Eat better. Duh.
For long-term health and wellness, you cannot eat (a lot of) junk foods. You already know this.
For long-term health and well-being, you need to eat vegetables and protein. You already know this as well.
But diets fail. Because you go too drastic with the changes. You miss your favourite foods. Your deprivation makes you go overboard. Your weight yo-yos.
So, instead of telling you to make any changes in your diet, how about you learn about other changes you can make? And impact your health for the better.
There are two simple principles to impact your health - eat better and eat lesser.
Why should you eat lesser?
Who says you are overeating?
Because we have access to a lot of easy calories i.e. low in nutrients but high in energy, most of us end up consuming more energy than we need. Your body needs a certain amount of calories.
To use a car analogy, if you drive your car 50 kilometres daily and it uses 5 litres - that's the amount of fuel it needs daily. Likewise, your body utilises about the same amount of energy daily. Of course, if you run a marathon today and are sitting on the couch tomorrow, the energy consumed is big. But on average, you get what I am saying.
An extra serving of rice versus an extra serving of cabbage, for example, is ~200 calories versus ~20 calories. It is easy to eat more rice than cabbage, I am sure you agree.
And that's what happens. We end up eating these easy foods a bit more than we think. Because they are easy to consume. And when we enter the realm of a pizza or a doughnut, those are even more loaded with calories.
So, back to the point - I'll help you eat lesser. This doesn't mean you will starve. Instead, it means you will eat the amount you need rather than overeat without knowing.
Eat less versus eat better is not either-or. You will need to do both. And they dovetail really well.
Reframing the question
The question I framed myself during the pandemic, as I had a lot of time to think and experiment - "If I cannot tell you to eat better, how can I help you?" And here's one huge part of my coaching solution.
It still requires work. It is not easy. Because you cannot keep doing everything you are doing and expect a different result. Obviously.
How to eat your meals
Mindful eating is a simple but far-out concept that seems plausible for Zen gurus and not folks like you and me. Except it is. I am going to teach you how to hack mindful eating.
- Use a smaller-than-usual plate. Not too much smaller but let's say 80% of your current plate's size.
- Serve yourself your first serving only. For example, if you normally eat 3 rotis, do NOT serve yourself 3 rotis. Serve yourself 2. Or even better, serve yourself 1.
- Now, set a timer for 15 minutes. And once you switch the timer on, put your phone away.
- You will go for your second serving only when the timer goes.
Now, on to the actual eating.
- Once you put the morsel into your mouth, chew.
- Chew a lot more than you normally do.
- Pay attention to the chewing.
- Count the number of times you chew. If you are in the high-20s, you are doing fine.
And while you are chewing,
- keep your hands off your plate.
- stop making the next morsel.
Once you swallow,
- speak to whoever is around you. One short sentence.
- Or take a breath. One relaxed inhale and exhale.
- Now, prepare the next morsel.
How does this impact your health?
- Chewing more will lead to better digestion of your foods. You will feel less bloated and gassy.
- Chewing more will mean you take more time to eat your meals, rather than rushing.
- Coupled with not preparing your next morsel, you will eat slower.
- The timer is a backup device. Eating slowly will ensure that your stomach will send the "I am full" signal to your brain before you eat your second and third servings.
- You will eat the right amount that you need. Additional calories of any sort get stored as fat tissue.
- You will not overeat and feel bloated and full.
- You will not feel fatigued immediately after a meal. You will feel more energetic.
- Mild calorie restriction is healthy.
A side note about mindful eating. The actual practice of mindful eating requires you to not do anything else except eat. No TV, no books, no conversation. Instead, you are mindful of your food. You pay attention to the food, to your action of eating and chewing. You pay attention to the nuances in taste. You start to realise what magic had to happen for you to get that food. From the sun and the rains and soil to people you will never meet working to get that food to your plate. But that's a different mindset. Until I attended a Vipassana retreat, I never felt the awesomeness of this practice.
As I mentioned, let's hack it a bit to get some of the benefits of it to immediately impact your health.
So, follow these simple rules and see your health impacted in a few days. And when you are ready, add eating better and eating earlier and your effects compound!