"Once I've added some nice, beautiful, healthy whole foods into my diet, which foods should I squish out first?". This is a good question, so here are my recommendations:
I need to start with a spotlight on the word “should”…it’s a big pet peeve of mine. We’re constantly weighed down with what we “should” or “shouldn’t” be doing. We “should” all over ourselves! This is not helpful. The moment we use the word “should” we judge ourselves.
Look at these two sentences:
- I should be eating more vegetables.
- I could be eating more vegetables.
The latter is a statement, while the former has a big weight of judgment added to it. After a while, all of these “shoulds” we fill ourselves with start spilling out and we start to tell others what they “should” be doing.
“Should” doesn’t help us move forward, it holds us down. When it comes to diet we all know what we “should” be eating, but few of us do it. Let’s throw away the unhelpful word “should” and replace it with non-judgmental words like “could”, “can”, or even “will”.
Ahhhh, that feels better :). So, why don’t we eat the healthy diet that we could be eating?
Our daily diet is made up from a collection of decisions, and I feel that to get to the core of our dietary dilemmas we need to look at what drives these decisions. My hypothesis is that our state of mind when we are choosing what to eat drives what we choose to eat. Let me give you some examples:
Scenario 1: You come home from work and you’re STARVING! You could eat almost anything that’s put in front of you. You’re craving a fast hit of sugar or carbs, and you want it now. Your energy is low and the prospect of spending the next hour chopping, cooking, and waiting for dinner is very unappealing. So…what do you do? Make a big healthy meal, or just grab some chocolate from the cupboard? Or, do you just pick up something quick for dinner on your way home?
Scenario 2: You come home from work and you're feeling a bit hungry. You feel like you could eat in the next hour or two. Your energy is pretty good and you would really like to eat a big pile of vegetables (yes, this scenario is possible). You look in the fridge and put together a gorgeous coconut milk curry full of veggies, chickpeas, served over brown rice. The process is enjoyable and ready in about 40 minutes.
What is the difference between Scenario 1 and 2? You might say #2 is almost impossible, or only happens once in a blue moon…or only happens for super-healthy people who don’t eat anything close to a “normal diet”. …what if I said you’re dead wrong?
What if the difference between Scenario 1 and 2 is simply the difference between an imbalance in blood sugar and balanced blood sugar? What if Scenario 2 was possible for everyone with only a few small changes to your diet?
We tend to think of blood sugar issues only in relation to Type II Diabetes or Hypoglycemia, but the fact is many of us are dealing with mild-to-moderate blood sugar issues every day. These are imbalances we feel, but don’t turn up on blood tests. These blood sugar issues lead to weight gain, low or fluctuating energy, sugar/carb cravings, and a lack of motivation. They affect our life every day and are the driving factor behind poor food choices.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you feel Scenario 1 at least one time per week?
- Is hunger immediate? Do you need to eat relatively quickly (within the next hour) when you feel hungry?
- Do you have energy dips throughout the day?
- Do you crave sugar, carbs, or sugary drinks throughout the day?
- Do you carry food with you all the time just in case you suddenly feel hungry?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, your blood sugar isn’t balanced.
Balancing your blood sugar is surprisingly easy and it allows you to make better decisions with your diet. Imagine having one hour or more to make a meal when you feel hungry! If you had this time, what would you make? That big healthy meal sounds more appealing now, doesn't it :)?
The first step towards finding balance is to look at how food makes you feel. How do you feel immediately after eating? How about after one hour? How long can you go before you feel like you're “starving”?
Balanced energy, weight-loss, and a healthy diet are all within reach with just a few small changes! Starting today, stop thinking about what you “should” be doing, and look at how your current diet is affecting your decisions.
Many of us start the year with the best of intentions...and after a few months we've found ourselves off-track. We can see the person we want to be (fitter, more energy, a healthy glow) and the path to get there (eat better, exercise regularly, reduce stress)…but frequently we get sidetracked. Why? Because change is hard! Changing our everyday habits can seem very overwhelming, especially at the very beginning.
There are many obstacles that can stand in front of us, and the one I hear all the time is, “I want to change my diet, but my husband/wife/partner/family keep pulling me off track”. Sorry, that's no excuse. Creating a healthy diet doesn’t need to be difficult and it isn’t something you are “on” for a few weeks at a time.
