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These days, our kitchen, office, bedroom, relaxation area, and workout studio are all under the same roof. For many of us, it’s challenging to create boundaries within each area, and for many, even more difficult to foster a place for mindful eating within our new normal.
As a celebrity wellness chef and nutrition coach, I’ve helped many clients tap into the practice of mindful eating over the years. This has helped clients keep energy up, hormones balanced, their mind clear, and their soul happy.
During this time with so much change and unknown, adapting to positive habits and conscious eating can help create a sense of calm and centeredness. Here are five ways to practice mindful eating.
1. Set The Foundation
Mindful eating starts with the food you keep in your house. Before you do your shopping for the week, think of your goals, how you want to feel, and who you want to be that week.
Furthermore, keep the following formula to mind when shopping and building each meal: Think protein, fiber, and fat.
I recommend keeping high-quality protein options like wild and grass fed meats, above ground vegetables (fiber), like broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts, lettuces, cauliflower, and lastly, fat like avocado, olive oil, and nuts in the house.
Additionally, the less packaged foods the better — this pushes you to cook and create dishes to keep on hand, which connects you to the food you’re eating. Keep it simple and dedicate a little time to baking veggies and protein so you’re never in a mind. If you’re short on time you can also make eggs, and/or purchase a rotisserie chicken.
2. Eat Smart, Not less
This brings us to the next tip. The aforementioned three-part formula of protein, fiber, and fat will help to keep you full, satiated and energized between meals. The best part? You can eat until you’re satisfied and not worry about counting a thing.
This naturally fosters a sense of mindfulness as you’re relying on your own measurement of hunger.
3. Change it up, but eat what you love
If you’re dining out, going food shopping, or ordering in, think of the foods you’ve been eating and how you can provide your body with new information. If you’ve been eating a lot of chicken, change it up to beef, or turkey.
Before ordering off a menu, tap into what you’re craving before you go looking. Think of what you’d like to have and find that item or something similar on the menu.
On the topic of eating what you love… this is where you can get creative.
If you’re craving italian, get creative by sauteing vegetables and a protein in a red sauce like Rao’s Marinara.
If you’re craving Indian, use a pre-mixed spice blend like Garam Masala or Curry and create a dish using your favorite vegetables, protein, and coconut milk.
But there’s an exception! Sometimes you’re really just craving something familiar and something you love.
The other day I really wanted a grilled cheese, and instead of ordering the gluten free version on bread that I knew wouldn’t do it for me, I ordered it on crunchy sourdough and went for it to the fullest. I was so happy and content and later switched back to the three-part formula and went heavy on the vegetables. My body was craving it by that point and I was able to listen to it because I listened to it earlier before.
4. Be intentional
If you’re craving something really indulgent, tap into the feeling and decide if you’re really truly craving that item, or if it’s the sensation you’re craving from a self-soothing standpoint. For example, if you’re craving a crunch and want to reach for the bag of chips, this typically stems from anxious energy. Eating crunchy items like carrots, celery, or swapping tradition chips for grain-free chips like Siete can help give you that same sensation while keeping you feeling great. From a physical standpoint, going for a walk, run, listening to music, and weight lifting can help move that anxiousness out of you.
If you’re craving foods that require scooping and sucking like ice cream, cereal, or a glass of wine, this typically comes from the primal sensation of sucking which gives us a sense of comfort, love, and nourishment. Try mimicking that sensation by having coconut yogurt, chia pudding, or sipping tea. For the physical swap, take a bath, spend time with a loved one, or journal to foster your deep need of connection to self and others.
5. Let go of perfection
There’s so much information out there on eating, working out, biohacking, and wellness. The science is constantly changing and we are fed (pun intended) conflicting information through ads on television, our phones, influencers, and friends and family. Sure, information is power, but sometimes all the information gets confusing and difficult to sift through, and ultimately our decisions around food and living have to come from deep inside our soul.
Mindful eating is like strengthening your intuition, and the more you use it, the more you trust it. Trust your judgment, trust your body, and be true to what you’re needing and craving because your body ultimately has all the answers.
Written by HealthKick partner
Shauna Faulisi, celebrity wellness chef & nutrition coach
Expert nutritionist and health coach Jared Koch isn’t immune to the challenges, philosophies and endlessly conflicting research about what to eat, just like the rest of us. His impetus for becoming vegan years ago wasn’t just for ethical and environmental reasons. It was also because at the time so many scientific studies focused on negative health consequences of eating too much red meat and saturated fat. It was seemingly, increasingly evident to him that “healthy eating meant being vegan.”
