Many people assume that I’m vegetarian, vegan or follow some other particular regime of eating. They’re often stumped when they hear that I eat all food groups. Now, I’m not one for labels… but if I had to choose one, it would be “flexitarian”. That basically means listening to your body and not being straightjacketed by stringent rules.
The key thing to remember is this: it’s what you do day in, day out that impacts your health, not what you do now and again. Beating yourself up and piling on the guilt about the odd splurge at the cake counter fills you with negativity which is, in turn, bad for your health.
If you’re ruled by fear of weight gain or are bogged down by always trying to be “good” with your food, then how about relaxing a little?
A more gentle approach includes built-in flexibility. Some like to call this “zig and zag”. So, a “zig” meal is made up of those nutrient-dense whole foods that are so good for you. And a “zag” meal? Well, let’s say the focus is more about chilling in the company you’re in or that special occasion. Zags are just a normal, enjoyable part of a healthy lifestyle.
If you know you’re off out tonight for a blow-out for a friend’s birthday, well enjoy! But that doesn’t mean the whole day needs to be a write-off. Ask yourself if you approach your health in an all-or-nothing way – “I’ve blown my diet anyway so I might as well just ditch it and go back to scoffing three packets of biscuits”. But your mate’s birthday bash in the evening is even more reason to eat a nutritious breakfast and lunch… and follow up with wise food choices the next day. When you live mostly as a zig you can really enjoy the zag to the full – after all, it takes very little toll on your overall level of well-being.
The “flexitarian” approach can also apply to exercise (I actually prefer the less intimidating term “movement”). It simply means that you make a conscious effort to move regularly. If you don’t get to move one day or one week, the sky won’t fall on your head… and you won’t suddenly gain half a stone.
Are you panicking over your zags and berating yourself up over them? Try being kinder to yourself. After all, if you ease off the pressure on yourself to meet rigid criteria, you’ll be far more likely to make choices you can sustain in the long-term.