As a result of poor lifestyles, convenience foods and stress, it seems many of us can no longer tell if and when we are actually hungry! Nor do we know what nutrients our body and brain requires. So many aspects of our lifestyle have changed as a result of modern living it’s no wonder, when it comes nutrition, our bodies messages get lost in translation. We have become so used using caffeine to wake us up and alcohol to make us sleep. So used to eating high fat, high sugar, high salt foods that the chemicals our bodies must produce to process these toxins are no longer doing what they are primarily designed to do and that is to tell us what fuel our body needs and when.
Let’s break this down: If we are fortunate to have a healthy body and brain then, on the basis we have had sufficient sleep, our cortisol level spikes in the morning enabling us to transition from asleep to awake. However, this process takes time, around 20-40 minutes, depending on whether you have woken naturally or as a result of an unwelcome alarm. If you are rushing off to work, having woken from a disturbed sleep, then the chances are, before your body can even register the transition, you are reaching for the coffee. Caffeine suppresses appetite so many of us will skip breakfast or chose something high in fat or sugar or both when we get to work.
Breakfast is important as it awakens the digestive system and our metabolism. A healthy breakfast, which is high in fibre, is the best way to start any day. My suggestion would be to prepare overnight oats with some fresh or frozen berries then add a good dollop of full fat greek yogurt just before leaving the house. Don’t be tempted by fat free yoghurt as it contains additives that do more harm than good. Remember, once you have trained your body and brain to recognise when it is hungry it will automatically register the energy you consume and expel and create a reliable supply and demand process!
Right, so now you are at work and you have enjoyed your healthy, nutritious breakfast. There is a temptation to grab a milky coffee. Even if you go with skinny, too much dairy can cause all kinds of issues. Try swapping that skinny late for one which uses almond milk or similar or, better still, get on board with the fruit teas. Yes some of them contain caffeine which should be consumed in moderation, but many also contain antioxidants, plus they are a great way to up your water intake!
Don‘t be tempted by a muffin or cake at mid morning break. Instead bring some seeds, nuts, dried fruit with you as these will ensure you up your fibre and fatty acids intake (fatty acids lubricate our neurological transmitters which are crucial for a healthy brain.
Skipping lunch is an unhealthy habit which leads to low blood sugar, this in turn causes cravings for high energy, low nutrients food. You will also be more inclined to eat a heavy tea! Instead, bulk cook some delicious soups and stews or prepare a delicious salad to bring to work in a flask or lunchbox. Remember, even foods that purport to be healthy, are likely to contain preservatives if they are shop bought. These preservatives can be difficult for our bodies to break down.
If possible try and add a little light exercise to your lunch break. It will aid digestion and it will give your body a chance establish if it is satisfied. Generally speaking this takes 20 mins. You might find it helpful to remember this when you go out for a meal. Try to wait at least 20 mins after your main meal to decide whether or not to have dessert! Trust me it makes a huge difference. In fact that 20 minute rule is crucial in learning to listen to our bodies. Remember it at home too when you consider going for that second helping!
Depending on the type of work you do and how much you exercise, dinner should be eaten earlier, the heavier it is. My advice would be to go with a meal that is lighter; like lean meat or fish, with lots of veg or salad and go easy on the carbs. Our body has to work hard to process carbs and it cannot do that while we are sleeping, carbs will be stored as fat if they are not used as fuel. Carbs are not our enemy, contrary to popular belief, but we must consume them wisely!
If you have eaten well, exercised and stayed hydrated then, not only should your sleep improve, but you should wake up brighter and feel hungry soon after waking. Now you can start listening to your body and reacting accordingly.
To summarise. Additives are like white noise to your body and mind. If you eat well you will fuel your body with the nutrients it needs and your intuition will be restored.