He hoped that his life-long chronic digestive issues would dissipate and the energy boost that an all plant diet promised would one day kick in. “I felt and looked terrible,” says Jared Koch, the founder and CEO of Clean Plates. He had made what he believed was a therapeutic dietary change which should have, according to studies and research, destined to bring him total wellness. Instead, He got worse. Educated and thoughtful about these very issues, Jared did not approach his dietary change like a quick fix. He stuck to it. He was often sick, and the longer he maintained his new diet, the more fatigued he felt. Worst of all perhaps, his digestive issues persisted. This lasted almost three years.
Bio-individuality and the Art and Science of Personalized Nutrition
Jared instituted an overarching, new approach to his diet. Since humans are bio-individual, meaning that we each have unique nutritional needs to be healthy, there cannot be one single definition of what is a“healthy diet.” Differences in our anatomy, metabolism, body composition, cellular structure, and genetics — big and small — create varied nutritional needs, unique to you and only you. Personalized nutrition is the path by which you learn your bio-individual needs, empowering you with the knowledge, ability, and tools to make the best decision about how to eat for your body. This approach changed Jared’s life. It changed his clients lives. It can change yours too.
Jared listened to his own body. Really listened. He monitored many factors which contributed to his well being and he created his own food rules for himself, to great success and increased pleasure. This personalized nutrition program was and remains, no easy process, but it can be life changing.
Personalized nutrition, by definition, means tailoring and customizing food and much more in accordance with medical and biological metrics like blood pressure reduction or bmi. We, humans, are multifaceted, social beings with many differences, so his approach “… requires us to consider not just bio-individuality but also factors like budget, personal taste, cultural background, daily work schedules, and food access,” Jared said.
The barriers that exist between each individual and their ability to determine and maintain their unique healthy diet vary considerably by circumstance. It’s not only about what foods you eat and your body’s reaction. It’s also about what food you have access to.
As we work as a society to stop targeting and correct gross inequities in our food system, that grievously affect younger POC and lower-income folks disproportionately, each person has to start to define and act upon what is “healthy” for their body and their lives. Personalized nutrition mandates real time, real world solutions for you, by you, just as you are.
Your Individual Needs & The Food You Eat
According to the American Nutrition Association, Personalized nutrition is a way of eating that focuses on understanding that “… human individuality ( is what ) drive nutrition strategies that prevent, manage, and treat disease and optimize health.” This means not subscribing to any one food philosophy, whether it be the low-carb, high-fat ketogenic diet or the animal product-free vegan diet. Instead, you subscribe to only one food philosophy — the one you create for yourself based upon how you react and feel after eating.
This definition might conjure up images of advanced analyses or unaffordable nutrigenomic testing. But the truth is that personalized nutrition is pretty simple — and you’re probably already doing it to some degree in your own life. Everyday, you make decisions about what to eat and you may already notice how those decisions affect your body. The knowledge you gain from observing yourself and noticing what feels good to you is what personalized nutrition is really about.
“There is a basic misunderstanding about what healthy is,” said Dr. Marvin Singh, an integrative gastroenterologist. He regularly sees patients who are eating certain foods because of something they read or a story of a friend of a friend who had great success with a particular diet. “People fall into these traps of thinking they have to eat a certain way,” says Dr. Singh. But the truth is, “there are a lot of nuances to health and nutrition and if you don’t understand that, you’re not doing yourself a service,” he continues. One of Dr. Singh’s goals with his patients is to get them to start looking at it from an individual, clinical point of view. In other words, he practices personalized nutrition.
Creating Your Food Philosophy
Creating your own food philosophy is easier said than done. Polarizing and often extreme diet philosophies echo our weight-loss-obsessed and control-oriented diet culture. Judgement, condemnation and shame are still very much a part of diet discussions, and older, passe, themes still tend to creep into even the most modern, wellness-oriented ideologies in 2020.
Diets are therapies. When we pigeonhole ourselves into a specific way of eating without leaving room for personalization or customization, for tailoring the information out there to our unique and specific needs, it backfires. As Jared explains: “You not only miss out on healthy foods you’d enjoy eating, you become so focused on not ‘breaking’ your diet that your health slides down on the priority list.”
