My Approach to Food
So it's that time of year where we might be thinking about food over the festive period along with starting healthy in 2020. I've had a couple of conversations recently about food which have inspired me to write this post.
Firstly, I think it's important to think about why we eat...what does food mean for you? Essentially food provides us with the energy and nutrients that we need to fuel our body and help it to do the jobs that it's designed to do. We only have one body so it's vital to look after it and nourish it well. As I practice becoming more in-tune with my body and subtle signals that it provides during yoga, this helps me to notice my energy levels and feeling of hunger throughout the day. I try and eat before I am ravenous and hangry. If you are hungry, the body needs fuel, respecting that I feel is important.
Secondly, what do you eat? Do you enjoy the foods you eat? Do you feel you are nourishing your body? There are so many different diets out there and research says not one is better over the other it's consistently. Personally, I hate the word diet - to me it's a short term approach. However, creating a lifestyle where I choose healthy whole foods that I ENJOY is my focus. It's funny ever since I was a kid I have always hated cold sandwiches, and I realise now that warm foods suit my body and mood so much better! So I do enjoy some chocolate and treats I believe are fine in moderation. If you have a lack of will power like me, I find avoiding buying big packs helps me to not overindulge, placing treat foods on the top shelf that's out of sight and hard to reach makes them harder to find and by putting a portion of something in a small bowl it can limit how many I eat before the whole bag is demolished! I've also started eating high cocoa chocolate, such as green and blacks, which is high fat but contains less sugar and it's pretty rich and a little bitter, I don't actually feel like eating too much!
So what foods to focus on eating? For me this means choosing whole foods, which have had as little processing as possible before they reach me, so that the highest benefits of the foods can be obtained - fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds, plus brown rice and pasta, potatoes and quinoa. If you eat meat this could be fresh meat rather than processed bacon and sausages (although I do love a sausage sandwich as a treat)! These can be quick and easy to cook - meat, potatoes and veggies all roasted in the oven whilst you can relax or do another job whilst they are cooking - perfect! Making soups or a bolognaise are ideal for popping in the freezer in batches to re-heat and save time.
Starting the day, for me I don't feel right if I've not had breakfast! For most of the year I eat porridge - adding flavour with honey, cinnamon and seeds. I used to add fruits to my porridge but I find I actually stay fuller for longer without it. I think my digestion struggles with the dairy and fruits and therefore uses more energy trying to process it!
How much to eat I know can be tricky to manage. It's so easy to cook way to much pasta or rice, so I have some very old Rosemary Conley portion pots that I use, admittedly often using a slightly larger portion than she recommended as I do burn a lot of energy with my classes, practicing for classes at home, my own yoga practice and dog walking, but these pots are so simple to use to measure out foods so I know what I am getting without cooking too much or too little. Just as easy as those packet porridges that tend to contain oat flakes rather than whole oats - why eat something that has half of the nourishment taken out...the same goes for bread - I always opt for whole grain, seeded options wherever possible.
When to eat, since we need energy to fuel us during the day and my hunger pangs and energy slumps were high in the afternoon I've switched to eating my main meal at lunch - this is easy for me as I work from home and it also means I'm not rushing trying to cook and eat a main meal before my classes in the evening. If you tend to eat very little during the day, it could be worth eating more and seeing how you feel - do you have more energy, focus and concentration? In the evenings I always try not to eat too late - ideally 2-3 hours before bed, so that my body has processed the food and can then focus on other jobs whilst I am sleeping to help me to heal and rest. It might be a coincidence but since I've stopped having a big snack when I get in from class, I am feeling brighter the next morning. So I've opted to have a protein shake on my way to class for some extra energy instead!
Fat... It was all the range to eat a low fat diet, however healthy fats do wonders for the body. For example avocados are fatty and oily - perfect to support for my dry, crackly joints. In moderation and from whole sources fats do provide essential nutrients. Since I started adding in more healthy fats and reducing some of my sugar intake I can't say I have put on any weight. Some of my other favourites are salmon and walnuts.
Some other considerations I make around food are:
Trying to eat in a calm environment, not looking at any emotionally provoking material, so that my stomach and digestion is hopefully the most effective.
This link to realising that if I'm stressed, the body naturally shuts down some of the digestive function as it is focusing on fighting or fleeing that 'tiger' and its not thinking about eating!
If I am feeling like a have a lot of acid reflux I try and cut down on spicy foods.
I try to eat grounding foods such as root vegetables, to help connect me downwards rather than be in my mind to reduce anxiety. Carrots are really versatile!
I always favour still drinks over fizzy as these tend to make me feel bloated. Also avoiding using straws helps reduce the amount of air I am taking in.
Digestion starts in the mouth, as the food hits our tongues it's sending a signal to the body what kind of enzymes are needed to process this food, so using tools such as an aluminium tongue scraper to clean the mouth (and freshens breath and removes toxins in the morning) can help this communication to take place. By chewing foods too, this helps to break them down for easier digestion.
Because I don't have the best digestion I now drink lukewarm water or herbal teas around meal times help to keep my digestive fire burning, instead of putting it out with cold water.
In holistic healthcare systems such as Ayurveda, food is seen as medicine, and based on our individual mind-body types certain foods can help to balance us and keep us healthy. Sahara Rose offers a quiz to find out your mind body type at https://eatfeelfresh.com/new-quiz/ I will also be touching on this in future episodes on my BB podcast which is being launched in January 2020!
Final word: Most importantly - choosing whole foods that I enjoy and focusing on the nourishment they will give