One of the biggest concerns I hear about health is not knowing what to eat.
When we are actively trying to create a diet that works for us, we need a plan. Without one, it’s too easy to be led by our cravings and swept away by the (chocolate cake) moment.
A diet plan doesn’t need to (or want to) be strict and rigid, but rather a set of boundaries to help keep us focused. Rigidity causes stress, but healthy boundaries keep us on track. Unless there’s a medical reason why a cold-turkey and strict approach is required, it’s good to make gradual change and maintain some flexibility.
A diet plan could involve avoiding the foods you are already aware don’t serve you, and it could also provide the opportunity to recognise those foods that you aren’t yet aware cause problems.
Basically, we want to build awareness and develop a relationship with our food.
We want to develop an acute sense of awareness around how our food choices are personally affecting us, because this is really all that matters, yes? Are we feeling good, or are we feeling bad? Is my diet good for me, or is it not?
We can do this by observing how our body responds (or reacts) to the food we eat.
We all have different needs.
As a society, we’ve been heading down the one-size-fits-all path for a really long time. It’s time for a new approach.
As individuals, we have unique needs. This involves not only food, but also exercise, sleep, social-time, alone time…
Unless we start to tune in and honor our uniqueness (rather than imagining that our needs are the same as everyone else’s, or berating ourselves for being different), it will be difficult to find true health.
We are not made to eat everything. – it’s that simple. It comes down to our elemental nature, and the nature of each food. We want to off-set the elements that are abundant within us, with foods that have the opposite qualities. You can read more about that here.
And it’s because we have different needs and requirements that it might be helpful to start devising a diet plan that works for you, personally.
Avoid blindly following someone else’s diet plan.
You might start out on a diet plan that exists for all people, such as Paleo, Keto, Vegan etc. These diets are sweeping generalisations that assume the one-size-fits-all model. There are two problems with this…the first is that one size does not fit all; secondly, following a plan keeps you in your head and away from the wise part of yourself that already knows what foods are best for your unique body/mind.
It’s only when we move away from the analytical mind and drop in to connect with what arises after eating, that we can begin to notice how our food choices are really affecting us. There’s a frameworks that can help with understanding our true nature (constitution) and once you have this information, you’ll be in a better place to choose or follow whatever diet you’re drawn to. You can use the diet as a guide while drawing on what you now know about your unique constitution.
No matter how good someone else’s experiences of a particular diet may be, if it’s a stringent plan, make sure to approach it with a sense of curiosity. As you make the changes, stay open to how you are feeling, and to the possibility that it might not be the right diet for you.
Without this attitude of openness and awareness, a new diet could easily led you down the path of illness – the opposite direction to what you were intending.
Awareness is key to a successful diet that works for you.
One of the best ways to cultivate this awareness, is with a food journal.
Keep a food journal
I like to call them awareness journals because it’s good to include more than just food.
An awareness journal is an opportunity to become an explorer, a detective. If you have an adventurous spirit, you will likely enjoy this practice.
It is essentially about forming patterns.
Our food choices go on to become us…our body absorbs what it can (and gets rid of what it can’t…ideally) and then this filters into the blood which feeds our organs and tissues.
The whole process and end result affects us (and makes us who we are) at the level of not just the physical, but the mental and emotional levels, too. We are born with certain tendencies (as per the doshas), but our food choices will either exacerbate or pacify these tendencies. Ideally we want to pacify them.
An awareness journal will help you begin to make these connections, so you want to make sure to include an area in your journal for recording how you feel after you eat on all levels – physically, mentally and emotionally.
Do this in 7-14 day stints to give yourself a chance to notice the patterns that form.
You can read more about this practice, and access my Awareness Journal template when you sign up to my free course Know Your Nature, Know Your Food.
Work with the Concept of Hard and Easy Foods
There’s a concept that I’ve found to be so incredibly helpful when choosing what to eat, and that’s the idea of easy or hard to digest foods.
The digestibility of all foods exist on a continuum between easy and difficult (hard). As an example, meals that are easier to digest are watery one-potters…porridge, soups and stews (without red meat, which is a difficult food). Mung dal, and mashed or blended foods (banana, avocado, carrot soup etc.) Foods that are hard to digest are cheese, legumes, wheat, nuts, and as mentioned, red meat.
We can use this information in our day to day life by working with it in times when our digestion is compromised. This could be on an acute level, as in when we have a cold and our body is spending more energy restoring balance and has less energy to spend on digestive functions. This is the reason behind Grandmas chicken soup when you’re sick. It’s easy and also nourishing – the perfect combination at such times.
Even if you’ve simply had a hard day and you’re feeling a bit depleted…if you’re feeling tired, it’s a reflection of the current strength of your digestion. So don’t come home and eat a pizza, even if that’s just what you feel like! You’ll feel even more depleted at the end of it.
If you suffer from seemingly minor digestive imbalances such as gas, bloating and burping, give yourself the gift of a week or two of easy to digest foods and notice the difference…and make sure to journal as you go.
We all have different nutritional needs and we’re not designed to eat all foods. One man’s medicine is another man’s poison…have you heard that? It’s very accurate!
There is a framework that will help us understand about our unique nature and the foods that will compliment our nature, but it always comes back to our own awareness and connecting with our experience. This is how we personally come to know which foods our body responds well to and those it does not. Pay more attention and increase your sense of self-awareness. A great way to do this is with an awareness journal.
As you’re moving along this path, do yourself a favour and get to know about your digestive strength. Can you eat anything with absolutely no sign of difficulty? (gas, bloating, lethargy etc..). Or do you struggle with energy and/or often have gas, bloating or burp a lot? These may seem small but they ought to be addressed before deeper issues arise.
Work with your individual digestive strength and the concept of difficult and easy to digest foods, and feel the difference.
In health and harmony,