Fad diets and nutritional theories come and go, and we are constantly bombarded with contradictory messages on how to eat healthfully. One doctor tells you to eat a high-fat diet, another no-fat; research shows that gluten is bad, but then another published book says gluten is not the problem. Understanding what proper nutrition is seems like a losing battle. So you are left with tossing your hands in the air and saying “Screw it, I will just eat whatever I want!”
All of the fad diets, research data and doctors miss one key component, that I believe is the most essential part of health eating – AWARENESS. Awareness is the grand prize – the gold medal. With awareness you can achieve any goal you want and find the right way to eat FOR YOU because you are more tuned into your body, and have more knowledge about what your PERSONAL body craves!
Everyone is different, requiring their own formula of food. Some people may need more fat, others more proteins; others may thrive on whole grains. Despite all the contradictions in the nutrition world, there are a few across the board facts, which do apply to everyone.
- Processed foods will NOT make you thrive. They zap your energy, steal your nutrients and make you sick. Period.
- Fruits and vegetables should be a significant part of your diet. They give you energy, nutrients, and fight inflammation.
- Sugar is not good for you and should be limited.
- Water should be your primary liquid.
- Late night eating will pack on the weight.
Ok, so now that we know the five PROVEN facts to healthy eating, that leaves the rest up to you. And to figure it out, you need AWARENESS.
So how do we develop this awareness?
The first step is to listen to your body. Start to check in with your cravings, digestive system and any distress symptoms you may regularly have (headaches, runny nose, congestion, constipation, etc.). There are messages from your body that you are not in balance. Using a food log can be helpful in identifying any offending foods. However, the imbalance could also come from stress, lack of sleep, or lack of exercise.
The second step is to take small steps. Awareness won’t come all at once. It is something to cultivate. Write down three small habits every week to add onto your existing habits. For example, after you wake up in the morning, stretch for 5 minutes, and then drink a glass of water. Making this small change not only gets your blood moving and hydrates you, but also sets you on the right foot, so to speak, each morning.
Next, slow down, sit down, and chew. It is so important to take time to connect with your food, set meal times and chew. Digestion begins in the mouth as the body creates saliva and enzymes to start breaking down your food. Swallowing unchewed pieces of food will only put stress on your digestive system, leaving you with bloat, acid reflux and gas. In fact, many of these digestive issues are solved by chewing. Chewing is also a great way to practice awareness because it requires undistracted eating.
Finally, check in with your circadian rhythms. Be aware of your bedtime and morning routines. Do you stay up late and have a hard time waking up in the morning? Are you getting out in nature enough to connect with the Earth? Tapping into the Earth’s energy is important for our health. Once you do, you will find you sleep better and feel more content.
Taking a few moments each day to cultivate this awareness will be the greatest step you can take to better health. Additionally, you must become aware of what blocks awareness: stress, eating too quickly, dehydration, caffeine and sugar (because they are false forms of energy and push our bodies beyond their comfort zone), and the lack of relaxation and sleep.
So this week, write out a few small steps you will take to develop more awareness. Breathe. Check in with your body after each meal. Keep a food log.
Just by reading this article, you are already on your way!