Setting your own boundaries will include various factors, but chief among those should be whether or not the food is good for your unique health situation. These questions can help you determine which foods are good for you, and which aren’t.
- If cravings are a big problem for you, start with: Is this food addictive for me?
- If you know you have blood sugar issues, or if you have frequent energy crashes or headaches, or you gain most of your weight in your stomach, start with: What will this food do to my blood sugar levels?
- If you have skin or digestive problems, sinus issues, body pain, brain fog, or mood issues, start with: Am I sensitive to this food?
- If none of the above, but you just want to eat healthier, start with: Does this food provide good building materials for my body?
Is this food addictive for me?
Who needs to pay attention: Anyone who struggles with food. Foods and their addictive power will vary from person to person.
Why: It’s important to understand which foods can fuel cravings and addictions. Many factory-made junk foods are carefully engineered to make you want to eat the whole bag, or drink the whole liter. But some foods may be more magnetic to you than others.
What to do: Pay attention, and start noticing the things which, once you start eating, you can’t stop. You’re probably used to seeing these foods as self-care, but it will be helpful to learn to think of these foods as not kind to you. Yes, they’ll be very hard to give up at first, but after you tough out a week or two, the cravings should subside quite a bit. (If they don’t, you probably need to look at emotional, social, or habit triggers for your eating. Trail 2 is about this.)
What will this food do to my blood sugar?
Who needs to pay attention: If you have frequent energy crashes, headaches, or you use food to calm yourself down. Especially anyone with diabetes, pre-diabetes, or metabolic syndrome.
Why: The rise and fall of glucose (or blood sugar) levels affects your fat storage, artery health, and hormones. And because of hormones, it also has an effect on your mood, metabolism, sleep patterns, etc. Furthermore, when your blood sugar levels plummet, it creates cravings.
What to do: Educate yourself regarding high carb foods: learn what they do to your body, and how to identify them on your plate or in a drink. Start reading labels carefully, and learn to identify all the names sugar hides behind.
On-site resources: Crash course on calories, carbs, etc.; Watch “Sugar Coated,” lin found on Movies I recommend. Also, the book Wired to Eat has some specific instructions about testing to determine which foods are problematic for you specifically. Off-site resources: Secret Sugars: the 56 different names of sugar; and this guide on dietdoctor.com.
Am I sensitive to this food?
Who needs to pay attention: Anyone with skin or digestive problems, sinus issues, body pain, brain fog, or mood issues.
Why: Food sensitivities are different than food allergies or food intolerance. (To understand the difference, read this post: Understanding food allergies, intolerances, and sensitivities.) In sensitivities, a person’s reaction to the offending food are usually delayed, and in proportion to the amount eaten. While not immediately life-threatening, the reaction may do damage to the body.
What to do: Food journaling may help you discover trouble spots, but you may need to look back one day or more to find the offending food. There are apps to help with this: search for “food symptom tracker.” Doing an elimination diet and reintroduction is the most accurate test. Here’s an in-depth article on why and how to do that.
Does this food provide good building materials for my body?
Who needs to pay attention: Everyone.
Why: The content of your diet directly determines the composition of your body and the functioning of its systems. The food you eat doesn’t just affect your body: it becomes your body.
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