Madeleine Karlsson, also known as @maddywell_fitbodyfreshmind, just might be the healthiest person we know. A certified health coach and Pilates instructor, she knows that eating right and staying fit is just part of the equation – wellness is a mental practice, as well as a physical one. We’re excited to have Maddy join us as a regular contributor focusing on all things healthy living!

I feel like everywhere we turn our eyes these days we are being bombarded with advice about what, when and how we should eat to be healthy. Raising awareness about health is important but the pressure that comes with these “rules” can sometimes get overwhelming. I know that this view might seem slightly ironic since I’m a Health Coach but actually, a lot of my work consists in helping clients break down the mental barriers associated with rules and find what truly works for them.

I truly believe that for a lot of us, the key in feeling healthier lies in breaking rules and following our own gut instead! Our bodies were designed to be lean and healthy, and are therefore fitted with very clever mechanisms that regulate our hunger. So all we really need to do is to learn to listen to ourselves more.

Here are a few tips for those who are rebellious enough to break the rules!

+ It’s more important to follow your hunger than an eating schedule. I know this isn’t always practical but your body is better at knowing when it needs fuel than the clock. Eat when you are hungry.

+ Learn to dissociate hunger from boredom, thirst, tiredness or anxiety. Even if you do eat out of boredom or anxiety, learn to identify these behaviors so you can start addressing them later. Don’t judge yourself, just note it (oops, I just had 17 cupcakes out of anxiety – no judgment, just state the fact).

+ Skipping breakfast does not make you a bad person. This goes back to my first point. If your body isn’t asking you for fuel then wait until it does.

+ Eating junk food will make you crave junk food. Yes, your body is fitted with a hunger mechanism but industrial foods are engineered to make you crave them more. That’s a fact.

+ Eat real food. By this I mean foods that remain the way nature intended us to eat them. Eat an apple versus drinking an apple juice. Eat a handful of nuts and some berries versus a snack bar containing nuts and berries. Unrefined foods are more nourishing than processed foods.

+ Up your vegetable intake. Vegetables are the foods that have the most vitamins and nutrients. A lot of the times we think we are hungry for calories but actually our bodies are asking us for nutrients. And no, popping supplements does not work the same way.

+ Screw the calorie counting and focus on quality. This goes back to the point above. If you feed your body with foods that are truly nutritious, it will regulate its energy intake by itself.

+ Eating fat will not make you fat. Healthy fats (the type found in avocado, nuts, seeds, fatty fish and coconut oil, for example) will help with nutrient absorption and help get you leaner (they help oil the pipes, if you know what I mean…)

+ Food isn’t only what we find on our plate. Sometimes it’s our soul that needs some nourishment. Soul food can be found in friends, family, lovers and in our work. When we have balance in all these areas, it will become easier to find balance on our plates too.

+ It’s ok if you don’t eat the same amount every day. Some days we are hungrier than others. This can be due to tiredness, hormones and all sorts of things. When we were in the wild we didn’t have the same amount of food available to us every day so your body is designed to be able to handle that, and it will balance it out for itself.

Beyond everything else, chill out and trust yourself. YOU are the expert of YOU and while whatever works for anyone else may inspire you, don’t let it lead you off your own path. Listen to your body, focus on what makes you happy and trust your gut!

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