Woman eating

Have you become so focused on eating well you’ve sucked the enjoyment out of it? It’s okay: It happens to the best of us. When I first started breaking my terrible eating habits, I was uber-strict with myself. I’ve always been a “why eat just one chip when you can eat the whole bag” kind of girl, so at first I had to be strict – otherwise, I would’ve caved the first hour.

After a while though, eating became a chore. It was such a strange experience: Eating well was making me feel much better physically (imagine that!), but emotionally I turned into this gigantic, whiny, infant. Instead of focusing on enjoying new foods and the experience of eating well, I focused on results. It became a series of deprivations that lead to me falling off the wagon, followed by an immoveable mound of guilt. Sigh.

Sound familiar? Here’s the deal:

Eating well shouldn’t be connected to your self-esteem.

Don’t do what I did and put yourself in a lose/lose situation: I went all army sergeant on myself and instead of being proud of the progress I was making, I felt more and more pressured to keep up the momentum. This made it so that if I even thought about eating something bad for me, I’d lecture myself. The more I lectured, the stronger the urge to buy out the junk food aisle of the grocery store.

You can’t pretend your former eating habits never existed. You have to be the mediator between your old habits and new, so you can make the transition as smooth as possible. So you ate a chocolate bar – it was glorious, wasn’t it? Admit it. Don’t feel guilty. Instead, take how you felt eating that chocolate bar and translate that feeling into your new habits, because that’s how you should be feeling about your health goals.

Eating well shouldn’t be something you obsess over.

You should eat foods because you like them, not because they contain certain nutrients you know you need. (It’d be like dating a guy who’s perfect for you on paper. Meh.) Eating well is a lifestyle choice that evolves naturally – flowing with the process instead of trying to control every second of it doesn’t mean you’re going to sacrifice results. If anything, you’ll stay on track because (gasp!) you’ll actually be enjoying yourself.

You want to get to a point where your eating habits aren’t something you think about – they just are, and that’s not going to happen if you’re jotting down every calorie.

Eating well shouldn’t be rushed.

Your healthy eating habits becoming second nature isn’t going to happen overnight. Take one step at a time, and don’t take the next step until you’ve mastered the one you’re on. Otherwise, get used to endless binging and guilt.

Eating well shouldn’t be a drag.

In fact, nothing should be a drag. If all you’re doing is eating because you have to, keeping track of nutrients and counting calories, it’s time to come up for air and create a new strategy. You know, so you can get back to loving food again.

What are your tips for eating well (and enjoying it)?

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Image: Alessandro Valli