Nutrition and diet info is everywhere, and sometimes it is so confusing, even for myself the nutrition coaches themselves!
And each expert and association tries to lead you in their direction because they know best and their advice is going to help you. Right?
Everyone has heard (and maybe lived through) the intense focus on how much you eat. This has gotten way too much attention because while this does affect your weight and energy level, it's certainly not the “holy grail” of health.
Let's focus a bit more on the often overlooked (and proven) benefits of what you eat and drink and how you eat and drink it.
What you eat and drink
The “calories in, calories out” philosophy (i.e. how much you eat) is being drowned out with research on other factors that may be just as important.
Don't get me wrong! Limiting calories, carbs or fat can certainly help you lose weight but that's simply not the only factor for long-term weight loss and maximum energy for everyone. But if you have been following this blog for some time, you know that I have as strong emphasis on dealing with weight loss resistance and adrenal fatigue and how this paradigm of “eat less, exercise more” fails under hormonal imbalances.
When the intense focus on how much we ate didn't work in the long-run it wasn’t really a surprise. We kinda knew that already, didn't we?
You can certainly still continue to count your calories, carbs, and fat but don't forget to also pay attention to what you eat.
Ideally, you need a varied diet full of minimally-processed foods (i.e. fewer “packaged” “ready-to-eat” foods). This simple concept is paramount for weight loss, energy, and overall health and wellness.
Every day this is what you should aim for:
A colourful array of fruits and veggies at almost every meal and snack. You need the fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.
Sufficient protein to ensure that you get all of the necessary essential amino acids for protein metabolism, including enzymes and structures. Bonus: eating protein can increase your metabolism! Include, for example, eggs at breakfast, canned tuna on a super salad at lunchtime, and top sirloin for dinner.
Healthy fats and oils (never “hydrogenated” ones). There is a reason some fatty acids are called “essential” - you need them as building blocks for your hormones and brain as well as to be able to absorb essential fat-soluble vitamins from your uber-healthy salads. Use extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil, eat your organic egg yolks, and get grass-fed meats when possible. You don't need to overdo it here. Just make sure you're getting some high-quality fats.
How you eat and drink
Also, paying attention to how you eat and drink is equally important. Studies are definitely showing that this has more of an impact than we previously thought.
Are you rushed, not properly chewing your food, and possibly suffering from gastrointestinal issues? Do you drink your food?
When it comes to how you eat let's first look at “mindful eating”.
Mindful eating means to take smaller bites, eat slowly, chew thoroughly, and savour every bite. Notice and appreciate the smell, taste and texture. Breathe.
This gives your digestive system the hint to prepare for digestion and to secrete necessary enzymes.
This can also help with weight loss because eating slower often means eating less. Did you know that it takes about 20 minutes for your brain to know that your stomach is full?
Thought so! So if you are prone to devour your meal in 5 minutes and still find yourself hungry, it is because your brain does not know yet that you have eating sufficient amount of food!?
We also know that more thoroughly chewed food is easier to digest and it makes it easier to absorb all of those essential nutrients. Digestion of food starts in the mouth with the release of salivary enzymes that start breaking down some of the food molecules.
And don't forget about drinking your food. Yes, smoothies can be healthy and a fabulously easy and tasty way to get in some fruits and veggies (hello leafy greens!) but drinking too much food can contribute to a weight problem and feelings of sluggishness.
Don't get me wrong a green smoothie can make an amazingly nutrient-dense meal and is way better than stopping for convenient junk food – just consider a large smoothie to be a full meal not a snack. And don't gulp it down too fast.
If your smoothies don't fill you up like a full meal does try adding in a spoon of fiber like ground flax or chia seeds.
When you eat
Skipping meals or irregular meal patterns disrupt your hunger hormones, ghrelin, and your satiety hormone, cholecystokinin (CKK). These two hormones are necessary to tell your body when and how much to eat.
Skipping meals have ghrelin suppressed overtime, and that explains why some people find themselves no longer hungry in the morning, and often can go until dinner without really feeling hunger. But it does not mean that your body does not need the nutrients to keep your normal physiological functions, like hormone production, mood regulation, cognitive function, cellular energy, and metabolism, attended to normally.
In this pattern, CKK also gets suppressed to ensure that you get enough nutrients once you actually sit down to eat. So you end up eating more than you would normally, and you are subject to many food cravings at nighttime. Familiar?
Insulin sensitivity also decreases when meals are skipped. Your body therefore ends up mismanaging the carbs eaten at nighttime when you give in to your cravings and you end up storing the circulating blood sugar not dealt with by insulin as fat.
Start to eat your meals at regular intervals:
Plan to eat three complete meals made of high quality protein, healthy fats, and low-glycemic carbs (vegetables or fruits) each day at regular intervals; a small portion of unprocessed starchy carbohydrates (starchy vegetables, grains or cereals) is allowed at dinner time
You must have breakfast within one hour of waking up and avoid coffee before breakfast if you are typically not hungry in the morning since coffee is an appetite suppressant
Bring healthy snacks with you so that you don’t get caught off-guard by mid-afternoon hunger
In summary, next time you think about your meals, consider not only how much you eat but also what and how you eat it. And further ensure that there are scheduled at somewhat regular intervals, no more skipping meals!
If you need personalized help to implement these nutrition habits, consider joining the Reset Program. This is, among other nutrition and lifestyle habits, what I coach people through!