Become Your Own Nutrition Expert
As a nutrition coach, the most common question I encounter is “What should I eat?”
If you asked me this question when I first started my nutrition practice back in 2002, my answer would be very different than it is now. My broad answer is: focus on eating a “whole foods” diet. What does that mean? Cut out the processed stuff or, as Michael Pollan suggests, avoid anything that has more than five ingredients. The rest is truly up to you.
In my work over the years and in my own food journey, I have witnessed that we all have different nutritional needs. Trying to come up with a “one size fits all” diet simply does not work.
I recommend my clients think of themselves as their own personal nutrition detective. Finding our “perfect fuel” is a process that we must give time and patience to. This may sound daunting, but isn’t it also a bit liberating? Think back to when you were a child and imagine your parents asking you what you are hungry for? What if you had a choice (as long as it was a whole food) of whatever you wanted? Now think about what the impact of this could have been on your whole being.
The ability to understand what we are hungry for is key to being a happy and healthy person (this is true with food, love, or our career). So, how do we start the cultivation process for connecting with our own “inner nutrition expert”? As with any self-growth path, awareness is the first step. Start paying attention to what you are truly hungry for. If you really want to change what and how you eat, I suggest starting a food journal. Think of it as your master tool.
Keeping a food journal will reveal all kinds of helpful information to you. I recommend logging in the time and food you have eaten, how you feel immediately afterwards and then how long the food lasts before you get hungry again. You can also chart your mood during that day. This is a great place to start. The more awareness you have of which foods give you energy and which foods leave you feeling sluggish and lackluster, will enable you to start designing your optimal diet. This might change sometimes, but you will get a sense of what works for you most of the time.
Finding our “perfect fuel” is a process that we must give time and patience to. This may sound daunting, but isn’t it also a bit liberating?”
By keeping your options during this exploratory phase limited to whole foods with a minimal allowance for some snacky stuff (if that’s what you need to stay on track, overall) you will be able to really tune into what your body is longing for.
As you embark upon the journey to your “inner nutrition expert,” here are a few helpful tips for you to get started:
- Keep wheat minimal or avoid completely (many people don’t feel their best when they eat it regularly)
- Limit or avoid caffeine (it can throw your hunger off and cause you to have mood swings)
- Do your best to include protein and fat in every meal to regulate your blood sugar and avoid sugar cravings
- Incorporate exercise into your food journal to see the effect it has on your hunger and your mood throughout the day
- Aim to drink at least 6 glasses of water daily, this will help your energy and sense of well being
- Eat slowly: smell, taste, chew your food
Lastly, do your best to keep away from judgement. Let your body be the guide and not your mind. What calls to you? Let eating and cooking be a fun, creating process of exploration and experimentation.
What are some the useful tools you used to become your own nutrition expert?
Photo Credit: Tomiko Peirano
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