Let's just throw away the word "diet" - eating healthy is a way of life, and you CAN work around your partner or family’s eating habits!
How? Try this:
- Stop thinking your diet is either on or off, black or white – A healthy lifestyle lives in the “grey”, it doesn’t need to be 100% perfect to be healthy. A treat in the morning is no excuse to eat junk food all day!
- Change the meals you eat alone FIRST! – Dinner (the meal most of us share with our family) is only one meal of the day…what about the other 2 meals and snacks? A healthy lifestyle can be created without ever touching dinner! Plus, dinner tends to be the healthiest meal of the day for many of us as most of our eating pitfalls happen in other meals and snacks.
- Eat consciously, whatever you’re eating– Sit down, relax, and enjoy your meal…no matter what it is you’re eating. A meal eaten consciously is healthier than a meal eaten on the run, no matter the quality of the food. Plus, it’s impossible to overeat while eating consciously (try it, I can guarantee you’ll be too bored to eat too much). Sit quietly, relax, chew well, and ENJOY what you’re eating! There’s no prize for finishing your meal first…well, except if you count indigestion.
Your ideal way of eating can’t be found in a book and it won’t be the same as your neighbour. We are all unique, and it makes sense that what our body needs for fuel is also unique. When you find YOUR healthy lifestyle you feel great, are full of energy, and you don’t feel deprived or hungry. You just feel good!
In my practice as a Holistic Nutritionist, I’ve seen many people make dramatic changes to their diet and lifestyle…and happily without too much difficulty. Together we have a plan as to how they’ll reach their dietary goals, and we work through it step by step. Within a few months their energy is up, they’re feeling great, and they’re still right on track!
Take a few minutes to imagine yourself 4 months from now. How do you want to feel? Do you want to feel energetic? Full of life? Fit and strong?
By making a commitment to yourself and by making a few changes to your diet and lifestyle, you could be well on your way to health goals. Do you feel sluggish? Do you spend your day on a blood sugar rollercoaster, feeling your energy and mood go up and down all day? Do you suffer from frustrating digestive symptoms like heartburn, bloating, pain, or gas that take a toll on you everyday? Make 2012 your year to regain your health! It’s easier than you think!
Gaining weight and losing weight has nothing to do with grams of fat or the amount of calories you eat in a day. But it does have everything to do with blood sugar and insulin.
When we eat food the carbohydrates are broken down and are converted into glucose, which our body uses as energy. When the glucose in our blood rises, our pancreas secretes insulin and this allows the glucose to enter our cells to be used as energy.
Our liver is constantly watching this process to make sure that we have just the right amount of glucose and insulin in our blood. It watches hormones in particular, so it's insulin that tells the liver if your blood sugar level is too low or too high.
If our blood sugar is higher then we need for energy, the insulin in our blood signals our liver and our liver stores this excess energy as fat. The liver converts the glucose into triglycerides and then are sent through our blood stream to our fat stores.
Fat, on the other hand, can be used as energy, but this is only when necessary. Fat is used in MANY important processes in our body, and it's only as an almost last resort does our body use it as energy (it uses protein as a very last resort). Our liver has to convert the fat into a glucose molecule and will only do so as needed, so our blood sugar doesn't spike with fat. Otherwise, the fat is used to make cell membranes, hormones, etc. Fat is a VERY important molecule in the body.
Fat and protein affect how carbohydrates enter into your bloodstream. A higher fat or protein meal actually slows down the break down of the carbs, creating a slower burning carb and that keeps your blood sugar steady. The more refined the carb is, the faster it enters your bloodstream.
When we eat a high carb meal, or a refined carb, our blood sugar spikes - this is when our liver stores fat. We can tell that our blood sugar spiked by looking at when our blood sugar crashes - this is seen as any emotion around hunger. Irritability, tiredness, lack of patience, etc are all signs that earlier your blood sugar spiked and now you're crashing. Look back at your last meal and see why it caused a crash. Leveling out your blood sugar so you're no longer on the blood sugar rollercoaster is how to stop gaining weight, and how to lose weight.
We need to stop blaming fat and eat healthy whole foods to maintain a healthy body and a healthy weight!