Should you stop eating gluten? Dairy? Grains? Beans? Nightshades? Should you have a green drink or shake every morning? More meat? Less meat? More kale? Less kale?
With the array of diets and food options out there, from Paleo and grain-free to vegan and raw foods, it can be terribly difficult to decide what to eat — and what to pass on. It’s easy to get so caught up in not eating this or that, or forcing yourself to eat something that really doesn’t agree with you that you end up hating food and eating altogether. And that’s not good.
Some of my patients, for example, are more “kapha” or “yin” in their body composition; they need warming foods, but somewhere, somehow, they were told or believed that they had to power through a morning shake every day to start their day “right.” They hate the shake, then feel bloated and tired a couple of hours later and wonder why. It might just not be the right food them. For the next person, it’s perfect.
Food is part of life’s great pleasures. But for so many of you, I know it's a miserable chore. And that’s just not fun. Or healthy! Because how we feel when we eat affects how we feel later.
But sometimes you just aren’t feeling your best. You may be more tired than you used to be. You may experience gas and bloating, constipation or diarrhea. You may find yourself feeling cranky and craving sugar or carbs. Or you may actually have a diagnosed health condition. You know you need to change your diet to feel better. So what do you do?
If there’s anything I’ve learned from guiding people in natural health for 30 years, and in my medical practice with Dr. Mark Hyman at The Ultra Wellness Center, is that there really is no “one-size-fits-all diet.” In fact, if anyone is telling you there is, please feel free to run the other way!
The most important thing is not to pick a diet based on what somebody else is eating or says in their book or blog is best for every human on the planet. Figure out what's best for you as an individual at the phase and stage you’re at in your life and health right now.
And nobody knows you better than … you!
What we often forget to actually check in with ourselves when we ask the question, "What should I eat?" Asking yourself a few simple questions each day is one of the most powerful eating — and health — skills in your possession.
Here they are:
1. How did I/do I usually feel/act immediately after I eat this?
2. How did I/do I usually feel/act a few hours after I eat that?
3. Do I know ahead of time that “the food” usually does not leaving me feeling great, but I eat it anyway?
4. Follow-up to question 3: Why do I do eat it and how can I change that habit?
The key to knowing what foods you need to eat is paying attention to how you feel when you eat them and when you don’t. Are you more tired? Nauseated? Constipated? Bloated? Congested? Irritable? Depressed? Did you get a headache? Do you crave sweets when you're hungry?
These symptoms all tell us that something is up either in our digestion or metabolism or these foods, or in our immune response to them (i.e., you could have a food sensitivity). In fact, this information is invaluable to share if you do go to see an integrative or functional medicine doctor, nutritionist, or other expert besides just yourself for guidance on food choices.
The key to transforming your health and your body is to start to listen to it. Our bodies are genius at giving us information. Our symptoms are the information. When left ignored, symptoms become illnesses. Listened to, they can lead to lifelong fantastic health habits.
Most of us spend our lives ignoring our bodies and inner knowledge. We are taught from our earliest years that experts have all the answers. Women are especially conditioned to believe this! Yes, some natural medicine and nutrition experts can help you. But you have most of the information you need to get started, right in your cells!