TOP 11 RESOLUTIONS TO IMPROVE YOUR EATING HABITS IN 2011
By Monika Tarkowska-Carter, CPT, LWMC, HLC 2
Millions of people started the New Year as they usually do: by promising themselves to eat better, lose weight, exercise more and try to live a healthier life. Most of them, as statistics show, will not reach their goals. Worse yet, they will have already quit by mid February. Are you one of them? Have you ever wondered why? Many people don’t have the right plan, or any plan for that matter, and if they do it is usually not very specific, not well thought through and therefore headed for failure.
What can you do to make sure you succeed in making healthy changes in your eating habits that will not overwhelm you on a daily basis? The biggest mistake people make is doing too much right away, wanting to be perfect in 10 days flat. Change is slow. Make a few important changes but make sure they stick.
Here are, in my opinion (and I am also speaking from a Holistic Lifestyle Coach’s point of view), 11 most important changes you can make to be healthier (not just thinner!):
1. Drink half of your body weight in oz. of the purest water you can find with a ph of at least 7.0. It will make you feel full, which will decrease your appetite. It will speed up your metabolic rate. It will improve your digestion. It will hydrate your body. It will help you absorb nutrients better. It will give you more energy. It will help your body to detoxify (which often means weight loss). It will improve your complexion.
2. Quit eating, or at least decrease to a minimum, any processed foods: this includes especially white flour products like pasta, breads, cereals, crackers, bakery products: They have almost no nutritional value. They will send your blood sugar soaring. Many are packed with unhealthy oils, preservatives and synthetic vitamins and minerals that your body cannot absorb as well as natural ones. They are calorie, but not nutrient, dense, which means they provide a high amount of calories for a rather small portion compared to other foods. They cause digestive problems in many people with wheat/gluten sensitivity.
3. Switch to whole grains, if you can tolerate them, but be mindful of the amounts. Try grains that do not contain gluten like brown rice, oats, quinoa, teff, millet, amaranth, triticale, buckwheat. Whole grains contain lots of fiber and many important minerals. They also have a much nicer taste by comparison to, what I call, “white fluff”. They are more filling (because of their fiber content) so a little goes a long way. They will provide a steadier source of energy without extreme blood sugar fluctuations.
4. Limit sugar as much as possible. If you must: use other natural sweeteners like Stevia, organic raw honey, raw agave nectar, coconut sugar, organic rapadura sugar (very high in iron). White sugar is an empty-calorie food – lots of calories and no nutritional value. It will age you faster because of the reactions it causes in your cells. It will rob you of important nutrients in order to be digested (chromium is one of them) not giving you any in return. When your body is depleted of chromium it will manifest itself as sugar cravings. As you eat more sugar your chromium gets more and more depleted and your sugar cravings get worse and worse which creates a vicious cycle that’s hard to break. It will cause spikes in your blood sugar making it go up briefly and then bringing it crashing down. This, in turn, will leave you hungry, grumpy, irritable, unhappy and…..wanting more sugar. It may cause insulin resistance (as too many carbohydrates can) and add more of those dreaded pounds. This can, in the long run, lead to diabetes.
5. Switch to eating organic and natural foods. Support local farmers: Organic foods are not only much safer to eat as they do not contain pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, added hormones and antibiotics, but are also a lot more nutritious providing much needed vitamins and minerals that are usually very depleted in non-organic soil. They also actually really DO taste better especially if you’re buying what’s in season. Make sure to eat a lot of raw vegetables – they have much needed enzymes. If you do cook them, do not overcook so the loss of nutrients is minimized.
6. Resolve to make natural and fresh foods the base of your diet: vegetables, fruit, healthy low mercury fish, natural grass-fed meats, organic dairy (if you can tolerate it) from grass-fed animals and ideally raw, (not pasteurized or homogenized), whole unprocessed grains, legumes, organic free-range eggs, healthy natural fats, nuts and seeds – in other words: foods the way Nature intended them to be.
7. Switch to drinking organic coffee and drink it decaffeinated if you can: Coffee is the most pesticide-treated food commodity in the world. Too much caffeine has the tendency to exhaust your adrenal glands interfering with your sleep-wake cycle, making it harder and harder for you to get up in the morning refreshed and causing you to drink more and more as the day progresses. It causes unnecessary blood sugar fluctuations and insulin resistance. (Good, organic coffee in small amounts can have some beneficial effects but try to look for your antioxidants elsewhere.)
8. Avoid any of these foods: trans fats, artificial sweeteners, too may polyunsaturated vegetable oils, soda and high sugar sports drinks, carbonated drinks, processed commercial meat products, irrigated and genetically modified foods, anything with preservatives, artificial colorings and flavorings, MSG. However ingenious the design of our body it was not intended to deal with the amount of chemicals and toxins we have been subjected to in the last 100 years. Toxins get stored in the adipose (fat) tissue, interfering with your cells’ ability to produce energy and burn body fat. Many of them are neurological toxins and have also been shown to cause cancer.
9. Don’t be afraid of fat, not even saturated fat provided it comes from organic grass-fed animals. Your body needs fat for many of its important functions. It will make your meals more palatable. It will give you satiety. It will help you absorb fat-soluble vitamins. Saturated fat, much misrepresented by many, is a natural food that humans evolved on. It is much needed for the production of sex hormones and in times of stress. It can, however, be pro-inflammatory if it comes from animals fed grains and other food that’s unnatural to them. Fat from grass-fed animals contains a lot of CLA (a healthy conjugated linoleic acid) which actually helps your body burn fat, which most people don’t know. (Currently, more and more scientists are finally starting to admit that the saturated fats were never a problem. The real problems are the bad and denatured sources of those fats as well as the exorbitant amounts of carbohydrates so advocated by many for years).
10. Eat regular balanced meals and healthy snacks in between. Don’t starve your body. The worst thing you can do is not eat for long periods of time. It will slow down your metabolism, making you store more body fat. It will make you fatigued and feeling drained all day. It will make you irritable, grouchy and miserable and you’ll most likely make up for the saved calories at the end of the day when your body needs them the least. There is a lot of controversy surrounding the issue of the effect of eating at certain times of the day. The truth is: your body needs energy to function during the day more than at night and it has a much higher chance of burning those calories. Eating a huge heavy meal at night is a great way to gain weight (and have a less than restful sleep).
11. Consult a qualified nutritionist, dietician or holistic health practitioner. Try to find out what your nutrient status is and then correct the deficiencies focusing on natural foods (or supplements if you have to). The cost is worth it if you are not sure what your calorie intake should be, how to combine foods to make balanced meals, what proper portion sizes are, what specific foods to eat, or if you are just frustrated with too much confusion about nutrition, etc., etc. It’s really not that complicated.
TAKE TIME TO EAT. ENJOY YOUR FOOD. MAKE FOOD FUN. LAUGH 0FTEN. LOVE AND NOURISH YOURSELF.
*For more healthy nutrition tips please, see my article from November 11, 2010: “The Cure is In the Kitchen”.