10 Simple Rules to Eating Well For The Rest of Your Life.
After embarking on a self-discovery journey and asking the questions of what helps me to come alive, I’ve found that I can’t just focus on the mind and the spirit.
The body is also part of me, and what I eat in particular effects my mood and energy.
We need to be aware of how our body works and how we can take care of it, as it houses our mind and spirit. We do it with our cars, sending them to regular maintenance and feeding them with the right oils and fuels so that they serve us well. Moreover, yet we neglect our bodies and what we eat as if it’s something outside of us and under the domain of some separate higher power.
Would we put petrol in our car when it works on diesel? Would we not put water when the car’s radiator warning light says so? However, we stuff ourselves with processed foods — some far worse than drinking a glass of petrol. We don’t drink enough water during the day even when our internal sign says we should.
I’m not an expert on food; I don’t even know how you would address the so-called experts in the field of Nutrition. However, after so many years of listening to my body, reading countless books and going on many new diet fads, I feel I have some knowledge on how to eat and what goes into my mouth.
We are all so different, and yet we are made of the same stuff. The more we quiet the noise outside and listen to those parts of our body that talk to us, then the more we connect with our primal intuition and know what food is good for us and what isn’t.
“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” –Hippocrates
Over the years, I’ve found that if I follow the simple guidelines below, I feel energized, sleep well every day and have no digestive concerns whatsoever.
1. Eat Slowly & Mindfully
We need to cultivate our relationship with food and give it the time and focus that it deserves. We should pay attention to the details of our foods with a simple commitment to appreciate, respect and enjoy the food we eat. We should engage our senses to appreciate the food’s nourishing qualities, savoring the tanginess of a lemon or the spiciness of a jalapeno pepper. How can we enjoy food when we scoff our lunches in front of a computer within a few minutes?
2.Don’t Feel guilty when eating badly
Our bodies, like our minds, perform much better, digesting foods quicker when in a restive or relaxed mood rather than in stressful situations. Moreover, when we eat something that we feel we shouldn’t, we feel guilty which then releases stress hormones hampering digestion. Once in a while, a bowl of ice cream or that fully loaded pizza tempts us, so we need to set an intention to enjoy eating it and have no guilt about doing so.
3. Chew our foods well
I went on a nutrition course a while ago, and all I could remember through the bombardment of information was that the only time we had conscious control of our digestion was when we chewed on our foods. Digestion starts in the mouth with the action of our saliva and if we don’t chew well then there is so much more work for our digestive system to do.
4. Drink lots of water
Our bodies are about 70% water, and our brains are 90% water, so it makes sense to drink a lot of water. Our bodies function better when we are hydrated, and it aids in so many aspects of the body like in digestion, maintaining body temperature, energizing muscles and taking care of the kidneys. Water also flushes out toxins and some studies suggest, it even improves our mood.
Drinking eight glasses or two liters a day is usually enough but it all depends on the person, the climate we are in and how active we are. The best indicator is your urine color, which needs to be as close to clear as possible.
5. Avoid Processed Foods
Processed food is any food that has been altered from its natural state in some way or another. They include many foods that are readily available in fast-food joints and regular supermarkets, and vary from microwaveable meals to breakfast cereals, fruit juices, soft drinks, savory snacks, chocolates, many cheeses, and even bread. The list is endless.
6. Eat Colorful Vegetables
Only 10% of the world meet the recommended daily amount of vegetable intake needed, so many of us are missing on their benefits. All the nutrients found in fruits are also in vegetables, and yet we eat more fruits.
I was waiting to start a running race when I got talking to an Italian runner, and we discussed eating. He told me how he had lived with his mama’s advise on vegetables, by making it a habit to eat 3-5 different colors of vegetables per day.
7. Eat fruits on an empty stomach
Fruits can be beneficial as they are natural detoxifiers and help in the digestive process. However, always eat fruit on an empty stomach as our body uses different enzymes to digest fruit. Moreover, it needs to process the nutrients and the fiber separately. Also, we need to be careful as fruits have so much sugar in them. For example, an apple has 19 grams, or almost 5 teaspoons of sugar.
8. Avoid All Sugars
We all know how bad sugar is, and of its negative effect on our bodies. Sugar is better known as “Sweet Poison,” and recent studies have shown it to be as addictive as cocaine.
I freely admit I’m a sugar addict, and I’m trying hard to overcome my addiction. And as I’m writing now about sugar, there is an ingrained desire in me that is sending a signal to my salivary glands. This in turn makes my brain react sending neurotransmitters around to prepare my body for some sugar, and I’m eyeing the chocolate bar in front of me.
Sugar tampers with our dopamine receptors, and we are always looking for the next stronger hit of sugar. I stopped sugar and fruits for two weeks and saw first hand how addictive it is. The minute I had a piece of cake, then I wanted something else that night and woke up next morning with a craving for sugar.
Sugar has two parts; the good part being glucose, which our body needs and the nasty one known as fructose, that goes directly to the liver. This induces less insulin production, triggering hunger signals in the brain, and rather than utilize this sugar for energy, our body often turns fructose into liver fat. It is this fructose that needs to be eliminated from our diets.
Sugar is everywhere in our food and our diets, from alcohol to refined carbohydrates. We need to be vigilant with labels to check the carbohydrate content with the amount of sugar they contain. And we always need to remember that every 4.4 grams of sugar make one full teaspoon of sugar.
9. Know your Food
We have a responsibility to know what we put in our mouths. We need to understand what is good and not so good for us by trial and error. We need to check labels, know the sources of whom we buy our food from. We must have a general idea of the differences between protein, carbohydrates(fast and slow), fibre, fats, fruits and vegetables.
We also need to plan what we are eating every day so if we over eat at lunch, then compensate by having a lighter dinner. Alternatively, if we exercised in the morning, then a heavier snack is needed.
However, it’s also important not to overwhelm ourselves with details and to keep everything simple. For me, I just like to know in the morning what I’m eating for the upcoming day.
10. Listen to your Body
There is a great story I read in an article where a Native American asks the Caucasian if he is hungry. The Caucasian looks at his watch and says “there’s an hour left for lunch time so let’s wait a bit.” The Native American man shakes his head and says: “Only you white men tell by the time on a clock whether you’re hungry or not.”
Eat when you are hungry. Eat when your body sends you a message and not because you need to follow a set time of eating. Don’t eat because you need to comfort yourself. Don’t eat when you are bored.
For me, listening to my body has meant eating every three hours, splitting my main meals with smaller snacks, and never eating three hours before I sleep.
Mo Issa is an entrepreneur and a born-again writer. He finally gets that he’s a spiritual being having an earthly human experience. Mo loves Hemingway, Hesse and Buddha. He’s a soon-to-be yogi, and runs when he can sense the rain coming down. Mo has powerful conversations with anyone and everyone, reminding them of the story “The Death of Ivan Ilych” by Tolstoy where, on his deathbed, he says: “What if I lived all my life wrong?” He recently spoke at TedxAccra about Awakening to his Aliveness. Mo writes everyday when the clock strikes 6 in the morning, and has recently been published by both Rebelle Society and Elephant Journal. He also blogs regularly at Mo-Issa.com.