If it’s your intention this year to try out a more consistent balanced diet, you might have already stumbled across concepts like “crowding in” and “crowding out” while going down a Google search rabbit hole. Been there, done that too!
While I’m a fan of the overarching concept, the general blogosphere sentiment attached to these terms often focuses quite heavily on a zero tolerance “crowding out” strategy, in which you naturally crowd out all the 'bad things' in your diet by including 'better things' like more water, greens and you know the drill. This is not something that has worked consistently for me in the past... so I’d like to share a slight amendment with you today. Hopefully, it will also help you to make a shift towards more consistent healthy eating in a more gentle and kind way.
Moving Away From The Standard Definition
The idea of “crowding in” quite simply refers to prioritising healthy foods in your diet, which I’m totally on board with. Where I get a bit stuck is the idea of “crowding out” junk foods with the implication of having to completely remove junk food from your diet. Forever. Advocates of this kind of approach don’t like to leave a lot of (or any!) room for indulgences, which in my experience leads to more cravings, and unexpected sugar binges. I’d prefer to look from a slightly different angle, in order to allow for more consistent, sustainable eating habits that can be beneficial over a longer period of time.
“Crowding In” Healthy Foods
Adding more good foods into your diet is never a bad idea, and if you’d like to make “crowding in” a thing in your life, you can start by exploring adding more water, vegetables, whole foods, appropriate proteins and water to your diet and why not some laughter. These form the foundation of any healthy diet, as they will provide a lot of the essential nutrients and minerals you need, while ensuring you get the energy boost to tackle your to-do list on any given day. The more healthy foods you can “crowd in”, even when it comes to weekends where you might not be so keen to cook, the better.
“Easing Out” Unhealthy Alternatives
I like to use the term “Easing Out” rather than “Crowding Out”, as the latter is usually far too focused on ignoring your cravings, and avoiding any indulgences. When you’re adding in more healthy food to your diet, what ends up happening is a natural easing out of the unhealthy alternatives over time. High sugar snacks, “chemicalized” artificial junk food, alcohol and other notable troublesome options are essentially phased out of your diet over time, especially so as you start to feel better from eating more healthy food regularly. Cold turkey has never worked for me. So here’s the twist. Rather than putting these on the ban list full-time, “easing out” means they can be part-time indulgences, and soon you’ll notice you’re craving them in smaller quantities than previously, because your body is nourished in an entirely new way from the healthy food you’ve added in systematically.
Learning More About Eating Well
Learning to eat well is an ongoing journey that often entails a couple of highs and lows, as well as a bunch of lessons. The more you engage with healthy food, and the more you learn about how it benefits your mood, energy levels and the overall functioning of your body, the more likely you are to start paying closer attention to what you’re putting into your body to begin with. Nobody is walking around with a checklist and a marker to punish you if you fall off the wagon, so remember to be kind to yourself along the way!
The idea is to gently navigate back into the “crowding in” phase when things start to slip a bit, and not to allow any form of self-beating about indulging in comfort food here and there. This has to happen within some limits of course, and by doing so, your healthy habits will begin to trump the unhealthy ones more naturally over time. If you’d like more tips about healthy eating, keep an eye on the Hello Happiest Instagram, watch this space for our new online food program coming very soon, or touch base with me about a coaching session or two to empower you on the journey.
By tapping into this less extreme approach to the food you eat, you’ll be running for the celery aisle right after the chocolate aisle quite willingly! Make this a delicious process, and you'll enjoy the ride.