Thursday 03 March 2011
What’s good nutrition without healthy eating habits? Do you know what might be stopping you from reaching your optimal health? Maybe it’s eating late at night, or overindulging too often. As much as it is crucial to eat healthy foods, it's just as important to acknowledge some of the unhealthy eating habits you may have developed over the years. We can make a tremendous difference in our overall health, weight, energy and immunity by adopting new eating habits.
This is one habit that most of us are guilty of on occasion. But, has overeating become something habitual to you? This is one of the most common yet dangerous eating habits. It’s alright to overindulge on occasions such as parties and holidays, but many of us have become insensitive to the feeling of hunger. We’ve turned up our satiety a notch by constantly eating to “fullness” resulting in more food being required to feel satisfied as we move forward.
The mechanism behind this is that when we eat this large quantity of food in one sitting, we cause our stomach to expand. Then we constantly need more and more food to fill our belly. Needless to say, constantly overeating can lead to obesity, which is a factor in the development of many other diseases. The over consumption of food stresses the digestive tract and other organs causing them to overwork and become weakened. It’s said that our nation is overfed and undernourished. Our body is craving missing nutrients. We’re eating too much processed, refined and nutrient deprived food while leaving out the nutritionally dense superfoods! Instead of eating 1 to 2 large meals per day, the best approach is to eat 5 to 6 smaller meals and snacks every couple hours throughout the day. Eating frequent, light snacks and meals throughout the day is called the “Warrior Diet”. It's often practiced by people who have a fast-paced, busy lifestyle or who are trying to keep their metabolism accelerated. It will keep your blood sugar level balanced and prevent extreme pangs of hunger leading to cravings and overindulging. Eating a variety of natural foods with different flavors will also help to satisfy us more and lessen the desire to eat excessively. To see Beyond Vitality's Holistic Health and Nutrition Services, click here.
This habit, or problem, may often be associated to a strong stress or psychological component. With the pressure of the media, there has been a rise in the incidence of undereating and can be associated with medical disorders such as Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia. People with these disorders are often overly concerned about gaining weight and/or may have a distorted self-image. They usually require special medical and psychological counseling, along with the continuous support of loved ones. It’s important to remember that a long and lean body like Barbie, as portrayed in everything that we see, is often not the natural body shape of the average person. We shouldn’t have to starve ourselves to maintain our “ideal” weight or shape! Whether it's skipping meals or eating very limited amounts of food, all forms of undereating can eventually lead to serious problems such as deficiencies in the macronutrients protein, carbohydrates and fats, as well as in the micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals. Skipping meals, eating few calories or “yo-yo” dieting can also lower your metabolism, making it even harder to control your weight. The key to increasing your metabolism is to consume snacks every few hours, practice weight lifting and cardiovascular exercise, specifically in the form of intervals (sprint, jog, sprint, jog, and/or jog, walk, jog, walk). Overall, the lack of calories causes symptoms such as low energy, weakness, malnourished organs, skin problems, hair loss, bone demineralization, lack of sexual drive and many more serious health consequences. It should be kept in mind though that severe weight loss, despite regular eating, may also indicate an underlying medical condition.
On the other side, systematic undereating has been studied and is being practiced by people around the world as an anti-aging and longevity method. This concept involves eating a low calorie diet, comprising of very good quality and nutrient-rich foods along with natural supplements for optimum youth and vitality. In many studies, this is the approach that’s been used to help animals live longer. People around the world are adapting to this practice with a focus on increasing their quality of life into old age. In Western countries, one of the most common imbalances leading to chronic disease is from an excess of under-nourishing foods. “Eat to live long, don’t live to eat!” Finding your own balance is key to health and longevity.
Are you coming home from work late at night and starving, or are you simply feeling hungry while staying up late to watch TV? This is often the case with people who have busy “go-go” schedules during the day, never getting a moment to relax until they get home. Skipping breakfast, grabbing unhealthy snacks during the day and eating a large main meal late in the evening or night is a common pattern for some of us. But the fact is that food actually helps us to relax physically and mentally as it acts as a sedative. The reason for this is that our blood moves away from our areas of physical and mental activities, and is taken to our digestive tract for digestion. However, going to bed on a full stomach is very unfavorable for proper digestion and deep sleep. It will also prevent the body’s natural cleansing process to take place while you sleep, leaving you feeling sluggish and low of energy in the morning. The undigested food sits there overnight, causing possible fermentation and putrefaction (rotting), which releases toxins and free-radicals. Eating late can become a habit that comprises our optimal vitality. It can also contribute to unhealthy weight gain in the form of fat.
It’s best not to eat any heavy food 2 to 3 hours before bedtime. A small and light dinner should be consumed earlier in the evening, ideally before dark. After dinner, it helps to engage in some type of physical and mental activity such as a light walk an hour after dinner, followed by some reading. When you haven’t eaten enough throughout the day, it’s better to continue the pattern and not to consume a large dinner as well. Instead, eat lightly in the evening, go to bed and arise with energy, do a little exercise and consume a hearty breakfast. Remember never to skip breakfast, as this is what accelerates our metabolism in the morning, and leaves us ready to take on the day with energy and vitality.
