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The facade of a ‘balanced diet’ - is it doable?

Balance, defined as different elements in equal / correct proportions or to offset one thing with another.

And the NHS recommends a diet filled with a wide variety of foods in the right proportions - with a focus on maintaining a ‘healthy body weight’.

“Try to choose a variety of foods from the 5 main food groups to get a wide range of nutrients” - NHS England 2023

Remove balance and what do you have, a diet! Although there are some great nuggets of wisdom on the NHS website in relation to fruits, veggies and legumes they finish with the old classic BMI and weight loss advice… we were so close to actual information not based on weight but alas.

1. Move away from bodyweight

As you may guess or know I’m all about the anti-diet approaches and HAES aligned (that’s health at every size). That mixed with the Intuitive Eating Framework means weight is very much removed from the equation when it comes to working on our relationship with food.

Why? Because weight is caused by so many factors, and if you ask yourself honestly what would be the issue if you gained some weight but ate more nutrients, took better care of yourself etc. What is the rationale when health doesn’t enter the equation.

2. Variety isn’t doable for the everyday Joe

For most of us the weekly food shop might be squeezed in between errands or even done online. We don’t have time to make sure we’re eating a whole different diet of foods compared to the previous week. We’re creatures of habit - we know what we like, how to cook it - and most importantly for some - how much it costs. In a time of food insecurity the focus may be just affording to eat consistently.

And what do you do when you’re short on time, maybe you meal prep. But then you’re eating the same meal daily. Not quite the variety you’d hoped. Because food is one part of our life, not the focus. And if we make a real conscious effort to eat a really varied diet it may lead to the following…

3. Hyperfocus and Hyperplanning, maybe verging on food obsession?

So you sit down and work out how to squeeze in 5 a day, with enough fibre, unsaturated fats etc. and suddenly you’ve spent ages planning out every gram. But now you don’t want any of it, or it’s unappealing. Or you love it, but you’re now obsessed - recipes, calories, macros… is it still fun?

And sometimes this level of planning doesn’t pay off, when it comes to work running late or forgetting your lunch at home. Or even you just crave something different.

4. Guilt and shame

If you fail to meet the standards of a “balanced diet” (which might look different to everyone) then it may lead to guilt or shame. Which is never going to help your relationship with food, just reinforce a standard that must be met.

Does balance lead to restriction?

“I’m trying to have a balanced diet” is a quote that has been used by someone experiencing disordered eating. In fact orthorexia is defined as ‘an obsession with eating foods that one considers healthy’.

"But I did it / do it." That’s great. As long as you have a good relationship to food that works for you then I commend you. For example having a meal with protein, fats and carbs in to feel most satisfied based on your experience is fuelled by satisfaction, not rules.

Balanced, Gentle - that’s how I like it

The last principle of Intuitive Eating - use that NHS guidelines for a ‘balanced diet’ and make it fit with your internal signals, your life and your preferences.

One thing I would recommend - add not subtract. Want a more ‘balanced’ diet, add some fruit and veg to a meal you already love. Add a protein source to your breakfast - don’t remove another thing. Notice what works and what doesn’t, maybe you discover a new recipe you like.

I hope this has been useful - if nothing but a thought provoking exercise.

And if you ever need help with healing your relationship to food, book your FREE discovery call.

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