I remember waking up one morning a while ago after reading so much nutrition information, that I simply didn't know what to eat. Should I have eggs, a smoothie, porridge, a steak!?
With so many 'rules' and conflicting information out there, I felt overwhelmed and wasn't really listening to my body. Now as a qualified holistic health coach, I believe that stressing out over what to eat just isn't healthy - and unfortunately, there's not one miracle diet out there for everyone.
Your ideal diet is completely unique to you and can be discovered when you start listening to your body. I found my way back to balance by breaking down some of these healthy eating rules.
1. The 'eat breakfast, lunch and dinner' rule
How many times have you been told that "breakfast is the most important meal of the day", "skip it at your peril!"? See, breakfast IS one of my favourite meals of the day, so this adage is true for me, but not everyone is the same.
Maybe you can't stand the thought of food before 11am, especially if you eat late at night. This is your body telling you something, so don't force yourself to eat at the crack of dawn if your body doesn't want to, enjoy a late big brunch instead.
Lifestyle factors can affect this rule too. I am generally busiest in the middle of the day so having the time to sit down and eat a big lunch just isn't always possible for me. I work better eating little and often throughout the day. So decide what works best for you and your lifestyle and don't feel you have to eat just because it's a normal meal time.
2. The 'ignore your cravings' rule
Craving carbs and chocolate at a certain time of the month? I hear ya! And I give you permission to listen to those cravings because your body is simply communicating its needs to you.
The key to keeping those cravings under control is to find a way to satisfy them without going overboard - a little bit of what you fancy does you good!
Try to deconstruct the craving first. Is it for something sweet, crunchy, fatty? This will help you choose a healthier option. For instance, crunchy carrot sticks over crisps or avocado on oatcakes over a sausage roll.
3. The 'Cheat Day' rule
You're stuffed after a huge pub roast but still shove down dessert just because, hey, it's cheat day! If you want to fall in love with looking after your body, mind and soul forever then a cheat day, to me, doesn't sit well.
I'm all for balance but if you're generally eating well, listening to your body and not depriving yourself then you shouldn't feel that you need a cheat day to pig out. I expect most people end up eating way more than they would if they hadn't mentally noted the day as a 'cheat day' and end up feeling pretty crappy afterwards.
This is another way people are getting out of touch with their bodies. If you eat intuitively every day you won't feel the need to cheat.
4. The 'go to bed hungry' rule
You may have been told that eating before bed will make you fat but if you're tummy is grumbling and you go to bed hungry, you're more likely to wake up in the night and be ravenous in the morning.
There is so much information out there telling us how important sleep is for our wellbeing and even for weight loss. Sleep affects your metabolism and a small healthy snack of the right food can promote a great night's sleep.
You don't want to go to bed on a full stomach OR an empty stomach, so try something like half a banana with almond butter, carrot sticks and houmous or some berries and yoghurt half an hour before you get into bed.
5. The 'diet is the only thing that matters' rule
When I was at a very low weight during dance college, I believe I suffered from Orthorexia Nervosa, which is when healthy eating becomes extreme and obsessive. I remember not going for meals with my friends because I was too worried about what I'd be able to eat, but now I know that my happiness is just as important to my health as the food I eat. Eating a delicious, hearty meal with friends and family brings me so much joy and happiness, instead of eating a plain piece of cod and greens alone.
For a lot of people, sticking to a diet and putting everything else in second place is the only way to succeed and while I do agree with this to a certain extent, I also believe other factors affect weight loss and the health of your body both inside and out.
Remember factors such as stress, relationships, career and physical activity all play a huge role in your health. Find work you love, create lasting loving relationships, move every day and keep your stress levels under control. Your diet is just one segment of your health.