Okay, so you feel like crap. You've had One Of Those Days™. You finally manage to navigate your way back home - it's already 8pm - you just need a meal - there's nothing in your goddamn house. Maybe a freezer pie. Or the last two slices of bread. Oh, fine, there's a bunch of broccoli in the fridge but you can't wait fifteen minutes to boil that green bastard when you know it's not even gonna taste any good. You need food that wants to be in your belly.
So, you get back in the car and you come out the other end of a drive-thru with a bacon cheeseburger meal and a sundae.
Or, you're rushing from one stressful part of your day to the next, you just started your period, and you stop in at the store to grab some ladies' products, and at the counter, all the chocolate is just sitting out there looking at you like it loves you. How can you let that go? At this point, you're pretty sure nobody else loves you, and you deserve to be loved, just a little bit, just this once today, right?
Or maybe you don't even have time to stop. You didn't pack lunch, you don't have any cash out, you're late to whatever. Fine, that's fine, isn't it? One meal's no big deal. Anyway, maybe it'll do your body good, not to be weighed down by yet another shipment of carbohydrates.
You know you're fooling yourself, but you're stuck in the loop.
Healthy eating is a habit, just like monster-bingeing is a habit. It's not about being on a diet; it's not about weighing and measuring each object you pass through your lips. The way to make it work is to make it something you don't obsess about - don't even think about. Make it automatic.
Snack? = Apple.
I'm not so good at it. I'm hooked on sugar. But I figure that it's more important to get the nutrients you need than to focus on avoiding everything else. So instead of feeling guilty about eating a cupcake, I'll feel good that I had a carrot as well. (This is hypothetical. So far, I totally fail at harnessing the portability power of carrots.)
There are two things you need to consider when you're planning to adjust your diet: one, what you eat; and two, how you eat.
The Obvious: make sure you're getting the nutrients your body needs in general. If your overall health is poor, your emotions will be less stable; and when you're deficient in certain nutrients, you can actually be at risk of depressive disorders.
- Carbs from wholegrains and fruit - rather than refined sugar and processed grain.
- Protein from vegetables, nuts, beans, seeds - not just animal proteins from meat and cheese.
- Iron from green vegetables, beans and red meat.
- Vitamins from fruit and vegetables - not just from pill supplements, because they aren't absorbed well by the body and you mostly just pee them back out again.
- Good fats from fish, nuts, seeds and so forth.
- Water - you know - two litres a day, not in cola form.
Mood Food: stuff that specifically helps with the whole depression thing!
- Certain fruits are shown to help raise serotonin levels. Cherries, bananas, oranges, mangoes, dried dates and papaya, for instance.
- Omega-3 is apparently really good. Some people even think it has an antidepressant effect, but don't just go self-medicating now, will you? The pills can have side effects - keep a doctor informed if you start taking them. Or, just eat more tuna.
- B vitamins are important - they include those weird-sounding nutrients like folic acid, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and B6. They sound so frightening and complicated, most people just give up and take a supplement - but actually, these vitamins are in loads of natural foods: liver, tuna and turkey, chilli, lentils and bananas. Or you could just eat Vegemite, which has masses of B vitamins in it!
HOWIt's important to eat healthy things healthily. This means making the right foods available at the right times and taking advantage of the glorious experience of eating.
- Eat breakfast. And eat breakfast foods for breakfast. You need the long-lasting energy that comes from grainy carbohydrates, not the brief moment of tastebud-joy you get from eating leftover pizza.
- Have shared meals. If you live alone, try to plan dinner with a guest every now and then. Otherwise, just try to maintain a mealtime routine in your home, so that everyone comes to the table at the same time. It helps to have someone see you eating - you won't be as likely to pick the lazy, naughty option - but it also makes meals into a comfortable, low-stress social interaction.
- Don't skip meals. Just don't do it. It's not innocent forgetting, and it's not a ninja way to lose weight. When you miss a meal, your blood sugar drops, you have less energy, you're more likely to get irritated by things, and you start silently pleading for the day to end. Eat regularly. Snack if you need to. You need food to, like, live.
- Snack wisely. You know the drill here. Chow down on fruit and wholegrain crackers, yoghurt, nuts and carrot sticks! Museli bars, as you know, are a big con. Yes, they've got oats in them, but they are drowned in sugar, corn syrup and chocolate chunks. If you can spare the cash, try snacking on fresh blueberries. They are unbelievably delicious and addictive, but eight thousand times better than compulsively grazing on chips.
- Eat pretty food. You might get all seduced by the red and yellow of fast food imagery, but good food can be stunningly sexy too. In nature, the pretty colours mean "mmmm, we are sweet juicy berries" and "ohhh, yummy scrummy zebra flesh". So present natural food to yourself so it looks pretty. You'll be bliss-drooling in no time.