How to Tell If Your Way of Eating is Sustainable
Usually, when people think about sustainability and eating, they think about where the food comes from, and if it was raised sustainably. That’s important to consider, but there’s another way of thinking about it.
Is the way you eat sustainable? Can you eat the way you are now for the rest of your life?
It may feel disconcerting to think about the rest of your life, so if that feels like too much, consider five years. Can you imagine yourself still making food choices the way you are now in five years?
If you’re not sure, here are a few other questions to consider.
Do you make or change plans because of food?
Have you ever had a situation where you’ve been invited to go out somewhere, perhaps to a restaurant or a social gathering, and you’ve opted out of it because of the food? Or you quiz the person inviting you about the food available before you decide?
If the answer is yes, this is a good indication that you’re not eating in sustainable way. Giving up your social life (at least, when we can have a social life again) because you’re worried about the food options is not a long-term strategy.
Instead, you may still want to find out what kinds of food will be available but only so you can prepare in advance. If the party will only have appetizers or finger foods, for example, you might want to eat something a little more substantial ahead of time.
Or if you know that the restaurant has mostly heavier foods, you could decide to have some lighter fare earlier in the day so you’ll be hungry when you get to the restaurant.
Do you have “cheat” days?
If you eat in a way that makes you feel like you need to “cheat” now again, that’s not very sustainable. That indicates that you’re regularly restricting yourself, and that can backfire as you have more and more “cheat” days.
I used to have those ups and downs a lot, particularly when it came to chocolate and sweets. I’d try to be “good” for as long as possible, but then I’d give in and splurge on candy bars and cookies.
These days, I honestly can’t imagine eating a whole candy bar, let alone two or three like I used to. I prefer to have a couple of pieces of chocolate in the evening, and sometimes other treats if I feel like it.
This is one of the benefits of mindful eating. Rather than cycles of restriction and overdoing it, you can choose to have your favorite foods in moderation whenever you want them.
Do you eat what you “should”?
Categorizing your food into “should” and “shouldn’t” is another approach that’s not sustainable. It takes a lot of mental effort and energy to keep things classified like that, and then to make sure you’re choosing the right thing (unless, of course, you’re having a cheat day).
Plus, this brings judgment into your food choices, judgment that you can easily turn on yourself. After all, what does it say about you if you eat things you “shouldn’t”? Or if you stick with what you “should” eat, you can become very judgmental about the way other people eat.
A more sustainable approach is to decide what kinds of foods you like to have, as well as seeing if you can introduce some variety into your choices. This will help keep you from getting bored with any one particular food, and it will better meet your body’s nutritional needs.
Eating Sustainably has Much to Offer
Eating in a way that you can do for the long-term is so much easier than going through cycles of restriction and overeating. You don’t have to worry about whether you’re doing the “right” thing or not, and you’re not constantly on the lookout for a new diet.
It takes a little practice and experimentation to figure out what sustainable eating means for you, but it’s well worth it, and your future self will thank you.