The New Year is a time when many of us resolve to make improvements in our lives. Oftentimes our resolutions benefit our health and may include desired weight loss, taking up a new exercise, or tucking into bed just a little earlier. We’re wise to make healthful lifestyle changes, since these influence many of the leading causes of death in the United States. Lifestyle includes nutrition, sleep and relaxation, exercise, stress and relationships.
Arguably one of the most important lifestyle factors is diet. Diet is defined as the foods a person habitually eats, day in and day out. At its most basic level food is energy; many of us learned that in junior high home economics class and endearingly refer to this as “calories in versus calories out”. Food provides energy, but that is only part of the story.
Food is much more, it’s a form of communication within our bodies. A cup of broccoli, a piece of chicken or a bag of chips can influence our DNA (those genes we were blessed with upon conception) differently; this is the concept of nutrigenomics. This means that even if you carry certain risk factors for a disease, that doesn’t mean your doomed to that reality! Pause and think about that … that means food is just as powerful as medicine.
If food has that much power, ask the question “do I know what I should be eating?” There’s an overabundance of diets to choose from, and with good reason. Food is very personal. What we eat talks to us, both physically and emotionally. We sometimes eat for reasons other than hunger. It’s important to ask, “how do I feel when I eat this, what does that food mean, what void is it filling, is the way I’m eating sustainable?”
To help find a diet that’s right for you, start by journaling the foods you eat. This is the most common practice among those who have successfully lost and maintained their weight loss. You can do this in whatever fashion works for you and your lifestyle. Write it, type it, or snap a picture of everything you eat and drink. Also be sure to include portion size, timing of meals, dining companions, physical/mental/emotional factors and anything else you feel is worth noting. Simply documenting the foods you choose to eat can identify nutrient deficiencies, food allergies, sensitivities or intolerances, uncover emotional stressors and most importantly help you achieve your happy weight.
If so many of us resolve to improve our health, why is it that one in three adults, and nearly one in four adolescents are overweight or obese? It’s time to start taking care of ourselves with the most important tool we have, the food we put in our bodies. Next time you sit down to eat, eat mindfully, grab your journal, and ask yourself “is this food one that will help me live a longer, more vibrant life?”
Cheers to an improved you!