Healthy Eating is about learning how to gain the most benefit and enjoyment from food without stressful or unnecessary dietary restrictions.
Your 4 primal appetites
The key to reducing chronic dietary stress is to honor your 4 primal appetites. These include hunger, nutritional needs, energy level and the enjoyment of food. Each one of these plays an important role in your overall health and well-being and fulfilling each one will ensure you’re satisfying your needs.
All 4 of these appetites relate to each other in a holistic way. Each one influences the other 3 to not only help guide you to satisfaction but to also keep each other in check. For example, your appetite for quality nutrition is satisfied through consuming adequate amounts of calories, fat, protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and water. Getting enough physical nutrition will help control and manage hunger and improve your energy level. You’ll also find a diet rich in a variety of whole and natural foods to be more palatable and more satisfying. After all, what seems more enjoyable, a slice of lunch meat between 2 slices of bread, or a hand-carved turkey sandwich loaded with veggies, dressing and herbs with a side of mixed fruit?
Honoring these 4 appetites is the advantage healthy eating holds over any restrictive dogmatic diet. Strict eating plans force you to conform to an artificial set of rules that can fall short of satisfying your primal appetites. Such artificial limitation and restriction create stress through deprivation. Healthy eating doesn’t create rules you have to follow. It puts you in charge so you can satisfy your own natural appetites which are unique to you.
Tips for satisfying your primal appetites
Respect your appetites
The first step in satisfying your appetites is to listen to and honor them in the first place. This is in contrast to other dietary ideas that encourage you to ignore, or even fight against your appetites.
Respect your satiety and satisfaction
Healthy eating is as much about respecting your need to eat, as it is respecting your need to not eat. This is because all appetites are finite and continuing to eat past the point of satisfaction creates stress. So don’t force yourself to eat once you’re satisfied with a meal. You don’t have to always clean your plate, nor are you obligated to overindulge because you’re celebrating a special occasion.
Consume a variety of food
Eating a wide variety of foods goes a long way to satisfying all 4 appetites. It improves nutritional profile, palatability, and calms hunger and cravings. In contrast, a diet that doesn’t use a lot of foods and ingredients is not as satisfying.
Prepare most of your own food
You only need to control three things in your diet; what you eat, how much you eat and when you eat. You have more control over all three when you prepare your own food. When someone else makes your food you relinquish a lot of control over all three meaning you have much less control over your diet as a whole.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t eat out or you need to bring your own food to a family cookout. It just means you want to prepare most of your food most of the time. It also doesn’t mean you need to become a 5-star chef and slave away in the kitchen all day. Just packing a sandwich and a couple pieces of fruit for lunch is an example of this practice.
Observe the 3 Ps at each meal
It’s stressful to micromanage every little detail in each meal in an effort to control your diet. That’s why I recommend paying attention to just 3 main considerations at each meal which I refer to as the 3 Ps.
The three Ps of plant, protein and portion size ensure a satisfying meal without having to read labels, weigh food or worry about cooking techniques. By ensuring you have a source of plant-based food and protein at each meal you’re improving the quality of the meal as a whole. The third P, portion size, applies to the meal as well as how much of each food you have on your plate. Making sure you’re eating enough, but not too much means the meal is a healthy size. Ensuring you have plant and protein sources means you have some room for other things like a starch but it won’t be an excessive amount.
Focus on meals over snacks
Snacking has become more common as our busy lives require grab and go food options instead of whole meals you can sit down and enjoy. This tendency to snack throughout the day means you’re consuming more foods that are heavily processed, often devoid of plants and protein and fail to fully satisfy your appetite. It’s also food that’s prepared by someone else and can be high in sugar and calories.
I enjoy a snack as much as anyone, but I still make sure most of my food is consumed in meals that include a variety of foods. Having a whole meal is a lot more satisfying both from a nutritional and enjoyment perspective.
Be prudent with calorie-laden beverages
Overconsumption is one of the leading causes of chronic dietary stress and beverages can be a big influence on this problem. It’s relatively easy to drink a lot of sugar and calories compared to eating the same amount. This especially applies to sugary beverages like soda, juice and even smoothies. This is also why I often recommend cutting back on how much you drink rather than what you eat when trying to lose weight.
Learn to identify and satisfy emotional appetites
Sometimes it may feel like you can’t get enough and that your appetites are very hard to satisfy. An unending appetite can be caused by a medical condition, but most often it’s not quite knowing what you really need. This can be the case with negative emotional eating where you feel you can’t stop eating because the stress you’re feeling isn’t going away no matter what you eat. Situations like this are an opportunity to think about what’s really causing the stress and dealing with it directly instead of trying to pacify it with food.