You are what you eat, right? Almost every fitness instructor and coach will tell you that when it comes to diet and exercise its 80% diet and 20% exercise. According to Van Clayton Powel, the author of a new book, You Are NOT What You Eat, we need to spend even more time thinking about what we are eating.
“We’re continually bombarded by advice on what to eat and without a doubt, we should all be eating the most nutritious foods possible,” explained Powel. “But that’s only half the equation. Because it doesn’t matter how nutritious your food is if you don’t digest it. And if you eat in a way that damages your digestive system, you open the door to some very serious complications. So we need to eat in a way that strengthen and enhances digestion.”
Over the holiday season most people are over-consuming food and beverages, which is extremely hard on our sensitive digestive systems.
Here are five easy tips to make it through the holiday season and start 2013 on the right track:
1. Avoid non-stop ‘grazing’.
“Eat as much as you want at one sitting, even if you’re eating for 2 hours. But then give your stomach a break – allow it to finish with that food before adding any more.” How long do you have to wait? “Depends on what you ate, how much you ate, and how strong your digestion is,” says Powel. He suggests what he calls the Belch Test: If there is any smell or taste of food in a belch, food remains in your stomach – don’t eat yet.
2. Minimize fluid intake around mealtimes.
“This is a tough one during the holidays,” says Powel with a grin, who admits a fancy for a certain stout. “But excessive fluids around mealtime can interfere with activity in the stomach and small intestine.” So Powel recommends having only about a cup of fluids around mealtime whenever possible, especially if you have digestive problems.
3. Avoid distracted or stressful eating.
“We tend to eat more calories and chew less when we eat while doing other activities. Plus, stress basically turns off digestion,” says Powel. The result? Weight gain and strain on the digestive system. He recommends turning off your phone while eating, sitting down in a relaxing setting, and turning off stressful TV programs or video games: “Watch the football over dinner if you want. But maybe not if you’ve placed a big bet on the outcome.”
4. Minimize late-night snacks.
Our body uses sleep to detoxify, heal, and rejuvenate. If it’s busy trying to digest that leftover-turkey sandwich you snuck in before going to bed, three things happen:
- Healing and rejuvenating aren’t as effective.
- Digestion is compromised.
- We tend to put on weight.
Powel recommends eating your last meal at least 3 hours before bed.
5. Don’t delay the inevitable.
Try to have a bowel movement as soon as possible after the initial urge, recommends Powel, and try to establish a routine of ‘going’ at the same time each day, especially if you have a problem with constipation. “It helps the body set up internal rhythms,” he says, “and also prevents waste from sitting in the bowel for so long that toxins get reabsorbed and the resulting mass becomes dry and abrasive to the lining of your bowel.”