Every day we’re bombarded with new diet fads and nutritional advice. Everyone has a different opinion on what we should and shouldn’t eat. Some opinions are biased. Some opinions are funded by the food or pharmaceutical industries. Some people are genuinely trying to help you. Trying to figure out what to eat can be a confusing journey. Who should we really listen to?!
With a title like “your perfect diet,” you’re probably expecting me to tell you exactly what to eat and what not to eat, right? Just another opinion to add to the growing list. Well…what if I told you that in order to achieve your perfect diet, all you have to do is listen to YOURSELF?
That’s right – my advice on how to really figure out what to eat for optimal health only requires you to pay attention to your own body. Become aware of how food makes you feel. Your body is an extremely smart, highly efficient machine. Start really listening to what it has to say!
Before I go on, lets get one thing straight here. There is a difference between listening to your body’s signals and giving into cravings. I’m not suggesting you go around eating every little thing that you think your body is craving. Whether you eat those things or not, what I’m really asking you to do is to pay attention to how your body feels after you eat it. By doing this, you’ll be able to create your own perfect diet that makes you happy, healthy and full of energy.
Where to begin?
Start with a food journal. Write down what you eat each day, and how you feel afterwards. Pay attention. If you don’t feel like writing in a journal, try to at least take mental notes of how you feel after eating each food.
A couple of examples could be:
-Drank 2 large cups of coffee. I feel energized and awake, but anxious. Crashed 2 hours later, needed another boost.
-Ate a sausage, egg and cheese breakfast sandwich. Feel very full, a little sleepy. Wish I could take a nap.
-Ate some carrots and hummus as a snack. Feel energized.
-Ate a handful of candy. Stomach hurts. Feel slightly annoyed.
-Drank a big bottle of water. Feel refreshed, happy.
Get my drift? When you start to pay attention to how you feel after eating or drinking something, don’t just pay attention to the physical signs (stomach ache, headache, bloated, energized). Pay attention to your emotions as well (yes, food affects your emotions). You’ll start to see patterns!
Maybe on the day you had fruit and oatmeal for breakfast, you felt less lethargic and had more energy to get through your morning. Maybe drinking soy milk in your coffee made you feel bloaty. Maybe having a certain type of lettuce didn’t sit well in your stomach. Maybe you ate a certain meal and felt hungry 20 minutes later. Maybe you ate a large amount of sugar and became irritated or felt depressed. Your body is the BEST teacher!
After you’ve been paying attention for awhile and have noticed a few patterns:
Make a list of things that usually make you feel great. For me, some of those items are coconut water, berries, quinoa, ginger, and avocados to name a few.
Make a list of things that usually make you feel unhappy or sick. For me, some of those things are soda, rich sugary desserts, dairy products, too much coffee.
Start making gradual changes. After you start to notice how certain foods/drinks are affecting you physically and emotionally, you can begin to craft your ideal diet. Eat more of the feel-good foods. Eat less of the feel-bad foods. Note: this plan is *not* a quick fix!! It is a day-by-day journey of figuring out what really makes you feel good, and sticking with what works for you.
Once you really start to go heavy on the happy/healthy feeling foods, your body will start to take on a healthy size/shape and you’ll start to feel more constant energy. When you eat a food that doesn’t work for your body, it will start to become much more obvious, and you’ll be more inclined to make changes to get the good feelings back. As David Wolfe says, “it is possible to feel good all the time.”
And listen. I’m not trying to say you should cut out the negative foods completely, unless you feel inspired to. Have you ever tried an extreme diet that prohibits all of your favorite foods, only to find you relapse after a week and eat even more? I sure have, which is why I am now a huge advocate of taking baby steps. If indulging in those foods once in awhile makes you feel comforted, by all means, have them. Just make sure to pay attention to the amount you’re eating. Do you feel more or less happy and healthy if you finish the whole slice of cake? Could you be just as happy and comforted by having a few bites, and save yourself the big sugar crash and irritated feelings later? Maybe you find a nice balance by having 1 cup of coffee instead of 2, and substituting a big bottle of water for that 2nd cup. Love cheese, but it bothers your stomach? Try having a small bite or two of it and really savoring the taste, and then moving on. Does that feel better to your stomach than eating a cheese-filled quesadilla? Experiment!! It can actually be really fun.
This is all about finding the perfect balance for your body and your emotions. Trust yourself. Work with yourself. Increase your awareness. Start to feel guided by the signs your body gives you. If you have any questions or would like suggestions on doing this work, feel free to contact me.
If this sounds like a lot of work or you feel you don’t have time to pay attention to your body, ask yourself this question – as Gabby said to me the other day – do you have time to feel shitty? I certainly don’t. 🙂