A healthy eating plan to lose weight must involve developing a healthy relationship with food.

Jessica Jones, R.D., C.D.E., is a cofounder of Food Heaven Made Easy, a multimedia platform for people who want to learn how to prepare healthy meals that don’t require hours of laboring in the kitchen. She has written an informative article in Self Magazine about the importance of considering the mental and social aspects of eating when designing a healthy eating plan to lose weight.  

Her bottom line is: “If a particular way of eating makes you miserable, it’s not healthy.” Ms. Jones says that “Even though many people think dietitians are the ‘food police,’ I’m way less interested in policing what people eat and much more interested in helping people gain a broader understanding of what constitutes healthy eating. In fact, at least half of what I do as a dietitian is help folks cultivate a healthier relationship with food, not restrict their diets.”

A Healthy Eating Plan to Lose Weight Isn’t Just About Nutrition

A healthy eating plan to lose weight requires a broader focus than calories or food selection. Food is meant to be enjoyable and needs to stay in that category. Enjoying food together is a very social activity. We bond and celebrate over meals. Think Thanksgiving and Super Bowl parties. There is no reason to eliminate these traditions to lose weight or to maintain a healthy diet.

Ms. Jones’ Cautions: Don’t Be Overly Restrictive

When we look at food only as something to be restricted and controlled in order to lose weight or be healthy, it can backfire.

  • This mindset leads most people to feel deprived.
  • That can lead to bingeing later on.
  • Having this type of relationship with food causes you to miss out on important things that we all need for our mental health.
  • From lunch with a coworker that energizes you for the rest of the day to dinner with your best friend to the afternoon cookie on a bad day, food and food-related events play central roles in how we connect with other people and with ourselves.
  • Missing out on the important social and psychological aspects of food in the pursuit of healthy eating can strip the joy out of one of life’s greatest pleasures.
  • Making lots of rules about what and when you can eat is not healthy eating.
  • A behavior is disordered eating if it interferes with a person’s day to day life and happiness.
  • When a person’s anxiety about eating out, snacking between meals, or eating carbs gets to the point of an obsession, he or she needs to rethink the role of food.

The best cues to follow when it comes to eating are the ones our bodies send us.

A Healthy Eating Plan to Lose Weight Involves Listening to Your Body  

A healthy eating plan to lose weight means getting in touch with our body’s needs. Our bodies are naturally set up to help us figure out when to eat, both for hunger and for pleasure.

Don’t impose so many food rules that you have a hard time accessing these cues. Healthy eating is flexible and all foods can fit into a healthy diet.

For people who need a little more guidance when it comes to constructing nourishing and satisfying meals, use the My Plate Method. This means making half your plate non-starchy vegetables, one quarter protein, and one quarter carbohydrates. But understand that there will be meals or even days when vegetables don’t make it onto your plate, and that’s OK.

If you find yourself unable to let go of food rules or feel particularly anxious about food and eating, consult with a registered dietitian or certified nutritionist who can help you change your relationship with food.

Click here for the full article about designing a healthy eating plan to lose weight.