Small moments become lives, just as everyday eating choices contribute to overall health.

Balanced food choices can bring greater satisfaction and longevity in your health goals. Balance, although hard to consistently practice, is fulfilling and puts you on a path to a healthier lifestyle.

Healthy eating is not synonymous with restrictive eating. It is easier to entirely eliminate food groups, or types of food, rather than to regulate portion sizes and balance nutrient intake. If you practice an all-or- nothing mindset with eating choices, pretty soon you may find yourself on a continuous cycle of yo-yo dieting: “I will start over on Monday” or “I’m fine to eat three candy bars because I already ruined the day by eating too many carbs at breakfast.”

It can be more challenging to change your thinking to, “Wow, that brownie that my neighbor brought me looks fabulous. A good treat sounds excellent right now,” or even “I need to eat another portion of vegetables today, so I’ll make stir fry for dinner.” Think of the freedom afforded to you when you give yourself the choice to choose and partake of many types of foods.

Making eating stressful, full of guilt, or always an elaborate process can lead to burnout. Burnout is real and can be very discouraging. It can contribute to the on-again, off-again cycle of dieting which can lead to a loss of motivation, variety, self-care, and perspective, robbing you of a healthy lifestyle.

A healthy lifestyle is one where all aspects of an individual’s health needs are met—including emotional, mental, social, spiritual, and physical. You should aim to have well-rounded health. If your eating habits cause you to avoid social situations or create additional burdens in other aspects of your life, you are not eating balanced.

Eating the chocolate (in a reasonable portion size) may do more for your health than trying to avoid it because you then prevent obsessing over it all day. Gagging down kale in a smoothie for breakfast may cause you to avoid getting up in the early mornings. However, eating chocolate whenever you want it is also not the answer. It’s all about the balance.

Keep a food journal by writing down what you ate, how much, the date and time you ate, and any notes, thoughts, or feelings you noticed before or after eating. Including notes, thoughts, or feelings can help you identify a pattern in your behaviors. Maybe you have been attending a lot of birthday parties so you are eating a lot of cake, or maybe you don’t eat enough on days when you are stressed with your job. Seeing everything all at once and written down can help you identify areas where you can incorporate more balance. You can understand the reasons you are eating, notice if your portion sizes are larger than they should be, or that you have eaten the same thing for lunch for a week straight.

This does not have to be an arduous process. Pretty soon, you won’t need to use a food journal because you have learned to balance your eating choices for both the planned and unexpected eating opportunities you will have. You will understand more about yourself and why you make the eating choices that you do. Learning and practicing balance in your eating choices can build self respect and put you in charge of living the life you want to live.

Molly Roemer graduated with a degree in dietetics from BYU and currently resides in Alamo. She enjoys food and family and seeks to enrich the lives of others through both. Email questions or comments to roemermolly@gmail.com.