Upgrade Your Eating Habits in 5 Steps

Originally published on www.bell-wellness.com

Want to feel healthier? Lose weight? Improve your digestion?

While upgrading your food choices is naturally a great place to start, in reality, it’s only half of the healthy eating equation.

Have you ever stopped to examine “how” you eat? In other words, playing close attention to your eating habits.

You see, changing your diet and upgrading your food choices is typically the easier part.

Your eating habits on the other hand, now they can run deep.

Implement the following steps below and reap the benefits of better digestion, increased energy, and a flatter stomach!

1. Avoid (Too Much) Liquid with Meals. Drinking liquids with meals dilutes the digestive secretions needed for breaking down our food. Small sips are okay, but definitely avoid gulping large amounts of liquids. It’s actually best to drink most of our liquid (ideally water) on an empty stomach between meals so that you’re already hydrated when you sit down to eat. Speaking of which…

2. Sit Down and Relax. Enjoy your meals distraction-free. Rushing, stress, worry, and anxiousness are all antithetical to good digestion and are a recipe for bloating, gas, heartburn, and stomach aches. When our sympathetic nervous system is activated, aka, “fight or flight” mode, our ability to digest and assimilate our food is greatly reduced. It’s important we get into parasympathetic “rest and digest” mode in order to give our bodies a fighting chance to digest the food we’re feeding it. If necessary take 5-10 minutes to relax before eating, and if the option is to hurriedly eat to make a meeting, you’re better off skipping the meal, eating something light, or waiting until later.

3. Chew Your Food Well. Keep in mind that your stomach doesn’t have teeth! Chewing well breaks down food into smaller more manageable particles, easing the digestive burden on our stomach and intestines. Smaller food particles also allow for easier absorption of nutrients and negates the likelihood of opportunistic bacteria to ferment larger undigested food particles, which can increase symptoms of gas and bloating.

4. Don’t Graze. Many people never experience the feeling of true hunger because they’re constantly nibbling throughout the day. If you’re constantly grazing or snacking consider transitioning back to a 3 meal per day approach to enjoy the benefits of optimized digestion and fat burning, freed up mental space that’s otherwise preoccupied with food, increased energy that’s otherwise thwarted towards digestion, and getting back in touch with true hunger and satiety signals.

5. Avoiding Eating Heavily Within 2-3 Hours of Bedtime. When we go to bed with a stomach full of food not only is it a recipe for disrupted sleep and indigestion, but it also impedes the process of healing, detoxification, and cellular regeneration that would normally occur during this time of nightly slumber (because energy is diverted towards digestion). The idea here is to be done your main meal within 2-3 hours of lying horizontal. You can still eat within this time frame if necessary, but ideally it will be a lighter meal (i.e. soup or salad) or small snack.

While it may not be possible or easy to transform your eating habits overnight, the first step in effecting change is just becoming more aware of your eating habits in the first place, and noting where they could perhaps use a little upgrade!

Sometimes Being “Extreme” is Necessary

Are there certain foods that you over-consume on a regular basis that you know deep down to your core are holding you back from feeling your best?

But regardless of how hard you try to limit or cut them out, you just can’t make any meaningful progress? (By the way, this includes drink too – alcohol, coffee, soda, etc.)

What I’m about to say may sound contradictory to what you’ve heard me say before about the importance of transitioning from where you are to where you want to be, or in other words, the whole “learning to crawl before you can walk and learning to walk before you can run” idea.

For example, when I work with a new client in one of my nutrition programs I always first have them fill out a health and lifestyle assessment, along with a food diary. This allows me to gain a deeper understanding of their diet and eating habits before we even meet. Then once we do hop on the telephone or meet face-face via Skype, I’m able to ask more probing questions that reveal so much more beyond what they’ve put to “paper” previously.

So keeping this in mind, let’s say an individual is consistently making certain choices that are clearly not in alignment with how she wants to feel, or with certain goals she has for herself. (Sidenote: this isn’t always crystal clear in all cases because even foods that are deemed healthy by most standards can exacerbate certain symptoms in some people).

Since I don’t want to pull the rug out from under anyone this is where I’ll zero in on the habits that I believe will make the biggest difference in the short-term and start there first, rather than eliminating a bunch of things all at once and setting her up for failure because she’s unable to stick with it for more than a week or two.

Another example of transitioning would be cutting back and reducing something overtime rather than eliminating it all at once cold turkey.

Going ALL in.

With all that said sometimes you just have to go ALL in.

This comes down to how much pain you’re feeling. And it’s not just about physical pain, this includes emotional pain too.

How much of your life are you dwindling away feeling this way?

Some people believe it’s extreme to give up certain foods and substances. Then again, I’m referring to the mainstream idea of what society believes to be extreme.

Do you believe it’s extreme to not want to be in pain?

