For years I have been teaching a nutrition principle that I like to call the 90/10 rule. The rule is simple but is designed to help people achieve balance and maintain a healthy lifestyle over a long period of time.
90 percent of the time
you need to eat for fuel
& 10 percent for fun
I would define “food for fuel” as things generally considered healthy; fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, quality natural proteins (beans, nuts, legumes, seeds) etc Remember food should supply us with the nutrients and “fuel” we need to enjoy life. Eat to live not live to eat. Water is also important. “Food for fun” can be defined as things commonly considered “junk food”; like chips, ice-cream, cheesecake, pizza, soda, candy etc. Food is tasty and meant to be enjoyed within reason. We need nutrients from food too, so balance is important.
Some people eat because they are bored, stressed or find comfort in foods. These motives taken to the extreme are usually associated with disordered eating. While there are people on the other end of the spectrum that eat so extremely well that it causes stress if they crave or consume even a nibble of something unhealthy. Perfectionistic thinking or “all-or-none” thinking (usually “type A” controlling personalities or those with OCD) often lends to disorders such as anorexia, bulimia or orthorexia (an unhealthy fixation on healthy natural foods). There was an interesting magazine article I was interviewed for on Orthorexia. Learn more
I believe it is important to allow yourself some freedom and understand that very few foods are “perfectly” healthy. Often a shift in thinking needs to occur to make progress with disordered eating. While a focus on healthy foods is important a healthy relationship with food is more important. We need to change how we view food and get comfortable with the idea that some unhealthy foods can be incorporated in an overall healthy diet. This can be difficult for some people to accept. But the fact is there are very few (if any) perfect foods out there. Usually it takes a combination of foods to make a balanced meal and what is healthy for one may not be for another (a whole wheat veggie sandwich is great for some, but would not for those with celiac or allergies to wheat). So what is healthy eating? The answer is different for everyone depending on what diseases they are predisposed to. Having been a gestational diabetic on insulin I can tell you that controlling sugar is something I have to be concerned with while others with a high risk of heart disease need to watch out for saturated fats, etc…you get the picture.
Over the last 17 years I have been working with people trying to eat healthier, lose weight or excel in endurance sports. I find that those that are extreme (either end of the spectrum) often tend to “blow up,” “cave in” or have “melt downs” where they binge on a large amount of unhealthy foods that they have restricted themselves from when they go on a “diet” or “claim to be a healthy eater” or are “expected” to eat healthy by others. That “binge” is often much more damaging to their health than just allowed a controlled “10% fun” foods incorporated on a daily/weekly basis. This way they don’t feel like they are “boxed in” and can’t enjoy life while still maintaining balance. Being on one extreme or the other just isn’t healthy. I feel to be in the “middle” or “gray area” is far more healthy way to live. Most people enjoy the flavor of “unhealthy foods” but over consuming them isn’t healthy either. So, consuming small amounts on occasion allow people to enjoy life (like have a piece of cake on their birthday) without going overboard.
You might be asking, what is 90% or 10% exactly? How do you measure it? For me, I am not super strict about calculating exactly what 10% of my calories can be used for “fun” food, but I know this can be helpful for some to stay on track. And some prefer to live by the “letter of the law”. If you tend to snack and think little things don’t matter, then you may consider measuring and tracking your food on a regular basis so you can see how all the little things add up but be careful not to become obsessive about calories. Food is meant to enjoyed as well as provide nutrients. Strive to achieve a balance for you.
I also believe not only WHAT you are eating but WHEN you are consuming it can make a significant difference with losing weight. Timing matters. Also, food combinations matter to prevent the feeling of being hungry all the time. If you need help to conquer poor eating habits and achieve a healthy balance please contact me. Individual consultation is available and I specialize in weight loss. All of my programs include custom fitness (don’t worry, you don’t have to run. There are lots of great ways to exercise, and some you may have not even considered). I would love to help you achieve your health goals.
Coach Lora Erickson