My life is very far from routine. And I love it. Work start times and end times vary by day. Holidays, weekends and evenings are fair game to be logging hours. But when I AM "off," I do my best to make a "Tour-de-Fam" and visit all my amazing loved ones. Social dining and foods on-the-go are givens. Meal prep is a variable, as often times food spoils when I think I will be home for a meal, and I am not.
A few of the fam in Maine. And in Boston.
Since I have been asked more and more frequently about how I eat healthily, despite my lack of routine and late night schedule, I opted to share my approach here for all your busy beavers. Truthfully, I never really considered spelling out what works for me because if there is one thing I am certain on, it is that there is no one size fits all model when it comes to food, energy and digestion. That being said, many people with whom I have worked have found different aspects of my routine helpful for their own and I believe with each principle I use, you can benefit and apply to your own lifestyle.
After years and years of digestion woes, caffeine addiction and calorie counting, a few basic guidelines currently keep me energized, satiated and fueled. I find that these allow me to maintain my lifestyle without enslaving myself to a stringent grocery shopping and food prep routine and most importantly, they allow me to enjoy food and keep the social and professional elements that surround it.
Down with the NJ fam, spending time in Leyden's Garden.
First, stop counting calories and fat..... count value and nourishment. Did you know that half the time you think you are hungry, you are craving nutrition (vitamins, fibers, proteins) that you aren't getting in your foods? But what happens thanks to the marketing monopolies, we continue to eat low-fat and low-calorie foods that we are convinced are healthy. Yet, they are deprived of nutrition. Which makes us still hungry... so we eat more..... and the cycle continues. I used to think a massive bowl of Special K with cardboard strawberries, drowned in skim milk and covered with Splenda was healthy. My logical explanation; if I dedicated only 130 calories to breakfast, I could apply more to that fat-free, frozen yogurt, topped with cool whip and sugar free hot fudge......Ugh. Since I have freed myself from number crunching and replaced it with taste and nourishment seeking, that low-cal, low-fat option is now a filling smoothie or bowl of oatmeal with almond milk, almond butter, sliced banana and real (gasp!) maple syrup. I may be tripling my caloric intake but the calories count. They fuel me and fill me. And, the natural elements (vs. processed) of what I eat allows me to digest way more easily.
Cousin love from Long Island
Second- recognize that digestion is a process and function of your body. This is also why I don't count calories and fat. Digestion isn't easy and it consumes a lot of energy. We get sluggish after really large meals because all of our energy is being consumed by our digestive system. In general, I like to remind myself that the closer to its' natural state a food is, the easier it is to break down. Allow your energy to go to better things- activities, conversations, learning etc. Many people report that when doing juice cleanses they feel a sense of clarity and a renewed energy. This isn't surprising since they are giving a very labor intensive process a chance to rest and recover. But a juice cleanse isn't necessary to keep your body clean. Since I began eating more mindfully I require less sleep, have no need for digestive aids and feel more energized. My general rule of thumb is to remember that the more preparatory steps it took to get the food to your plate/cup/hand.... the harder it will be to get it through your system.
Most importantly.... Be Bill Belichick (if you don't know him, stop reading immediately and google). The man is a football genius. He finds ways to create success in every possible situation. He has taken athletes deemed low-level talent and molded them into top notch players. On the reverse side, he has taken players reputed to be all-stars and when they don't meet expectations, he shrugs and moves on. Watch the man's face; you can never tell if he is winning or losing. It's amazing (and slightly creepy). His job is to determine how each player will or will not contribute to his goal. And his goal is to win football games. He doesn't overreact when things go poorly nor does he over-celebrate when things go well. He observes, assesses, adjusts and moves forward.
Am I implying that you need to love football? No. I encourage you to, but if you don't, that's ok too. I don't judge.
I mean to go out there and be Bill Belichick. Determine your nutritional goal on a holistic level; social, emotional, physical. Then decide how each meal, food, gathering, will or will not contribute to your goal. Don't take any meal personally. Eliminate the ones that don't serve you well and keep working with the ones that do. Most importantly (and this is where we tend to struggle) when the human emotion he seems to lack creeps in for the rest of us.... stay even keeled. One bad meal doesn't necessitate a bad day. Nor does a bad day equate to a bad week or bad month. Don't be so quick to label and categorize, generalize or catastrophize. I used to think "oh well, I blew today, so I mine as well REALLY blow it." Logical...... not at all. If BB did that every time there was a bad play, a great play or the same extreme reactions in terms of the output of players, he would be absolutely exhausted and likely not nearly as successful. Our minds literally play tricks on us to give in to our short term impulses. Studies show the whole "I will start my diet on Monday" leads people to eat as if they will never see food again.... only to give up a diet that feels too stringent to sustain days later.
Train your mind. Take the BB approach . Stay even keeled- don't get too high when things are going well, because you need to anticipate they will come down. Don't declare a "cheat" meal disastrous and justify throwing in the towel and quitting. Let it go, move on and focus on the next best choice you can make for yourself. Your job is to decide which foods will or will not meet your goal. Whatever your goal may be- do your job.
More fam at the Patriots.
Hydrate. But not with your food. I drink a lot of water. Research indicates we should drink half our body weight in ounces of water per day. That's without exercise or the dehydrating effects of caffeine. I probably drink close to my weight in ounces of water each day. But NOT with meals. Drinking water while eating actually interferes with the digestion process. Let your saliva work as nature intended to break down your food. Don't let the water in your stomach impede your natural stomach acid's ability to digest. Try to avoid water a half hour before and a half hour after eating. I know, I know, you are thinking "but if I drink water right before a meal, I won't be hungry." That's a short term fix. That will pass and you will eat again. Try hydrating all day so that you aren't confusing thirst with hunger. Then, when it comes to meal time, let Mother Nature do her thing.
And finally, find your balance. Maybe you strive for 80% eating for nourishment and 20% eating for pleasure. Maybe it's the other way around. Perhaps you want to start with just one good meal a day, or one good day a week. Or maybe you are super strict and go all-in, 24-7, 100%. Truly, to each their own. But decide what works for you and keep that as your target. Look ahead to fit work outings, late night dinners or social events to factor into your targeted ratio. Strive for progress.... and keep moving forward. Assess and adjust as necessary.
Fam in CT
Whatever you choose- the more mindfully and purposefully you eat, the better you can serve yourself and your needs. Focus on what has substance and actually nourishes you. Don't trust labels. Find things that don't send your belly into digestive overload. Hydrate effectively. Embrace your un-routine lifestyle. Create your own nutritional routine. Set your goal; keep what serves it well and discard what doesn’t.