Many people, usually people who don't know me all that well, assume because of my chosen field that I eat a 100% healthy diet all the time. Folks! No, definitely not. I do, however, try my best to find balance.
Balance means different things to different people. I eat a lot of vegetables. Like, a LOT of vegetables. It's not unusual for me to make a meal of an entire head of broccoli - which is super healthy, full of amazing vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and the like, but it isn't a particularly balanced meal. Where's the protein? Where's the nourishing whole grains? I don't sweat it.
To me, balance doesn't necessarily mean having a perfect plate of vegetables, whole grains, and proteins at every meal. Nor does it always mean having those things in balance every day, but I do try my best to balance my week out.
I've always been a firm believer in treat days. Even back in my Weight Watchers days I would take at least one day a week (usually a weekend day) and eat anything I wanted. I think that planned indulgences help to keep me on track the rest of the time, and I think that treat days are a part of a balanced week. Although I have become a much more disciplined eater over the years, I didn't use to be the kind of person who could have just a taste of something. If a box of cookies (tub of ice cream, box of chocolates, bag of liquorice, whatever) got opened, I was going to eat the whole thing.
Here are three things that I know to be true: First, our food system has evolved a lot faster than our brains are capable of. From our hunter gatherer times, we're literally programmed to consume as much fat and sugar as we can. Our brains don't yet understand the limitless quantities of the stuff at our fingertips. Second, if you stop eating junk food you'll eventually stop craving it. Truth. And third, eating all the treats you want for a day or a weekend, or even a holiday week, is not going to deeply mess up the balance in your diet. I promise. Some weekends my diet is more cake than not cake, but I always happily go back to a big ol' plate of broccoli on Monday. And honestly, treat days are good for my mental health - probably they are for yours too.
I think that balancing your week is more manageable (and more attainable) than balancing your day. And balancing your day is more manageable (and attainable) than balancing your plate. If one meal is more broccoli and less protein and the next is more protein and less broccoli, and yet another is all grains? Your body knows how to handle that. If you eat a healthy plant based diet during the week and then go bonkers on cake on the weekend? Probably your overall energy intake is still in balance for the week. *Probably* - we can all go a bit too far from time to time.
I think a lot about what I eat, and, after having spent eight years of my life studying nutrition, I'd like to think I make pretty informed decisions about my diet. It's taken some time to settle into a routine I know really works for me, and what works for me won't work for everyone. This is how I find balance. What works for you?
All text and photos © The Muffin Myth 2013