Over the years I've had a rather unhealthy relationship with food. It started in my early teens. I thought that to be liked I needed to be stick thin. That starving is just what girls do to be seen as pretty.
It continued over the years. I watched my grandmother lose 10 kg within a few weeks by resorting to extremes. I watched my mother do the same over and over. And admittedly, I did the same - starving myself and exercising a lot for a period of time until I lost enough weight. Only to gain it back again.
I was also swayed by fad diets. Not too often. But I did partake in the low carb high protein diets that were popular at the time. Which seem to always be around with a slight change of theory and name.
What changed my view on health and diets is when I had my children.
When you become a parent you become a role model for these little people. Their eyes are on you watching and learning about life and how to function in the world.
I notice now how my 2-year-old daughter watches my every move. She copies me when I get ready in the morning - pretends to put on makeup, puts a bobby pin in her hair, and walks around in my shoes. Children mimic their parents. Until they reach an age where they rebel somewhat, but I'm yet to face that challenge!
I believe that for children to develop healthy eating habits, as parents we need to demonstrate healthy eating ourselves.
So when I had my children I vowed to give up dieting. To give up the extremes. To show them that I love my body and feel grateful for the things it can do. To teach them that we need nourishment, movement, sleep and sunshine to thrive. That it's OK to eat the not as healthy foods occasionally without feeling like we've failed. And to not encourage them to feel that we are judged in this world by appearance.
As a society it seems that we often resort to extremes. But I don't feel it's necessary.
I think we can go about life kinder and gentler in our actions and behaviours. And in doing so we potentially feel calmer and more content. Rather than constantly battle within and berate ourselves.
Food is fuel. It helps us thrive. And it's also beautiful and encourages us to gather with loved ones.
So healthy eating - it doesn't need to be overcomplicated. For most of us it can be something like this:
Eat mostly from nature
Favour quality over quantity
Cook homemade meals with few ingredients, prepared simply
Eat fresh seasonal vegetables and fruit
Enjoy a little carbohydrate from sources like bread, pasta or grains, and choose mostly whole-grain
Include protein from dairy, eggs, lean meat (limit red meat), fish, legumes, nuts and seeds
Obtain healthy fats from olive oil, nuts, seeds and avocado
Drink plenty of natural water
Enjoy a few sweets here and there
Eat with others, enjoy a glass of wine in the company of others, and take your time
And above all (and often the hardest) listen to our bodies and stop when we are full. Enjoy foods that we personally feel better eating, and keep quantities lower of those that don't.