And it’s not just your health and well-being that slides to the bottom of the priority list, either. Enjoyment does too. As Loneke T. Blackman Carr, Ph.D., R.D., an assistant professor of community and public health nutrition at the University of Connecticut explains: “Food serves a purpose that is inclusive of nutrition but not exclusive of joy, family, and tradition.” If it’s 2020 and the idea that celebrating and enjoying food still brings us pause, it shows that we haven’t come quite as far as we want to believe.
Decreasing Food Confusion
Labeling foods either “healthy” or “not healthy” does not allow for nuances that are vital to personalized health. Think about it: Foods like red meat, grains, and saturated fat have developed such a stigma that their public image may never recover, even if the science redeems them. To add fuel to the fire, nutrition studies often report conflicting results. One day eggs are nature’s greatest superfood — and the next day they’ll give you heart disease.
As Dr. Carr explains: “There’s so much information and misinformation and it’s coming from so many different sources. I totally understand where that confusion comes from.” Many people are so paralyzed by conflicting nutrition information and dueling opinions that they have no idea what to eat. As a result, people who are motivated to make healthy lifestyle changes, but don’t know which route to take, struggle to find a sustainable way to do so.”
Nutrition research is perhaps the most vital piece of the academic knowledge, but applying it to you, a single person’s body is the necessity. For example, one study from Kings College in London showed that individuals have significantly different physiological responses — such as blood sugar spikes and increases in blood fat levels — after eating various kinds of foods.
“Diet is a very personalized thing; food sensitivities, microbiome issues, and genetics are all involved and really influences what you should eat,” says Dr. Singh. When it comes to our DNA, our genes can affect our nutritional needs in more than subtle ways. “Some people have a genetic mutation in a gene that puts them at a greater risk for hypertension and heart disease if they eat more than 1500 mg of salt per day.” According to Dr. Singh, people without that gene can have 2400 mg a day without negative health consequences. The same is true for Vitamin C, caffeine, and certain B vitamins. Our dietary needs exist on a genetic basis.
So while there are some food rules that apply to everyone — “Fruits and veggies above all, whole grains, lean proteins, and some healthy fats are foods that are good for everyone,” says Dr. Carr — some nutrition questions lead you to a dead end. For example, when it comes to the “Are eggs healthy or not” debate, “There might not actually be an answer,” says Dr. Carr.
It turns out that we’ve been asking the wrong questions entirely. Instead of debating which diet is the best and which is the worst, we should all individually be asking a single prevailing question: What foods are right for me?
At first, answering the questions “What foods are better for me, or worse for me?” might seem impossible. There’s still a lot society needs to learn about food and culture, behavior, and the science of nutrigenomics — the study of how food influences our DNA and vice versa.
Personalized Nutrition Is Already All Around Us
When you start asking yourself “What foods are better for me?” you’ll most likely find that you’ve already been answering it in bits and pieces for years. Do you avoid certain foods because they make you bloated, give you reflux, or make you feel tired? Do you continue to eat certain foods because they make you feel like a superhero? Do you eat a vegetarian diet but add in fish because it makes you feel so great? If the answer is yes to any of these, then there you go — you’re already your own nutrition expert.
Personalized nutrition is already all around us in some ways. Consider the supplement world. Supplements personalize our nutrients and should be therapeutic. As Nick Bitz, N.D., the Chief Scientific Officer at Youtheory® explains, “Dietary supplements are anything but one-size-fits-all. Supplements can and should be tailored to an individual’s unique needs. Otherwise, you’re treating the disease and not the person.”
Clinicians don’t suggest the same supplement routine for every patient. In fact, even two patients with the same health condition might be prescribed an entirely different supplement routine. “Every botanical has unique energetic properties and the key is to choose the right botanical that not only targets a specific health goal but also brings balance to someone’s body-type. Not every remedy is appropriate for every person,” says Bitz. If you’re treating a health condition, it’s always wise to work with a professional to develop a supplement routine, but if you’re just looking to support overall health, companies like Care/Of, Rootine and Binto will provide you personalized vitamin packs based on factors like your health history, your age, and your gender.
The Elimination Diet: Your First and Most Important Diagnostic Tool
The elimination diet is the most foolproof personalized nutrition diagnostic tool at our disposal. With an elimination diet, you remove all common food allergens from your diet for a period of time, and then systematically add them back in, one by one, while tracking your symptoms in detail. This allows you to pinpoint your food sensitivities with a high degree of specificity. The elimination diet isn’t for the faint of heart; to do it right takes a few months and you must follow it exactly, or your results won’t be accurate. The good news is that it’s free to do, has no risks, and can be done anytime, anywhere. Often if you do it with the help of a trained professional, it’s fairly expensive.
