Hello SOTGC community,
I am willing to bet that on more than one occasion, many of you have made the decision to eat healthier food. Sometimes, it can certainly be a challenge, and you are certainly not alone if you’ve felt that way!
I find that it helps to have new ways to think about the choices that we make in life, especially when it comes to our diets.
In the book, Wellbeing: The Five Essential Elements, author Tom Rath says this:
“With every bite and drink we take, we make a choice: we can select something that is a net positive and benefits our health or we can choose something that is a net negative.”
I love the reminder that we have the ability to make positive choices with everything we consume; most of us do not eat with that level of awareness.
Here is a chart to help you distinguish between net positive and net negative choices:
|Net Positive Choices||Net Negative Choices|
|Facilitate balanced weight||Contribute to weight gain|
|Give us more energy||Cause us to feel tired|
|Help boost our mood||Are linked to depression/anxiety|
|Reduce the incidence of disease||Contribute to illness|
|Examples: lean protein or plant-based proteins, vegetables/fruits, healthy fats (with more omega 3’s), whole grains, water, green tea …||Examples: fried foods, sugar, white bread, processed foods, deli meats, soda (regular AND diet), excessive alcohol …|
Even though that seems quite simple and logical, it is amazing how many of us choose the net negative options so regularly.
On one hand, we are lucky to live in a society that offers us a limitless selection when it comes to food.
On the other hand, the barrage of options can sometimes get the best of us – especially considering that the balance of our options tends to weigh in on the net negative side of the scale (not to mention many bathroom scales as well).
The idea is not about perfection, or complete abstinence … because that would be no fun, not to mention unrealistic.
I personally live by the 80/20 principle, meaning that I eat healthy most of the time (probably even more like 90%), but I allow myself to indulge every now and then as well (chewy homemade chocolate chip cookies are something I really look forward to, and I usually eat more than even I would recommend!)
As a result of choosing more net positive foods, I am also very aware of how my body feels after I make some of those net negative choices (i.e. three ßtoo many cookies), and that often helps keep me in check.
Here are some suggestions on how to include more net positive dietary choices in your life:
Buy net positive foods when you grocery shop. If the bulk of your kitchen is filled with good choices, it will be much easier on you to stick to it. Also, be sure to have healthy snacks on hand at work and when you travel.
Choose restaurants that serve healthy foods. And be careful – although many fast food joints offer “healthy” options, research has shown that there is a higher likelihood that you will get sucked into picking the usual artery-clogging fare.
Avoid buffets. We tend to eat more when we have many options, and we rationalize choosing the net negative options when we have one or two net positive ones on our plates. And also be careful at salad bars and frozen yogurt shops, both with endless toppings. If your spinach salad is topped with creamy dressing, bacon bits, and croutons, you have a case of one step forward, three steps back.
Eat mindfully and pay close attention to how you feel after you eat foods that you know you’d find on the net negative list. Your body is intelligent; it will often tell you how it feels about your decision.
The good news is this: you don’t have to wait to reap the benefits of choosing more net positives. While your choices do accumulate over time and will affect your long-term health, your daily choices will affect how you feel on any particular day, and that means that you can start feeling better … now!