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How Eating Healthy Can Feel Joyful Again

Remember when you were a kid and how you loved picking raspberries straight off the bush at your grandparents’ house and popping them right into your mouth? And how they were just the most delicious thing ever?

Okay, that’s my memory, but you might remember something similar from your own childhood, whether it’s biting into the first ripe tomato of the season or savoring the butternut squash casserole at Thanksgiving. And you probably have fond memories of ice cream, too.

Food becomes the enemy

The point is, as adults we make food complicated. Actually, we probably start making food complicated when we’re teenagers and someone or something (like a magazine) tells us we need to lose weight. From that moment on, food becomes the enemy: something to be restricted or something to be avoided.

This ends up making eating well incredibly difficult, as healthy foods almost turn into something you “have” to eat, while other foods become something to fear and to beat yourself up about eating. This has been even further complicated by things like blogs and social media, because there’s always a photo of someone’s perfect raw vegan Green Goddess bowl staring at you, suggesting you could be and should be doing better.

Well I’m here to say let’s bring the joy back into food and eating.

Bring the joy back into food

Deprivation, the opposite of joy, creates obsession and overeating, not health. Allowing yourself to eat a wide variety of foods you actually like in a quantity that is satisfying (re: not so much you feel like your stomach is going to explode) is going to be much more beneficial to you than eating lettuce and boiled chicken breast for three days straight and then eating every single thing you can get your hands on for a week.

I know this can feel overwhelming, especially if you’ve been told you’re doing it wrong and that if you don’t start eating well you’re causing yourself and your health to suffer. Try the following to add the joy back into your diet:

  • Take it slow

    You don’t have to do it perfectly right this second. Ask yourself what you really want to eat. Can you make it in a way that’s still delicious but also in line with your health goals? Is there something you love that you can savor in small portions to help you feel like you’re getting to eat everything you truly enjoy?  Try it, see how it feels, repeat.

  • Eat seasonally when you can

    Right now, as we enter a season of abundance at the farmer’s market and grocery store, I’m loving strawberries and practically jumping up and down in anticipation of peaches, those sweet and juicy globes that only arrive once a year and simply can’t be savored in the same way any other time. I’m also looking forward to eggplants and tomatoes and chard and locally grown broccoli and lettuce. It all just seems to taste better this time of year! What foods are you looking forward to? If it’s fresh it’s probably delicious! Just give it a try.

  • Prepare foods that you normally think of as healthy in a way that’s yummy for you, and eat them because you want to, not because you’re feeling forced to

    Add some butter or other fat to green vegetables. Find new sauces and dips to up the enjoyment of raw veggies. I’ve probably mentioned this before, but my husband now regularly asks for green smoothies and kale chips. Didn’t see that coming.

  • Set the intention to enjoy eating

    Really taste your food. Let yourself savor whatever you’re eating no matter what it is. Do your best to eat in a way that feels the best for you, and try to let go of comparisons and thoughts about how you’re not doing it right.

  • Work with a registered dietitian

    A dietician who specializes in both type 2 diabetes and intuitive eating, as they’ll be able to fully understand your health concerns and also help you to bring joy back to the menu.

With a little time and focus, you can bring the joy back to dinner.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.