Rigid Diet Eating
Are you considered a “picky” eater or would you eat anything that’s placed in front of you? Many of us develop a very narrow diet with a limited variety of foods. Some of us have very distinctive taste buds, while others have desensitized their taste buds by consuming too many additives such as refined salt, sugar, sauces and other condiments. It’s important to be able to enjoy the natural taste of food. At the same time, a lot of people have a very inflexible and bland diet, often stemming from the preference for certain tastes or simply because of a discriminating personality. This lack of flexibility in the diet occurs, for the most part, in groups such as teenagers and the elderly, and also for those known as “health fanatics”. Some cut out complete food groups. The majority of people who are rigid in their eating patterns will stick to very familiar foods. For example, a typical Westerner may limit their diet to hamburgers, hot dogs, french fries, and pop for the younger crowd, while the elderly would consume a diet primarily consisting of eggs, toast, potatoes, and meat. All of these items lack the wholeness and vitality that fresh, nutrient-rich natural foods would provide. They may simply be choosing to eat this way, or it could be based on fear, rebellion, culture and lack of adventure or stuck in an environment that prevents them from adapting to better food choices. When someone is being rigid in their diet, it’s very difficult to get them to change. Keeping the attitude of “not liking it” before even trying it is not the way to go!
On the other hand, there are the so called “positive restrictions” that are beneficial to health. These would include avoiding possible allergenic foods, refined, processed, packaged and GMO (“Genetically Modified Organisms”) foods, excessive meat (or none at all), milk and other dairy or animal products, wheat, refined sugar and salt, non-organic and chemical containing foods. Overall, whether you are someone that restricts foods because of health purposes or for any other reason, eating a balanced diet with a variety of fresh, natural and whole foods is a good pattern to follow. Making a goal of trying different recipes, buying new vegetables and fruits at the grocery store and not resisting when somebody offers you a new and foreign food may be the right path to take in discovering the large abundance of delicious and nourishing foods nature provides.
This is a habit that many of us may not recognize. This is where we need to ask ourselves if we're really, truly hungry before we eat that next cookie, or third piece of pizza, or entire container of chocolate fudge ice cream, and so on. Also, eating to stay awake is not an excuse! If you must, while driving late at night or studying for an exam, snack on something healthy such as celery and carrot sticks with fresh hummus, trail mix or a piece of fruit with a glass of almond milk. A healthy snack should consist of complex carbohydrates and a source of protein. It’s clear that some of us eat when we are upset, depressed or just bored, and some of us can’t eat at all in these same situations. Our emotions are powerful and greatly influence our eating habits and could be one of the underlining issues of overeating or undereating. It’s important to learn how to deal with our emotional state in other ways than food. Following a scheduled eating pattern, as well as using true hunger as a guide is a good way to start. Food should not be used to cover up our feelings. More serious issues can be dealt with through self-development techniques, counseling, yoga, meditation or mental affirmations and visualization. Let’s not permit our emotional issues to control us and run our lives.
Liquids and Eating
It’s common for us to drink 1-2 glasses of a beverage during main meals. But this isn’t the best idea. Drinking liquids while eating compromises our digestion by diluting the hydrochloric acid in our stomach. This acid is what breaks down our food into smaller units for absorption. Extra fluid can dilute this digestive juice, making it more difficult to break down foods.
It’s alright to sip small amounts of water during meals (less than 1 glass), but drinking liquids before or after is much better. Drinking a glass of warm lemon water 15-20 minutes before eating may even stimulate digestion. Pure and filtered water is the all time best liquid to be drinking on a regular basis. We need 8 to 10 glasses per day.
Eating with Consciousness
Homemade meals made consciously and with love. Perhaps a little time in the kitchen, some company and a small prayer of thanks; that’s the way we get the most out of a nutritious meal! A meal made with a little love has better energy. Relaxating and preparing ourselves to eat is a good idea. Always eating sitting down, and never standing or walking. This is for optimal digestion. After eating a main meal, it’s important to let the food sit and properly digest. When your food has settled, some light activity, such as an evening walk, is good to get your metabolism going again before settling down for the night. Many of us may not have the luxury and time to sit and enjoy nice meals regularly; this is when eating often but lightly, such as the so called “Warrior Diet” is beneficial. Eat small snacks throughout the day until you are able to sit down to enjoy a proper meal.
Eating to Exercise
Exercise is important in using the nutrients we consume, and vice versa; we need fuel to exercise. It’s best to eat a light snack consisting of carbohydrates two hours before exercising. If exercise must be performed after a main meal, wait at least an hour. However, it’s usually several hours after that the body is truly ready to perform any intense exercise.
The most favorable times to exercise are early in the morning or in the late afternoon and early evening, away from main meals. Also, make sure to replenish your glycogen stores with some protein and carbohydrates after long and strenuous bouts of exercise. Then comes the rest, for your muscles to repair themselves. To see Beyond Vitality's Sports Nutrition and Fitness Services, click here.
Time to live!
Now go out and remember that it’s not only what you put in your mouth that matters, but also when, how, with whom and in what state you choose to eat. Be active and eat nutritiously!