Are you a foodie? Do you struggle with how to continue your love affair with food and still be healthy and fit? As a self-proclaimed foodie, I have wondered the same thing over the years through my fitness journey. Do I really have to give up trying new and delicious foods at unique restaurants just to stay in shape? I think the answer will surprise you.
According to author Michael Pollan in his book In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto, food is one of the great pleasures of life, and there’s no reason that this pleasure can’t go hand in hand with a healthy lifestyle. Here are tips for loving your food while staying fit and healthy.
Balance It Out
I live and die by the 80/20 rule – 80% of the time I’m eating healthy, nutrient-dense foods and staying within a healthy caloric range for my activity level. The other 20% of the time, I let that go and indulge in “foodie” foods. (If you’re in the process of losing weight, you might need to stick to a 90/10 rule just for the duration of your weight loss.)
During the 80% period, it’s important to find healthy foods that you LOVE. You can experiment with different meals, recipes, and ideas as often as you’d like until you find the foods that don’t leave you bored and unsatisfied. All food should be pleasurable. If we weren’t supposed to enjoy it, then why do we have taste buds? Healthy, nutrient-dense foods can be absolutely delicious.
During the other 20% of the time, indulge your foodie cravings! Try out that restaurant you saw on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. Try a new cuisine. Eat at your favorite sushi joint. My only caution is to be careful with any processed or fast foods, as for some people, they can be addicting and start a cycle that’s hard to stop.
Restriction and strict rules over food can lead to binging and an unhealthy back-and-forth cycle. Allow yourself the foods you love, in moderation.
Enjoy Every Bite
When you eat, practice being mindful of the food you are tasting. It’s a fast world we live in, and can be tough to just slow down and enjoy the food in front of us. Eating slowly and mindfully not only increases the pleasure of our meal, but puts us in touch with our hunger signals so we stop eating when we’re full.
This is an important practice not just when you’re indulging, but at every single meal. Slow down, chew slowly, really taste your food, and notice the flavors and textures: this is the secret to total enjoyment.
When you do indulge in your foodie cravings, be smart about how much you’re eating. If it’s a really high-calorie meal or a huge portion, consider sharing it or asking for a to-go box. If you’re practicing mindful eating and staying in touch with your hunger signals, your body will tell you when it’s time to stop. Make sure you listen!
If you just can’t help yourself and over-do it, no worries, just eat a little less the next day. Think of your weekly food intake as a budget – if you overspend one day, just spend less the next to compensate.
Enjoy With The Ones You Love
Food is also a social pleasure. How many gatherings have you been to that revolve around food? Food brings people together.
Back when the world moved a little slower and food on the table was fresh from the farm, every meal was an occasion – a chance to bond with family, visit with each other, and enjoy the food that was likely prepared with love. Nowadays, we eat our meals in cars on the way to soccer practice, in front of the TV, or at our desks.
But food can and should be a great way to bond with the ones we love. Experiment with new healthy recipes and try them out on your family. Try out that new restaurant with your spouse and sample each other’s meals (a favorite date night activity of ours).
Share a decadent dessert with a group of friends. Use meal time as a chance to talk, laugh, and connect with the people around you.
The fast-paced world we live in also has one other draw-back that our farming ancestors didn’t have: we don’t move our bodies all that much. This is ironic considering how busy we all seem to be, but most of us are behind desks for 8+ hours a day or behind the wheel of a car.
You can love food, but love your body too and move it as often as possible. Walk wherever you can, take standing breaks at your desk, or take the stairs instead of the elevator. If I’ve learned anything through owning a BodyMedia Fit Armband, it’s that having a hard-core 30 minute workout every day doesn’t matter nearly as much as moving your body whenever you possibly can, in any form. Stay active, and your foodie indulgences are less likely to catch up with you.