Blog: Living Life Without Dieting

Eating healthy has always come natural for me.  As a matter of fact, while growing up my plate was the identical image I recommend to my patients today. 

My parents had a strong positive influence on me.    My mother regularly prepared (and still does at 86 years old) delicious, balanced meals.  My father was a disciplined exerciser and believed that a day without exercise was like a day without sunshine.   My parents guided my health habits and supported my passion for teaching others how to live healthily.

Over the years, I too, experienced social pressures to be thin.   I remember being easily influenced while in college.  A girlfriend (who competed on the Arizona synchronized swim team) greatly impacted my eating decisions.  Her extreme behaviors and compulsive desire to be thin rubbed off on me.   Also, witnessing the continuous complements given to her by other girls/guys directly lead me to an unhealthy eating regimen.      My eating habits were also influenced by only having access to dorm food and no longer having the daily luxury of eating Moms healthy home cooking.   I became frightened after losing a significant amount of weight in a short period of time.  I felt completely out of control.     Luckily, I snapped out of it when I learned the life- threatening consequences of eating disorders while attending an elective class in nutrition.     I immediately made up my mind that I should not have to go to such extremes with diet and exercise just to project a specific body image. 

It was at this time I became genuinely interested in Nutrition.  I changed my major from Music to Human Nutrition & Dietetics.  The more I learned the more passionate I became about becoming a Dietitian/Nutritionist but not in the traditional sense.  I knew I wanted to be a “preventive dietitian” even without any knowledge that the focus even existed.  Completely convinced that was exactly how I wanted to spend my Nutrition Career.   My advisors & professors encouraged me not only because I excelled in the academics, but because I understood people.  It wasn’t’ about how much you knew, but more importantly how you deliver the message to the people your trying to help.  I committed to working hard in my studies, and the importance of making a personal commitment to healthy eating and fitness.   After all, if I wanted patients to listen and trust me, I would have to practice what I preach. 

As I started my personal journey towards healthy eating, I realized how much food is relied on for not only hunger and nourishment. Food is involved in just about everything we do.  People eat for reasons not related to hunger.  People eat responding to emotional and past dysfunctional patterns in their lives. 

As I went through social and emotional aspects of my life, I began to focus on the “What, When, Why, and How Much” of my eating habits.  Which the field of Nutrition now refers to as Mindful Eating.   Mindfulness can be applied to many aspects of life.  Being mindful helps identify both the physical and emotional feelings connected to eating.   Mindful eating helped me develop a positive relationship to food.  Mindful eating helped me establish the following best practices.

Why am I eating?  Does my body need fuel?  Am I bored, stressed, tired, angry, or unhappy.?  Have I turned to food for reasons other than hunger?   What foods are going to help me eat a healthier more balanced diet?   What is in the food I eat?  By slowing down my pace of eating, I noticed all the colors, smells, flavors, and textures.  How Much am I eating?  Slowing down helped me feel fuller sooner, improved my digestion, and increased my pleasure and satisfaction. When should I eat?  Am I waiting too long between meals/snacks?  Am I getting painfully hungry and tending to overeat, or already full and eating for reasons other than hunger?

By discovering the What, When, Why and How Much I use food I was able to work on the necessary changes needed to be successful at healthy eating.  Today, I feel totally in control of the food I put in my body by practicing Mindful eating.  It has become a very integral part of my lifestyle and provides me with the confidence to help others.    We are all unique and have the opportunity to create change and shape your future health.

A thought for this Holiday Season; There are no rules when it comes to eating your Holiday Meal. However, remember to be Mindful the day’s before and after the holiday.

By Sheryl Gray, MS, RD, LD

The Forward Focus Wellness Center is a unique collaboration in medical care housed in the Forward Focus Concierge Medicine suite in Lake Forest, IL.  The Wellness Center offers highly trained health care professionals, like Sheryl Gray, from diverse disciplines.  These affiliated independent practices are here and ready to help you enhance your healthy lifestyle.