Tell me if this sounds familiar… 🙋♀️
You finally make the decision that you want to work towards a healthier lifestyle, so you decide to start eating healthier.
You grab your computer and start researching nutrition only to find a million (more like a billion) articles on different types of diets from paleo to Whole 30 and even intuitive eating. And each one has conflicting opinions on what to actually eat.
Hold up… can I eat the avocado or not?! 🥑 ⚠️
Or maybe, your story involves a health diagnosis and you’re trying to use food as medicine. Maybe you learned your body reacts badly to different types of food and so you need to adjust your diet and focus on nutrition.
Very quickly, finding foods to eat feels stressful, your diet feels restricted, and your stress ends up affecting your health too.
So, what’s a girl to do? 🤷♀️
Intuitive Eating from a Faith-Based Perspective
To help answer your questions and address the stress that can come from eating healthy, I spoke with Alyssa Pike on the podcast.
Alyssa is a registered dietician with a nutrition counseling private practice, Gratefully Nourished, who believes that food is a gift and health is multidimensional.
Alyssa has made it her mission to help women recover from dieting and disordered eating through a non-diet approach. In her practice, she often focuses on an intuitive eating approach.
And let me tell ya, she is bringing some WISDOM today with practical clinical insight and a faith-based perspective.
Alyssa has a unique perspective and I even challenged her a little, but I learned a lot and what she had to say was freeing in many ways.
The Harm of Dieting
With so much information floating around in the cybersphere (is that even a word?!), I asked Alyssa to share what she thinks is harmful or inaccurate about society’s view of eating and dieting.
And her response was very interesting. Let me summarize it for ya.
It can be harmful to believe that our health is completely up to us, because it plays into our desire for control.
If we’re diagnosed with something, of course we want to do the best we can to control it or remove it to take care of ourselves. While this is well intentioned, what gets tricky is that our efforts to control everything can lead to shame and stress and we can become obsessive.
Food can absolutely be helpful and healing. But the question we need to ask is: is this going to be stress-inducing or stress-reducing?
If you’re becoming too worried about eating 100%, you could end up stressed (also not good for your health) and you could also start to develop a negative mindset around food.
Plus, when we’re hyper-focused on food, we can also begin to neglect other pieces of health that can be just as helpful (like stress reduction and sleep).
During our conversation, Alyssa also mentioned intuitive eating, a concept she refers to quite a bit in her practice.
Intuitive eating involves listening to your body’s cues and what your body needs. Instead of solely focusing on what to cut out from your diet, you’re more focused on what you can give your body for nourishment.
She said, “If we didn’t live in a culture that focused so much on dieting, we could just call intuitive eating, eating.”
If there’s anything I’ve learned on my own health journey, it’s the importance of listening to your bodies and not ignoring the cues it’s giving you.
HOW TO COMBAT Food-Related STRESS
Alyssa’s words reminded me of when I first began making changes to my diet. I had discovered my body was reacting poorly to certain foods and I was working with a functional medicine doctor and dietician to improve my health through food and lifestyle changes.
When I first started, I was so worried about cutting out all the bad stuff, like gluten, and eating organic 100% of the time, that it became very stressful. I started to become more focused on restrictions than I was on nutrition.
After a long talk with my functional doctor and my dietician, I began to realize that what I really needed to focus on was how to NOURISH my body. What could I give my body to help it heal and make sure it got all the nutrients it needed?
And if I ate well 85% of the time, my body could handle the other 15% of the time when I didn’t have the opportunity to eat perfectly or organically.
Alyssa said it this way: “We don’t want to do things with the assumption that I can control everything. There’s a difference between doing things that are within my control and reaching for control in a way that’s becoming obsessive.”
“We need to check our intentions: Am I doing this because it’s actually going to be health promoting or am I doing this because I’m grasping for control and this feels like the closest thing available?”
So, what can you do to avoid a negative mindset around food? Make sure you have regular check-ins with yourself, God, and people you’re close to who can help keep you accountable.
Consider journaling, seeing a counselor, or talking through any stress you have with a loved one.
PRACTICAL STEPS TO Eating Healthier
Alright, so what if you’re ready to make some changes to your eating habits, but you’re not sure where to start?
The best advice? Start small. Start with one idea to start with.
Maybe you’ll start with incorporating vegetables into each of your meals, or drinking half your body weight in ounces of water. Maybe your first step is to replace soda with fruit infused water.
Whatever it is, be realistic and honest about your starting point. If you’ve been really restrictive with our diet or have an unhealthy relationship with food, your first step might be to add in some food into your diet without feeling nervous about it.
For others, it may be about addition – and adding in a variety of vegetables, proteins, and healthy fats.
Have a grace-based approach. The point is to do this in a way that’s not stressing you out. Healthy eating can be as intense or as simple as you need it to be.
Before you start grocery shopping, ask yourself a few questions.
- What does my schedule look like this week?
- What foods sound good to me now?
- Is there a new recipe I want to try?
- Am I going to need to cook ahead so I have something to eat while I’m busy or do I have more flexibility to cook food as I need during the week?
- Am I going to be at home or will I be out during these meals?
Consider those questions, then plan a few meals. Plan one to two healthy breakfast combinations. Then plan two to three lunch and dinner leftover options. Try to have a variety of different food groups (like proteins, fibers, veggies, healthy fats, etc.) in each meal and rotate the foods you eat.
Have chicken one day, salmon the next, and beef at the end of the week.
And know that some weeks you may have time to batch cook things ahead of time, and other weeks you may not. You may only have time to make some hard-boiled eggs or chop one or two veggies. That’s okay!
Figure out what will work best for you and what will allow you to eat healthier, without inducing a ton of stress.
LEARN MORE About Intuitive Eating
Alyssa shared so many more practical tips on the podcast that you won’t want to miss.
So grab that healthy snack and tune in to learn:
- The harm of dieting and negative mindsets around food
- How to combat stress around food
- The first steps to take to eat healthier
- Tips for healthy grocery shopping
- How to eat healthy with kids
Then let us know in the comments: what is your biggest struggle to eating healthy?
To learn more about Alyssa, you can visit her page at gratefullynoursihed.co.