The Middle Way to healthy eating refers to an approach that’s grounded in moderation. Having this attitude with food can help improve your physical and emotional well-being. In today’s food environment, where the ketogenic diet is tooted as a tool for weight loss, Instagram feeds feature endless “clean” meals and improbable bodies, it’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that extreme measures are needed to make a change. The Middle Way says, “Maybe that works, but there are other ways too.”
What is the Middle Way to Healthy Eating?
I like to think of the Middle Way as taking a family road trip in a minivan. It’s not the fastest vehicle, nor the most glamorous. But what it lacks in speed and style, it more than makes up in its practicality, reliability, and comfort.
Applied to eating, the Middle Way means finding a balance between the demands of everyday life, with principles of good nutrition. The Middle Way recognizes that there’s more to life than kale quinoa salads and green smoothies. The Middle Way embraces the fact that your life doesn’t revolve around food 24/7. So when you didn’t have time to meal prep, the Middle Way doesn’t beat you up, criticize you, or berate your choices. Instead, the Middle Way reminds you, “It’s okay plans didn’t work out– let’s see what other options are available.”
Don’t get me wrong, the Middle Way isn’t about letting your inner child run loose in the candy aisle. The Middle Way of eating still follows a set of basic food guidelines. My Middle Way involves choosing affordable, minimally-processed, and plant-based foods; drinking water/ tea; eating according to hunger & fullness cues; and enjoying a variety of foods from all food groups (even the “other” food group occasionally). Your Middle Way might look different from my Middle Way, and that’s okay.
I love the Middle Way approach to food and eating because everyone’s relationship with food is going to be more or less lifelong — why wouldn’t you want one that’s comfortable, time-tested, and practical to follow?
How do I use the Middle Way to Healthy Eating?
One strategy you can use to find your Middle Way to healthy eating is tiered goal setting. Tiered goal setting involves creating several targets — optimum, desirable, and minimum. For example, if you’d like to make healthy dinners at home instead of getting take out, you might set an optimum target of cooking 5 meals/ week, a desirable target of cooking 3 meals/ week, and a minimum target of adding a vegetable side dish to your usual order when you get takeout. Tiered goal setting gives you the flexibility to choose a goal based on your circumstances. It accounts for the possibility that life gets in the way of healthy eating (duh), and gives you back up options that helps you remain committed to your values of health and wellness.
Try setting a tiered goal to discover your Middle Way. You might feel pleasantly surprised by the effectiveness of this compassionate yet realistic approach.