The quality and quantity of our food (and the frequency with which we consume it) are essential considerations in leading an energized life. How we fuel our bodies can impact our ability to focus, our emotions and, of course, our physical appearance. To get a deeper perspective on this, I managed to chase down the very in-demand Dr Joanna McMillan for a chat.
Joanna and I first met back in 2001 when we both were instructors teaching classes at Balmain Fitness. Since completing her PhD at the University of Sydney, this honorary Aussie has gone on to become a regular fixture on TV screens as the official nutritionist of Australia’s The Today Show, and she founded her successful online program Get Lean.
As a past vice-president of the Australian Lifestyle Medicine Association (ALMA) and a member of the Dietitians Association of Australia and The Nutrition Society she is a thought leader in nutrition; but as you’ll see below, how social and psychological considerations connect with diet are equally important to keep in mind.
Here are seven ways to ensure that you have a healthy relationship with food:
1. Frame choices positively
Remember: eating is good for you. Without it, we’d kick the bucket; but it is the negative aspects of eating which command the lion’s share of the media’s attention. The latest fad celebrity diet or reports associating carbs and sugar with the devil have conditioned us to focus more on what we need to cut or lose than what we have to gain. Joanna suggests that simply reframing how we view our meals can help. Telling yourself that this afternoon you will snack on a nuts and dried fruit is much easier to achieve than reinforcing the idea that you absolutely must not eat chocolate at any cost.
2. Go for variety
As guys we are constantly bombarded with the perfect physiques in men’s magazines. Even the mannequins at Nike and Adidas stores are built like brick Adonises. But the thought of eating nothing but chicken breasts, broccoli and protein shakes bores me. Lately I’ve discovered the amazing menu at Thr1ve. There’s so much variety, it’s super fresh and they cover all the food groups. What more do you need? Find a place with a similar food philosophy to Thr1ve near you and make the most of it.
3. Remove temptation and you won’t be tempted
This is one idea that I implemented straight after talking to Joanna. If you have temptation within easy reach, of course you’re going to give in. The best way to give yourself a kick start is to remove everything from the fridge and pantry that doesn’t support your new goals. When more effort is required to go to the shops or supermarket to satisfy a craving you are way less likely to do it.
4. Eat fresh and whole foods
It’s a no-brainer that eating less processed food is more nutritious and better for us. Hell, I think I even start to feel better standing in the fruit and vegetable section of the supermarket, before I’ve even eaten anything. The reality is that you will still eat processed foods now and then, it’s just about making a habit of choosing them less often.
5. Enjoy the social aspects of eating
One thing I love about Joanna’s approach is that joy is at its center. She says that “food is meant to be enjoyed, it is more than the nutrients it contains, it’s part of our social connections. It’s a very human condition because it’s intimate.” One of life’s simple pleasures is to cook and be cooked for – even better when the food is healthy and nutritious.
6. Prepare so you can take charge in the moment
Life is a result of the choices we make and food is something we are continually making choices about, so it’s important to pause when the choice may not be such a good one and consider your other options. If you’re in the habit of “swallowing your emotions with food”, you could chose to do something different that will make you feel good. Make a list of alternatives in advance so that you’re not making decisions on the spot.
7. Eat well to achieve your potential
For those who may be experiencing an energy crisis, just applying a few of the tips above is a positive start to getting back on track. By making positive, healthy choices you can fuel yourself, enjoy what you eat, and even reconnect socially.