I was talking with a new client recently and she mentioned that she had seen a social media post where someone suggested approaching food and eating from a place of adding in versus taking away. She said this concept really sort of blew her mind. She, like so many of us, are used to thinking about food from a place of can’t have, shouldn’t have, cutting out, avoiding, feeling guilty, etc.
Think about it…what do we think of first when we want to “get healthy” or “eat better”? When we get a new diagnosis like high blood pressure, cholesterol, or have elevated blood sugars? When we are experiencing chronic GI issues? Most often we think, “what do I need to cut out of my diet?”
This thinking is often reinforced by well-meaning physicians or health professionals saying that very same thing. “Don’t”, “limit”, and “avoid” are some of the most common words we think and typically receive as advice when it comes to making changes in our eating.
Why the Typical Negative Approach to Nutrition Isn’t Effective
While a negative approach has historically worked well for other risk factors, such as smoking or drug use prevention (“quit smoking” or “don’t do drugs”), nutrition is different. Smoking and drugs can be all-or-nothing proposition, but everyone has to eat. What, how much, when, and where depend on many factors like emotions, values, beliefs, and culture, not just need or want.
Instead of helping, this way of thinking automatically puts us in a scarcity mindset creating feelings of lack of fulfillment, limitation, overwhelm, and feeling paralyzed. Our brains don’t like how scarcity feels and therefore when they experience it, they want to rebel. This is what creates the battle so many of us have with food.
What a bummer that something so simple and necessary – food and nourishing ourselves – has become so negative. Well, it doesn’t have to be! That’s where the concept of positive nutrition comes in.
What Is Positive Nutrition?
Positive nutrition is an approach to eating that focuses on more instead of less. It is about focusing on all the beneficial aspects that getting a wide variety of different foods provides and including those more. Instead of the old, largely unsuccessful deprivation/scarcity approach to eating and nutrition advice, positive nutrition encourages enjoyment and adding in in order to promote satisfaction and pleasure as well as health. This way of thinking creates an abundance mindset, creating feelings of excitement, motivation, and readiness to take action.
What Does Positive Nutrition Look Like in Practice?
⁃ Focusing on foods to add in versus avoid.
⁃ Seeing food and the nutrients we get from it as beneficial life-giving and energy providing versus something to fret over and fear.
⁃ Letting go of seeing foods as good and bad, and instead shifting to an understanding that including all foods can be part of eating well.
⁃ Nourishing your body as a way to care for it rather than as a way to control or manage it.
Practical Ways to Incorporate Positive Nutrition
When it comes to nutrition, although our first instinct is to think about what to take out, there are many, many things we can add in including:
- Add in fruit at breakfast or a snack
- Add in vegetables with meals or to a sandwich
- Add in protein with meals (combining nutrients like carbs along with protein can help regulate blood sugars and make snack and meals more satisfying and filling)
- Add in more whole grains (this doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing endeavor, keep some of your favorite non-whole grains, but look for opportunities to add in whole grains too – i.e. whole wheat bread, whole wheat pasta or orzo, oats, corn, popcorn are all easy additions)
- Add in salmon or other seafood into your meal routine
- Add in nuts as a snack or on your cereal or oatmeal
- Add in beans and lentils – to soups, salads, etc.
- Add in water throughout the day
In addition to nutrition, there are also other positive lifestyle additions we can make that we know are beneficial to our health and positively impact our lives including:
- Add in more joy and connection with people you enjoy being with
- Add in fun
- Add in time outside in nature
- Add in more movement (not what you think you “should do” or “have to do”, but what actually makes you feel good before, during, and after and that you enjoy!)
- Add in moments of quiet, down time (not scrolling on social media or watching Netflix, nothing wrong with some of that, but what I’m suggesting here is just quiet and peace with maybe some good deep breathing thrown in)
- Add in more sleep
We don’t have to stay in a perpetual battle with food. One way to end the battle is to replace the largely unsuccessful scarcity and avoidance approach to food and eating and caring for ourselves and instead come from a place of adding in, abundance, and positive nutrition. Food is not the enemy, but instead is life-giving and provides our bodies with fuel and nutrients, as well as comfort, connection, pleasure, and nourishment. What is one way you can incorporate positive nutrition this week?
Need some help? I’m here to support you.