Most of the Western world views health and disease as a black and white issue. But the truth is that our health lies on a spectrum and most of us lay somewhere in the middle of this spectrum â€“ where we might not feel sick but neither are we living optimally.
In functional medicine we look to identify and resolve the underlying causes for imbalances that make us feel bloated, tired, hungry and cause us to crave sugar. And the truth is many underlying reasons are related to the food we eat.
Imagine your health as a metaphoric road. As you drive down this road you come to a fork. You can choose to continue straight down the same road that you’ve already been traveling. If you’ve been stuck in a food or health rut this seems like the easier path. Especially because you don’t need to change anything! But the catch is that nothing else in your life shifts either.
Your second option is to take the path less traveled. This path may feel a little rockier at first because it involves making changes that may feel scary and uncomfortable, but it leads to places that you didn’t think possible. This path has the most rewarding outcome because changing the food you eat and the way you think can have a tremendous impact on your self worth, vitality and energy.
You have to start somewhere – incorporate one of the changes below each week over the next two months and begin to see the affect it has on your body.
- Enjoy protein for breakfast
Eating protein for breakfast helps improve satiety so you can go longer before grabbing your next meal. This is because it reduces ghrelin levels, the hormone responsible for increasing your hunger. Protein for breakfast also prevents that 3p sugar crash, making you more resistant to the candy bowl at work. Try 2x eggs over arugula and cherry tomatoes.
- Eat five times per day
Aim to eat three meals and two snacks per day with three to four hours in between. It’s good to space out meals because it takes about two hours (or more) for your stomach to completely digest and empty.
Going more than four or five hours in between meals puts unnecessary stress on the adrenal glands and can be counteractive to your weight loss efforts. So no skipping!
- Focus on vegetables
Eat your vegetables. Just get them in – any shape, form and color will do. Vegetables have ample amount of fiber and water that satiates while binding toxins and feed beneficial gut microbes. Ninety percent of our serotonin receptors (our ‘feel good’ neurotransmitter) are located in the gut, so when our digestion is happy – so are we. Puree, roast, juice, pulverize, enjoy them raw – just get them in and aim for them to take up half of your plate.
- Ditch the diet foods
Diet foods are super deceiving. In theory they should be a dieters dream come true, but in reality because they stimulate hunger, inhibit weight loss and increase overall anxiety. Please feel free to hop over to my blog and find out why diet foods don’t work.
- Limit simple sugars
Eating sugar causes our brains to release a surge of dopamine (the ‘pleasure’ neurotransmitter). No wonder we’re primed to like carbohydrates. Over time the brain becomes desensitized to this response and we’re conditioned to seek more sugar to get the same ‘hit’. You can regain control by limiting simple sugars, which helps re-sensitize the brain to these pleasure cues.
- Take your time to eat
Enjoy the flavors and textures of your food, chew slowly and put your fork down in between bites. It takes about 20 minutes for your brain to recognize what you’ve eaten which is why feeling more in control of your diet requires a slower pace.
- Get plenty of sleep
Shocked to hear that the amount of sleep you get is linked to your satiety? Sleep affects two basic hormones: leptin and ghrelin. Leptin is a hormone that suppresses our hunger while ghrelin does the opposite. A good nights sleep is linked to higher amounts of leptin and lower amounts of ghrelin. Aim for 8 hours.
- Drink lots of water
Thirsty or hungry? The body has a difficult time telling the difference. Aim for at least 2 L daily.
Written by Miriam Jacobson, MS, RD, CNS, CDN