Why do eating healthy and weight loss always go hand-in-hand? Probably because people have always liked the idea of slimming down, especially if different forms of media perpetuate a certain “ideal” body image. But think about it for a minute—have you ever had the motivation to “get healthy” without any weight loss goals attached to it? I’m going to assume not. We typically try to get healthy hoping that fast weight loss is the outcome. We restrict food like crazy, then get tired of restricting and just ditch getting healthy at all.
But what if getting healthy could be disassociated with weight loss? Sure, losing weight may happen if you get healthy, but what if that wasn’t the goal? What if, instead, we let ourselves treat our bodies with care simply for the act of being healthy and happy? What if feeling good was the goal?
I know you’ve probably been told for so long that dieting is the way to get healthy, but friends, dieting doesn’t scientifically work. There is no long-term evidence of it actually working. Food restriction is clearly not the answer.
So instead, what if we dedicate ourselves to getting healthy without any food restriction? What if we decide to eat healthy without the intention of weight loss, but simply to give our body’s some much-needed self-care?
Maybe that’s too hard for your to conceptualize because we’ve always had a negative association with eating healthy thanks to toxic diet culture. I challenge you today to break out of that barrier your mind may be in, and instead, focus on a few other reasons to start eating healthy. Here are the few I like to focus on.
Eating healthy makes you feel good.
To be honest with you, this right here is my top motivation for eating healthy all the time. I feel amazing.
How is this possible? It has to do with the vitamins and nutrients that you are getting within your diet. You’ve probably been told time and time again to eat a “balanced” diet—maybe the food pyramid when you were younger, or the USDA MyPlate guidelines now. It’s recommended to eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, and yes, even dairy.
Why? Because that variety of food gives you a variety of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals that are essential for your body’s health. When you properly feed your body, you are also properly feeding it nutrients that help with boosting your mood.
The University of Michigan Health explains how nutrients such as tryptophan (turkey, dairy, nuts), magnesium (whole grains, legumes), phytonutrients (dark chocolate), omega-3 fatty acids (fish, seeds), and polyphenols (berries, coffee, wine) are all helpful in boosting your mood. And they can all be found in natural, whole foods.
Eating healthy gives you lots of energy.
A caffeine boost in the morning will certainly give you energy, but so will a nutritious diet! No, I’m not saying one or the other. You can have both, people.
Did you know the term “calories” is actually a measurement of energy? It’s true! By restricting yourself of calories, you are quite literally restricting yourself from energy. Higher carbohydrate or sugary snacks are higher in calories and create quick energy for your body—hence why you crave these things when you’re restricting your food.
Now, are you ready for the real kicker? The energy that you are getting from food is coming from—you guessed it—carbohydrates. Carbs are your body’s main source of energy because it is quickly converted to glucose in your system.
Along with carbs, it’s important to pair them with a protein for long-lasting energy. Protein helps to slow down the rate at which your body absorbs your food, which means you’ll not only feel fuller for longer, but you’ll have an immense amount of energy for a longer period of time. Bonus points if your carb contains fiber, which keeps you even more full and energetic throughout the day.
Eating healthy extends your longevity.
Did you know that Sardinia, Italy is one of the most densely populated areas of people that live to be over 100 per capita? It’s true. Want to know their secret? Carbs.
Okay, it’s more than that. Researchers who have focused on Sardinia have concluded that it’s a combination of diet, movement, and overall happiness that has so many of the city’s residents living until their 100th birthday. And a bit of genetics, to be honest.
Here’s why this is super important: Their diet doesn’t have restrictions. While their eating does closely resemble the Mediterranean diet, it’s not like these people are being overly restrictive and harsh to themselves about their food or their bodies. They are simply enjoying a variety of healthy foods, enjoying each other’s company, enjoying the occasional glass of wine, and enjoying daily movement.
A study published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science was able to show that eating within a normal calorie intake is linked to a longer lifespan. They use the term “calorie restriction” but that doesn’t say food restriction. It just means eating within a proper caloric intake for your body.
Plus, a healthy diet is also closely linked to a decreased risk of developing chronic diseases. There is so much science behind the specifics of this, even down to how individual fruits and vegetables are actually fighting away the free radicals and cells in your body that cause disease.
These are three of my motivators for eating healthy every day, but I do admit that bettering my mood is at the top of my list. I’m a happier person when I eat healthier. My husband can even attest to that.
- “Important Nutrients to Know: Proteins, Carbohydrates, and Fats” (The National Institute of Aging)
- “How to Boost Your Mood with Food” (University of Michigan Health)
- “Eat to Boost Your Energy” (Nourish by WebMD)
- “Eat a Healthy Diet to Feel Better” (Everyday Health)
- “The One Food You Should Be Eating Every Day For a Longer Life” (Eat This, Not That!)
- “Extending Healthy Life Span—From Yeast to Humans” (AAAS)
- “What are the roles of calorie restriction and diet quality in promoting healthy longevity?” (Ageing Research Reviews)