What’s for dinner? Ahhhh…this seemingly simple question carries so much baggage for so many people.
If you could care less what you eat, then ignorance is bliss, I suppose. At least until years of unhealthy choices catch up with you.
But if you’re the sort of person who wants to eat healthy, intends to eat healthy, tries to eat healthy, actually does eat healthy or is being pressured to eat healthy (by your doctor, significant other, mother, waitress, first cousin, grocery store cashier), then “What’s for dinner?” can inspire a lot of deliberation, discussion, hand wringing, second guessing and outright angst.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
Food can be delicious and nutritious. It can be life sustaining and a source of pleasure. It can be a special part of celebrations and holidays without resulting in belt loosening and morning-after regrets.
This next bit may sound trite and, well, boooorrrrring, but here you have it: It’s all about moderation. And few of us are moderate when it comes to food!
If you skew toward healthy, the thought of eating even a small slice of cake at a birthday party may fill you with apprehension or even fear…and frankly, take up way too much space in your thoughts. You may feel that certain foods or food groups are off limits forever, no matter how much you enjoy them (or used to). If you do indulge in one of your forbidden food loves, you may feel so shadowed by guilt that any enjoyment is edged out. You may freak out every time a food you thought was good for you is suddenly proclaimed to be The Worst Thing You Can Put In Your Mouth!
If your current eating habits skew toward whatever you find in the center aisles of the grocery store (read: processed) or on a drive-thru menu, you’re either of the blissfully-ignorant-but-cruising-toward-a-health-crisis variety or the I-want-to-eat-better-but-can’t variety (which is stressful instead of blissful). And whether you care or not about your status as a consumer of un-health food, odds are you don’t feel very good running on substandard fuel.
So what does moderate look like?
You enjoy food, but don’t use it just to feel better when you’re angry/stressed/sad.
You appreciate the taste of foods that are in their whole state or minimally processed, but if you really want a burger and fries or a small portion of a decadent dessert occasionally, you have it, savor each bite, and don’t beat yourself up about it.
You know what a reasonable portion size is of the foods you eat, and you don’t let your eyes get bigger than your stomach. And if you do put too much food on your plate, you stop eating when you are no longer hungry.
I really like how Bethany Frankel put it in her book Naturally Thin: “You can have it all, just not all at once.”
So how does one become a connoisseur of tasty, healthy, real food while taking an occasional foray into the land of delicious but less-than-healthy delights? Some of you are but a few steps away, I’m sure, while for others, that idea may look as distant as a ship on a far-away horizon. But if it’s really important to you, you can get there. Maybe not tomorrow, maybe not next week, but aren’t the best things in life worth waiting for?