How to make friends with salad

Last week a colleague asked me, “What have you been doing differently? You’re looking MORE buff today than you did BEFORE comps!”

I guess this friend’s expectation was that in these last six weeks I would have “relaxed” at least a little and that my figure would have reflected that.


My answer confused her even more: “I basically eat whatever I want, when I want.”


Later that day she saw me eating a salad for lunch and said, “I thought you said you eat WHATEVER you want. Clearly that’s not true if you’re eating a salad.


The key here wasn’t the food in question but the mindset surrounding it. For example, I look at a salad and think, “AWESOME, after eating this I’m going to feel sweet as”, whereas I’d look at a Big Mac and feel gross simply thinking about what havoc it’d reap on my digestive system (this doesn’t apply to cheesecakes though – give me the cheapest supermarket brand and I’ll happily inhale the whole thing in one sitting).


I didn’t always approach food in the same way, however. Of course, like most kids, I'd have ice cream, fairy bread, macaroni cheese and (wait for the outlier) broccoli on a day-to-day basis. That was my “norm” – but once I shifted my mindset to see the benefits of eating healthy at a mind-body level, change came easy.


Indeed, from my several years of experimenting with various diets, fads, health movements and supplements, I’ve found that maintainable long-term results don’t come from external changes (food, fitness, lifestyle) but internal.


Attempting to stop yourself from performing an ingrained habit (like smoking, eating a whole block of chocolate daily, having that 3pm Coke pick-me-up) only makes matters WORSE.


Only when we shift our perceptions of ourself (i.e. our IDENTITY) can we change those habits, behaviours and patterns.

So, in answer to my friend’s question – I choose to eat salads and my usual smoothies because I associate them with feeling good. Why do something in life if it doesn't make you feel good?Therefore my brain, for many years now, computes salad as delicious. Another key factor is actually being able to make a good salad – I’d cry if my daily salad were of the boring-as-batshit Garden variety (dressing is the deal breaker).


Having said this, as the non-revolutionary saying goes – “all in moderation”. I go all out with brunch on weekends and am an absolute beast with my portion sizes – but if it’s healthy and the right kinda calories, you can essentially run wild.


Here are my key tips for eating “right”:


1. Choose healthy foods that make you feel satiated

(oomph up your salad with seeds, avocado and a lean source of protein otherwise you're virtually eating air)

2. Listen to cravings wisely

i.e. craving chocolate can mean you’re deficient in magnesium, which while contained in cacao, can be better delivered from leafy greens, pumpkin seeds and Brazil nuts.

3. Don’t follow “diets” that sacrifice your quality of life

(downing calories you don’t enjoy like a gritty green smoothie that doesn’t excite you; eating flavourless meals that don’t “hit the spot”). If you’re a foodie you’ll especially suffer – hullooo cranky pants and a bad case of FOMO.

4. Follow a way of life that never hinders your social time

The idea of eating healthy is that you’re able to be flexible in those situations when you DO end up picking a pizza over an unexciting kale-quinoa salad.

5. Go for sustainable so that you don’t spring back

No 30-day “clean eating” regimes where you return to your original lifestyle at the end of the month. No one-off 7-day lemon cleanses. Want long-term change? Make long term changes. Simple.

Mim Kempson