Less is more?
Do you think of “diet” as eating less instead of more? Then you’re not alone! But a healthy diet consists of an adequate intake of nutrients. And yes, that includes fats and carbohydrates too! In this Blog, I will explain how you can eat and live healthier with the principle of “crowding out.” That means thinking about what you want to eat more of, instead of less.
Crowding out instead of cutting out
During my dancing life, I was always focused on getting thinner. And I was convinced that the fastest way to achieve that was by eating less. Maybe you, like me, sometimes think: ‘I’m not going to eat carbohydrates for a while because they make me gain weight.’ That worked well for me for a long time, until binge eating episodes occurred. At those moments, I could eat pretty much anything that was available.
Your body might agree with fewer carbohydrates or fats for a while, but at some point, it really needs those nutrients to survive.
Fortunately, I am no longer obsessed with my weight. A solution that works well for me is actually adding healthy food to my diet instead of eliminating unhealthy things. This way, I can prevent binge eating by not constantly suffering from hunger. So, by eating more, I can live a healthy life and have enough energy.
When I was younger and hadn’t eaten for a while I would go crazy just being in a supermarket and seeing chocolates at the checkout counter. The amount of stress was not funny.
That is different now! Because nowadays, I treat myself to a healthy breakfast or lunch. This means that I don’t feel stressed when there is sweetness around me. However, this doesn’t mean that I never eat chocolate. I also allow myself to have sweets, and I can definitely enjoy them. But in the past, I would first starve myself and then have a binge eating episode where I would eat multiple chocolate bars. And I don’t want that anymore.
A healthy balance in your diet is better, and that is possible with crowding out. In other words, adding something healthy to your diet or lifestyle that displaces the desire for unhealthy food and activities. In this case, I crowd out eating cookies and chocolate by having three complete meals a day.
Do you want to know how you can apply this principle in your daily life? Keep reading! Because I have overcome my eating disorder and now, as a Health Coach, I help other women achieve a healthy balance.
I first heard about crowding out during my training as a Health Coach at The Institute of Integrative Nutrition® (IIN®) in New York City. Joshua Rosenthal is the founder and director of that program. He wrote the book Integrative Nutrition: Feed your hunger for Health & Happiness, which also describes crowding out. IIN® has been around for over thirty years, and during that time, crowding out has become one of the core concepts. Every year, I attend additional training at IIN®, and each time, this concept is revisited because it is so valuable.
What does crowding out mean?
It’s actually quite simple: you add more whole foods to your diet instead of eliminating foods. By “diet,” I don’t mean a restrictive eating plan, but rather your overall way of eating. By consuming more vegetables, fruits, and other nutritious foods, you will naturally have less desire for “unhealthy” things. You feel satisfied and nourished by consuming as much organic, unprocessed, and nutritious food as possible. In turn, your body won’t crave the things it lacks.
- I crowd out fries with sweet potatoes.
- I crowd out candy with dates and nuts.
- I crowd out a BLT sandwich with an omelet with vegetables.
The people I know who apply the principle of crowding out all report that the positive approach brings them peace and happiness – and that’s already a win! They also notice that their bodies feel more balanced. This means they no longer experience extreme food binges or periods of starvation or overly strict diets. Personally, I have never felt as fit as I do at this time in my life at 50+..
How to apply this principle
- Eat complete meals If you often feel hungry between meals, it’s likely because you’re not eating enough during your meals or maybe your meals lack variety.
- Eat more vegetables Instead of focusing on what you can’t have, expand your grocery list with things you do want to eat. Include more nutrient-rich foods that provide your body with energy. Of course, make sure your meal doesn’t consist only of vegetables!
- Eat the healthiest snacks first. If you’re trying to eat healthier but can’t imagine how to combine that with your favorite foods and social life, prioritize consuming the healthiest options in social situations such as parties or dinners where there’s a lot of delicious food. Only when you are full of healthy snacks should you switch to the rest. In other words, make sure that the portion of healthy snacks is larger, while some of your favorite – but perhaps slightly less healthy – foods remain, but in smaller portions. Also, make sure to eat normally before a party.
- Look for healthy alternatives to your comfort food Once you start looking, you’ll be amazed at how many foods are both healthy and delicious. Are you a real sweet tooth? Try dark chocolate or dates instead of milk chocolate or energy bars, as they contain a lot of sugar. Do you prefer salty snacks? Try vegetable chips or sweet potato fries.
- Take everything at your own pace Give yourself time. Over time, your taste buds will become accustomed to the new way of eating through crowding out, and you won’t really miss anything. But this takes time because behavioral change takes time!
Most diets have a fixed timeline because quick results are what they promise: the faster the pounds come off, the better. But that’s not true: if it works at all, it’s only temporary. So, focus on your health instead of your weight. You don’t need to impose unnecessary restrictions on yourself or completely change your eating habits.
Make changes at a pace that works for you. Try adding a new vegetable or snack every time you go shopping. Or add three healthy things to your refrigerator every week.
This is a much more positive approach As you can see, it can be very beneficial to think in terms of more instead of less when it comes to your health. Focusing on what you do want causes much less stress than constantly thinking about what you’re not allowed to have.
- The Institute of Integrative Nutrition. (2021, 4 maart). Why “Crowding Out” is The Healthiest Way to Diet. Geraadpleegd op 7 maart 2023.
- The Institute of Integrative Nutrition. (2021, 4 maart). Crowding Out: The Healthy Way to Ride Out the Holidays. Geraadpleegd op 7 maart 2023.
- Rosenthal, J. & Chopra, D. (2014). Integrative Nutrition: Feed Your Hunger for Health & Happiness. Integrative Nutrition Publishing.
- Shopify API. (2018, 13 maart). How to “Crowd Out” Unhealthy Foods and Improve Your Nutrition. EatSmartProducts.com. Geraadpleegd op 7 maart 2023.