The topic of food can be quite provocative—our relationship with food often describes our relationship with ourselves, and many people yo-yo with fad diets or can become extreme with raw food and veganism. I have tried numerous types of diets and cleanses, and, after years of evaluating what works for me, I have come to the conclusion that we simply need to eat what is right for our individual needs and what leaves us feeling balanced and nourished.
If you’re feeling bloated, gassy or constipated, your food is not being digested and can lead to disease, fatigue and weight gain. Here are some tips to help you improve your diet and get you on a much healthier path with your relationship to food.
Eat foods that alkalize the body. An acidic body is at risk for cancer and many other diseases. Alcohol, sugar, fried foods and meat create acid in the body. Meat is a touchy subject for a lot of us, and I do believe some body types should ingest small portions of it. Get to know where your meat comes from and make sure that it is farm grown and organic—and also recognize that we do not need to eat a huge portion of it. A correct serving is usually a lot smaller than most consume and should not be ingested with a lot of carbohydrates. Remember, meat has a dense and heavy energy that takes at times a month to break down and move through our systems. We can get our protein through other sources that are easier to digest such as lentils, quinoa and almonds. Observe how you feel when you don’t eat meat for a few days and notice if your body feels lighter and easier to move. Your mood might even feel more pleasant because you aren’t expending so much of your energy trying to digest your food.
Avoid white sugar and salt. Sugar turns into fat and, like meat, can make the body acidic. It is not good for the heart and can cause allergies, bloating, tightness in the joints and fatigue. As humans, the sweet taste is encouraged—just keep in mind that sugar is highly addictive, and too much of it will keep you coming back for more. There are tons of sugar substitutes readily available at most grocery stores. However, read the labels and know that sugar is contained in most of our breads and other foods we eat daily. Stevia and agave are a couple of my favorite natural sugar substitutes but should be consumed in balance like everything else. I also use coconuts, dates and almonds in recipes to get my “sweet” taste fix.
White table salt can raise your cholesterol and cause bloating, inflammation and weight gain. Replace it with pink Himalayan sea salt that will replenish your electrolytes and encourage better digestion and hydration. It also adds a great, guilt-free taste to food.
Stick with foods that are naturally bright in color, including tons of fruits and veggies. What comes from the earth is our most abundant source of natural energy and is easiest to digest. The brighter and more colorful your meals, the more antioxidants and nutrients are provided. Start with eating some fruit in the morning and a salad every day. Fruits and veggies are easy to digest because they contain fiber, which helps to move food through us and keeps us “regular.” Adding a cup of beans to your daily diet will also increase your fiber intake and is great for your heart. These foods will leave your body feeling light and energized and your mind clear.
Eat slowly and chew your food in a calm, peaceful environment. Our digestive system can fatigue if we are shoveling food down our throats and eating in a busy, chaotic environment. When you eat on the run, which a lot of us do, you are not giving your food a chance to properly digest—and that food will ultimately be stored as fat. We need to fully chew our food so that the body can more easily absorb its nutrients. I have noticed that when I spend time in other countries where the meals are long and drawn out, I don’t gain weight because I am taking my time when eating and, more importantly, appreciating what is in front of me.
Clean your digestive system by drinking lots of liquids. Try a smoothie in the morning and make lunch your heaviest meal so that you have time throughout the day to digest it. Eat a lighter meal for dinner that leaves your stomach feeling empty by the time you go to bed. Remember, eating a large meal before bed is one of the number one reasons for gaining weight and can disrupt our sleep.
I love my Vitamix, which is a super blender that retains a lot of fiber and holds in nutrients so that smoothies and soups can feel like a meal. If I go off of my diet and overeat, the next day I’ll stick with liquids to help bring my digestive system back into balance.
Remember, food should be our medicine and not our poison. It has the potential to increase your quality of life by helping you feel better about yourself and more enthused about living. Enjoy your meals and take pleasure in this amazing ritual of eating. Like attracts like—and the more you love yourself and put healthy, clean things into your body, the less you will crave the foods that can create harm in the long run.