The good news is that having healthy eating habits is not really about eating carrots and lettuce all the time. In fact, there is not any food you should be eating all the time. It is important to eat a variety of foods--including your favorites--to truly have a balanced diet.
Eating right is more about the "when, how, why", rather that the "what". The when refers to the frequency of eating throughout the day. This is where the rubber hits the road, folks. Most people resist the recommendation to eat every 2-3 hours, and I will tell you why.
1. Somehow there is this mass delusion that the fewer times you eat in the day, the less you weigh. This is completely false. In fact, in my experience it is the opposite. Not eating through the day results in compulsive overeating, or binging, later in the day or evening.
2. The second aspect of eating well is considering how you eat. Many people are always distracted while they are eating. Some people work while having lunch and watch TV while having dinner. The major drawback to this is that suddenly you look down and the food is gone. You do not feel satisfied because you didn't really notice you were eating. Most people only taste the first couple of bites and the last bite when they eat.
I would challenge you to have one meal or snack each day without distractions. Use this opportunity to truly taste each bite of your food--believe me, you will feel more satisfied than you have felt in a long time. This is one of the most important (and enjoyable) healthy eating habits you can adopt.
3. The why refers to why you are choosing to eat. Most people I've worked with have completely lost touch with their hunger and fullness cues. Allowing yourself to get a little hungry between meals will help you determine if you are eating for the right reasons.
If you are not feeling physically hungry, there is some other reason you want to eat (boredom, stress, excitement, etc.). The only exception here is that you may need to eat according to the clock for the first couple of weeks. This will allow you to reset your metabolism before fully relying on hunger cues to guide you.
Once you have figured out when, how, and why you eat, you will start to see the what takes care of itself. As you begin to form these new healthy eating habits, you will begin to listen to your body, regardless of whether it is asking for cake or strawberries. This is a difficult process because we see food as good or bad, but it is not.
All foods have some nutritional benefit. The most important nutrients in food are proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. The vitamins are secondary, and most American diets have more than adequate amounts of these nutrients. So go ahead and eat your cake, and enjoy it too!
Contact us with any questions about eating and mental health issues. You or someone you know may be in need of outpatient eating disorder treatment.