I went to get mexican with a friend and I didn't eat the chips and salsa (or cheese dip). If you know me well, you know what a great feet this is. Chips and salsa ranks high on the list of thing-other-fitness-professionals-may-shake-their-heads-at-me-about; right up there with cheese fries, pizza and every dessert, ever. But I walked out of that mexican restaraunt that day feeling like a million bucks... not stuffed, not sick, not tired... and it was a revelation. Let me pause right here and let you know that I am not telling you that you shouldn't eat something (and I never will). I'm sharing with you a vital piece of a health journey that people rarely fill you in on.
I want to take it all the way back to give you a quick rundown of my history with food. As a child, I was a picky eater. My go-to's were bacon and eggs and toast, or just bread piled high with butter. In high school, sunflower seeds and Hardee's chocolate milkshakes were on the daily. In college, McDonald's breakfast (with a large hazelnut iced coffee), Zul's cheese bread and whatever else college kids eat were regulars. I also drank a lot, and I smoked. Whenever you think I don't get you, I promise I GET YOU.
Fast forward to 2011, I was three years deep in my current profession, and I had cleaned up my act. I ate five small meals a day, a meal every couple hours, and lived by the 80/20 rule (80% of your diet coming from whole foods and 20% considered "treats" or everything else) and my stomach was a complete wreck. It may have been years of mistreatment catching up to me, something I ate along the way, or something that came from emotions. No one knows, including the nearly ten doctors I had seen. Nearing the end of the year I landed myself in the hospital with swollen intestines and no one knew why or what to do. But I knew.
My journey, experience and education led me to Intuitive Eating. Intuitive Eating is a philosophy of eating that makes you the expert of your body and its hunger signals. I mended my stomach by practicing Intuitive Eating and figuring out what worked for me and what didn't. Slowly I was able to incorporate everything back into my diet but over this last year I had noticed I wasn't feeling my best, in fact, I've been feeling pretty terrible. The great part is: I know exactly what to do. I already know what foods work for me and what foods don't, so I'm giving my stomach a rest from the things that don't, and that includes chips and salsa (at least for awhile).
Most diets, programs and "coaches" tell you what to eat. They may give you a plan, a calorie goal or restrict certain foods... and it is the same plan, calorie goal and restricted foods they give to everyone else. The secret key to what most of you are looking for is not someone telling you what to eat but learning HOW TO EAT. So I would like to help you on your journey and get you started on your way of learning how to eat, FOR YOU.
Step One: Let go of your rules.
You've got to give up all the rules and diet mentalities that you've learned. We don't know when we're hungry, we don't know when we're full and we don't know what to eat. The first thing you need to do is let it go and start listening to your body's hunger cues! At some point we became obsessed suppressing our appetites but our hunger cues are our bodies NATURAL way of speaking to us and for our body's to run at optimal performance we need to listen.
Step Two: Keeping A Food Diary... not a food log.
In my personal training app we have a food diary, it doesn't keep track of any numbers... no calories, no macronutrients. There are just sections for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, water, etc. Someone asked me "but how do I know if I am eating right". And there is our problem. We are looking to numbers to tell us something they'll never be able to. You can use a regular old notebook to track what you ate and things like: how you felt after, your level of hunger before eating, and how full you were when you finished.
Step Three: Eat Without Distraction
My mom dropped Cannon off and when she was giving me a recap of the day said "he only ate half a grilled cheese"; I explained it's not "only". Children are the original intuitive eaters, they won't over eat and they won't undereat and they'll only know to pay attention to their cravings because that's what their body's need. He ate half a grilled cheese because he stopped when he was satisfied. To relearn these kinds of behaviors dedicate one meal a day to eating without distraction; no TV, no phone, no chatting; just you and your food. Pause after a few minutes of eating and check in with yourself. Ask how you feel; are you full? Are you satisfied? I promise you that eating without distraction will teach you more about your food than any other human, program or food tracking app.
These three steps aren't meant to be a lifelong thing. Eventually you may come up with your own rules, you won't have to keep a food diary, and you'll know yourself well enough to chat and eat at the same time. In the beginning it will take some work, and it does take a lot of time; but the time will pass anyway and the difference with Intuitive Eating is: you'll never again have to go back and start over.
Sweat & Smiles,