I believe one of the worst things we can do is to ignore the fact that healthy eating is a skill and not strict obedience to a few simple diet rules. A good way of thinking about it is that trying to stick to a restrictive diet or eating style can be like putting together some cheap furniture. You just read the instructions and follow them. Don’t ask questions, don’t make changes and just do what the book tells you.
On the other hand, skillful healthy eating is like building a handmade rocking chair or an heirloom quality dresser. Every step of the process involves learning and using different techniques and ultimately building something that lasts a lifetime and looks beautiful. It requires more than obedience. It’s an exercise in art as well as function.
True healthy eating is a skill. It requires balance, timing, intuition and experience. Sure it may take some time and effort to master, but the end result will far surpass any sort of dietary methods that require you to just stick to a set of basic instructions.
The many benefits of adopting the skill of healthy eating include:
- Flexible and unrestrictive food options. By using your skills, you’ll be able to include all food options on the table. You won’t have to restrict yourself from eating certain foods because you’ll gain the skills necessary to include anything in your diet and still stay lean and healthy. Yes, it is possible.
- Never ending nutritional progression. Following a simple set of diet instructions is easy but it’s limited. At the most, all you can do is eat within the rules and that’s it. Since healthy eating is a skill, it has unlimited potential just like any other skill. You can always learn how to improve and eat healthier thus bringing you better results.
- Creating custom and individualized daily food plans. Your body is always in a state of change. You’re going to feel and behave differently tomorrow than you do today. A strict and inflexible diet plan is often a hit or miss strategy. Some days you may feel well nourished and satisfied. Other days you may feel like something is off.
By mastering the skill of healthy eating, you’ll be able to make changes to your daily diet on the fly to optimize your benefits and minimize your drawbacks. The only down side to the skill of healthy eating is that it’s not as simple as a restrictive diet. It’s not as simple as saying, “eat 1,800 calories a day” or “don’t eat foods with a high glycemic index”.
There’s no method or diet you can pin your hopes on. Instead, you’re on your own while making your own calls and figuring out for yourself if eating that cookie is a good idea or not. Skillful eating requires awareness, understanding, and personal responsibility. It also requires you to understand that sometimes you’re going to make occasional mistakes.
Diets usually don’t require quite as much introspection. You don’t have to think too much or try to figure anything out. You just stick to the simple rules they lay out for you and have faith that the diet book author knows better than you do if you should have that cookie or not.
The ultimate goal of skillful eating is to eat just the right foods, in just the right quantities at just the right times. When done well, you should feel completely satisfied and nourished without any cravings, or negative aspects of any kind.
The key to improving your healthy eating skills is to be aware of the results your choices produce. Just like the skill of throwing darts at a dart board, you need to focus and concentrate before, during and after each action to know how to adjust your future actions. The cool thing about the skill of healthy eating is that you can get a lot of practice within a short period of time. Every meal or snack you consume is a practice and learning opportunity to hone your skills.
Eating Awareness Consists of 3 Stages:
- Stage #1 – Preparing to eat and beginning to eat. In this stage you take stock of how you feel and your desire for the food.
- Stage #2 – Eating the meal. This stage is simply being present and experiencing the food. Pay attention to the taste, texture, smell and feel of the food in your mouth.
- Stage #3 – Finishing the meal and the sensations following the meal. This is sometimes the stage most people ignore and they lose out on the most important information.
Optimal healthy eating should result in you feeling satisfied and refreshed after eating. Unfortunately, we often feel either deprived (if on a diet) or over fed after eating a large meal. The ultimate goal is to be in a better state, both mentally and physically, than you were in during stage one. There should be no feelings of discomfort or anxiety.
These three steps form a continuous cycle. As soon as you finish the last meal, you’ll use that experience to improve your next meal or the next time you have a similar meal. Skillful eating isn’t a cool or sexy trend that all of the celebrities are following. It’s not even something that can become an identity like paleo, vegan or organic ways of eating. It’s simply the act of paying close attention to how foods make you feel and then basing future choices on what you have learned.
It won’t bring fast results, nor will it become something your friends may notice and ask you about. It’ll just look like normal eating, yet it somehow feels comfortable and effortless over time as your skills improve. As your skills grow, you can tailor each meal to suit any goal from getting ready for a marathon to losing weight. You’ll feel completely in control and in command to make anything happen.
Best of all, you’ll eventually master healthy eating. You won’t every have to worry about sticking to a diet nor will you feel pressured by the latest diet fads or trends. You’ll simply know what’s best for you and allow you to have your cake and eat it too.