Weight Loss

How I Create Healthy Food Habits Without Extreme Rules

Conforming to diet rules requires obsession and deprivation that is not sustainable whereas choosing what feels right can be a lifelong guide

I’ve experimented with all kinds of approaches to nutrition. I say “experiment” rather than “followed” because I never expected to follow it for the rest of my life. Instead, it was more about, “Well, let’s see what this approach to nutrition is like.”

Low-carb. Lower-carb. Ketogenic. No sugar. Vegan. Yada. Yada. Yada.

And one thing they all have in common are rules. 

  • Rules on what you should eat.
  • Rules on what you must never eat.
  • Rules on how much of this macronutrient.
  • Rules of when to eat.
  • Rules. Rules. Rules.

And I have to tell you, after at least 10 years of actively studying and experimenting with different approaches to nutrition, I’ve never felt more at peace, more satisfied, and more healthy (and lean!) than when I took away all of the rules.

I have no rules in my current approach to nutrition. Instead, I simply have things I know about my body and how it feels when I do or don’t eat certain foods.

I know I feel best when …

I know I feel best when I don’t track calories or carbohydrates, and instead, my daily goal is to simply eat mostly real food.

I know I feel best when I eat vegetables for breakfast combined with some type of animal protein and fat. Like frozen veggie medley with 3 or 4 chicken sausage. Or a huge salad with dressing, two eggs, and an apple.

I know I feel best when I eat some type of whole-food carbohydrate for breakfast: vegetables or fruit. 

I know I feel best when I don’t eat any obvious form of dessert until after dinner, at the end of my day. When I eat chocolate earlier than that, I crave sugar madly all day long.

I know I feel best when I make sure to give myself full permission to eat dessert once a day. When I try to avoid dessert, I end up thinking about it all the time. When I know a delicious homemade dessert is waiting for me after my jump rope session and a dinner full of real food protein and veggies, I don’t think about sugar or dessert at all during the day.

‘No-Rules’ works for me because …

I wear size 0 pants and I eat homemade gluten-free whoopie pies almost daily. 

My A1c is 6.2 percent. 

Honestly, I know I feel best when I’m eating dessert daily. I just do! You can tell me sugar is bad for me, but as long as I’m taking enough insulin and my pants continue to fit — I’m gonna tell you that eating dessert every day leaves me feeling balanced, fit, and healthy.

I know I feel best when animal protein and animal fat is in my diet. Period.

I know I feel best when I avoid hot, heavy foods at lunch. 

Eating with moderation is my guide

I know I feel best when I eat lighter during the day, about 3 different meals each containing about 300 calories, followed by a larger dinner and dessert. 

But I also know I don’t need to really count or track calories as long as I follow these other guidelines! 

Eating “lighter” during the day leaves me feeling far more energized and more mentally clear. 

I know I feel best when I drink only one cup of coffee in the morning. If I have more, I’m insulin resistant all day long and I feel jittery, too.

I know I feel best when I eat breakfast as soon as possible (usually 9 a.m. after bringing my kids to school) mixed sometimes with an intermittent fasting schedule. I try to listen to my body when deciding if I should fast that week or not. Sometimes it feels good, sometimes it feels physically stressful. 

I know I feel best when I only drink two servings of alcohol on the 2 (sometimes 3) nights a week when I might drink alcohol.

I know I feel best when I don’t set rules around food.

Sure, I have Celiac disease so technically I should not eat gluten, right? But is that a rule? No, it’s a choice. It’s a decision I make on a daily basis to simply not choose gluten.

What approach to nutrition makes you feel your best?

What have you tried so far that clearly does not work for you? 

What approach and what guidelines around nutrition leave you feeling best? Both mentally and physically?

I double-dog-dare-you to start thinking of nutrition in terms of what makes you feel your best rather than how many calories or carbohydrates are in that food. Let go of the extreme rules that require obsession and deprivation, and let yourself choose what feels right for you.

Ginger Vieira has lived with Type 1 diabetes and Celiac disease since 1999, and fibromyalgia since 2014. She is the author of 4 books: Pregnancy with Type 1 Diabetes, Dealing with Diabetes Burnout, Emotional Eating with Diabetes, Your Diabetes Science Experiment. Ginger creates content regularly for Diabetes Strong, Healthline, HealthCentral, DiabetesDaily, EverydayHealth and her YouTube Channel. Her background includes a B.S. in Professional Writing, certifications in cognitive coaching, Ashtanga yoga, and personal training with several records in drug-free powerlifting. She lives in Vermont with two kiddos and two dogs.

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