What would happen if you stopped eating the way that other people told you to eat, and you started eating what YOU want to eat? This is exactly what I advocate for throughout my blog, Proportional Plate, and this is why.
In a world of ‘clean eating’ and fad diets and detoxing, eating what you want has a lot of negative connotations. We’re fed the idea that we must rigidly follow this healthy regime or that restrictive diet, so many people end up feeling guilty about all food. We all know the feeling – “I can’t eat that”, “I shouldn’t eat that after what I’ve eaten today”. This guilt often drives our choice to follow certain diets, and I really want that guilt to stop.
Choose Your Own Adventure
Your diet is an opportunity to choose your own adventure. But what does that even mean? When I say this, I mean that your food should always inspire excitement and experimentation. I mean that every chance to choose what you want to eat can be uplifting, and empowering. What food path do you want to go down today? What story can you make with your meals? If you get excited about it, it can be a much more positive experience.
When I started choosing the diet that I wanted for myself, I adopted the idea of eating proportionally. Embracing proportional eating meant that I try to have a higher ratio of vegetables to meat in my diets. That exact ratio will vary by personal preference, but I choose to aim for at least 70% plant-based foods. It meant prioritizing high-nutrient foods and favoring seasonal produce in order to consume nutritious ingredients at their peak while helping to reduce food waste.
Eating proportionally also champions moderation; I try to enjoy extras like alcohol and desserts in amounts that make me feel good and not heavy or sluggish. Making these choices and crafting my diet eventually inspired the creation of my blog, Proportional Plate. It’s dedicated to encouraging others to learn what kinds of choices make you happy when it comes to food, and be open to changing your mind as you experiment. Intuitive eating can be a very powerful tool.
Take the Time to Learn About Your Body
A big part of the journey to eating what you want to eat is learning about your body. Being conscious and learning about ourselves ultimately helps us optimize our diet for our needs. Think about your lifestyle, and the time that you can realistically put into choosing and preparing your food. Take time to explore yourself and be honest with yourself about your needs.
Something that has really helped me on my journey is food journaling. I was trying to connect the foods I ate to how I was feeling, but couldn't always keep track. I had a small notebook, and started jotting down the things I’d eaten, and also how I was feeling that day. There weren’t always clear connections between food and my feelings that I could follow, but over time I noticed that there were some patterns emerging.
For example, I noticed that right before I got my period (during the luteal phase), I always felt tired, but I could counteract that if I ate something iron-rich like spinach or red meat. Food journaling was like a way I could do some research on myself and it helped me pay closer attention to what foods made me feel good.
Another example, I noticed my body reacting to certain foods like nightshade vegetables, and decided to an elimination diet. I learned that my psoriasis flares up with nightshades and other inflammatory foods.
Note: I advocate for food education in any form, and I strongly encourage you to do as much research as you can on the food that you eat, but also not to believe everything you read on the internet. There is a lot of internet noise about various fads and radical changes, and I discourage undergoing drastic diet changes without proper consideration of all the possible effects on you and your life.
Checking in with Your Body
Learning about my own body, my own needs, and how food makes me feel has been a long journey, and is one that I am still on. Our bodies and our tastes change with time, so it’s a constant commitment to check in with ourselves on what foods make us feel good, and which ones no longer do. This is also known as intuitive eating.
Maybe really oily foods upset your stomach, or foods that are too bitter no longer taste good to you. We all have a unique palate and reaction to different foods. After trying a new ingredient or dish, take a moment to see how you feel. Energized? Still hungry? Sluggish? Craving something sweet? When we check in with our body and keep track of how food affects it, we can build up the knowledge to make more and more food choices that we feel proud of.
The Courage to Eat What You Want
It takes bravery to eat exactly what we want and to feel confident in that decision. Especially when there’s such a distinct sense of elitism tied to certain food choices - we all know someone who thinks their diet is superior because they ‘eat clean’ or are proudly keto, vegan, or something else. Maybe we have been this person in the past, ourselves.
I advocate that there’s no need to feel better or worse than anyone else for the diet that you choose. No matter what your diet consists of, we need to remove the stigma attached to our food choices and be confident that whatever we choose to eat, that choice is not wrong.
Even the phrase ‘eating whatever you want’ has a negative association, as it implies being reckless or making unhealthy choices. I want to reframe the message of eating what you want as being proud of your food choices. It should feel great to say ‘I ate exactly what I wanted today’ or to feel “what I ate today made me feel fantastic’. This is what I strive for, and want to share with others.
Prioritizing What is Right for YOU
I want to continually acknowledge that everyone’s bodies and lifestyles are very different. What may be right for me may not be right for you. I never intend for the advice I give to be prescriptive, but rather guidelines for anyone looking to expand their food horizons. As I always say, it’s choose your own adventure, not follow mine.
I don't think that anyone needs to rigidly follow any particular diet or regime - we should be able to create food that is right for how we feel on that day or in that moment, and make choices that feel good for us, not for anyone else. My recipes are here to offer guidance, and it’s up to you to experiment.
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