Fad diets and nutritional theories come and go. New years resolutions fade. Why is it so hard to keep the momentum going and actually eat a healthy diet? Part of the problem lies with the opposing messages on diet, nutrition and health given by media, doctors, corporations and even nutrition experts. You can’t eat healthy if you don’t know what healthy is! High-fat/No-fat; Gluten or No gluten; Zero Carbs/High carb diet: nutrition is a merry-go round of contradiction.
The fad diets, research and data miss two key components that I believe are the most essential aspects of health eating – Awareness & Individuality.
Everyone is different, requiring their own formula of macro and micronutrients. Yes, there are baselines to prevent malnutrition and defiency, but some people require more fat or protein, while others thrive on carbohydrates. With awareness you can find the right way to eat FOR YOU. Being aware means you are more tuned into your individuality and the nutrients/foods your body craves.
Despite all the confusions in the nutrition world, there are a few facts, which are agreed upon:
- Processed foods are not a nutrient steady source of fuel. Devoid of most nutrients (except those fortified), they often zap your energy, disturb blood sugar balance, steal your nutrients and lead to inflammation.
- Fruits and vegetables should be a significant part of your diet. They give you energy, nutrients, and fight inflammation.
- Sugar is inflammatory and can lead to various chronic illnesses; therefore sweets and sodas should be limited.
- Filtered water should be your main beverage.
- Late night eating (especially processed foods) will pack on the weight.
Taking out these five main health disruptors, the next step is to develop awareness and figure out what works for you.
- 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 your balance is off. Using a food log can be helpful in identifying any trigger foods. However, the imbalance could also come from stress, lack of sleep, environment, or lack of exercise.
- Take small steps. Awareness must be cultivated. Write down one health-promoting positive habit every week to add onto your existing habits. For example, after you wake up in the morning, drink a glass of water. Making this small change hydrates you and helps flush out any toxins accumulated overnight.
- Slow down, sit down, and chew. It is so important to take time to connect with your food. 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 sitting down and chewing.
- Check your sleep patterns. Do you stay up late and have a hard time waking up in the morning? Are you sleeping well at night? Sleep is incredibly important for blood sugar management, detoxification and inflammation control. Trouble sleeping can indicate imbalance. Making an effort to wind down each night can help with improved sleep quality and quantity.
Taking a few moments each day to get to know your body can help you achieve your health goals. Remember to start small, breathe and check in with your body after each meal.