“I want to eat better, but I don’t have the energy to do anything about it.”
OK, maybe the request isn’t spelled in such blatant terms, but the message is there. Clients arrive in my office with the apparent hope that I will have the magic wand to turn their belly fat, their fatigue, their achy joints and all their troubles into happy endings.
In a sense I do, though, like Cinderella’s fairy godmother, I’ll make her work for it. Have her gather all the necessary pieces so that I can help her turn them into what she wants.
Being the diverse mosaic of humans that we are, there’s obviously no one-size-fits-all solution to the quandary of eating right. The map for your healing journey will be different from anyone else’s.
And yet, there is a common ground to that human-ness, to the nourishment it takes to feed a vibrant woman. So, that the answer to that question of “How do I eat better?” really is as simple as the wave of a magic wand. It’s a guideline that goes like this:
Reduce any food that causes you trouble and increase those that nourish you.
Very general, yes. Think of it as a forest path with several possible routes to get you to that garden of health you long for.
Explore the possible paths by listening to your body.
Eat less of anything you know you are, or to which you even suspect you are, sensitive. This could mean a full-on allergy (walnuts give you hives), an intolerance (lactose gives you cramps), or just some random item that makes you feel “wrong” (raw cabbage makes your eyes itch, grapes make you sleepy, oats turn you into a screaming banshee).
Logical or not, common or not, if you react to it in an adverse way, your body is saying “No” …at least for now.
Periodically avoid the items that are generally hard to digest or make your body work harder in other ways. These include such items as dairy, gluten, red meat, sugar, alcohol, poor quality fats, chemical additives. You don’t necessarily need to give these up permanently (ok maybe the additives and the poor fats), but give yourself a periodic break.
Whether you notice that they cause distress or not, they do add to your stress load.
Holistic nutritionist Jessica Sherman sees our capacity to deal with stress like a glass: the more you add to it, the more likely things will spill over into an inability to function or disease or irritability or weight gain or any of the myriad reactions we experience when our energy is drained under stress.
Staying away from foods that cause you stress, physical or otherwise, will allow you to keep enough room in that glass for the stuff you can’t avoid (the jerk at the office) or for when the rug gets pulled out from under you (your husband says it’s over) and you need the reserve.
Eat more nutrient dense food. Food that gives you more nutritious bang for your caloric buck.
Whole food. (Not sure what that means, or think you do? Read more here.)
Here’s a fairy godmother trick for you to ensure nutrient density. Think of it as the Magic Looking Glass through which you can consider everything you eat.
Make sure every meal and every snack contains some amount of protein, fat and fibre. Bonus points if you include something green.
Protein: Needed to make all the functional molecules in your body and to maintain all of your structure. It’s easier to access when consumed in small amounts with other foods through the day. Get more details about how much protein you need daily and food sources here.
Fat: Slows your digestion to help level out blood sugar; needed for your hormone balance, efficient metabolism and to help you absorb minerals and fat-soluble vitamins. Get the skinny on fat here.
Fibre: Will help you feel satisfied (and stay that way longer); feeds the friendly flora in your gut; gives your digestive tract a good workout and grabs all the garbage for removal. Though I have no post specific to fibre (yet) this one outlines the benefits of whole carbohydrates (where you find fibre).
Green (plant) food contains magnesium. Of the 500+ jobs that magnesium does in your body, it is key to your hormone balance (in men that magic mineral is zinc); it helps your body release energy from food; it gets depleted under stress and yet it helps your body recover from the effects of stress.
Ex. Apple with nut butter (pumpkin seed butter)
Eggs with sweet potato and leafy greens
Chicken & vegetables (at least one green)
Rice cakes (or other whole grain/seed cracker) & black bean dip, drizzle with olive oil (add a pinch of arugula or cilantro)
Red beans & brown rice with avocado (really yummy with steamed broccoli)
What about all the other vitamins and minerals?
I’m glad you asked.
When you choose nutrient dense food, whole food that is naturally nutrient dense, you are choosing food that already contains the vitamins and minerals needed to digest, assimilate and metabolise that food.
And here’s my little secret: when you feed your body such nourishing food on a regular basis, then, having felt the difference, your body will start to crave those very things!
How’s that for a magic wand?
Think about the last 3 meals you ate through that filter, and let us know how they fared. Any improvements may be one small step away and sharing these tweaks opens the possibilities for others.
Let all your friends know about this simple trick by clicking any (or all!) of the pretty green buttons.