Over my years working as a dietitian, I have met with many people who come to me full of anxiety and fear over a recent diagnosis and how they are going to change their diet to improve their health. It’s so understandable to feel scared and overwhelmed with a new medical diagnosis. Let’s take diabetes, for example. When I googled “the best diet for diabetes,” it brought me to an article that listed: Flexitarian diet, Mediterranean diet, DASH diet, Mayo Clinic Diet, Vegan Diet, Jenny Craig Diet, The Engine 2 Diet….and several others. I haven’t even heard of some of these! Aside from Google, often when we start telling friends or coworkers about a health diagnosis, we will hear multiple different opinions and recommendations on what we need to do to help our condition. Talk about confusing!
There are a lot of areas of our life that contribute to our overall wellness and health: stress, activity levels, sleep, access to medical care/food, mental health, our relationship with food and our relationship with others, to name a few. Being stressed and scared about what we should eat is not helpful! I try to remind clients that we do not need to be fearful about every piece of food we put in our mouths, but we do want to be intentional. We do not need to be perfect in our eating habits, but we do want to be consistent. We do not have to completely avoid foods that are not as healthy, but we do want to be mindful when we eat them.
The thesaurus lists a few synonyms for intentional: considered, voluntary, willful, planned, done on purpose. It is important to consider our food choices and how they will make us feel, to plan ahead to have healthy options available even during busy times, and to willfully make changes to our diet as needed rather than being forced to make changes based on the rules of a restrictive diet. So what does intentional eating look like to you? Maybe sometimes it is intentionally eating a piece of cake at a party because it’s a celebration and eating some cake sounds fun. That’s okay! Eat it mindfully, slowly tasting each bite, and enjoy it. Other times intentional eating may look like adding some extra veggies to your meal to get some fiber and extra nutrients if you haven’t been eating many vegetables lately. Or maybe it’s intentionally adding a lunch meal each day because you’ve been skipping lunch and then feel unwell and overeat at dinner.
Even if it’s one small step at a time, don’t underestimate the power of being intentional with our food choices, as well as sleep habits activity, stress management, relationships, and other areas of our lives. One intentional pursuit each day may just lead to consistently taking the best care of our well-being.
By: Julia Blackford, RDN, LD