Monday, December 31, 2012

When you think of healthy eating, what comes to mind?

What about unhealthy eating?

When you think about healthy eating, what do you see? Apples? Salads? Grilled chicken breast? Tofu? Broccoli?

Do you think of bland, flavourless food? Or delicious, fresh food?

And what about unhealthy eating? Do you picture poutine and potato chips? Chocolate and cookies? Lasagna and KD? Chocolate bars and Twinkies?

Do you think of sweet and/or salty foods? High fat foods? Packaged foods?

These are all important questions to ask yourself. In fact, there's even more to these questions. For example, the question wasn't "which foods or types of food are healthy?" The title question is asking about healthy eating. There's much more to it than simply the foods being eaten (as I'm sure you've come to consider since reading the previous posts in this series). We also have to think about the why, when, where, and how much ( not just the what).

But what I really want you to think about is your attitude towards healthy eating and so-called "unhealthy" eating. When you think of healthy eating, do you think of deprivation and boredom? Or do you feel energetic and inspired? And more importantly, how does your body feel when you're eating healthfully versus those times when you aren't? And do you associate uplifting, happy thoughts with healthy eating? (I ask this because many people associate "down" thoughts and feelings with "unhealthy" eating more often than they associate these feelings with healthy eating.)

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

How does the distribution of your food intake compare?

... To your energy output?

This one is simple, but it's where most North Americans trip up, and I mean REALLY trip up.

Here's a simple, but popular example:

Often when I see a client for weight management support, they'll come in stating that they've tried every diet in the book. And I believe them. It makes sense that you would try to problem-solve on your own using books, online tools, etc. before physically entering an office and discussing your nutrition habits with a professional. Heck - I'd do the same thing! After all, nutrition is personal stuff!

So after I've heard about all the losses and gains over the years, I ask: "What was it about those diets that was so different from the way you normally eat?".

And the two most popular responses ?

1. I paid close attention to what I was eating (of course! You were eating differently than usual. That requires attention!)

2. I ate throughout the day, and didn't eat late at night.

It's the second response I want to focus on here. I think deep down, we all know that we eat to fuel ourselves. We eat so that we have energy to walk around, to think, to be physical. When do we do these things the most? During our waking hours (unless you sleep walk A LOT!). So doesn't it make sense that most of our calories/energy/food (however you want to describe it) should be eaten earlier on and throughout our period of wakefulness (daytime for many of us)? As opposed to an hour before bed, on the couch, watching overpriced cable or satellite TV?

I realize there's something comforting about sitting down with chips or ice cream and sharing some "quality" screen time with your spouse (or alone) late in the evening, but what good is it doing you?

Isn't it funny that we'll stay up a little too late at night doing this (and gaining really no benefit. Let's face it - we think it's down time, but it's not really), but come morning we barely have time to choke down a piece of toast and suck back some caffeine before "taking on the world"? Seems a little backwards when you stop and think about it.

So here's my advice: Take a look at when you're eating most of your calories/energy/food in the day. When are the "heavy" times (no pun intended), and where are the gaps? Does the food distribution make sense? Especially when you compare it to your periods of activity?

(Please note: This is not to suggest you should refrain from eating before bed altogether. If you're hungry, you're hungry. Just make your snack/meal match your hunger/energy needs appropriately.)

Sunday, December 16, 2012

What is Your Food Routine?

This is a very important detail that many people miss when examining their food and nutrition. It's one of those concepts that is so all-encompassing that it gets lost when we zoom in too closely on what we're eating.

Your food routine is the who, what, where, when and why of your nutrition.

Who do you eat with at the various times you eat? Is there ever a break in that routine?

What do you eat throughout the day? Which meals/snacks/grabs (grab = impulsive unplanned snack) do you eat day in and day out? What types of foods do you eat together? (ie. Is your lunch a single food like a slice of pizza? Or do you place a few items together?)

Where are you eating the various meals/snacks/grabs? At the table at home? In front if the TV? In the car? At your work desk? At the kitchen sink? (You get the point.)

When do you eat? When is the first time in the day that you eat (ie. actually CHEW something - not drink something). When do you eat throughout the day? (ie. are there big gaps between meals/snacks/grabs? Are they close together?) When is the last time you eat something in the day?

Why do you eat when you do, and why do you choose what you choose? (We've already touched on this one a bit.)

Answer these questions and see where that takes you. We'll talk again soon :)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

What Are Your Comfort Foods?

This question seems like a simple ice-breaking question, but there's so much more to it than that. But before we get into that, which foods ARE your comfort foods, and more importantly, when do you eat them?

The popular media often portrays decadent ice cream as a comfort food that is eaten after a bad break up. Though not really a food, alcohol is frequently turned to when people are feeling down after the loss of a job, loved one, or simply after a difficult day. Obviously, many people are drawn to their comfort foods when they are feeling emotional. They're not feeling physically hungry, but EMOTIONALLY hungry.

Others, like my husband (poor guy - here I go picking on him), turn to their comfort foods when they truly are physically hungry, but just don't know what else to eat. (For those who are wondering, his is breakfast cereal.)

So what are your comfort foods? Are they so-called empty calories (foods you wouldn't consider healthy choices)? Are they reasonably healthy foods?

And most importantly, WHEN and WHY do you eat them? Out of emotion? Habit? ACTUAL hunger?

And finally, how do you feel about your responses to these questions? Are you content with them? Or have they uncovered something that you'd like to work on?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

How would you describe your relationship with food?

A strange, but very telling question. The typical answer? "What do you mean?" Haha.

This is what I mean:

When you think about food, how do you feel? Happy? Guilty? Conflicted?

Do you eat because you're hungry? Because of an emotion? Out of boredom?

Truthfully, most of us eat for different reasons at different times and in different situations. However, if you want to improve your eating habits, often a good place to start is to think about why you're eating each time you eat.

In doing so, you'll likely accomplish one or both of the following:
1. Learn, or at least increase your awareness of why you eat.
2. Eat less because by stopping to think about why you're eating, you'll also increase your awareness of what you're eating, allowing yourself time to decide IF you want to eat at that time.

Once you've completed this exercise, go back and try to answer that first question again.

In one word, how would you describe your relationship with food?

And if you're so bold, ask yourself if you're proud of that relationship, or whether it's one that could use some work.

Make time for ALL the important things

How many times have you heard "breakfast is the most important meal of the day," "you are what you eat," and other food-/nutrition-related cliches?

Well, try this advice:


Just like any important relationship, to make it a good relationship, you're best bet is to put some effort into it. At first it may seem strange and even chore-like, but as you become accustomed to dedicating some time to it, it becomes easier, and the benefits more notable.

So what do I mean? Well, there is more than one approach, so do what feels right, and "follow your gut" (punny, eh?). This should get you started though:

When you have a few minutes to yourself, consider these questions:

1. In one word, how would you describe your relationship with food?

2. Which foods would you call your "comfort" foods? Why? And when and why do you eat them?

3. What is your food routine?

4. How does the distribution of your food intake compare to that of your energy output (ie. physical and daily activities)?

5. When you think of healthy eating. What comes to mind? What about unhealthy eating?

6. What is the difference between healthy eating and eating healthy?

Over the next while, I'll post a bit about each of these questions. Stay tuned and please feel free to comment.