Curious, a classmate said "I see you're really healthy. How do you eat so healthy all the time?"
I smiled, nodding and chewing as I swallowed a full forks bite. How do I eat so healthy.. all the time? I pondered at this - amused and flattered to be pegged as "the healthy girl" - and realized the answer is this: habit becomes nature. "I don't really think about it too much, most of it comes naturally", I said. A simple and honest answer, to an over-obsessed concept - healthy diet.
As we chatted healthy eats and neighbourhood yoga studios, it got my wheels spinning.
Why is healthy eating associated with so much fuss and muss?
While healthy choices can be difficult or uncomfortable for some, it boils down to creating healthy habits. Wikipedia defines "habit" as a routine of behaviour that are repeated regularly and tend to occur subconsciously. Habitual behaviour often goes unnoticed in persons exhibiting it, because a person does not need to engage in self-analysis when undertaking routine tasks. While healthy eating is definitely habit for me, it's not to say I do absolutely nothing at all. I plan my meals prior to grocery shopping, exercise on a regular basis, predominately cook/bake my own food, and read to expand both my knowledge and passion for holistic living.
So what happens when healthy eating fails to equal a healthy habit? Results may vary, but in short, cravings, hormonal imbalances, weight gain, fatigue, eating disorders, poor workout recovery, obesity, etc.
Research shows that obese people respond differently to food than do people of normal weight. When a person is struggling with obesity, they continue to salivate longer in response to a new taste (NY Times, 2009). Furthermore, those who lack healthy eating habits more than often crave sugar or give into junk food temptations.
I don't mean to imply that I - or healthy individuals - ban sweets or cravings all together. That would be silly and a down right lie. However, with an engrained habit for both exercise and a balanced diet, food cravings will often reflect those healthier choices. For example, if my energy dips I often crave almond butter. mmm almond butter. Almonds are loaded with magnesium so for me, personally, it's a safe sign that I need to replenish both my magnesium and sugar levels.
If you're struggling to eat healthy or ween yourself off fast food, ask yourself a few questions and respond accordingly. Questions like, how do I feel today? How much water have I consumed today? Am I hungry? What do I feel like eating? Is that a real and wholesome meal? Am I full? Do I love, care, and respect myself and my body?
Healthy eating shouldn't come with any fuss or muss. It should be simple, enjoyable, and fun! Comfort food should trigger poached eggs and spinach, basil pesto with spelt penne, or a platter of summer grilled veggies, sprinkled with goats feta. Alas, I know it's a different matter for everyone. Your body and needs will be different than mine, not to mention the advice columnist in Women's Health magazine.
But if there is anything I know, it's this: listen, respond, and honour yourself. The rest will fall into place.