How many times have you been frustrated with trying to figure out what foods work and what foods don't work for your body?
With all the contradicting advice there is on what you should eat or not eat, it can be hard to maneuver our way through the chaotic world of nutrition. It seems like every time you turn your head, there is new way of eating that supersedes the rest. We are constantly bombarded with the belief that there is one diet that trumps all other diets, and only one diet that will work for everyones body. To believe this notion though is simply foolish. What works for one person may not work for another because we are all created differently. Our likes, dislikes, genetics and a host of other variables make up our own individual approach to eating.
Eating the right foods for your body is dependent on so many different factors. Age, health, geographic location, season, allergies, etc... The way you eat will always change depending on whatever you're going through in life at any given time. What works for you now may not work for you in 6 months, and vice versa.
Though your diet changes with the ebbs and flows of life, there are always ways to check in with your internal environment physically, mentally and spiritually to see if what you're eating is either helping you or hindering you.
How can you tell if you are eating the right foods right now?
1. You physically feel energized after you eat
- When we eat foods that are processed, refined, loaded with sugar or preservatives and foods that are full of chemicals, we will often feel heavy or sluggish after we eat because of the lack of nutrients that can be extracted from that specific meal. The body is physically malnourished when we eat these types of foods.
- When we eat the wrong foods for our body, whether the food is nutritious or not, we will feel a lack of energy after we eat. This can happen when we are sensitive or allergic to a certain food or food combination. If something doesn't make you feel good, don't bother eating it just because it's an otherwise healthy food. Not all foods work for everyone.
- When we eat too much at a meal, we can feel tired and have low energy. Eating mindfully is important when we feel like we don't have enough energy. Check in throughout your meal to see if you're still hungry or if you're just eating because there's still food on your plate. There's no rule saying you have to eat everything.
2. You sleep like a baby
- I can always tell I'm eating the right foods when my sleep is full and I feel rested when I wake up. If I don't sleep well, or I'm tossing and turning all night (assuming nothing major is happening in life), I usually look at what I'm eating.
- Extremely low carb diets, excessive caffeine too close to bed, alcohol, spicy food, garlic, onions and dark chocolate can all be contributors to restless sleep or eating foods that simply don't agree with you can be the culprit.
- Check in with your sleep and see what you have eaten on the days you sleep better and what you have eaten on the days you sleep worse.
3. Your digestion is regular and consistent
- What comes out is just as important as what goes in. Your digestion will tell you everything you need to know about whether you're eating the right foods for your body.
- Bowel health is so important and needs to be paid attention to. You should have regular and consistent movements with little effort. Everyones normal is different in terms of how many times they evacuate each day. Anywhere from 1-3 times is perfectly fine but if you aren't going everyday, it's time to check in with what you're eating.
- Water, fibre from fruits, vegetables, nuts/seeds and whole grains are your go to. If you need to add a fibre supplement, psyllium is a good option or eating more chia and flax seeds. Dairy and excessive meat consumption contributes to inefficient bowel movements.
4. There's no pain, bloating, excess gas or congestion after you eat
- If you have any unwanted symptoms within an hour of eating like stomach pain, cramps, gas, bloating, acid reflux or congestion, chances are you have eaten something that you are sensitive to, or a combination of foods that simply don't agree with your digestive system at that time.
- The most common foods that can cause GI distress are: artificial sweeteners, MSG, caffeine, dairy, GMO foods, gluten and fructose.
- In some individuals eating an excess of raw vegetables or beans may cause gas and bloating but may not necessarily be "bad" for you. In this case it's better to vary the way you eat veggies by trying them steamed, sautéed or baked. Beans and legumes need to be soaked and cooked down very well for the body to absorb them but will still be gas forming no matter what you do.
5. Your skin is bright and vibrant
- One of the quickest ways to see if someone is eating foods that are nutrient dense, as well as foods that agree with their digestion is by looking at their skin.
- If someone has acne prone skin, dull or grey skin, overly dark under-eye circles or complains about skin conditions like eczema, chances are they are not digesting certain foods properly. When we eat a diet full of nutrients and foods that have no preservatives, hormones, pesticides, herbicides and are as close to their natural state as possible, our skin will show it. The skin is the largest organ and will be one of the first to excrete toxins.
- Dairy has been one of the most common foods that cause acne because of the hormones interacting negatively with your own hormones. If you choose to eat dairy, be sure that is is organic and from happy animals.
6. You are excited to eat
- If you have ever been on a diet, you have probably felt the lack of zeal to cook, eat or stick to the program for that matter. When we become overly restrictive in what we eat, we tend to lose our passion for food. We start to fight our body and fight our appetite when we have a dysfunctional relationship with food that spawns from chronic dieting.
- When you enjoy your food, you elicit the relaxation response which turns on your digestion so you can assimilate the nutrients you feed yourself efficiently.
- When you don't enjoy what you're eating, you turn on the switch that turns off your digestion because you are in a stress response. Food won't be digested efficiently and we will have a surge of stress hormones that signal the body to store fat and inhibit lean muscle growth. You must enjoy what you eat and get excited about food in order to change your body and change your digestion. The bottom line is that we need food to live, don't you think it should be a priority to enjoy it?
7. You feel satiated after you eat
- If you are still hungry after you eat, or within one hour, either you didn't eat enough, you ate the wrong foods for that particular time or you ate foods that were low in nutrient value.
- To feel satiated from a meal we must:
A) Enjoy what we're eating
B) Eat foods that are nutrient dense foods that are beneficial to our metabolism
C) Eat the appropriate foods in the appropriate amounts.
- By listening to your own body wisdom you will know what to eat, because you'll have certain cravings (and not just cravings for ice cream and cookies), and you'll know how much to eat, because you'll be paying attention to your own hunger cues.
With all that being said, if you are under an extreme amount of stress, no amount of healthy nutrient dense foods, watching how much you eat or any other good thing you can do with your diet will help alleviate symptoms of a stress response. When we are stressed it is predictable that we will have GI issues, weight issues, skin issues and sleep issues. Stress is the number one factor to address first if you want to be as healthy as you can be.
Let me know if this article helped you figure out if you're eating the right foods for your body. Thanks for reading!