A Fresh Perspective: Advice From My Patient
Blogs. I love them. I love reading them, and I love writing them. They are a relatively quick and easy way to spread useful information and share ideas, both old and new, from a unique perspective. Yet, I’ve never written a blog from the perspective of somebody else, which is exactly what I want to do here!
Throughout my career, I have come into contact with some of the most interesting, funny, heartbreaking, insightful, and simply enjoyable people from all over the world. It is an honor to meet and help support so many who are at a place in their life where, for any number of reasons, they are ready to receive the help I am able to give them. And truth be told, I have learned just as much from them as they have from me. My patient John (name changed to protect identity) is a perfect example of this experience.
John came to the UltraWellness Center to get a better understanding of nutrition knowledge so that he could optimize his health, lower blood pressure, and achieve some weight loss. John had already done a good deal of research and experimenting on his own before becoming a patient. He had already removed many foods that were hurting him, such as soda and processed foods, and replaced them with organic, local, whole food. John learned a lot about food as medicine, but there was still so much conflicting information that he was forced to slow down and clarify his experience for more comprehensive answers. Throughout his journey toward health and overcoming our culture of dieting, John developed and gathered some of his own rules for sustainable healthy eating and how to think about eating. I thought these were wonderful and with his permission, I am happy to share his insight with you as we move into the new year.
- Be a food detective. Stick with food that came from the earth, not from a factory. Do you recognize the ingredients on a nutrition label as real food, or are you stumbling as you try to pronounce them? Cut out food with additives. Even better, skip foods in a box altogether and stick with unprocessed food without a label!
- Follow the 90/10 principle. It is what you do 80-90% of the time that will have the greatest impact on your health. Instead of following a strict “diet,” which is bound to end, adopt healthy eating and lifestyle habits most of the time while allowing for some flexibility so that you enjoy occasional treats with a relaxed, non-judgmental attitude.
- Quality, not quantity, to avoid interference. A lot of illness and obesity is caused by processed food-like products that interfere with the body’s metabolism and ability to function properly. There is so much focus on “calories in vs. calories out” as a way to lose weight and be healthy. However, the human body doesn’t work like that and simply focusing on calories ignores the quality of these calories. Pay less attention to amounts and more attention to the quality of your food.
- True hunger: become acquainted. People are so used to having non-stop access to food, they rarely feel true hunger! It is important to know what true hunger feels like, the growling of your stomach, as a sign that your body is physically ready for food, rather than a false trigger such as emotions. Take a moment to recognize this feeling when it happens and let yourself feel it! Then, consciously decide what to eat rather than quickly eating as much of whatever you want.
- Greater awareness is the goal. As mentioned in the step above, when you experience true physical hunger, become aware of how the hunger feels, and then become aware of how you eat. Here are some strategies for greater food awareness:
- Notice how you feel before and during your meal. What is your body telling you about this food or meal? Is it supporting your health, or is it weighing you down?
- Put your utensils down between bites. This can help fast eaters slow down.
- Breathing deeply between bites can also slow you down and improve digestion.
- Try finishing one bite, then let it travel through the esophagus before taking another bite. No over-filling your mouth!
- Don’t let the food industry dictate what you eat. Take control by having meals or snacks ready that you have prepared in your own kitchen using whole, unprocessed ingredients. Then experience true fullness.
- Other pleasures. Make sure food isn’t your only pleasure, it can lead to negative self-talk. If you have no other pleasures in life, food can easily take over and you can get too entangled in self-image. Obsessively thinking about food may actually not be about the food at all. Instead, it may be about how you see yourself. We too easily judge our whole selves based on small moments. “I was bad because I ate a piece of cake” is a common example, but if certain foods fit into the 90/10 principle, you can enjoy these things on occasion, worry and judgment-free.
Many people look to food for pleasure, comfort, and social connections so often that we have lost other pleasurable parts of life. For example, when you go to a party, are you focusing almost entirely on the food? If so, you are missing out on the anticipation and pleasure of talking and interacting with people. Do you have hobbies or something that fills you with joy and totally absorbs you? You will never hear someone who absolutely loves food, such as a chef, say they have been “bad” when they enjoy a piece of cake! Try to see where these thoughts are really coming from, and reframe the self-talk. Instead, say “I ate a piece of cake and enjoyed it; now I will get back on my healthy eating plan.” Or, “that delicious cake fit right into my healthy eating plan because I eat healthfully 90% of the time.” It’s all about attitude and perspective.