What if we told you that the way to improved health isn't a complicated new diet or fitness trend, but rather a tried and true method? According to Ursula Ridens, a registered dietitian at Sharp Grossmont Hospital, there really is a simple trick to improve your health: old-school moderation.
"It's simple," says Ridens. "Eat whole foods as much as possible and choose processed foods less often. Follow your body's hunger and fullness cues as your guide to eating. Include plenty of plant-based foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, seeds and nuts in your daily diet. And find pleasure in regular movement — ride a bike, hike, stretch, skip, do yoga or go for a swim. There are many things that can potentially get in the way of these simple strategies. Be patient and compassionate with yourself, and allow plenty of time to practice."
Ridens admits that this type of eating and lifestyle isn't trendy so it doesn't often get attention. It doesn't yield extreme change or rapid fixes and, therefore, doesn't appeal to our modern desire for immediate returns. However, she feels strongly that old-school moderation really is best and believes aiming for "healthy-ish" over perfection is a good philosophy to follow.
"Our health is made up of what we do most of the time, in terms of eating and physical activity," she says. "What we do sometimes — like eating a delicious piece of chocolate cake or skipping a day of exercise — has much less of an impact and shouldn't be feared or cause undue stress."
According to Ridens, pressure to eat perfectly healthy and follow the perfect fitness plan is likely to increase internal stress. She cautions that diet and exercise absolutes may do more harm than good.
Ridens took a moment to answer a few questions on these topics.
Why are some foods deemed healthy and others not?
Labeling food as healthy or unhealthy seems to be one way we feed into the good versus bad mentality so prevalent in our society. This ultimately translates into feeling that we are good or bad. That dynamic can be destructive to our self-esteem and confidence when it comes to eating and takes us further away from listening to our bodies. Instead, turn your focus toward foods that are nutritious, nourishing and that will influence your body in healthy ways. Completely avoiding (or attempting to avoid) a food that tastes good or telling ourselves that the food is "bad" is very likely to promote food cravings and lead to deprivation-driven eating or even disordered eating.
Is fat-free always better than full fat?
Absolutely not. For most people, there's nothing wrong with choosing some fat-free foods. However, if you're choosing fat-free foods and sacrificing flavor, texture and satisfaction, then you're likely to notice the backfire effect of your mind being hungry for something more satisfying and not feeling physically satiated. What's more, processed fat-free foods often contain additives like salt, corn syrup and sugar to make up for the lack of flavors and textures fat would provide. Fat offers a full, satisfied feeling that is intended to hold us over until our next meal or snack, and also provides energy, transports essential vitamins throughout our bodies, helps our brains and nerves to function properly, and maintains healthy skin and other tissues.
Should weight be our primary concern when it comes to health?
Weight doesn't define a healthy body. Instead, health is defined by your lifestyle choices and how your body is working for you. Shift your focus to health, rather than weight, by changing diet-mentality into health-mentality. Our bodies are not meant to look just one way or weigh just one number. Healthy in any shape or size is a beautiful thing.
Adopting an approach of making food choices that are in tune with our body's needs and doing activities that make us feel good physically and mentally improves our well-being and builds confidence. These old-school methods really are the silver bullet to better health.
For more information
The Sharp Outpatient Nutrition Counseling Program provides one-on-one nutrition counseling with registered dietitians at four convenient locations throughout San Diego County. To get your questions answered and learn more about our offerings, please contact us at 619-740-4632.