It may come as a surprise to some that my first post is not about food. Well, not exactly….I want to lay out my viewpoint on eating first. You see, my point of view concerning food has a lot to do with the way you eat. Why you eat, when you eat, how much you eat, how you feel before, during and after eating, and – not to mention – what you eat. So here we go – and just to warn you – this is not going to be a short post. Yes I’m a “girl of few words” and most of my posts are going to be MUCH shorter, but we need to lay out some foundation first!
Why: This viewpoint is grounded upon what I believe to be God’s biblical purpose for food and eating. In the bible, food is spoken of in two different contexts: eating for celebration, and eating for nourishment. We eat to celebrate days of significance, to celebrate God’s goodness, to celebrate family and friends. And then we eat for nourishment – food is God’s created way to sustain our bodies. Think about it – there’s a big difference between those two reason for eating. For instance, if I want to celebrate my birthday, I’m going to eat strawberry cake with cream cheese frosting and Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. But if I’m facing a long day of work ahead of me and need to be sharp and focused, I’m probably not going to eat my traditional birthday dessert feast – I’d go into a food coma! No, I’m going to eat something that will nourish and sustain me through whatever the day may bring!
Thinking about these two reasons for eating puts a lot into perspective – and gives us a lot to think about. If you are constantly on the go and just can’t seem to find enough time in the day to get it all done, eating a bag of Cheetos and calling it a meal certainly isn’t going to get you where you want to be! Eating for the purpose of nourishment takes a little more time and preparation on the front end (think planning your menus and pre-portioning your snacks on the weekend) but once it becomes habit, you’ll be able to accomplish so much more AND do a better job of it if you are properly fueled!
If we are eating to nourish or to celebrate, then we are NOT eating for many other reasons. I’m going to step on some toes here, but here it goes: you should NOT be eating because you are bored. If you are bored, get up and move. Burn some calories and work up a healthy appetite!
Eating because someone else is won’t help you either (like when you end up partaking in every snack your kid eats or when you eat a doughnut at the office just because your co-worker did). Don’t eat just because the food is there. It will still be there to eat and enjoy when you are actually hungry. And speaking of enjoyment, don’t indulge unless you really enjoy it. Think that chocolate chip cookie looks good? Well if you are hungry, go ahead and take a bite. How does it taste? You think it’s too dry? Well put it down. You should only continue to eat something indulgent it you really like it and meets 100% of your expectations.
Speaking from a personal experience, I work in a medical clinic, and around the holidays, patients are constantly bringing in food. Yes its the holidays, and I do want to have a few celebratory indulgences with my co-workers, but I’m only going to continue eating a Christmas cookie if it is superbly and satisfyingly good, and when I start to feel satisfied, I will stop eating it. It will still be there tomorrow if I want it!
When: A lot of people ask me when the best time to eat is. Is it ok to skip breakfast? Should I eat 3 square meals per day or should I eat 6 smaller meals? Should I avoid eating past 7 pm? The short and simple answer to all of these questions is two-fold: eat when you are hungry. What?!? You are probably thinking: “If I eat whenever I’m hungry, I’ll be as big as a house! I’m hungry ALL the time!” That’s ok! Here’s where the second part of that answer comes in: stop when you are full.
Think about a child’s first few years of life – kids are always hungry, and many of them eat every 2-3 hours with the help of frequent feedings and snacks throughout the day. This is partly because their stomachs are small and can’t hold a lot at one time but also because kids are still in touch with their hunger cues. A lot of time’s parents show disappointment if their child does not finish a meal and many subscribe to the “clean plate club.” In reality, however, kids don’t finish their meal most of the time simply because they are full (and sometimes because they think the food is yucky). They are still in-tune with their God-given hunger cues.
As adults, we often restrict our eating into tight schedules that can sometimes be unaccommodating to what our bodies may be needing at the time (Think the 3 square meals theory). OR we may skip meals because we are busy. Once we realize we are hungry, we are RAVENOUS to the point that we eat whatever we can find first, and we eat till its gone, cleaning our plates and sometimes the container! Thinking about when we start to feel full does not even cross our minds.
How: To put this into practice, pay more attention to when you eat. Are you hungry? Had you been hungry for a while before you ate? Once you start eating, think about how much food it takes to feel satisfied. But before you do this, take a look at this hunger scale:
10 – STUFFED: so full that you feel nauseous
9 – VERY UNCOMFORTABLY FULL:
you need to loosen your clothes
8 – UNCOMFORTABLY FULL: you feel bloated
7 – FULL: you feel a little bit uncomfortable
6 – PERFECTLY COMFORTABLE: you feel satisfied
5 – COMFORTABLE: you’re more/less satisfied,
but could eat a little more
4 – SLIGHTLY UNCOMFORTABLE: you’re just
beginning to feel signs of hunger
3 – UNCOMFORTABLE: stomach is rumbling
2 – VERY UNCOMFORTABLE: you feel irritable
& unable to concentrate
1 – WEAK & LIGHT-HEADED: your stomach acid is churning
Ideally, you want to eat when you are around a “3” – just when your stomach is starting to rumble. Eat something, then stop at a “5” – when you feel just satisfied but might could eat 2-3 more bites. Leave whatever food is left, and know that you can come back to it when your stomach starts to rumble again. Practice this for a few days and let me know how it goes!
So now we come to the what you eat, and I’m actually going to stop here and save this for my next post. Because what you eat and what I eat is what this blog is all about. Welcome to Dietitian in the Kitchen!