In my “Mind Your Mindset” blog, one of my points was developing a food-as-fuel mindset. Well in this blog I get specific about it. I honestly feel like this change in mindset, and ultimately change in lifestyle, was the second most important change I made in my body journey. I stumbled upon this idea the same way most ideas start- completely on accident. A few weeks into the quarantine in 2020, I concluded that around dinner time was the best time for me to workout, so my dinners changed from social meals with the family to pre-workout meals. I did not expect to see so many changes from this switch. Suddenly I was moving better, I slept better, I felt better, and I started losing weight easier. Here’s how I switched things up and started using my food for it’s intended use: fuel!
Listen to Your Body; Always Rule #1!
• If it makes you feel not good, then it can not be a good food for you. Just because certain diets, or even certain studies, say “you” should eat something daily or chaging what “you” always eat, does not mean YOU actually should. Eating improper foods for your specific body leads to fatigue, bloating, stomach irritations, and even much worse if you have a hidden autoimmune issue. That does not mean to take anything you’ve learned and throw it away, just remember that it is general information not law. A shocking amount of people have told me they drank almond milk for months thinking it was a healthy choice, just to find out their stomach issues stemmed from a nut allergy.
• Listening to what your body wants is also a way to find out what your body needs. During my first pregnancy I learned that your cravings indicated to deficiencies in your body. Craving ice? Check your iron levels. If you’re having really strong cravings, try looking up if it indicates a deficiency. Then you’re able consume what your body really needs. Prime example? Salty foods. If you’re craving chips, it can indicate dehydration. Instead of having chips, you could have watermelon with Tajin seasoning, checking off the salty, the hydrating, and the snaking needs. And who doesn’t love hitting a good trifecta, amiright?
Eating With Emotions
• Hormones and emotions need to be acknowledged when putting together an eating plan as well. All period having persons know that there are emotional support foods that we NEED during our time of month. If you travel for the holidays, there is always special foods that taste like “home” that your trip isn’t complete without. Study snacks, break up comforts, road trip essentials; these all hold a vital place in our diet. As stated earlier cravings can indicate deficiencies, but some foods are good for your soul. Cliché, I know, but it’s true. Emotional heath and mental health are important. To focus only on the physical benefits of food is unbalanced. Our emotions and our mentality drive us just as much as our legs do. Keep the foods that make you YOU.
• While we can eat and acknowledge our emotions, we have to avoid emotional eating. The difference boils down to control. Emotional eating is defined by dictionary.com as “eating, often excessively as a response to stress, boredom, unhappiness, or other emotional condition, rather than as a response to physical hunger.” Lacking in control, it is often described as eating to fill a void as a response to something emotional. Eating with your emotions is choosing foods that make you smile, but acknowledging they will not ultimately make you happy. Remember, the ultimate use of food is fueling our bodies.
Learn YOUR Portions
• When I started my weight loss journey, I was shocked to see what the difference was between my mental measurements and real measurements actually were. My rice portions were twice what is recommended!
• From there, I discovered that my body did not even need that much rice to feel satisfied, it only needed about half of that, where my veggie portions I end up doubling. Play around with your portions, and have fun learning what makes your body feel and function the best. Which segues into the next section…
Figure Out an Eating Plan That Fits Your Lifestyle:
• Your eating plan will be what you eat, how much you eat, and the times you eat. You will live a thousands lives within your life, and your eating plan should fit into the life you are living at the moment. The life you’re living in the moment can even change from day to day. Your personal hours of operation, so to speak, then effect the layout of your eating plan. Throw out that zero to no breakfast, small lunch, big dinner eating style!
• Below are schedules for three very different days I personally live as a single mother, a yoga teacher, and a bartender. Red areas indicate times with high activity, yellow for moderate activity, and green for low. Blue blocks signify sleep. Three very different days with three different levels of activity through the day. This is how I *ideally try to* schedule my meals for each of these days. Remember: days are never perfect, there is 100% snacking between meals, and I definitely have not kicked my coffee habit:
o Busy Season Bar: hours are open longer, and my start/finish times are much later. I also need more fuel to get through my shift since bartending is such an active job. This is a day that requires a lot of fuel. Always, I start with a bigger breakfast. This is key for a food as fuel eating plan to work. Starting your day with a balanced breakfast gives you steady energy with more longevity than your morning coffee. Big doesn’t mean its this in depth, curated meal by any means. It is, however, nutrient dense. A protein shake/smoothie, a bowl of cereal or parfait (Greek yogurt, berries, honey, nuts, granola the whole shebang- we aren’t being shy!), and a piece of fruit. For lunch, think of your more traditional mid-size meal. You want to have smaller midday meal when going into a high energy evening to avoid getting that post meal crash. Sandwiches or sushi hit the mark with their simple carb, protein, vegetable design. Since work keeps me active for a long time late in the day, I’m going back to a bigger dinner to keep the organic energy going.
o Slow Season Bar: overall, not a high energy day. We still start with a big breakfast and medium lunch, we need that gas to get through the start of the day, but for dinner we go small. Work at this time does not require a lot of energy, so I would not have the time to burn the energy consumed. If you eat too much too late, you end up trying to go to bed with all of this excess energy and ruin your sleep.
o Yoga Teaching Day: Busy days like this, my eating style is what I call foraging, or purposeful snacking. I’m juggling teaching over zoom with taking care of two toddlers. That’s a lot of energy with little time for organized meals. I do make sure I still get in my breakfast, and I wake up early these days to ensure I have time to eat and let it settle before teaching. After that I am eating larger snacks throughout the typical lunch period, roughly four give or take. A granola bar and fruit, a protein shake and some trail mix, a hard boiled egg and veggie sticks; you get the gist. During this time, I’m using so much energy, I need fuel pumping consistently to avoid crashing. Dinner on days like this depends more on recovery, but still usually stay on the light side.
• I suggest breaking down your days like this, and really taking a look at what your body needs for the days you have. It really gets you in tune with you body, and helps you understand the foods you eat.
With these steps, I found myself naturally making more intentional choices with my food, and everything I consumed a purpose besides tasting good. The Food as Fuel mindset was a major move for me stepping into my best self.