In my wellness coaching practice, I work mostly with women who already know a lot about healthy eating. They try to eat lots of vegetables, non-processed whole grains, organic best quality proteins, nuts, seeds, and fruit. They should be happy and feel very healthy in their body, but many of them come to me feeling bloated, irregular, and complaining of fatigue.
A bloated stomach makes them feel uncomfortable in their own skin and fatigue gets in a way of truly enjoying life. They get frustrated with not feeling their best even on a supposedly healthy diet.
This supposedly contradictory scenario always reminds me that it's not only about the food we eat but how we eat it. Our emotional state, stress level, speed of eating, order in which we eat—all these factors affect our digestion, energy levels, and weight.
Many healthy eaters still have many habits around food and eating in general that can trigger unpleasant symptoms.
Let’s look at some of the habits that might be leading to bloating, constipation, unhealthy weight, and fatigue even on a healthy diet:
1. You multi-task while eating.
We're all tempted to do it. What if there's an important email [or a must-see Instagram photo or a life-changing Facebook update] while I chew? It can’t wait 20 minutes! This is often our internal dialogue. Our ego tries to create a feeling of self importance, imagining the world collapsing if we're not holding our phone or hugging the laptop.
If you can relate, it might be time to re-evaluate your eating habits. You're probably not as efficient as you'd like. Your digestion while you're distracted is inefficient, and you're probably not getting that much work done, either. You're much more likely to overeat when multitasking because it's hard to FEEL your body while focusing on external distractions.
2. You graze all day long.
The concept of snacks and frequent meals is often recommended for weight loss, maintaining blood-sugar levels, and for bodybuilding. It works for some, especially those with hypoglycemia and those who actually can keep their meals small.
However, most people take this advice to be permission to snack in-between their decent-sized breakfast, lunch, and dinner. As a result, they often eat way more than the body needs and overload their digestion. They also put their body in a regimen where it doesn't burn stored fat efficiently for energy.
A frequent supply of food makes the body reliant upon the incoming sugar for energy. Whatever is stored in the fat cells stays there. As one of my favorite Ayurvedic teachers, Dr. Vasant Lad, says: eating before the previous meal is digested is similar to constantly adding beans to boiling chili. The soup never gets fully cooked. Some beans will be overcooked and mushy, and some will stay raw and hard.
If you're used to eating all day, start paying attention to the reasoning behind it and its effects. Do an experiment for a week when you eat three good-sized, balanced meals, and one snack. Pay attention to how you feel toward the end of the week. The first few days might be challenging, since your body will need to adapt to a new way of eating, but once it does, you should feel a surge of energy, a lighter stomach, and less brain fog.
3. You combine foods poorly.
If each ingredient is wonderful on its own and you take 15 of them, chances are the combo won’t be very digestion friendly. Many food combinations that we consume on a daily basis, multiple times a day, would be impossible in nature. Here's a simple rule of thumb for you:
THE SIMPLER THE DISH, THE LESS ENERGY IT REQUIRES TO DIGEST.
Which means, there is more energy left to do other things like write, think, do yoga, and just enjoy life. Simplicity is key to many effective concepts, and digestion is no different. If you think about it, our ancestors were not very likely to combine multiple food groups in one meal. If they found berries, they ate berries. If they were lucky to hunt something, they had a feast of meat or game.
I can’t imagine ancient people cooking side dishes, dressings, and desserts in a cave kitchen. Our ancestors probably ate mostly simple, mono-meals consisting of one to three ingredients at a time. Each food that gets into our body requires different enzymes to digest. They also require a different amount of time to be digested. To learn about specific food combinations that can wreak havoc on your digestion, read this.