Recently a few friends and acquaintances have complimented me on how good I look one year after having a baby. I won’t lie, those compliments are great to hear. But then they ask me what I did to look like this, or what dietary rules I follow. And I respond somewhat guiltily, nothing. I am lucky to have a good metabolism. I do not exercise regularly, beyond what I do in a normal day (which is: carry baby and several bags up two flights of stairs, and try to take her on walks on my days off, and do something active on the weekends–biking or going on a hike.). I am still breastfeeding her about 4 times a day, which burns extra calories (I am a little worried about having to adjust what I eat after I stop breastfeeding!). But then I got to thinking–I have developed some basic rules for what I eat. I’d like to keep enjoying food, and not turning it into a guilt trip or a battle to keep off weight. Here’s a little of my nutritional philosophy:
1. If I eat junk food, I try to have it be something I make myself. If you don’t keep junk food around, you won’t eat it. And when I get a craving for something sugary, I then have to think, “do I have the time and energy to bake something?” rather than just opening a bag and indulging. I like to make my indulging “worth it”–deep, dark chocolate homemade brownies are so much better than the box kind. Occasionally I buy a cookie along with coffee or tea at a coffeshop, but not too often. I also have a bit of a weakness for chips and salsa–so I buy tortilla chips, and make my own fresh salsa. We do not buy potato chips. I admit, we do often have a supply of Breyer’s in the freezer, but I’m working on switching to more homemade ice cream (this lovely cookbook is the source of my inspiration).
2. I try to stick to one sweet thing a day–one serving of ice cream in the evening, one piece of cake, etc. I do break this rule occasionally. When I eat ice cream, I use a small bowl, and I have one perfect scoop.
3. I pretty much never drink soda. I will have it when we go out now and then, but it’s never in our fridge at home. Soda is a huge source of cheap calories. I drink water mostly, though not as much as I should. I have been trying to remind myself to drink a glass of water when I’m hungry before eating anything.
4. I try as much as possible to make everything from scratch. This means I spend most of my spare time cooking, but I enjoy it! My co-workers are always envious of the leftovers I bring for lunch. I am amazed that anyone would settle for Lean Cuisine.
5. I don’t really stick to a low-fat diet. I am beginning to think that highly-processed, sugary foods are the real enemy, not fat. I like the “whole foods” philosophy. So I eat real butter, and we have bacon now and then, and I have an egg almost every morning for breakfast. I eat whole-milk yogurt. I find that I am satisfied longer when I eat this way. An egg on whole-grain toast keeps me full until lunch.
I think enjoying your food is really important. So many Americans eat out of a sense of guilt, and I think there is a lot of over-analyzing what we eat. When you eat because you love food, you will seek out the freshest flavors and the best tastes. I think often about the French paradox, and I enjoy drinking red wine with meals a few times a week. I spend more on groceries than most people, because good food is a priority for me.
I could go on. I am hoping that this nutritional philosophy will help me enjoy food and stay healthy throughout my life, and maybe it will change as I age. What rules do you follow?