Eat a healthy diet while including your favorite comfort foods
It’s a silly and rather crude children’s rhyme, but it has some truth at its core. Eating food that makes you feel good makes your heart happy. When your heart is happy, it keeps you healthy. A healthy diet should include foods that are not only good for you, but make you feel good and create a pleasurable eating experience. Unfortunately, many people equate a healthy diet with having to eat foods they don’t like or enjoy.
Achieving a state of health and wellness of body also means having a healthy mind, heart, and spirit. If you are forced to eat a diet devoid of pleasure, your body will rebel. You will feel hungry, tired, and unhappy, and chances are the diet will fail. If you only feed the physical body and neglect feeding the soul, you are doomed to failure.
Comfort food has proven health benefits. It stimulates the production of substances in our brain that are associated with improved mood, enhanced energy, and positive state of mind. Researchers have found that eating fatty acids, such as those contained in ice cream, makes us less vulnerable to sad emotions. Turkey is a source of low-fat protein rich with tyrosine, a hormone that increases dopamine and noradrenaline, which are related to increased motivation and stress resistance. Red meat boosts iron, which helps with energy. Hot peppers contain capsaicin, which causes a burning sensation that releases euphoria-producing endorphins. Foods rich in magnesium reduce anxiety and stress. These include: beans (of course), bananas, dark chocolate, almonds, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, and cashews. No wonder a banana split is a comfort food!
So how do you have a healthy diet without leaving out the foods you really enjoy eating? The key is balance and mental determination. Getting enjoyment from eating a bowl of your favorite ice cream is okay. Getting enjoyment from eating six boxes of ice cream and cookies in one sitting is not. Try making your food choices in reverse. Identify foods that make you feel good and learn why. Find ways to add some of these to your diet in reasonable proportions. Look for alternative foods that might have a similar mood lifting effect. Eat the foods you love as part of an enjoyable meal with family or friends.
Even the strictest diet allows for the occasional “lapse”. Rather than seeing this as a negative, view it as a way to occasionally nurture the heart and the soul. Incorporate the foods you enjoy into the diet, but do so in a reasonable way. A strict diet that eliminates all the foods that make you feel good may result in weight loss, but chances are you will return quickly to the same bad eating habits that caused problems in the first place.
Do not approach eating strictly from a physical perspective. Eat to nourish your body, your mind, your heart, and your spirit. Do not eat to live or live to eat. Eat for love of your body.