I’m guessing not, but it seems that people often associate giving up the action that’s causing the pain to be too extreme in many cases.

This was actually one of the principles I talked about in this post I wrote here titled The 10 Principles for Mastering Your Diet and Toasting Life at the same time – point # 7 was sometimes extremism is necessary.

Sometimes you just have to draw that proverbial line in the sand.

In fact, I consider myself a pretty moderate person when it comes to food and diet, but, going cold turkey and ALL in was the only way I was able to effectively give up coffee for over a year.

I’m just using this merely as an example.

Is coffee inherently bad? No.

Am I suggesting you need to give it up? Nope.

Can it be abused? Of course.

Can a “moderate” amount exacerbate unpleasant symptoms for some people? Absolutely.

In the past I tried cutting down on it, or saving it for a weekend treat. And while that can work for a lot of things that you don’t have a strong attachment to, for me if I drank the coffee on Saturday and Sunday, when Monday rolled around I’d be craving coffee and I’d find myself drinking it again.

The only way for me to eliminate the craving all together was to give it up completely.

Again, this is my personal example, maybe your “poison” is sugar, wheat, or wine.

What I’m getting at here is that sometimes eliminating choice altogether actually makes it easier particularly with those things that you feel a strong attachment to (which I did with coffee).

(By the way, “newsflash” I do drink coffee again but giving it up for over a year allowed me to see what types of effects it actually had on my body, and now my relationship with it is much better. If you’re interested in whether or not coffee is a good drink for you, or you just want to learn how to upgrade your coffee hygiene, check out this post I wrote here. Please note that I actually wrote it before my experimentation in giving up coffee for over a year).

Also, I should clarify that I never committed to giving up coffee for a year. I started with a month. Quite frankly, after about a week I didn’t really even miss it, and once I reached the month’s end it was easy for me to commit to another month. And then another month, and so on. Never underestimate the power of “small wins” to propel you forward!

Another example that comes to mind when I write this…

One of my past clients (let’s call her “Stacey”) had what you would probably consider to be the “perfect” diet. Pretty much everything she ate on a regular basis was healthy except…she over-consumed wine (I know many women who can relate to this which is why I’m sharing this specific example). This wasn’t a secret and she was well aware that this was true, but it wasn’t something she was willing or even interested in giving up.

Now if you know me, you’ll know that I enjoy a glass of wine too and I’m not about to tell anyone that they need to give it up unless…it’s causing them pain.

You see, Stacey couldn’t just have one or even two glasses of wine and then stop there. On most evenings she was drinking more than half a bottle, and sometimes even the whole bottle to herself.

She complained of severe digestive issues, stomach pain, and nightly hot flashes (she was only in her late twenties).

It wasn’t until she committed to giving up wine for two weeks cold turkey that she saw a relief in her digestive problems and stomach pain, and the nightly hot flashes completely disappeared. She just never fully connected these symptoms to her wine consumption.

Now at least she’s aware. And even though Stacey still drinks wine, she doesn’t drink as excessively as before and is careful to always pair it with food if she’s having more than a glass. And for those times when she is more excessive? Well she knows that her digestion might not be great for the next few days, and she’s not surprised if she wakes up with a hot flash in the middle of the night.

So with that said…

Where do you perhaps need to be “extreme” in order to make meaningful progress and get the results that you want?

Keep in mind that sometimes those results are just about gaining information on how you may or may not want to be living your life.

All love,

Elaine

 

Super Easy Cashew Butter Cookie Recipe

Yes, sometimes the nutritionist eats cookies.

But not just any old cookies.

These ones are packed with healthy fats, protein, and are relatively low in sugar when compared to your typical cookie, or even “healthier” cookie recipe.

They’re sweetened with coconut palm sugar, and are flourless and gluten-free.

And yes (in case you were wondering), they actually do taste good. In fact, they’re downright delicious.

I’ve had my fair share of “healthy” cookie recipe failures and I’m confident to say that these ones will please the health conscious and not so health conscious alike.

Bring them to your next potluck, girl’s night gathering, or office party.

What I love about these cookies is that they contain minimal ingredients and they aren’t sickly sweet.

I also find them really digestible…although I can’t vouch for that if you decide to eat the whole plate at once ;)

Cashew Butter Cookie Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 small jar of smooth cashew butter (250 grams)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup of coconut palm sugar
  • 1/4 tsp of baking soda
  • pinch of sea salt
  • Dark chocolate chips (optional) – if using these I recommend scaling the coconut palm sugar back to 1/3 of a cup since the chocolate chips will add their own sweetness

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper
  2. Mix all ingredients well in a large bowl
  3. Scoop out mixture onto parchment paper into small cookie shapes (they will expand so leave room in between each one)
  4. Bake for approximately 10 minutes.
  5. Let cool for a few minutes and enjoy!

Makes approx 12 cookies

Do you have any favorite cookie recipes that use healthier ingredients?

