It can be hard to have a good, healthy relationship with food. The unrealistic (and at times, ridiculous) pressure to stay “thin” combined with busy schedules and life’s daily stresses can make mealtimes absolutely disastrous—but establishing a healthy mindset doesn’t mean going on an assortment of insane cleanses. Follow these tips from ALOHA in-house nutritionist and dietitian Jillian Tuchman to start changing the way you think about food and fueling your body for the better.
1. First off, stop comparing yourself to others—not the Kardashians, not the chick on Instagram—no one. Tuchman says playing the comparing game will leave you feeling “less than,” and will affect how you think about food. “Something that’s worked for me is to think about food for what it does for my body and how it makes me feel,” says Tuchman. That means thinking about it as fuel—not just what kicks off cravings. “Also, shifting focus from what parts of your body look like to how they perform—celebrate that your athletic legs have allowed you to hike through mountains, for example, instead of lamenting that they’re not as thin as you’d want.”
2. Next time you’re feeling anxious, take a few deep breaths before you reach into a bag of chips. Often, stress eating happens when you’re not hungry at all. “In terms of snacking when stressed, that goes back to really being in tune with your body and learning to listen to its signals; if your mouth is hungry and it’s stemming from emotional (stress) rather than true physical hunger, try to understand your emotional experience,” says Tuchman. She recommends taking three deep breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth to get back to the present moment.
3. Nix the food guilt. Tuchman says that 99 percent of the time, the stress you’re inflicting upon yourself is worse than the food. “Don’t expect perfection, that’s dull and boring. If you choose to eat some nachos or donuts, do so mindfully—really experience the taste sensations,” she says. This will help you enjoy the experience enough so you don’t go in for a second helping. But if you can’t control yourself around, say, M&Ms, just try avoiding them.
4. Think actively about how your food is making you feel. Tuchman says that this will help you make healthier choices and create balance in your diet. “And mentally, if you’re willing to berate yourself for so-called mishaps, you’ve gotta honor and truly internalize all the times throughout the day when you’ve made healthy choices,” she says.
5. Consuming healthy fats can totally change your diet. Tuchman says they help you feel full so you don’t overeat. She suggests adding 1/4 of an avocado, coconut or olive oil, or flaxseed to meals. They help you stay feeling full, but they also keep your hormones and your looks in check. “Fats account for shiny hair, supple skin and strong nails,” notes Tuchman. “They help our bodies use the fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K), give us energy, and build healthy brains. And if all that weren’t enough to get you psyched about avocados consider this—fats literally make our hormones. And even the slightest shift in hormonal balance can throw off our overall health.”
6. Make healthy eating a priority by hitting all the marks at breakfast. “Be sure to start your day off right by eating a breakfast with all your macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein, fat) represented,” says Tuchman. “If you’re really in a time bind, find a high-quality protein powder—I like ALOHA’s Vanilla.” She also suggests checking online too for green smoothie recipes, adding in healthy fats like coconut oil, flaxseeds, or avocado, and putting everything in the blender before going to bed to make it easier.
7. The key to good nutrition lies in fruits and vegetables, but eating them is easier said than done. And apparently, Tuchman says veggies may be even more important and they’re pretty easy to work into your diet. While she’s not an advocate of juice cleanses, drinking veggies in juice can be helpful. “I’m a big fan of green juice—no fruit, just greens—but the taste can be off-putting if you’re not used to it,” she says. “There are some great greens powders out there now—ALOHA Daily Good being one of them—that are a more palatable and an affordable way to get your greens in.”
8. If you tend to compare your body to others, stay away from digital “fitspo” and “thinspo” pics. Tuchman says they don’t personally serve her well and instead, she opts for healthy living inspiration from travel blogs. “Aside from nutrition, traveling is my other great passion,” she notes. “I can’t see the world, climb mountains in South America or surf in Asia if I’m not taking care of myself and eating right.”