As our little baby girl continues to grow, learn and develop at a rate that we are all envious, compulsive thoughts race through my mind of the true nature of both health and nutrition. There is one routine that brings me energy, comfort and a sense of structure; I eat like an infant. No, not pureed foods and tiny amounts, but listening to our biological cues like an infant listens to their body. Infants aren’t influenced by TV, magazines or any of the other million things that influence our intake. They don't sit around and snack unconsciously throughout the day or out of complete boredom. They only have their biological cues to tell them if they are hungry or full. An infant normally eats within an hour of waking up and then eats at relatively routine times during the day. The infant’s body is acutely aware that it runs 24/7 and that the vast majority of its fuel needs are simply to exist and for all organs and body processes to function adequately. Therefore, when an infant eats, they eat about the same amount of food at each mealtime to fuel all the ongoing body functions.
Some days they may eat more, some days they may eat less. This is what most people forget; that roughly 60-75% of our fuel needs are simply to exist. Bottom line, the body needs adequate fuel on a routine basis to function at its best, hence eating like an infant.
Eating like an infant, we should usually try to eat about the same amount at around the same time each day. To assure we provide our bodies with all the nutrients they need, when we have a meal, no matter what the meal is, we should make sure to have at least 1-2 servings from each of 4 food groups.
The food groups we use are:
1.fruits or veggies
2. grains or starches
3. essential fats
4. dairy or proteins
A meal may be a simple parfait of yogurt, granola, blueberries and walnuts—all 4 groups in one food or it may be a burger on a bun, chips, and fruit salad. You don't have to restrict or be really stingy on the types of foods. Variety is the key here which keeps it exciting. And just like an infant, depending upon our activity we may eat more or less in a given day.
Your insides never rest or take a break so treat your body with gentleness and gratitude. We have what is called a Basal Metabolic Rate. This is how many calories our bodies need for basic function minus any activity that you may enjoy. When we gain weight, is is baffling to think about just how much calorie excess it takes to gain one pound. If you eat a mere 500 calories per day for one week, it equals one pound gained per week. Do this consistantly for 52 weeks out of the year and, you got it, 52 extra pounds by the end of the year. The obesity crisis in the United States has reached a point of saturation. There is no state in the union that the obesity rate is below 20%. By the year 2020, half the American population will become obese leading to half the American population developing Type II diabetes and countless other chronic disease processes.
For the next week, practice eating like an infant; eat about the same time and about the same amount of food at meals. To assure your body receives all the different nutrients it needs, you may want to incorporate the 4 food groups at each meal. Take this next week to marvel at how a routinely fueled body feels and functions for you and how little food we actually require, that is unless you are Michael Phelps who routinely consumes approximately 9,000 calories per day during Olympic swimming training. I would guess that you cannot keep that pace, so back off and realize that your body simply does not need that many calories to survive and thrive.
Nobody can do without food, and nobody should try. Feed your life by providing yourself with the nourishment that will help your body feel and function better. And remember, nutrition and feeding your life is not just about food. Holiday celebrations make it very easy to over-consume. Occupy yourself with activities that will distract your mind, just like those active infants that are always "on the go!" (we as new parents know all too well!)
Dr. Derek Hartmann and The Hart Wellness Center is always available to discuss health, wellness and nutrition needs. Please enjoy your Fourth of July week in a safe manner and nourish your body and soul with all the good it has to offer.