Healthy Eating: Eat better in 2019, one day at a time

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The new year is just days away. This is the time when people hurry up and get things accomplished before the end of the year and start to think about plans for 2019. Thinking about resolutions comes to mind. These resolutions often involve health-related topics, which include losing weight, eating better and exercising more.
Thus during the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, people hurry up and eat whatever they want and as much as they want…because on Jan. 1 things are going to be different. Really? Most folks lose their resolve to uphold resolutions by week two of the New Year! Changing habits is hard work. Very very hard work. It is not easy to eliminate foods that we love, especially if they are sweet or salty.  Changing habits takes at least 14-21 days and even then it is easy to fall off the wagon because temptations are everywhere around us.
I went to culinary school and specialized in baking and pastries. That means I really love sweets, pastries, bread, cake, cookies, etc. I love making them and I love eating them. I love sharing them with my friends, family and neighbors.  People look forward to receiving my goodies during the holidays or when I have too much zucchini from the garden or too many brown bananas — zucchini and banana bread are left at their doorsteps! But do I eat what I make all the time?  No. Moderation and balance are critical.
In the cancer world of which I am a card-carrying member, there have been loads of studies about the impact of sugar and cancer. Many of these studies have been misinterpreted and the adage “sugar feeds cancer” has become commonplace. I do believe that eating too much of anything (sugar, fat, carbohydrates, red meat, pasta, and the list goes on…) can contribute to ongoing or chronic health problems as well as create health issues. However, eliminating all of these things from our diet is very challenging.
For many people this approach works and they enjoy how they feel when sugar, fat, carbohydrates, animal protein, etc. are completely eliminated from their diets. They feel more energetic, sleep better, and are clear minded. I like that feeling as well. But can I eat, eliminating all of those foods? Nope. It does not work for me. Judging myself about it doesn’t work as well. Moderation is key.  Eating a piece of chocolate mindfully works. I savor it and enjoy it more.
For me, diet has become a balancing act. As a parent, I remember worrying about whether my son was getting a balanced diet. But I quickly learned that instead of being concerned about what he ate on a daily basis, I needed to make sure that what he consumed over the course of a week was balanced. Children have an innate wisdom to eat a balanced diet. Granted, if I were to offer sugary cereals, highly processed foods and “treats” to him every day, then he would not receive the nutrients that his body and brain needed. By offering food sources of protein, carbohydrates, fats, minerals and vitamins at each meal, I could ensure that he would get a balanced diet over the course of the week.
Guess what? This does not change as we grow up and become adults! However, as adults we give in to cravings and “reward” ourselves with food. The balance of what we eat gets skewed by our minds and moods. The tendency of human nature is to eat too many salty or sweet foods. When I eat mindfully, I become more aware of what a balanced diet means for me.
Rather than creating a resolution around food and diet for the New Year, think about ways that you can tweak what you prepare for your meals and snacks.  When you plan your meals, think about the balance of protein, carbohydrates and fats. Use herbs and spices to replace some of the sweet and salty notes. Stock your pantry with items that will help you to prepare easier meals. This will be a topic I will explore in this column during 2019. A well-stocked pantry is key for me because it allows me to prep and prepare meals with less stress and more joy. Who doesn’t want more joy in the food that they eat? Right?
Rather than saying to yourself, I am “never going to have ______” (fill in the blank with whatever foods you believe are forbidden…ice cream, chocolate, candy, potato chips, etc.), think more about what your body may need. Maybe you had a large lunch so preparing a lighter dinner seems more appropriate.  Maybe you made a big pot of pasta and after eating it for several days, you need to move on to a nourishing soup/stew. Finding what actually works for you is what is critical.
Eating with joy and not fear is critical. Balancing what you eat with good sleep and exercise is critical. It’s a plan that could help you bring in your new year with a sense of balance and equanimity.
Take a moment to reflect on what you want to create for your daily routine in these areas:  food, exercise and sleep. What changes (if any) do you want to make? What do those changes look like and how can you approach these changes without getting overwhelmed.  Carpe Diem!  Seize the Day…but do it one day at a time.  Don’t think about February already. Think about what Jan. 1 looks like.  Then Jan. 2.  How can you work with yourself to create a sense of joy and peace around your relationship with food and nourishment?
Wishing each of you, my loyal readers, a new year full of joy and comfort. Taking it one day at a time.  I’ll be right here taking it one step at a time with you.

— By Deborah Binder

Deborah Binder lives in Edmonds with her family. She is “dancing with N.E.D.” (no evidence of disease) after being diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2009. She is a foodie who loves to cook from scratch and share her experiments with her family and friends. She attended culinary school on the East Coast and freelances around town for local chefs. Her current interest in food is learning to eat for health and wellness, while at the same time enjoying the pleasures of the table. As Julia Child once said, “Everything in moderation including butter.” Deborah can be contacted at [email protected].

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