This morning, while reading the news, I came across a report advocating starting your day with carbohydrates. It stated that carbohydrates at the beginning of your day would help keep you fuller longer, and more importantly, would help sustain stable blood sugar levels throughout the day. I read through it and briefly considered how I felt eating carbohydrates at the beginning of my day. I finished that article, and returned to the news feed. Ironically, a few articles down the list, I caught one entitled with something touting the benefits of a protein rich start to your day. And then I laughed.
It’s very easy to be swayed by what we see and read every day, especially what we see our neighbors, coworkers, family, and friends doing. If something works for them, then it must work for us too, right? Wrong.
You are not them, they are not you. You are an individual. You are unique.
Personally, I do awful on a carb heavy breakfast. My mood swings back and forth, I get hypoglycemic episodes of crankiness and sleepiness. It’s not pleasant. My kids don’t thank me either! My body likes running on protein, and sometimes fat. I usually save my carbohydrate load for lunch or dinner. I just feel better that way, and my day seems to run a little smoother. If I just wait and eat it a little later, I am good to go. Do I skip carbs altogether? Definitely not. I just choose the timing of my foods.
How about you? Have you tried testing yourself to see how you operate best?
When my children were smaller, I realized quickly that they also do best with higher protein breakfasts. Oatmeal, as satisfying as it may be initially, left them craving more food (and particularly sweets) within a short period of time. I also noticed on those mornings they were more prone to arguing and fighting. So several years ago we started the protein for breakfast rule. And eventually it became the protein at every meal rule. (They roll their eyes at me now when I say it, but they know the routine by now!)
This isn’t to say that you, too, will do best on a higher protein breakfast, let alone a higher protein diet. The key here is getting to know yourself, your body. If you listen, your body will tell you what you need to know. It’s the learning how to listen that is the hardest part, but that comes in time. Cutting out unnecessary sugars, additives, and preservatives has a lot to do with this. Once you get those harmful chemical ingredients out of your system, your body breathes easier and begins to speak to you. It responds to real food- sometimes well, sometimes not so well. For me, it comes in the form of mood, body image, and energy. I can tell now when something is not right. But it took me time to learn the signals. (And sometimes, I still struggle to see what exactly is going on!)
Consider a two week challenge. Give yourself one week with a carbohydrate focused breakfast. Try nourishing carbs, like gluten free oats, sweet potatoes, squash, fruits, or even quinoa. (Remember, be respectful of what you already know your body can tolerate and what it cannot.) Record your foods and your mood, energy, sleep quality, and bowel function in your food journal. Following that time, give yourself one week of protein centered breakfasts. Eggs, fish, steak, beef, … the choice is yours. Again, record your findings in your food journal each day.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- How do I feel after eating?
- Am I ready for lunch at the usual time? Early? Late?
- How do I feel at dinner time?
- Do I want desserts after my meals?
- Do I need a snack in the morning or afternoon?
- What foods do I crave or want while eating this way?
- Am I sleeping well at night? Do I get tired earlier or wake up in the night?
- In the morning, do I wake feeling refreshed or as if I need more sleep?
- How do I feel during exercise? Am I feeling low energy and short of breath or do I feel ready for round two?
- How is my focus and concentration?
- Do I have energy at work?
- How does my body feel?
- Do my muscles feel strong and supple or weak and flabby?
- How is my digestion? Increased gas? Decreased?
- Do I have regular bowel movements?
Be honest with your answers. The only way to really get to know your body is with complete honesty. Some of my favorite foods turned out to be not on my “good for me” list. Initially, I felt defeated and frustrated. I quickly found that I felt better without these foods in my diet, and more so, they were replaced with other foods I enjoyed just as well! And knowing I am doing something that benefits my body, not causing it harm, is rewarding too.
Much of the struggle here is mindset. Refocus your thoughts on the positive, the why’s, the gains, and you will soon lose your hangups about the perceived losses. I think it is important to remember your individuality. What’s more, it’s important to celebrate it. You aren’t like any other, and you shouldn’t treat yourself as if you are. You are special, and within yourself, you hold the key to what you need. What is best for you may look like what is best for someone else, or it may not. It really doesn’t matter. What matters is you. What you need, what you want, and getting you there. What matters is you.