Food as Fuel

Understanding your Relationship with food

Many people fail to recognize the tight bond we share with food. Food provides comfort, relieves stress, connects individuals, and rewards boredom. We often associate food with feelings, memories or habits. Eating popcorn during a movie might be more of a learned behavior than it is a physical desire to consume popcorn at that very moment. You always order chinese on Sundays because it reminds you of when you were younger and ordered take out chinese with your college roommate. 

When talking about our relationship with food, we should always have unconditional permission to eat the foods that feel good to us mentally, emotionally, and physically. With this, we should also allow space for boundaries to be created surrounding food in order for healthy habits to be formed and so that we have control over our food choices rather than them having control over us. 

Paying attention to food habits

As mentioned, many of our food choices are based on following personal habits or a result of mindless actions to compensate for lack of activity or stimulation. Food is all around us whether in our homes, in the places we travel to, or on the media platforms we tune into. It is easy to turn to food in times of boredom or stress. Using mindfulness techniques around food can allow us to better understand the reasons behind our food choices. This information can be very helpful in distinguishing physical need vs. emotional desire when you are making decisions.

Questions to ask yourself to become more mindful around food:

  • WHY am I reaching for this food at this time?
  • HOW am I feeling right now?
  • WHAT is my current mood?
  • WHERE is this food coming from?
  • WHEN do I reach for this food typically?

Body Signals

Food provides a lot of emotional comfort for individuals but food can also affect neurological signals and hormone release in the body that can influence decisions. The body naturally produces hormones like Leptin and Ghrelin that decrease and increase appetite respectively, and work together to regulate food consumption. Eating sends off rewards signals in the brain, especially when consuming foods higher in salt, sugar, and fat. These signals often override feelings of being full or satiated. These foods that have high concentrations of salt, sugar, and fat are known as “palatable” foods. This is an umbrella term to describe common nutrients that set off the brain’s reward signals making us crave and want to consume them even more. The current research shows that consuming higher amounts of these palatable foods set off reward centers and dopamine signals in the brain similarly to intaking commonly abused drugs. In order to allow the body’s natural signals to regulate hunger and satiety, focus on consuming a diet abundant in nutrient dense whole foods, plenty of fiber, and vibrant in natural colors and phytonutrients. 

Providing function

We have all heard the saying “food is fuel”. Although I’m sure we are tired of hearing this repetitive and cheesy phrase, it continues to persist because it is all too accurate! As a human race, the access to food and the variety of food options only continues to increase. We no longer need to consume food solely for survival, but food has become a means to experience joy and participate socially. We can be grateful that we no longer feel as if we need to eat simply to stay alive, but it is important to remember the actual function of food.

Calories are the energy source that are present in all foods, yet all calories are not created equal. When eating, you should be concerned with the macronutrient and micronutrients that are attached to those calories rather than just look at the calorie value as the most important information. Eat to properly fuel, not just to fill your body with empty calories. Think of quality over quantity (calories). 

Fulfilling Needs

As humans, we tend to have similar needs when it comes to micronutrients requirements. For example, the DRI for all adults between the ages of 19-70 of calcium is 1000mg/day, for potassium: 3,016mg/day for men and 2,320mg/day for women, and for vitamin D: 800 IU/day for all adults. Most micronutrients intake recommendations follow this trend of being the same across the board with some variations between men and women for specific nutrients like iron and potassium. There are a lot of nutrient requirements we are recommended to intake on a daily basis and we must think about which foods will fulfill these needs for us

Macronutrients (carbohydrates, fats, and protein) is where the variability among individuals increases greatly in order to fit the needs of each person. Macronutrients are the source of calories in one’s diet and the requirements of each person are affected by many things. 

Factors that affect one’s macronutrient needs:

  • Age
  • Sex
  • Height and Weight
  • Activity Level
  • Underlying health conditions
  • Personal goals 

When trying to determine the best macronutrient ratio for yourself and your needs, consult a dietitian for assistance. Now, we’re not saying to macro count here. However, we do understand that depending on many factors, such as those above, your nutritional requirements may vary!

The main function of food is to provide us with energy to complete daily tasks, help us reach our goals in terms of vitamins and minerals, and keep the foundation of our bodies strong and the internal functions working optimally. Fueling our body helps us to meet our nutritional goals, promote wellbeing, and prevent chronic disease. Food is delicious and brings people together and individually brings us satisfaction, but ensure that you remember to prioritize putting adequate, healthful food in the tank. 

Looking to learn how to fuel your body properly by scheduling a free call with Alli here.

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