For Jared, it was really the elimination diet that helped him finally ditch food labels, restrictive diets, and all-or-nothing eating plans. Plus, according to him, “an elimination diet isn’t as difficult as it sounds if you have the proper guidance and structure and you plan ahead.”
After his elimination diet phase, Jared found that he felt substantially better eating red meat and noticeably worse eating sugar, gluten-containing grains, and surprisingly, too many greens. So today, he makes his own food rules based on that personal knowledge and he’s never felt better. An elimination diet is a life-altering tool we all have at our disposal to change the way we eat and live.
Although, hopefully, personalized nutrition will one day involve nothing more than a single, quick test that tells us which foods are better for our unique bodies and which foods should be minimized or avoided to achieve optimal health, as of right now we don’t have that yet. Currently, outside of allergy testing, figuring out what works best requires us to be perpetual students of our own bodies. That is why the elimination diet has remained such a helpful diagnostic tool.
Make Your Own Food Rules and Modify as Your Life and Body Changes
After settling on an eating plan that feels right today, you will always be on the lookout for changes that you may need. Our nutritional requirements change throughout our lives. If you start training for a marathon or get pregnant, for example, you’ll need to adapt your diet to accommodate your new needs. “You may benefit from a diet for a while and then you need to switch it up,” says Dr. Singh.
Personalized nutrition is about listening to your body and always prioritizing how you feel over hard-and-fast rules, restrictive labels, and even the latest, splashiest headlines and studies. At the end of the day, you’re the only one living in your body. And when it comes to your personal nutrition journey, the best place to start is with honesty, patience, and compassion. Only then can you cultivate a way of eating that gives you the knowledge and tools to meet your body exactly where it’s at and undertake the journey into total food freedom.
Try Clean Plates today with your HealthKick discount!
Article written by Sun Basket
Sometimes it takes $8 million and 12 months of research to tell you what you already know.
For years, conventional wisdom has held that to lose weight we need to consume fewer calories than we burn. But a new study led by the director of nutrition studies at the Stanford Prevention Research Center and published in JAMA has turned that idea on its head, showing that it’s the quality of the food, not the quantity that matters most.
The researchers followed a group of 609 adults for one year. Half the group was assigned a healthy low-fat diet while the other half was put on a healthy low-carb diet. The only instruction the two groups received was to opt for nutrient-rich foods in their most natural state. In classes with dietitians, the participants were taught to avoid processed foods high in sugars, refined oils, excess sodium, artificial additives, and preservatives. Everyone was encouraged to work out, but in general, they did not increase their levels of exercise. Most importantly, there were no instructions to restrict calories or portion sizes in any way. Instead, the subjects of the study were told to eat as much as they needed to avoid feeling hungry. After 12 months, there was a wide range of results in both groups. Some people lost as much as 60 pounds while others gained weight, but overall there was an average loss of about 13 pounds between the two groups. Both groups saw reductions in body fat, blood sugar, and blood pressure.
Sound familiar? Sun Basket’s Director of Nutrition, Lindsey Kane has been pushing the same advice since she joined our team. It’s not that calories don’t matter, they do. But this research showed that participants were able to satisfy their hunger with nutritious foods that are naturally lower in calories than processed, low-nutrient foods. By adopting an attitude of abundance and focusing on higher quality ingredients instead of ones with fewer calories, they were able to satisfy their hunger and feel good about their meals, rather than experiencing the deprivation associated with most diets.
Along with changes in what they ate, participants also reported changes in how they ate. Cooking more of their own meals, turning off the television, and sitting down to eat with their families, instead of eating on the run.
The truth is, eating for optimal health and weight management isn’t complicated. While there’s lots of controversy among health experts about the best approach to weight management, if you step back you’ll see that among millions of scientific theories and research studies, there’s a common denominator: A high-quality diet of nutrient-rich whole foods leads to better health outcomes and a lower risk of disease.
As long as you eat wholesome foods most of the time, there’s little need to worry about how many calories you’re taking in. It’s hard to overdo it with a meal of fresh salmon and asparagus, with a bowl of berries and yogurt for dessert. Refuse to swing with the research pendulum that declares one food is good and another is bad. Instead, cook real food for yourself and family, gather at the table, laugh out loud, and enjoy your meals. At the end of the day, that’s all the nutrition advice you really need.