Healthy Eating

By Allyson Cherkasky, PhD, Core Faculty in the Counseling Psychology Department October 05, 2015

Mental Health Tips from William James College Faculty: Healthy Eating by Allyson Cherkasky, PhD, Core Faculty in the Counseling Psychology Department.

Eating is an essential and everyday human function. Everyone knows how to eat; but not everyone knows how to eat well, that is, in a way that promotes health. Healthy eating requires taking into account not only on what we eat, but also on how we eat it - and why.

Tips for Healthy Eating

  • Health at every size. Embrace and celebrate that we all come in different shapes and sizes. The goal is to decrease unhealthy eating behaviors and be healthier in your body. 
  • Everything in moderation. Most people who go on extreme diets regain their weight and then some. When we drastically restrict our caloric intake, the body conserves energy by lowering its metabolic rate; then, when we resume normal consumption, we are much more likely to store calories as fat. 
  • Ease into dietary and behavioral changes. Extreme measures typically cannot be sustained. Small steps toward healthy choices go a long way. 
  • Eat more fresh vegetables and fruit. Go for variety in terms of colors, flavors, and textures. These foods help us feel full and tend to be low in calories. 
  • Decrease junk food. This includes overly processed foods, refined sugar and flour, hydrogenated fats/trans fats, preservatives, chemicals and fillers. Simple measures like eliminating soda or other sugary drinks are a good first step. 
  • Get good sources of protein, including poultry, fish and lean meat. Try to reduce animal proteins such as sausage, hot dogs, bacon, and fatty red meat that are processed and higher in fat. Vegetarian sources of protein include tofu and tempeh, lentils, beans, nuts and eggs and dairy (if not vegan). 
  • Learn to read labels. Unfortunately, labels can be very confusing. Learn what the information on the label means and its implications for a healthy diet. 
  • Pay attention to how certain foods make you feel. Do you notice that after you eat certain foods you have a shift in energy, concentration, or mood? 
  • Fats don’t make you fat! This is a myth. Consuming healthy fats found in olives and olive oil, avocados, nuts, certain fish, coconut milk, foods high in Omega 3’s are actually brain healthy and stave off hunger. Healthy fats, in moderation, reduce the likelihood of weight gain and provide many health benefits. 
  • Identify whether you engage in behaviors such as unnecessary caloric restriction, binge eating, self-induced vomiting or laxative abuse, compulsive exercise, pills to rev up metabolism and/or decrease appetite or avoidance of social situations that involve eating. If you notice that you routinely engage in these behaviors, make an appointment with your medical provider and ask for a referral for a professional with a background in eating disorders. 
  • Mindful eating. Pay attention to internal and external cues. Do you eat based on the clock or when you are physically hungry? Do you stop when you are comfortably satiated or uncomfortably full?