Two big words, I know! And your brain is probably saturated with information gotten from different sources, some professional and some not, but in the end, it tells us one thing: many of us are concerned.
What does food mean to us, individually? I am pretty sure there won’t be two definitions like yours as the way we look at food is through our culture and education, our travels and discoveries, and of course our own nature.
One thing is for sure though and that applies to all of us: what we eat, how we eat it, and how much of it does have an influence on our health and the way we feel.
From that perspective, here are the main principles I believe in: my 7 keys to eating healthy that I would like to share with you.
1- Understand what is good for you
Through experience, learn what works for you and for now. Out of all the information you may be exposed to, you need to select what diet makes sense to you, doesn’t go against your personal beliefs (you want your body and mind to work together on this), but also it has to be realistic and applicable to your lifestyle.
Books and health practitioners are precious to give you guidelines and education, especially if there is a need to address a certain health condition or make major changes; but when it comes to practice and sensations, you are the only one who can do, and the only one who can feel.
Once you know what is good for you, it will be difficult for your mind to ignore. I feel that sometimes we do make faux-pas mostly because we are influenced by what we see or hear and we feel the urge to follow some new trends, or jump into a new routine without adding the right filter, the one that will help you make the right adjustments for you and only you.
2- Listen to your body
Choosing to eat healthy is about what food you pick, but also how you organise it, how you prepare it or order it, and how much you eat of it.
There were times when trying to follow a certain diet, restricting on food groups but not food quantity, I felt I was going against my nature, or against Nature in general. From the moment I started to think: “that can’t be good for me”, I stopped.
I believe in listening to the signals your body is sending you. Whatever treatment you are giving your body, it will respond. We can learn to understand some of those responses and create a healthy dialogue between your actions and your body’s manifestations.
For instance, a lack of hydration can lead to feeling tired and dizzy; not eating enough vegetables or fibre rich foods can lead to some digestive issues among others… If you notice some skin rashes, there are high chances that your gut is having some troubles, if you suffer from joint pain, it will certainly be increased by consuming foods provoking further inflammation (such as refined carbs, MSG, sugar, too much dairy, etc.)
Those are manifestations that, by paying attention, we can prevent and it is important not to neglect them, and in fact neglect your body’s needs.
3-Honor your food and be aware of what you are eating
Feeding yourself should always be an important moment, you are cultivating and nourishing your life force, that is serious! and this should be done with awareness and in a peaceful environment. Peaceful doesn’t necessarily mean in a perfectly quite place, surrounded by trees… once more, we need to be realistic! But I would say that peaceful has more to do with your state of mind, and is perfectly compatible with dining out on a date, among family or friends. I feel that enjoying a meal in good company can only have positive effects on you.
No matter where you are and who you are with, taking a minute or even few seconds to bring awareness to what is in your plate and what you are eating, can be done every single time, all it takes is a bit of focus and habits. I do believe that eating mindfully will help you eat the right quantity, at the right pace, feel more satisfied as you will pay more attention to the flavours and the textures of your dish, and maybe you will even feel the energy within.
For me, it was a tough habit to grow (and I am still working on it). I grew up dining in front of the TV, not paying good attention to my plate, and nowadays, I sometime try to multi-task, whereby eating is one of those tasks, and I do notice that these are the times I end up either eating too much, too quick, without feeling fully satisfied and with more temptations to snack not that much later.
If you are interested in learning more about mindful eating, check this page.
(photo below: at Toby’s)
4-Treat food as food
In our developed civilisations, food is been given a lot of attention, beyond its own initial purpose: to be a fuel for your body.
Ancestral diets were organised around the available resources: mostly from hunting, from vegetables, roots, fruit, berries. About 40 years ago, specialists started to re-look into the paleolithic diet aka the caveman diet and how beneficial such a diet could be if still applied nowadays. Although some would argue, it is still a good reference to remind us about our ancestors hunting and gathering food to live, not the other way around.
