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How to actually enjoy eating healthily

Diets don’t work, we know that. Psychologies Wellness Director Ali Roff shares the secret link between eating healthily, and wanting to – and it’s all in the mind

by Ali Roff

Eating healthily

Eat, think, and be merry!

When I’ve dieted in the past, throwing myself into deprivation and punishment (only to inevitability give in after a couple of weeks, by champing down junk food after a tough day at work), I can only say I ever focused on what I was not allowed to eat. My attention was never on the food that I could enjoy. Chocolate became the pink elephant – tell yourself you can’t have even one piece, and it’ll be all you think about.

Research shows that we set ourselves up for failure by placing our focus on the wrong things. People with less willpower will think about banning foods, which will often be their favourite treats, and force themselves to start eating the foods they hate. Whereas people with higher self-control will do the opposite. When they want to eat more healthily, they focus on the healthy foods that they look forward to eating, therefore putting their attention on what they can eat. And when they select foods to cut down on, they choose the things that they don’t mind eating less of.

Food for thought

So, in my willpower journey, I decided to put this into action. Instead of making internal lists of things I wasn’t allowed to have, I started to think about the healthy foods I loved. Roasted aubergines sprung to mind. Stir-fried cavolo nero (curly kale), fresh fish with glugs of Tuscan olive oil and colourful warm salads with crunchy radishes and seeds sprinkled on top for dinner. Pancakes made with whizzed-up banana and eggs, served with a lovely dollop of Greek yogurt, were a treat that threw all memories of sugar-laden croissants out the window. And the best discovery? Eating wholesome foods actually satisfies my body and cravings, nourishing me from the inside out, unlike the empty calories in junk.

It was a small change that’s had a huge impact on my eating habits, and I haven’t looked back since. ‘Diet’ is not a term that is part of my reality any more. I rarely find myself lusting over foods I can’t eat, because I’m cooking up a storm of goodies in the kitchen, or delighting in a beautifully healthy meal, while getting inspiration from restaurant creations. I’ve even fallen in love with vegetables so much that I’m now pescatarian, truly only indulging in the foods I love, instead of huge amounts of red meat that I didn’t ever actually enjoy. There are so many gorgeously tasty foods that I adore; it just took that small mindset tweak to realise that when it came to eating healthily, the world was my oyster, not a padlocked chocolate factory.

Ali's debut book The Wellfulness Project will be published December 26th 2019 by Aster. Follow Ali at @AliRoff and visit her website aliroff.com to find out more about her and her wellness retreats.Image: Laura Doherty

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