Go ahead and share in the comment box below!

Gentle Winter Cleanse (aka Digestive Reboot)

Feeling sluggish? Low energy? Bloated? Digestion not up to par? Trapped in a cycle of overeating?

If you feel like you need a little help in this area I’ve got just the prescription!

I call this a gentle winter cleanse, however, it’s really more of a digestive reboot or reset.

While cleansing is something that’s recognized as a great tool for the change of season, particularly spring and early autumn, you can still support your body’s natural built-in detox mechanisms all throughout the year by paying attention to what you’re eating, along with other lifestyle choices.

What I’m offering today though is a simple little protocol that you can put into action anytime or place whether you’re feeling sluggish or low on energy, or feeling like your digestion isn’t running as smoothly as it could be (i.e. you’re experiencing indigestion or bloating), or maybe you’ve found yourself in a pattern of overeating less than ideal foods and you’re having a hard time breaking the cycle.

This protocol can help you get back on the right track and give your digestion a rest, all while still providing your body nourishment.

You can follow this plan for as little as one day, but I suggest following it for at least 2 (or even 3) days for best results. This will depend on your current health status, lifestyle, and the intensity of the plan you wish to follow.

It’s really quite simple and you have full control over the menu.

Basic Guidelines

1) Consume any of the following during the protocol. Herbal teas, fresh vegetable juices, green-based smoothies, veggie broths, bone broths, and blended soups. You can pick and choose based on your preference. Unsweetened dairy alternatives are okay, as are seasonings for soup (i.e. sea salt, herbs, a drizzle of olive oil). You’re taking a break from: alcohol, flour, grain, meat, beans/legumes, nuts/seeds, and added sugar (with the exception of the optional raw honey I noted in the menu below), along with most other solid food.

2) You control the intensity. For example, consuming only fresh veggie juices and broths will be more cleansing (and intense) than blended smoothies and soups.

3) Drink plenty of pure water. Although this protocol is very hydrating already, be sure to drink pure water throughout the day. You can also sip on herbal teas and broths.

FAQ

Q. Can I still drink coffee?

A. This is the most commonly asked question! Ideally you will stick to herbal teas but I know that this one factor alone is one of the biggest excuses people give for not following it, or the reason why they will put it off for a more “convenient” time (I’ve fallen into this category many times too). So with that said you can still have one cup of coffee if you really want it (either taken black or with a splash of milk/cream or dairy alternative – NO sugar though). Although there may be many other reasons to take a break from coffee, since it’s technically a liquid you can still enjoy the digestive rest aspect of the protocol (unless of course it contributes towards digestive-related symptoms that you’re aware of – then avoid it).

Other Logistics

  • I personally stop taking all supplements during this protocol with the exception of a probiotic. You’ll have to decide what’s right for you. This does NOT apply to doctor prescribed medications.
  • Take into account your lifestyle and modify as necessary. For example, the last time I followed this I went for 5 days while keeping up with my regular busy work schedule, and workout routine (i.e. spinning classes and heavy weight-lifting). For this reason I added in some protein powder to my smoothie that I had post-workout. If you’re only following the protocol for one day this likely doesn’t apply to you – and if this is your first time following something similar then I would suggest more gentle exercise like walking and yoga.

Sample Menu

* Use all organic ingredients where possible

** Make quantities suitable for you (i.e. for soups you can always make bigger batches and store in the fridge)

Morning

Ginger tea with fresh lemon

Breakfast

Green Smoothie (2 handfuls of baby spinach, 1 chopped ripened Bosc pear, ½ ripened banana, ¼ avocado, ¼ tsp of grated ginger, a few sprigs of fresh mint + water for blending. Optional: add some lemon juice.)

Lunch

Broccoli Soup (Directions: steam broccoli florets until soft and then blend with a drizzle of olive oil, a pinch of sea salt, and water and/or veggie or bone broth. Reheat on stove as needed.)

Dinner

Leek and Potato Soup (Directions: simmer chopped up leek and potato in some water until soft, drain and transfer to blender. Blend with a drizzle of olive oil, pinch of sea salt, water and/or veggie or bone broth. Reheat on stove as needed.)

Night

Warm Golden Milk (1 cup of dairy alternative whisked w/ ½ tsp of turmeric powder. Heat on stove until hot but not boiling. Optional: small drizzle of raw honey is okay)

This sample menu is simply to give you some direction and inspiration. Follow a menu that suits your tastes and lifestyle using the allowable foods/liquids noted under the guidelines above.

Here’s an easy recipe for veggie broth that I posted on Instagram.

Here’s a link to homemade bone broth. You can make it in a slow cooker or stove top.

Here’s a recent juice recipe I made that’s nice for the wintertime (if you have a juicer!)

This is how I store my soups and broths.

Have questions?

Write them in the comments below and I’ll do my best to answer them!

xo Elaine