Something I’ve realized over the years is people ONLY ask me what I do for a living when I am either A) tossing back a calorie-laden cocktail or B) biting into a piece of chocolate cake. Where are you at, people, when I sit down with my kale salad at lunch, HUH?! When I answer with “I’m a Registered Dietitian”, people are generally impressed (or they fake enthusiasm well, I can’t really tell). As the conversation progresses, nine times out of ten it results in him/her saying how surprised they are that I eat and drink like a normal human, rather than the rabbit food they expected. This is where I usually insert a pope joke that typically flops (he’s not a regular pope, he’s a cool pope), by saying I’m not a regular dietitian, I’m a cool dietitian. This part is almost always followed by a lull of silence in the conversation where I take another swig or bite, then jump into ‘explanatory’ mode.
After a lot of years of learning the nitty gritty details of the food I eat, I have adopted the 80/20 philosophy. I aim to eat healthy 80 percent of the time, and #treatyoself the other 20 percent. Trust me, this stuff is PURE GOLD. I’ve done it all: macro counting, cutting out carbs, cleanses and detoxes… you name it, I’ve tried it. And while I still think it’s SUPER important for RD’s to try these fads first hand to understand the ins and outs of the different trending diets, I can confidently say that I will never be on the Atkins diet or Isagenics on my own accord.
Life is about balance. If your favorite food on the planet is tacos (totally can relate), and you are on a diet that never lets you within 50 feet of a tortilla, your happiness will plummet. And while some people will tout ‘nothing tastes as good as skinny feels’, I wholeheartedly disagree. Tacos taste as good as skinny feels. And since when does it have to be an either-or situation?! If you focus on eating healthy 80% of the time, you can chose to indulge a bit for the other 20%, allowing yourself to nourish your body AND enjoy some of the finer things in life, like chips and guac. I’m not talking about cutting out carbs Monday-Friday and having ‘cheat days’. I’m talking about eating healthy, wholesome foods the majority of the time, but recognizing that you’re human and allowing yourself to splurge once in a while. That way, when you reach for that ice cream bar after dinner, you won’t feel guilty about it. This philosophy is all about total wellness – not just physical wellness. It promotes emotional and mental well-being by allowing for flexibility and balance in your everyday life.
In the same manner that Rome wasn’t built in a day, your diet won’t unravel overnight. In fact, I don’t even like to use the word diet, because that implies a temporary period of restrictions, excessive planning, and most likely, unhappiness. If you approach the 80/20 philosophy as a diet, you will undoubtedly fail. This is not a short-term or quick fix solution. The 80/20 approach is a lifestyle. Food is part of everyones life and the relationship you have with food should not be fear, or animosity, or any other negative energy. The way that you think about food can totally impact your energy and mood the rest of the day. So do me this favor and try this out for one month: think ONLY positive thoughts about food. (I know you’re probably thinking I’m off my rocker right now, but here me out.)
Whatever works for you to have positive thoughts about food (all food, including green vegetables!), do that. If it’s skimming through Pinterest for new healthy recipes to try at home, or driving a little further to go to your favorite farmers market across town, or challenging a colleague to a one-week brown bag exchange at lunch, I urge you to try it. Commit to having genuine energy about embracing food again. Try new flavors and recipes, focusing on eating a variety of foods including whole grains, lean meats and beans, dairy, and fruits and vegetables 80% of the time.
Likewise, give that same energy to your 20% indulgences. If you’re reaching for a bag of Doritos while you watch the Bachelor (and there is no shame in that if Doritos are your jam), but you actually don’t even like Doritos you are just bored, think it through. Is there something else you’d rather enjoy? Are you really hungry or just snacking to snack? And then when you go to have that indulgence that you’re genuinely excited about, you shouldn’t have an ounce of guilt doing so! Sometimes our indulgences even offer health benefits – dark chocolate and red wine, I’m looking at you, providing antioxidants that help remove toxins from our bodies. (I’ll take a cabernet, please.)
We don’t give our bodies enough credit. Take a minute to really think about how hard your body works for you! Everyday I am amazed. As a runner, sometimes I look down at my feet and think “wow, you bad boys have carried me thousands of miles, and are still kicking!” Your body does SO much for you everyday – you have to love it and nourish it from the inside out if you want it to keep loving you back. Lots of times that means a delicious salad at lunch and grilled veggies at dinner, but occasionally, that means Belgian waffles and mimosas at brunch, and I’m totally okay with that. It’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle. And at the end of the day, you have to treat your body like you love it. After all, it’s the only place you have to live in this world.