‘How we eat’ can have a massive impact on our daily energy and thereby our ability to create our dream life. There’s lots of literature out there on ‘what to eat’ and ‘what not to’ eat but 'how we eat' is equally as important. The 'how' includes considerations such as when we purchase or consume our food as well as the process for cooking. Food is all about supplying optimal energy and nutrition for the body so we can do our best work.
Many of us eat unconsciously and then wonder why we don’t have enough energy to create our dream life. To maintain optimal energy, it’s critical that we learn to listen to our bodies and optimize our eating habits so that we can provide the right type of fuel at the right time, in the right quantity. In that spirit, here's some tips on optimizing 'how' we eat:
- Eat fresh - If we want to be at our best, we can't consume food that isn't. Therefore fresh food is key for good energy. It helps to have a general sense for what you need in a week and buy perishable food accordingly. In our household, we discuss what we’d like to eat this week and only purchase fruits and vegetables that we’ll actually consume within 7–10 days. This makes sure that the food we put into your body is in a good state of energy. Btw, this doesn’t mean that you can’t consume leftovers. Just don’t let them sit around for a week waiting for them to go stale before you choose to consume them.
- Food is for the body, not the tongue - Realize now that the primary purpose of eating food is to give our body an optimal source of energy and nutrition. However, for a lot of us it's the tongue that ends up taking precedence in our food choices, often leaving our stomach to manage with whatever we have consumed. Take charge of your habits and start putting the needs of your body first while introducing some discipline for your tongue. Question if what you're eating is truly good for your body. For example, fried food is not only bad for your heart but also causes lethargy. On the other hand, fresh fruits and vegetables are packed with essential nutrients which are perfect for your body to thrive and fight any existing disease.
- Cook lightly - many folks tend to overcook food which destroys vital nutrition. Cook lightly so you get the full nutritional value in your food with the added benefit of more natural flavor and crunch.
- Eat when hungry - not because it's time to eat. Most of us eat way too much. We're constantly munching on things not realizing that our eating habits are causing lethargy in our bodies. Pay attention to your hunger and notice when the body actually is actually asking for food. If it’s hard for you to notice, skip a meal one day and notice what hunger feels like - it’s never questionable. If it’s meal time and your body doesn’t even have the slightest hunger, then it means you should wait till the next meal and let your body digest whatever it has already consumed. Falling prey to acquired habits that perpetually fill our bodies with unnecessary amounts of food just because it's 'time' for breakfast, lunch or dinner is creating a drag on your energy. Pay attention to your body, truly implement this one tip and several things will happen over time. 1) You'll begin to feel light and energetic 2) Your mental focus will improve with the optimal fuel 3) The amount of sleep you need will gradually go down because you're not overtaxing your body.
- Eat slow - chew your food well, making sure critical enzymes in your saliva make it into your stomach with your food to help aid in optimal digestion. Typically it takes 15–20 mins of active chewing to trigger the 'satisfied' feeling of having had a proper meal.
- Transcend the 'full' feeling - if you're eating till you feel 'full', then you're unintentionally causing an energy drain on your body by eating more food than required. You know from experience that overeating always leads to a ‘food coma’ and becomes massive drag on energy. If we want to maintain optimal energy, we don’t go anywhere near overeating. Instead, we stop before we even get to ‘full’. Eat till you feel comfortable and no longer hungry. A good rule of thumb based on the ancient science of Ayurveda is to have your stomach filled with ⅓ food, ⅓ liquids and leave ⅓ empty to allow for proper digestion to occur. This becomes easy if you take your time to eat your food slowly. You won't overeat and that will help maintain optimal energy throughout the day. Over time your stomach will shrink and you’ll feel comfortable with less food which will also help knock off any excess weight.
- Experiment - Run some experiments for yourself and try different foods for a period of time and pay attention to how it makes you feel. Part of the journey here is to raise our awareness because everyone’s body reacts differently to different food. Notice your energy level with what you eat along with the sounds and smells in your body. As you learn from what you eat, over time you'll be able to make better food choices and avoid foods that don't work for you.
- Indulge with discipline - yes, you can. It's ok if you want to have some ice cream or cake etc. You don't need to deprive yourself. In fact deprivation itself can lead to binge eating which will wipe out any potential gains. Rather celebrate your own good eating habits with small treats. The trick here is to watch the quantity so be disciplined with how much and how often you eat such things but enjoy every bite of it! P.s. indulging earlier in the day so your body can actually digest any excess calories and fat is much better than having them at 10pm at night and going to sleep right after.
- Timing / meal size - is key to maintaining optimal energy. Morning hunger is generally light so enjoy a light meal for your breakfast. Usually around lunch time we have a strong hunger so make this your biggest meal of the day which also gives your body plenty of time to digest and use the energy throughout the remainder of the day. Many folks have developed a habit of making dinner the largest meal of the day when it should be the lightest. Think about it. Dinner time is when your body is winding down from all day working. It has the least amount of time to digest and use up any new energy. If you hand it a large meal to digest, it's just going to get stored as additional weight.
Start with one change and incorporate more over time as you become accustomed. Then, watch your spirit and energy soar towards your dream life!