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One Small Change You Can Make to Improve Your Health

food mindset well-being Jul 01, 2020
 
 

You’ve tried dieting in the past but like fellow dieters, you’ve reverted back to your ‘normal’ style of eating, only to regain the weight back that you lost. You want to improve your health but you’re hesitant to go on a diet you’ve tried in the past. You desperately want to shed the pounds but don’t want to go through the cycle again. That’s where the most recent diet trend comes in. It sounds really good. Almost too good to be true. You can eat all the food you want, with a few restrictions and the weight will just melt off. Everyone seems to be trying it out with great results. It’s all your best friend can talk about. She seems to have shed 20 lbs effortlessly in just the last month. She’s even raving about the desserts that are allowed as part of the diet! Does this sound familiar to you? Well before you hop on another bandwagon, I want to suggest you try something different instead.

One of the first things I have my clients do when they come to see me in my Private Practice is to begin to keep a food/mood journal. This is a simple worksheet where I have them document everything they eat or drink for a minimum of three days. I then have them monitor how they feel and record it on paper. I ask them to monitor their energy, mood, digestion, bowel movements, etc. I have to be honest, this is a challenging request. Even I have trouble writing things down. However, this request from me is a deal-breaker. In order to get to the root of things, this is an essential first step.

If you’re at all familiar with intuitive eating, you will have heard the phrase that we need to “listen to our body”. The scientific world is trying to assess whether there is truth to this theory. A recent study has linked people’s ability to gauge their heart rate to how well they keep their weight under control. The study concludes that those who are in tune with their bodies and can assess their heart rate have a lower body mass index (BMI). In 2014 a meta-analysis study was conducted which reviewed twenty-six previously published studies. The study found that not only do intuitive eating strategies lead to lower BMI, but also improved psychological health, and improved physical health (e.g. blood pressure; cholesterol levels).

Essentially this is the habit that I am trying to encourage with my clients. I believe this is the key to long term health. After all, our body is continuously trying to communicate with us through symptoms. Our body gives us clues all day long, whether it be fullness, hunger, thirst, or other symptoms associated with an oncoming illness. Before someone is diagnosed with any disease there are usually signs and symptoms. If we are closely connected with our body and are aware that our body is speaking to us, then we will not easily accept the status quo as normal. We will in turn address the symptom with a change – whether it be dietary of lifestyle. However, many of us are disconnected from our bodies and accept symptoms as our normal. For instance, we accept indigestion, bloating, headaches, constipation, PMS, lethargy as our normal. We, in turn, develop habits to mask these symptoms. Whether with medication or stimulants instead of taking action to address the underlying issue. We eventually listen, but only when the disease becomes chronic.

 

However, I want to challenge us all to reconnect with our bodies. If we reconnect we can then address the symptoms but also assess what style of eating works best for us. We are all unique. We have a unique DNA, unique ancestry and unique microbiome. Which means we all metabolize foods very differently. Some of us are good fat burners. Others of us metabolize carbohydrates really well. Some of us need more protein. There are tests that could be done to assess which styles of eating work best for us. However, before I do any testing with clients, I allow them to reconnect with their bodies, as most of us can easily determine what works best for our individual needs if we begin to listen.

In order to help us best connect with our bodies, I have developed an acronym that can be easily remembered to help us listen closely to various areas of our physiology. That acronym is HEED: Hormones, Energy, Emotion, and Digestion. Here are some questions you can ask yourself daily to assess how you’re doing in each area:

Hormones:
  • How are my sleep-wake cycles?
  • Am I waking up in the middle of the night?
  • Am I having difficulty falling asleep?
  • Do I wake up feeling energized? Can I jump out of bed or does the alarm need to sound multiple times for me to get up?
  • Do I need a coffee to get me going?
  • Am I experiencing PMS? Are my periods regular? Are they heavy and painful?
  • Am I experiencing menopausal symptoms?
  • As a male, am I developing breasts?
  • Am I breaking out?
Energy:
  • Am I waking up with energy?
  • Do I have stable energy throughout the day?
  • Do I feel sluggish in the afternoon and have an energy crash after lunch?
  • Am I craving a coffee or sugar in the afternoon?
  • Does my energy level suddenly crash when I leave work?
  • Do I have a sudden surge in energy late at night?
  • Do I feel energized or do I need a nap after a good workout?
Emotion:
  • Am I feeling anxious? Fearful? Depressed?
  • Am I having sudden surges in anger?
  • Am I irritable? Short-tempered?
  • Am I sad for no apparent reason?
  • Do I feel exhausted after an emotional outburst?
Digestion:
  • Am I bloated? Gassy? Constipated?
  • Do I suffer from GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease)? Acid reflux?
  • Do I react to certain foods?
  • Do I feel sleepy after a heavy meal?
  • Do I alternate between constipation and diarrhea?
  • Do I have pain and cramping that no one seems to be able to explain?

In conclusion, I want to challenge us all to be better connected to our bodies and unlock the first key to long-term sustainable health. Trust me, you are worth the extra effort.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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