Eating with a guilt-free conscience

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Most weeks we talk about the benefits of exercise on our health but we are also really conscious that many, many people see exercise as just one part of a more all-encompassing goal – to lose weight.

So we thought, this week, we would offer some words of advice to people who are looking to shed a few pounds and swap a few inches of fat for some well-toned muscle. But this is no article on what you should be eating, but more about the attitude we adopt towards food.

The first thing to do is to make sure that your health and fitness regime AND your diet is something that you can get enjoyment from. At this point, many of you are frowning and shaking your heads – what is enjoyable about a diet, you ask?

Well, it is all about nouns and verbs.

Diet the noun, is all about the kind of food we habitually eat. We all follow a diet of some sort. A diet is just what you eat.

Diet the verb is all about restricting the food we eat, through eating smaller amounts or eating special types of food with the aim of losing weight.

With all the information that is flooding every magazine, newspaper, website and social media site about what you should or shouldn’t be eating, things can get very confusing. We have a few simple rules that we think can help you through the dietary maze.

Five top tips to healthy eating

Don’t set unrealistic targets. Many weight-loss diets start from a mindset of self loathing, meaning that we set unrealistic targets that make us feel like a failure when we don’t achieve them. Be kinder and more accepting of ourselves in the first place by setting achievable goals.

Find foods that are good for you and that you enjoy. If we force ourselves to eat diet food we get depressed because we don’t enjoy it as much as our old ‘comfort’ food. Work to change your palate and preferences so you start to relish and crave healthy food. This is a longer game but it is one that ultimately will lead to a happier and healthier you.

A practical example: Learn to make soup and pack it with spices or ingredients that you love. A bowl of steaming hot vegetable soup is far more palatable the some soggy, cold lettuce leaves, but is just as good for you. This recipe is from author and journalist Jolinda Hackett.

Think about what food has in it. For example, fat-free or sugar-free labels tell you very little about what is in the food. The true role of food is to nourish so think about what you put into your body, weighed up against what your body needs. A plate of almond waffles, made with ground almonds and eggs and topped with red berries provides you with protein and many essential vitamins. It is likely to be better for you than a low fat yoghurt pot.

Lose the food guilt. There is too much talk about ‘good’ and ‘bad’ food or ‘clean’ eating. We would naturally eat better if we gave ourselves permission to enjoy food. We all need food, whatever our size, and labelling food as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ only brings a sense of shame, secrecy and guilt, which is never a healthy way of living.

Finally, combining healthy eating and healthy living is the number one route to achieving a healthy weight. Do the exercises that you enjoy, rather than the ones that burn fat the quickest – exercise will only count if you do it, and you will only continue to do it if you enjoy it.