Balance in Foods and Eating

Is there ever a free moment? It seems like we are moving in monkey-like fashion jumping from the branch of one activity to the next. The power-hungry, stress-filled society we live in has the potential to zap our inner reserves. Maintaining balance in the midst of chaos is like balancing on a tightrope. The many “yes” responses we give (when we really want to say “no”!) start to pile up and eventually, our back is broken. We are burnt out by the burden of the accumulation of life events.

How do we manage stress? It seems to me that the nationwide obesity epidemic is due, in part, to the sense of “excessiveness” – excessive stress ultimately related to excessive eating. The people who have developed big bellies are accumulating weight in their gut because they can’t digest or assimilate all their experiences. The body pushes back by creating an inflammatory bulge – this is the beginning of the onset of a pre-diabetic condition. Others may start to wither and become utterly fatigued because of all they are extending to make their situation work – they flop into their couch or bed after work; they can’t keep awake during a movie; focusing is impossible.

Would we be different if we didn’t eat out of our cars (“dashboard dining”), eat on the run, or eat foods that deplete us further only to get quick energy to prevent us from running low? How would our lives be different if we lived medium to slow rather than on autopilot, overdrive?

Here are some ways to get you on the path to balance through foods and eating:

Ways to Eat to Promote Balance:
• Get in touch with your instinctual hunger: So many people are out of touch with their bodies. If we are stressed, chances are that we are definitely on “fight or flight” mode and ready to jump out of our bodies rather than embrace them. As a result, we may forget to eat, or we may undereat or overeat without realizing it. The way to get back to our body is by tapping into our internal rhythm to eat. One of the paths to get there is by planning to eat small meals regularly. Essentially, we are re-training the body back into balance. By eating a moderate breakfast, a hearty lunch and a modest dinner with snacks in-between, we will help ourselves to keep our internal power rather than giving it over to irregular eating times and ways of eating. Another method to tap into your body’s wisdom is to rate your hunger before and after eating to get a sense of how well you are maintaining your fuel reserves. If you are “stuffed” after a meal, you may have inundated your digestive capacity, which makes for inefficient absorption and assimilation into the rest of the body. Aim for about 80% fullness. If you are not sure what this level of fullness feels like, make sure you can take a light walk after eating. You should eat to the point where you feel neutral – not stuffed and not hungry.

• Use good fuel: You wouldn’t fill your car with fuel that took away from the horsepower of the engine, would you? In a similar way, why would anyone eat foods that are engineered to “run you down”? Of course, we may not realize they are draining us, but our food choices are laden with depleting foods. For example, sugars are everywhere – and disguised by different names (corn syrup, evaporated cane juice, dextrose, etc.) in the least expected items like salad dressings, ketchups, sauces. These are deceiving foods because even though they give an initial burst of energy, in the long run, they will drain you because of the constant rollercoaster of glucose (sugar) and insulin (hormone that processes glucose in your blood). Avoid artificial sweeteners as they set you up for additional cravings and metabolic imbalance – after all, their name says it all – “artificial” refers to the “artificial” sense of energy you’ll have.

Balancing Foods:
• Carbohydrates: Carbohydrates get a bad reputation. Many popular diets avoid them like the plague. However, to avoid them, would be a mistake. Certain parts of our bodies, like the brain, prefer glucose from carbohydrates. And carbohydrates are too complex to throw them all away – they vary in quantity and quality in the diet. If we eat too many simple carbohydrates, we feel fatigued and off-balance. If we eat too little, we are unable to equip our bodies with the energy they need to have momentum and direction. The key is also to get the best quality of carbohydrate – from whole foods rather than from processed foods that have been stripped of essential nutrients.

• Fiber: Remember roughage? I can still hear my grandmother touting the benefits of having oatmeal for breakfast! Eat fiber, sustain your energy – that’s the bottom line. Check your food labels and aim for three to five grams per serving of any food (or greater!). If a food is high in fiber, you will slowly release glucose from food over time to adequately fuel your actions. Conversely, if a food is low in fiber and high in simple sugars, your energy will be erratic – initially it will be very high but then it will plummet. The goal for balanced living is to eat foods rich in complex carbohydrates (especially fiber) so that you can be balanced – for example, fruits, nuts, whole grains, legumes, and vegetables.

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