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

 

5 Eating Habits to Ditch

I want to let you in on a little secret.

Ready?

Here it goes…

Eating healthy is really quite simple.

There, I said it.

I know this comes with the risk of offending some people, particularly those who have struggled in this area for a long time.

But please let me explain before I go any further, because I say this with great love and respect.

What I really want to convey here is that eating healthy is a 2-step process.

Step number one involves upgrading your food choices.

Once you gain mastery in this area, this part of the equation becomes relatively easy. Naturally in the beginning there’s a bit of a learning curve, and yes, it will take some trial and error and a little investigative work to figure out which foods currently support your body and health goals the best, but once you’ve found your groove this step becomes relatively straightforward, i.e. you no longer have to give it too much thought, beyond perhaps getting creative with new ingredients and recipes.

Step number two on the other hand, is the one that trumps people the most.

This is the “how” component of eating, aka, your eating habits. And let me tell you, those babies run deep. This is why you can diligently eat all of the right foods but still only get mediocre results when it comes to your health goals. Of course there’s also the question of exercise, sleep, and other lifestyle factors, but today I’m focusing solely on the food and eating aspect.

You see, so many people want the magic bullet solution. They want the shiny new meal plan that tells them *exactly* what to eat. And while that can be helpful in the beginning, and yes, you can definitely make great progress by upgrading your foods choices (particularly if the diet was low-grade to begin with), eventually you’ll run smack up against a wall in terms of progress and you may be left scratching your head wondering why. Then you’ll start searching for the next new shiny meal plan or perfect diet that you believe will get you the desired results rather than addressing the root cause of the issue…YOUR EATING HABITS (yes, shouty capitals required).

We must examine our eating habits if we want to stop going around in the same circles.

It’s not about being perfect either. I’m the first to admit that I’m not always able to avoid all of these habits in my own life. Sometimes certain situations come up, and it’s just not possible.

But that’s irrelevant, really. The point is to just be aware that you’re even consciously or unconsciously doing them in the first place, and honestly reflecting on whether they may be preventing you from reaching your own highest health potential. Then you can work on giving them up (to the best of your ability) in your own life.

 

1) Late Night Eating

Let me first begin by telling you that I’m in no way suggesting that you have to become an “early dinner” person in order to ditch this habit, as I’m certainly not. The truth is, on most nights you’ll usually find me eating between 7 pm and 8 pm, and some nights even later. 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 or small snack.

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. Ever notice how much groggier and exhausted you feel in the morning when you do eat late? I know without a doubt if I eat heavier before bedtime I have a much more difficult time crawling out of bed in the morning. And an early morning workout? Forget it.

This may be your norm though, and if so, I challenge you to put it to the test for 3 days by cutting off your eating as suggested above. Notice how much easier it is to get up in the morning (assuming you’re still getting the same amount of sleep), and how much lighter you feel. You might even notice that your BMs are better – and if you don’t normally have one in the morning, you might find that you now do as a result of better digestion.

 

2) Over Eating

This one is difficult for many people, considering it takes about 20 minutes for our brains to register that we’re full. I often hear from my clients that portioning out meals in the daytime is really easy, but nighttime eating can be more of a struggle since emotional eating can rear its head when they’re not preoccupied by the busy-ness of work. Aim for satisfied, and not stuffed. If you’re tempted to keep picking at more food after you’ve finished dinner, get up and throw yourself into something else. Tidy up and wash the dishes (I have a theory about dirty dishes and overeating!), go for a walk, go take a bath, go brush your teeth, or just shut down the kitchen for the night.

The second part of the overeating equation relates to falling prey to the “If it’s healthy, it doesn’t count” mentality, or believing you can eat as much of it as you want without any portion control. This is simply not true. Here are some foods that are easy to overeat: nuts, dried fruit, almond butter, whole grains, starches of any type, homemade baked goods made with natural sweeteners and gluten-free or whole grain flours, coconut milk ice cream, and fruit (yes, you can overeat fresh fruit but best to choose your battles), to name a few. You can be eating the healthiest of foods, but if you’re constantly eating above and beyond your caloric needs, you will gain weight – not to mention mess up your digestion.

 

3) On-the-Go Eating

Sit down, relax, and enjoy your food distraction-free. Rushing, stress, worry, and anxiousness are all antithetical to good digestion. When our sympathetic nervous system is activated, aka, “fight or flight” mode, our ability to digest and assimilate our food is greatly reduced. Even eating something as simple as carrot sticks can leave you feeling bloated like a balloon when you eat from this state.

Do the best you can to centre yourself before eating. Take some deep breaths and step away from your computer if you can. If the choice is between wolfing down your lunch to make a quick meeting, or, waiting until the meeting is over before you eat – it’s better to wait it out, even if your stomach is rumbling a bit. 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. Which brings me to my next point…

 

4) Constant Eating (aka, Grazing)

So many people never experience the feeling of true hunger because they’re constantly nibbling throughout the day. Of course living in a snacking culture where convenience food is readily available at every turn doesn’t help the matter, but furthermore, some health experts actually tout 5-6 metabolically mapped out meals and snacks per day in the name of “increasing energy”. I highly disagree with this sentiment, and in fact, actually encourage my clients to consider transitioning back to a good old-fashioned 3 (or even 2!) meals per day with minimal to no snacking in between.

There are so many benefits to giving up snacking (and constant grazing), and I actually dedicated a whole post to it here, but they include optimizing digestion and fat burning, upleveling mealtimes and the experience of eating, freeing up mental space that’s otherwise preoccupied with food, increasing energy that’s otherwise thwarted towards digesting yet another meal or snack, and helping you get back in touch with true hunger and satiety signals.

 

5) Rigid Eating

Too many food rules make Jill a dull girl (or something like that. Let’s just go with it).  My point is, obsessing over every little thing you put in your mouth is not only tedious, but also missing the whole point. Food is meant to be enjoyed with great reverence. It’s what nourishes and helps sustain us, and also, literally becomes us. There’s nothing wrong with having high standards for yourself and what you allow to enter “your temple” so to speak, but it shouldn’t come at the cost of wasting your precious time obsessing and agonizing over everything you put in your mouth. The culture of “clean eating” is something that’s been weighing heavily on my mind lately (I’ll write about this later). Right now I encourage you to find the diet that best supports your health goals (which ideally also includes feeling awesome both physically and mentally), then move along and go enjoy your life!

As always, I love hearing from you! In the comments below, let me know which of these eating habits you’re ready to break-up with this year. Are there any other eating habits you would add to the list?

The Sexy Language of Your Body

Body Language

Stomach gurgles. Heartburn. Excess weight. Belly bloat. Creaking joints.

Sexy language? Hmm, maybe not.

Nonetheless, your body is always speaking to you, and it doesn’t like to be ignored.

You’re not expected to always understand its translation, but you must at least attempt to hear it out.

If you’re not paying attention, now is the time to pull up a chair and LISTEN UP. (*double snap*)

YOUR BODY SPEAKS. IN. THE. LANGUAGE. OF. SYMPTOMS.

Brittle finger nails, check. Pimply skin, check. Stomach pain, check. Bloating, check. Excess weight, check. Frequent colds, check. Missed periods, check. Depression, check. Burnout, check. Screaming uterus, check. Every possible symptom under the sun, check, check, check.  Continue reading