24 Apr 2017

Changing your eating habits without 'dieting'

From Nine To Noon, 11:34 am on 24 April 2017
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Photo: supplied

Do you automatically reach for the biscuits each time you put the kettle on?

BBC Food Writer of the Year Bee Wilson reckons changing our habits – which can mean changing the size of your plate, learning to enjoy bitter foods or not labelling what you eat as 'good' and 'bad' – will lead to happier, healthier eating.

In This Is Not A Diet Book, she suggests little adjustments you can make without going on a 'diet'.

Wilson describes herself as a 'diet survivor'.

"We have so many different kinds of chaos around food. My chaos took the form of overeating coupled with yo-yo dieting ... I never thought I'd be free of diets."

On the whole, diets encourage feelings of guilt and shame around food which ultimately don't lead to people eating better, she says.

"The real end point might be losing weight, but is more about reaching a point where food is something that nourishes you and gives you joy."

The current fad for 'clean eating' – "the idea you don't eat anything which is not dietetically perfect" – is problematic and even dangerous, Wilson says.

"At its best, clean eating is just saying 'eat more vegetables', but at its worst it's encouraging lots of people, including vulnerable young people who might be at risk of developing eating disorders, to cut out entire food groups."

Recipe: Lentil Soup (with variations)

Tips from Bee Wilson:

  • Reduce plate size. (The diameter of a basic dinner plate is 28cm today, compared to 25cm in the 1950s.)
  • If you feel the need for something sweet after a meal, serve it up in a very small bowl, like a dipping bowl you would use for soy sauce.
  • Develop a taste for bitter foods if you want some help resisting sweet foods.
  • Don't put your food into moral categories. "Calories are not the same as morals – there's no such thing as a 'naughty' food or a 'virtuous' food."
  • Pair up vegetables with a food you're already a fan of. "If you're someone that loves bacon and hates broccoli, try stir-frying some broccoli with a bit of bacon. OK, people might say bacon is a processed meat, but still isn't it better to have some broccoli with the bacon and realise you actually enjoy it? And bit by bit you might want the broccoli in some different form."
  • If you're the parent of a child who's a picky eater, don't put too much pressure on yourself. "Offer loads of different foods and offer them with joy. And nothing that you say to a child is going to be as powerful as the ways they see you behaving at the dinner table."