain it back within 2 years!
I totally understand the passion we have for food because I LOVE to eat. That love led me to take up interval running in my late fifties with the notion that “I run so I can eat.” That turned out to be a big fat lie! As I have said in a previous blog, you cannot “outrun”a bad diet. We need to acknowledge that we eat as much for enjoyment as we do for fuel. We just need to train ourselves to love the foods that love us back with positive changes in our health.
When you make a commitment to becoming a healthier you, why not take the focus off the foods you should no longer eat but instead focus on learning to love those foods that you know are good for you? The disease causing foods like sugar and sugary drinks, processed carbs (junk food) and deep fried foods pretty obviously have no place in your pursuit of good health. Regardless of which healthy eating plan you choose you will be told to reduce your intake of these foods. Instead of mourning the loss of the “bad” foods you shouldn’t eat, try to forget them and get excited about all the wonderful things you get to enjoy eating and still be healthy! You can take control of your own health by making this simple shift in your mindset!
Here is just a partial list of some of the wonderful things to eat that will promote wellness in your life. The closer any food can be to its natural state the better. Make it a habit to shop the perimeter of the grocery store to find the real food! I have included some of my personal favorites in this list but the list is not exhaustive by any means. Identify the good foods that you already like and eat more of those before venturing out to the foods you think you don’t like right now.
1. Green leafy vegetables, especially the dark leafy greens like spinach, mustard and collard greens and kale are encouraged in almost every diet I have ever seen (Lord knows I have tried them all). It is a good practice to eat a big salad topped with healthy proteins and fats every day as one of your meals.
2. Other non starchy vegetables that you should be eating on the regular include cabbage, cucumbers, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cauliflower and tomatoes. Learn to prepare these in ways that will tickle your palate and they will become your go to side dishes instead of the starches that gave you love handles but no love!
3. Foods containing protein and healthy fats like fatty fish (i.e. mackerel, lake trout, herring, sardines, albacore tuna and wild salmon) are excellent choices. Seafood, poultry, eggs, cheese and other dairy products and even meats can also be a part of a healthy diet depending on your medical history.
4. Raw Nuts and Seeds (i.e. almonds, pecans. walnuts, flaxseed, chia seeds, hemp) are also good choices in small quantities.
5. Berries – strawberries, blueberries and raspberries are preferred over the tropical fruits because their sugar content is so much lower.
6. Avocados. This stone fruit with a creamy texture is chock full of healthy monounsaturated fats, vitamins C, E, K and B6 as well as potassium and magnesium! This is the one healthy food that inspired me to write this post. I never even knew that I liked avocados until I found out how good they were for me. Now I eat them almost daily! During a recent run-cation to New England, we were celebrating my birthday at a nice restaurant. I ordered the lobster cocktail thinking I would eat the fresh lobster and bypass the sugar laden cocktail sauce. Imagine my sheer delight when they put it in front of me and it was topped with guacamole!! I was tempted to ask them to put a candle on it so I could pretend it was my birthday “cake!” I was even surprised at myself for getting that excited over unexpected avocado!! I can honestly say that I love avocados in the same way that I used to love potato chips! Amazing! Here is a picture of that lobster cocktail and it was delicious!
All joking aside, I hope you get my point. If you eat a food that you thought you didn’t like and it contributes to your feeling great, you will soon learn to love it!! Give yourself the chance to fall in love with healthy foods and I promise they will love you back by making you a healthier you!
Yvonne Moore, MD
“Dear friend, I hope all is well with you and that you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit”
3 John 1:2 (NLT)