Food is often associated to pleasure, comfort, stress, reward and even guilt, but I notice that this is above all the case with food that is fabricated, marketed, and injected into our lives where we should actually not need it!
I quite like this sentence: “if you don’t recognise an ingredient, your body won’t either”. Food should be whole and nutritious. I also believe in the importance of good taste and good looking presentation brought to a dish. It has a lot to do with the good intention of preparing something with care and respect. I admire chefs and people who are passionate about food and manage to create something beautiful out of it. But from the moment we attach too much emotions to food, we are getting away from its primary function and we can get very confused, unhappy and even sick. Trying to treat food as food, is to me one important step in the eating healthy path.
5-Do some planning
Having your kitchen filled with good stuff is crucial. If you have junk food cluttering your cupboards and drawers, it will be eaten! and it can become a habit. Same goes will healthy food, so you choose what habit you want to develop 🙂 We each have our schedules so you will know what works for you the best: day-to-day shopping, weekly grocery planning, or according to market days… but the important part is to plan ahead just a little, so you do not end up with no healthy ingredients at home. I learnt to meal prep and it is actually a lot less work than it seems. Or if spending time in the kitchen is not for you, you might already be familiar with healthy food deliveries in Bangkok such as Paleo Robbie, Polpa, Absolut Fit Food, etc. (If you do, please share your thoughts in the comments!). Lacking time, patience (or both) to prepare healthy meals for yourself could be one of the reasons why you are not eating healthy, so that can change easily.
Planning is also a way to take the stress away on a daily basis. Whether you are living on your own, in couple or have a family to feed, I know how sometimes we can lack inspiration in accomplishing that task, so you can start taking about 30 minutes on one day of the week to think your week ahead, make a list and your online orders, so the other days, you won’t have to think much about it. You can check some ideas here.
In terms of selection, I trust you can’t go wrong with choosing whole foods as opposed to processed, no matter what diet you are following.
Our needs are different according to our age, our level of physical activities, our genetics, and also to what part of the world we live in, so as mentioned a bit earlier, by understanding what is good for you and listen to your body, you are tuning your diet and lifestyle to your particular situation and needs. This tuning needs to evolve as you go, for which it is important to remain attentive to your own evolution if I may say. Address any health issues you may encounter even if they are minor, as a way to prevent them from developing further. Keep being interested in health trends, coming from scientific discoveries, but do not get trapped in all what you read! Select your sources of information, and consult professionals that have proven to be worthy of your trust.
7-Take your time and enjoy!
Food is fuel, it is vital, it is functional, but having a meal is also an opportunity for either marking a pause in your busy day, or spending some enjoyable social or family time. So no matter the specific diet you identified as being suitable to you, I hope you enjoy it: enjoy its preparation, enjoy the taste, enjoy the company, the environment your are in.
Sometimes specific diets do not mix well with social time, and besides leaving you with the sensation of being deprived, they can also isolate you; which I don’t think it is a healthy approach, on the long term.
Take your time enjoying your food, chew more! We know by now that it takes time for your stomach to let your brain know it feels full, so go slow. Not only you will probably need to eat less, but it will also prevent you from indigestion, bloating or reflux. Going slow will also induce a more relaxed state, so hopefully, you will leave behind you a bit of the accumulated stress of your day.
I know that we do not always have the luxury of having time for a long lunch break for example, but trying to improve its quality, little by little is something we can do.
(photo below: at Hunter Poke)
Although the general idea of eating healthy will probably resonate in similar ways in each of our minds (visualising healthy foods and ingredients), the concept here is to keep an open mind to whatever diet one is following; it is not about comparing or confronting, but include diets as part of wider approach: a positive approach to living healthy and happy and make the right choices for yourself.
This blog, is about sharing experiences, learn from the people I will meet along the way: those who are committed to helping you living a healthier life, those who are working towards it and the magic that happens when positive energy is involved.