Food First

In honor of completing my first clinical rotation.

Perhaps you're thinking "I take a multivitamin, I don't need to get vitamins and minerals from food sources" or "I already struggle with my weight, restricting food intake is the only way to keep the pounds off". This is where the challenges begin.

Essential vitamins and minerals are typically best absorbed by food sources, which means nutrient-dense options are your best bet for long-term health. Carbohydrates, fats, and proteins are all crucial to our metabolic processes (watch this video). But maybe you already knew that, right? 

What do I hear?

  • "I don't have time and often skip meals" - Eating well-balanced meals + snacks (carb/fiber + protein combinations) throughout the day keeps our metabolism going at a steady pace. Breakfast says "Hey metabolism, I'm here! Let's get our engine going and have a great day." Mood and energy are very much related to our intake. If your body says your hungry, your engine could probably use some fuel! Do yourself a favor and make the time.

  • "I'm good all day, but I'm starving when I come home!" - Unfortunately, our society is filled with mixed messages suggesting that restriction is "good". Guess what - those leafy greens at lunch probably aren't cutting it, try adding a protein + starch. Restricting all day not only leaves you feeling tired and groggy but it is also likely to cause a binge upon arriving home. You know, that feeling when you want to raid every cabinet while cooking dinner because you just might keel over if your blood glucose levels drop any lower? A post-lunch snack for the ride home would fare you well.

  • "I've always enjoyed popcorn/ice cream at night" - Snacking at night is often done mindlessly in front of the TV. This can be a matter of habit, not hunger. If you feel hungry after dinner, don't starve yourself - have a balanced snack (Marci Evans, MS, RD suggests crackers + cheese).

  • "I'm always the first to finish my plate" - A meal should take 20-30 mindful minutes. This involves sitting at a table or somewhere peaceful, maybe with others, not in front of the TV. Allow your body to feel hunger and satiety.

  • "The thought of losing weight is stressful" - Focus less on losing weight and more on feeling better. Notice how different foods affect your mood and energy. Most importantly, remember that good health comes in various shapes and sizes.

What do I recommend?

  • Focus on the “can have”, giving yourself permission with food. Enjoy fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and protein sources. Notice how they make you feel. Recognize the power of these nutrients (not only protein, carbs, and fat but also vitamins and minerals) and how they are benefiting your body.

  • Feed your metabolism intuitively. Don't ignore hunger cues. Remember, food is fuel for every single biochemical reaction in your body!

  • Practice mindful eating. Be grateful for the ways in which food nourishes your body. 

Are there times that you may NOT need food first?

Perhaps. Are you hungry? Or are you celebrating? Feeling down? Sleep deprived? Thirsty? 

Here are 100 Things You Can Do Instead of Eating Mindlessly.

Remember H.A.L.T.

  • Hungry?

  • Angry?

  • Lonely?

  • Tired?

The Evidence:

60-80% of morbidly obese preoperative candidates have defects in vitamin D, which reduces dietary calcium absorption and increases calcitriol causing metabolic changes that favor fat accumulation

Several B complex vitamins, important for metabolism of carbohydrate and neural functions that regulate appetite, have also been found to be deficient in some patients with morbid obesity

Iron deficiencies significantly hinder energy use and are reported in nearly 50% of morbidly obese preoperative candidates

Zinc and selenium deficits as well as vitamins A, E, and C are important antioxidants helpful in regulating energy production and various other processes of body weight management

Nutrients such as calcium can enhance weight loss and help prevent weight regain

Remember that no food is "bad" or "naughty". Consider your relationship with food rather than dieting and restricting. Take time to fuel your body adequately.