Health & Wellness

It takes Courage to Eat Healthier

Bridget Swinney, MS RD
By Bridget Swinney, MS RD

There’s lots of courage showing up right now from first-responders, health care workers, and even the cashiers who are there to ring up our purchases, knowing they may be exposing themselves to a risky disease. Without sounding trivial, this led me to look at the it takes courage it takes to eat well and stay properly nourished.

Nutrition—whether good or lacking— affects the immune system. Now, more than ever, it’s time to kick up your nutrition a notch (or a couple.) And you know what? That sometimes takes courage. When your spouse goes for burgers and fries and you choose a salad with grilled chicken (that’s more expensive)? That takes courage. Or when it’s time for another round of drinks? It sometimes takes conviction to say “no thanks.” The same goes for the cookies and cake that are a free-for-all in the company break room (or maybe the chocolate on your desk in your remote office). You’ve got to have determination to pass that up. At the clinic where I work, we often joke that a rite of passage is to gain 10 pounds from all the goodies that patients bring in. I can vouch that it really does take some muster to say no (or yes to just one) homemade cookie!

When you are eating with intention, it also sets a good example for your children. You can do this starting in infancy by letting your child decide how much to eat. As the parent, you’re only in charge of offering healthy foods at regular times. It takes the pressure off of you (say no to being a short order cook!) and teaches your child to listen to his body when it comes to feeding it.

Eat With Courage

When stress is at a high, it’s oh-so easy to give in to the “see food” diet. Here are some thoughts and strategies when it comes to eating with courage.

  • Listen to your body. A new paradigm that you might want to adopt when it comes to eating is “eat intuitively”. Really pay attention to hunger and fullness. Are you truly hungry or are you eating because it’s there, or because you’re bored or stressed? If it’s the latter, find something different to do to fill those needs.
  • Never be really hungry. One reason it may be harder to pass up goodies is because you’re so hungry. One strategy I give weight loss clients is to eat an apple on the way to a restaurant. Instead of waiting all day to eat a special meal, enjoy it even more by being hungry, but not starving! (And take home what you don’t eat to appreciate it even more the next day.)
  • Eat slowly to savor every bite. This goes along with intuitive eating. If you are a fast eater, you may finish before you’ve truly tasted it! Try this exercise. The next time you eat a snack, close your eyes and experience all your senses. Smell it, touch it, break it in two to hear the crunch (or lack of). Then put a small piece on your tongue and feel the sensation and taste. Chew it thoroughly and swallow. Think about the enjoyment of that food.
  • Eat to live well. You truly are what you eat—so think about how to best nourish yourself with what’s available to you. Keeping health goals in mind can inspire you to make food choices that are right for you. You’re in charge of your health and what you put in your mouth. Definitely eat for enjoyment, but eat for your health too!
Bridget Swinney, MS RD
Bridget Swinney is a health communicator, award-winning author and well-regarded nutrition expert specializing in teaching people to embrace a healthier diet and lifestyle. In her 25 years as a registered dietitian, she has worked in public health, as a clinical...Read More
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