Eat for Pleasure or Eat to Live? How to Bridge the Gap

With all of the nutrition information and various dietary theories available, it seems as though everyone is trying to sell a lifestyle. Should you do Paleo, Keto or Plant Based? This all becomes so confusing and overwhelming. One thing I have learned through my work as a Wholistic Food Therapist is that there is no one right way of eating for everyone. What works for one person makes another person feel terrible. There really is no one-size-fits-all diet or lifestyle. You are the expert on your body, you can discover the most effective personalized way to eat for yourself.

I also have learned that restricting and not accessing pleasure from food leads to feeling deprived and unhappy which can potentially lead to a dangerous binge eating cycle. With the information overload and most dietary theories focusing on weight loss or perfect health, how do you discover what is best for you?

First, it is important to know that we do indeed need to eat to live. Our bodies are literally made up of the foods we eat. Our bodies must have certain nutrients to function and so yes, we must eat to live. This can be viewed as boring or lacking in pleasure, when it can be quite the opposite. Eating for pleasure and eating to live can be done simultaneously! The nutrients our bodies need to function optimally and feel good are: vitamins, minerals, fiber, carbohydrates, fat, and protein.

Finding foods that can tick off several of those nutritional boxes are known as nutrient dense foods. These are also sometimes referred to as “super foods.” A food such as an avocado offers several nutrients and a food such as a donut offers zero. This does not mean you can’t ever eat a donut, it just is something to consider when attempting to ensure your best health. How can you shift your focus to the foods that provide your body with the nutrients it desires for optimal functioning. When you treat your body well, it will treat you well in return. When eating more nutrient dense foods you will be healthier, feel more vital, have more energy, and enjoy a more stable mood!

However, there is one nutrient I include on my important nutrient must eat list: taste! I believe food must taste good. You want to enjoy what you are eating in order to derive the maximum benefits from your food. You do not want to feel deprived or lacking in deriving pleasure from eating.

This is where you can begin to bridge the gap between eating for pleasure and eating to live. Think through what healthy foods you actually enjoy. It can be helpful to go through the rainbow of vegetables and fruits and with each color, which foods do you enjoy? What tastes good to you? Do you like it, raw, cooked, or blended in a soup or smoothie? Can you allow each meal to be comprised of foods that tick off all of the nutritional boxes?

Start with one meal. For example, eggs for breakfast provides vitamins, minerals, protein, and fat. Then how can you get in some healthy carbs and fiber? Leafy greens! You can cook spinach, arugula and chard right into your eggs. Want even more nutrition? Add diced avocado, tomato, a little basil, top with some shredded parmesan, drizzle with olive oil and you have an amazingly nutritious, delicious, satisfying and satiating meal.

Challenge yourself to build your meals from the nutrients list. Find foods you enjoy eating that provide you with the nutrients your body not only needs but craves and notice the impact. When 80-90% of the time you are eating primarily nutrient dense foods, there is room for focusing simply on taste. However, when you feed your body the nutrition it needs and desires those cravings tend to naturally reduce as you are essentially crowding out the less nutrient dense foods. When you feel good in mind, body and spirit, and have balanced nutrition, you are both eating to live and living to eat.

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