11 January 2011

Be Your Own Doctor: Nutrition

I don't know about you, but I've had it with American medicine. I somehow think we've all grown to miss the point of medicine and the preventative measures it is supposed to be taking. Our society focuses on symptom relief, relying heavily on prescription drugs, and fixing a specific problem instead of looking at the body as a whole.

In my effort to stay away from these institutions I've worked hard over the years to find alternative methods of treatment when I start to feel under the weather, as well as developing a healthy and preventative everyday lifestyle to combat the bugs we encounter in our daily lives. I'm no Ph.D. but I would like to share some "tips for living well" that work for me in this series. Up first: Nutrition.

1. Portion Control

Because we are a fast food nation and so many of us eat out frequently, our understanding of correct portions have been skewed. We eat to be "full" or "stuffed" instead of eating to be "comfortable" or "satisfied." If you are exhausted an hour after eating or your famished again it is probably a sign you are eating WAY to much of the WRONG thing.
2. Variety
It's true, variety is the spice of life. Eating well doesn't mean cutting out desserts or other foods you enjoy. In fact it shouldn't cut out any groups of food (unless "heavily processed foods" is a group...). If you are trying to not only make healthier eating habits but also trying to develop habits for losing weight there may be items to cut way back on, but cutting out all together is extreme. 
A healthy diet requires a lot of eating in order to get your needed fruits and veggies. I recommend 6 meals a day (3 moderate meals- breakfast, lunch and dinner) and 3 mini-meals (healthy mid-morning, mid-afternoon, and evening snacks). Usually I save my "dessert indulgence" to eat as my evening snack. You get one a day, so make it at a time you will enjoy it most.
To ensure variety I usually try and see how many colors and textures I can eat a day. It sounds silly, I know, but when you start playing with this you really get a variety of grains, dairies, fruits, and veggies.
3. Make a Choice

Every time you grocery shop or eat you make a choice. When temped to put down a whole King Sized Milky Way I look at the label of ingredients and see that there is absolutely nothing that would benefit my body. If it does nothing, it is an easy choice- why even waste time chewing?  The hard part is educating yourself on what is beneficial and what is not. That sweet cereal you bought my say "A great source of fiber!" but if it is covered in sugar and floating amongst marshmallow puffs the point is moot. 
What I'm trying to say is that every individual is responsible for where their diet takes them. If it is taking you to a place you don't like, it's your own fault. No need to cry about it, just own it and commit to moving forward and making choices that will benefit your health. When your choices start to move you to a place you are happy with, that will also be your fault, and you can begin to pat yourself on the back for caring for the body you've got.

4. Log Your Intake

Food journal. This may sound silly and highly regulatory however, it can change your life! Let's look at our bodies as a whole and reason that everything that goes in it will effect it (the simple principle of "garbage in garbage out"). Unless we actively pay attention to the little changes in the way we feel throughout the day it will be difficult to trace what foods do what. Every body is different and every person reacts differently to different foods.

I keep a journal of everything I eat. 15-20 minutes later I will try and be aware of how I feel. Do I feel happy? Do I feel nervous? Do I feel out of breath or relaxed? Do I feel tired or awake? I also note the times of any physical reactions I may have. Do I feel bloated? Do I have a headache? Do I have an upset stomach or irregular heartbeats?  When I look back at my journal over time I start to see common threads between certain foods and negative or positive physical or emotional feelings. Chocolate or coffee (even in the littlest amounts) will give me a headache and cause my heart to skip. Mango and avacado are good at making me comfortably full and giving me energy that lasts. When I don't drink water I get out of breath and many meats bring down my mood.

If you track yourself for a few weeks to a month you will slowly begin to learn how your body responds and be able to eat a more well balanced diet that supports your physical needs and your emotional needs. 

What do YOU do to help maintain a healthy diet?

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