Embrace Healthy Eating by Shifting Your Mindset

By Christina Hanna, MPH, CHES • Published 1/25/2024

Medically Reviewed by Jennifer Hanway

Two plates of a healthy balanced meal with protein, grains, and lots of vegetables

Do you feel like you’ve spent a good part of your life dieting, trying to lose weight, or being concerned with those topics? If so, you're not alone. In fact, one study showed that 56% of women ages 40-59 (in the menopausal transition) have tried to lose weight in the past 12 months.

But what if there was a different way to approach eating? A way that didn't involve dieting or restricting yourself? Let’s flip the script during the menopausal transition and instead of focusing on weight loss, let’s focus on nourishing our bodies and promoting overall health.

Why diets don’t work

Diets often don't work because they’re not sustainable. They’re based on the idea that restricting your food will cause you to lose weight quickly. But that is not a healthy or sustainable way to lose weight for several reasons:

  • When you diet and restrict yourself, you may experience cravings or binge eating. This doesn't help you reach your goals and may even cause you to gain more weight overall.
  • Diets can be expensive and time-consuming. You may feel pressure or think you need to purchase special foods or supplements that can be costly and may not fit into your budget.
  • Restricting food intake can make it more likely to overeat when you do finally eat. This can lead to weight gain and a yo-yo effect. Yo-yo dieting is when you gain back the weight you lost and then some. This can be extremely discouraging and can lead to feelings of guilt and shame. Yo-yo dieting can also cause long-term damage to your metabolism, making it harder for you to lose weight in the future.
A family celebrating and sharing healthy foods

The benefits of a healthy eating mindset

Eating with a different perspective means changing the way you think about food and eating. It means moving away from a diet mentality and towards a more intuitive and mindful approach to eating. There are many benefits to eating with a healthy eating mindset:

  • Improved physical health. When you eat healthier foods, you’re less likely to develop chronic diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers. You may also have more energy and feel better overall.
  • Improved mental health. When you’re not constantly dieting or worrying about your weight, you can focus on other things that are important to you. You may also notice a reduction in anxious and depressed feelings and find that your mind feels less foggy.
  • Improved social life. When you’re not preoccupied with food, you can enjoy spending time with friends and family. You may also be more likely to try new things and have new experiences without worrying if it fits within your restrictive eating patterns.
  • Increased energy levels. Eating a healthy diet can give you more energy to get through your day for work, play, and socialization.
A woman in perimenopause adding honey to her breakfast

The parts of a healthy eating mindset

A healthy eating mindset is an essential part of maintaining a balanced diet as you age. It involves being mindful and intentional with the food choices you make, understanding your body’s needs, and developing a positive outlook on food and nutrition.

  • Awareness of your body's needs. The first step in building a healthier eating mindset is to be more aware of what and how much you're putting into your body. Consider the nutrient density, protein content, fiber content, and the quality of ingredients in the foods you choose to eat. This can help you determine which foods provide the most nutritional benefit for your body’s needs. Additionally, it's important to avoid labeling foods as “good” or “bad”. Instead, focus on nourishing yourself with nutrient-dense options that make you feel good.
  • Mindful eating. Practicing mindful eating can include taking time to savor each bite of food, slowly chewing every mouthful, and avoiding distractions like screens or books while eating. This can help you be more present in the moment, while you're eating. Mindful eating also involves being aware of how food makes your body feel after consuming it. If it leaves you feeling energized or exhausted afterwards, be sure to take note!
  • Embracing pleasure in preparing meals. This can help build a more positive relationship with food. Experimenting with different flavors and recipes can be enjoyable and may even lead to discovering new favorite dishes! Taking time to prepare meals can also be a form of relaxation, while also providing nourishment for your body.

Implementing changes in your everyday life

Changing your mindset and relationship with food doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a big change to go from focusing on restriction and feelings of guilt to focusing on nourishment and balance. It’s a process of self-reflection, goal setting, and forming new habits that takes time, patience, and commitment. Here are some practical steps you can take to start implementing these changes to your mindset:

  • Start by paying attention to your hunger and fullness cues. When are you hungry? What does it feel like when you’re hungry? What does it feel like to feel full? Try to eat when you're hungry and stop eating when you're full.
  • Set small goals. Start by setting small goals that are realistic and achievable. Focus on nourishing your body rather than restricting yourself — aim for balance rather than perfection when it comes to eating habits and nutrition. Celebrate the small successes and remind yourself that progress is made through small steps.
  • Eat a variety of foods. Don't restrict yourself to only eating certain foods. Eat a variety of foods that nourish your body and make you feel good.
A woman experiencing menopause taking time to prepare a variety of vegetables as part of a healthy diet

  • Don't judge yourself by what you eat. There is no such thing as "good" or "bad" food. What you eat is not a reflection of who you are or your personality.
  • Be mindful of the emotions that come up when making a change. Reframe your thinking to be more positive. It's important to make healthy changes for reasons that are important to you and align with your values. Making changes because of guilt or feeling that you "should" or "have to" will not create sustainable change.
  • Practice self-care. Making changes can be challenging and you need to take care of yourself so you can continue to be successful and achieve your goals. Set aside time throughout your week for hobbies, creativity, simple pleasures, and connecting with the important people in your life.
  • Reflect on your successes. Celebrate your success by reflecting on how far you’ve come since setting your goals! Taking a few moments each week or month to reflect on how far you've come can help boost motivation, create momentum for further progress, and remind you of why it was important to set out on this journey in the first place.
  • Find support. Having a support network is an invaluable tool when making lifestyle changes. Find friends or family members who are also interested in making similar changes and set up a support system. Additionally, seek out professionals such as dietitians or health coaches who can help provide guidance and support throughout your journey.

Make sure to talk to your doctor about any changes you intend to make or if you have any other questions or concerns, as they can provide you with helpful advice to ensure you stay healthy and safe.

Last Updated 5/22/2024

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