Life is about balance, right? Something I’ve been thinking about recently is how to strike the right balance between having a thoughtful diet while remaining flexible enough to enjoy stepping out every once in a while or going with the flow. I find this balance a little more tricky during the warmer months when there are lots of social events so I came up with a few strategies to help me stay true to my needs.
Before going into the strategies, let’s backup.
To me, a thoughtful diet is one that aligns with your physical and emotional needs–it’s the diet you’re eating when you feel your absolute best. It’s intentioned, usually planned ahead, represents your values and makes good use of whole foods. A thoughtful eater recognizes food as fuel and tries to make choices that support good nutrition and sustainable practices. This is what many of our habits would look like in a ideal scenario and when we’ve established our routine, but what about those times when shit hits the social calendar fan and our routine gets challenged?
Well…these are the times when we can embrace the excitement and practice our ability to be flexible (another one of those instances where yoga practice comes in handy!). We don’t want to create a diet that is too rigid to be enjoyable. Good food is important (as a Holistic Chef and RD, it’s one of the things I care about the most). The benefits of a good meal shared with loved ones actually goes way beyond the nutrients it offers and can even help foster strong relationships. These opportunities to be together are something to be grateful for and they’re something I deeply cherish within my own life.
Still, it’s no secret that social get-togethers often lead us to make food choices we wouldn’t usually make if we were alone. It’s an interesting psychological phenomenon that when we’re in groups, we tend to model our eating behavior after the group members, especially when it comes to more indulgent foods. Interestingly, when it comes to things like fruits and vegetables, modeling may not play as much of a role. Another factor to keep in mind, is that the larger the group, the more likely it is we overdo it, possibly by as much as 75%. It follows then, that several social events a week, although great for our relationships, can take a major toll not only on our routines, but also on our energy levels and digestion.
If we’re too flexible – to the point of being a passive participant in our food choices -we lose out on the thoughtfulness and ultimately allow others’ habits to dictate our intake, which can quickly make us feel imbalanced or out of touch with ourselves. So, how to be open to these events and enjoy them (and their food!) without being too influenced to make food choices we wouldn’t usually make?
Here are a few of the ideas I’ve come up with for helping me to balance dietary thoughtfulness with flexibility allowing me to be thoughtfully flexible this summer…
- First, keep in mind the fact people tend to eat more in groups than they would if they were alone. By simply taking a step back to acknowledge this, it helps me to avoid getting caught up in the over-eating/modeling cycle and check in to what my body really needs.
- Remember that what works for someone else, might not work for you – and that’s totally fine. If someone is enjoying something that I know makes me feel like crap, it’s okay to not impulsively follow suit.
- Set your own tone. For example, ordering first at a restaurant may make you less likely to be influenced by the group – if you want to indulge, do yo thang, but make sure that you’re doing yo thang.
- If you have an evening where the “flexibility” side takes over, plan meals or activities (like a nice yoga practice focusing on twisting) for the next day that can help get you grounded back in your routine and your body’s needs.
- Try to really be present. Okay this one is hard, but rather than stressing out about food, try focus on wonderful people in your life and enjoy the time you spend with them.
- Lastly, don’t forget you’re a powerful badass and this is all about feeling good. Do what is right for you.