Bio-individuality. My Body is Telling Me to Eat Chocolate.
It's been four weeks since I started my health coach training with the IIN. I am very happy to have met two amazing classmates from my NYC study group. We are already sharing loads of ideas on nutrition, microbiome, recipes and reading lists via Facebook, Instagram, and OneNote. A group brunch is happening in two weeks and I can't wait to learn more from them.
The following are a couple of basic concepts I'd like to share. Some may seem super obvious but I have to admit I never gave them much serious thought until I started my health coach training.
One person's food is another's poison. There is no one-size-fits-all diet. You are a unique individual and what works for your friend or your family member may not work for you. The upside is that there is no real need to follow any restrictive diets or count calories, but the downside is that we need time and patience to experiment and work out what foods work for our bodies, and to make adaptions to suit our individual needs over time.
Our Diet Requirements Differ with Gender, Age and Culture.
Men eat differently from women. For example, men tend to eat and require more protein than women, so it is generally easier for women to follow a vegetarian or vegan diet. Children eat differently from adults and older people. Our culture and heritage also make a huge difference. As for myself, I found my diet has changed a lot since growing up in Hong Kong to studying abroad in the UK as a teenager, and then again when we moved from London to New York three years ago.
Our Diet Requirements Change with Time.
Just think about how your diets have changed since you were a child. Notice that we also eat different things in the summer versus winter, weekdays versus weekends, when we are at home versus abroad. We will likely change our diets as we grow older, or move to a new place, or taking up a new job. So consider how to adapt and change your food to match your lifestyle, daily, weekly and seasonal requirements.
Common examples of cravings include caffeine, sugar (by the way, it is "sweets and puddings" in English and "candies and desserts" in American), alcohol and tobacco. It is important to listen to your body and find ways to satisfy your cravings. Abstaining is not a good idea as your willpower is likely to fail, you risk going cold turkey and end up bingeing on whatever you were trying to cut down in the first place. It is very important that you spend the time to work out what causes those cravings and try out different ways to remove those habits.
It is often helpful to think about what healthy foods we can add to our meals. Think of what natural whole foods you enjoy eating. If you are into cooking, you can try to think of ways to make them taste really good. If you don't like cooking, look up for funky restaurants on your apps and experiment new food groups, try vegan or Ethiopian or whatever you like. Then find the opportunity to add these new interesting foods into your diet, and gradually crowd out unhealthy foods.
Simple Recommendations for Everyone.
Despite our bio-individuality, everyone could benefit from the following:
Less junk food and less sugar
More whole natural foods such as fruits and vegetables, ideally organic
Drink enough water
Less meat and dairy (this is a tough one for me as I love meat, dairy and cheese, but I have learned to choose grass-fed and pasture raised options)
Apparently whatever food you put into your body and whichever diet you choose to follow should always be a secondary factor. You can eat the best quality organic vegetables, drink all the green juice in the world and practice yoga every day, but if you don't have loving relationships, a fulfilling job or feel unhappy in other areas of your life, no amount of broccoli or kale will solve that. The integrative nutrition course places a huge amount of focus on "primary foods", the main ones are relationships, career, exercise and spirituality. They hold the keys to a healthy and balanced lifestyle. Once we have these factors sorted out, a sustainable healthy weight should follow.
I am currently experimenting with a few new recipes from Run Fast Eat Slow by Shalane Flanagan and Elyse Kopecky, and mixing in some Paleolithic dessert recipes. So far I've made almond milk, turkey lasagna, flourless banana bread, blueberry tarts and muffins with carrots and zucchini. It's been fun even though I've been taken out of my comfort zone. I don't know how many types of non-wheat flour mankind needs. Despite all that baking and cooking, my husband and I are still eating out because NYC has so much to offer. We trying to make the most of our bucket list before moving on to Hong Kong. Honestly this is an impossible challenge - our NYC bucket list just keeps growing and getting better! :)