Eat What Feels Good? What does that mean?

My college roommates and I had a saying we liked to think we lived by: Do what feels good. It was a message meant to help drown out unnecessary self-criticism and self doubt. It encouraged us to ignore pressure from peer groups to act or be a certain way. Basically, do what makes you happy. My friend Colleen lived this way and I always admired her for it. She did what she wanted within the confines of her personal values, and she was and is a wonderful person for it. I interpret the message as a “big picture” phenomenon, not just an “in the moment” excuse to act like an idiot (though we may have used it that way in college). The goal is to have all of your actions move your life in the direction you want it to go, right? Okay then, do what feels good. If what you do makes you feel bad later, it was the wrong thing to do.

Since a lot of what makes me happy in my day to day life involves food- eating, cooking, food network, grocery shopping- I like the motto “Eat what feels good.” Not just “Eat what feels good” right now, but eat the foods that will move your health in the direction you want it to go. Whether that be weight loss, heart health, remediating a chronic diagnosis or any other personal goal you have, this message can apply to you.

For me, I now can see the big picture. Ever since I became interested in learning about health and nutrition, I’ve tried several diets and exercise regimens in the hopes that “this time, it will work.” Of course, what even interested me in the first place during college was that my naturally thin frame was suddenly overflowing with the effects of late night pizza, Easy Mac and beer. I guess at the time I thought I was doing what felt good, but I sure didn’t feel good after 35 lbs knocked on my dormroom door and decided to stay a while. So I thought, “I’ll eat less, exercise more, and lose all of the weight as quickly as I gained it, right?” I was still eating pizza and candy, just a little bit less. What I didn’t know was that I was just taking smaller amounts of the slowest forms of poison.

Now, I believe food can be medicine. Eating what feels good means making conscious choices daily about what I put in my body. Motivation to make those informed decisions means actually caring about the health of my body. Knowing what is healthy for my body means I have to be properly informed about nutrition and in tune with the signals my body is telling me when I eat.

Eating “healthy” can be a tricky business, with contradicting information available in every media outlet. It is confusing to those of us who actually want answers and aren’t just looking for permission to drink wine or eat chocolate (though I loved the idea of that article that said drinking red wine was the same as going to the gym)!

Eating what feels good is a process.

It’s like this: Skittles are the best. Especially Wild Berry. They were my favorite candy for a long time. Now, I’m trying to tell myself they aren’t food at all. I must admit I still eat Skittles on occasion- but the longer I go without them, the easier it is and the less I crave them. The reason it is easier is because I have learned something by listening to my body. I learned that sugar is a big trigger for me, especially “fat free” sugar. I know now that if I eat five Skittles, I will want five more later, etc. They become a reward for daily events like eating dinner and finishing that thank you note and going to the gym. They are a gateway drug for other sweets and carby goodness. Soon I am famished between meals because I’m waiting for my next reward of sweets. This way of living? Does NOT feel good. And somehow my pants notice.

Eat what feels good for you in the long run. What will make you energized, happy and strong? For me that means cooking a lot, becoming informed about health and doing my best. For me it also means the inclusion of occasional indulgences slash deal-breaker items that I know are worth it because they do really make me THAT happy. What I’ve realized is, most common indulgences and traditional desserts don’t actually make the cut. Key lime cheesecake, however? Ohhhh yes.

That’s my intro, folks. Hope you like my take on this stuff because there will be much more to come.

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