I was at a meeting today and had near enough the same conversation with a lovely lady struggling to keep on top of her eating as I had with a member during a fitness session a couple of hours earlier. Both knew exactly what they should be eating/ drinking and both were angry with themselves for having bad habits.
As you know this blog is written to help the cancer community with matters of nutrition and exercise. It is quite straightforward to find out which foods are better for us and those that are detrimental. When the consequence of making the wrong food choices is diminished health and fitness, why do so many of us stick to our bad habits?
There are so many reasons… what I'd like to help with is finding ways to break these habits.
So for the next few weeks I will be giving you some ideas to implement sustainable changes.
Each week, I will suggest just one small change. Don't try to overhaul your whole life; simply stick to the simple alteration to your normal way of eating until that becomes a habit, then move on to a second thing.
So, what to change first?
The problem is that our diet has evolved faster than our bodies' ability to cope with it. As we have grown more affluent and created technologies to produce foods more quickly, less laboriously and at any time of year, our diet has become richer in both fats and proteins, and has become more highly flavoured with salt, sugar and additives; the processing and refining destroying much of the original nutritional value.
We also tend to eat fewer and fewer vegetables, cereals, pulses and fruits. This has created a bizarre situation in which we are both overfed and undernourished. The result is a chronic deterioration in our energy levels and in the body's immune system and ability to repair itself, which leads to a generalized increase in our susceptibility to disease.
So... this week, let's address overfeeding first.
1. Plate size: Use a smaller plate when serving up your food and present it well on the plate.
Do this every day. ( I even had one lady that went out and bought a few new plates of a smaller size) Keep doing this until you naturally think of this plate as your plate.
2. Eat slowly: The food we eat doesn't only have to be broken down to aid swallowing: Chewing is merely stage one of a lengthy process whereby proteins are broken down into usable amino acids, complex carbohydrates are broken down into useful monosaccharides and fats are broken down into essential fatty acids. Only when these foods are broken into these tiny structures can they be of any nutritional value to us. In this form alone can they be absorbed into the bloodstream and sent around the body to build and repair new cells and give us energy.
Indeed, enzymes are released along the digestive tract to further break down our food. In the mouth, salivary glands release an enzyme called amylase which initiates the breakdown of carbohydrates. If you pop food in your mouth and swallow almost immediately this enzyme does not have time to work.
Try it! Chew every mouthful 20 times. Even place your knife and fork down while chewing.
I bet you notice that you feel full up… a hormonal message that fast eaters don't usually receive!!
3. Drink water! Often when we feel hungry, we are in fact misinterpreting slight dehydration as hunger. So in between meals, if that first twinge of 'hunger' has you reaching for a packet of crisps or a biscuit with a cuppa, simply pour yourself a nice glass of water, maybe add a slice of lemon, or a mint leaf if you're not a big fan of water on it's own.
So, before you completely empty the fridge, larder and cupboards in an heroic attempt to overhaul your diet, just try these three things for a week or so.
Let me know how you get on and feel free to post below any other tips for reducing and slowing down your intake of food.