The "Diet" VS "Fuelling" Mindset
Mindset is the key factor when it comes to fueling for purpose. In the first part of this series we looked at diets and how diets aren't sustainable, without a purpose behind it. In case you missed it, read the full article here - The Best Diet Is No Diet - Fuelling For Purpose
Now the question is, how do we fuel for purpose?
Yes, it’s frustrating to know what to eat. Ask athletes who pay attention to their nutrition but sometimes bonk in a race, or someone who has struggled all their life to lose weight despite trying countless diets. Even the best advice doesn’t always work. The very first step in finding the right nutrition plan for your lifestyle is to determine what exactly your purpose and goal is. Here are the key points that I think no one can go wrong with:
Key Guidelines to Fuel for Purpose
Change Your Relationship With Food
More on this below, but essentially, if you can start to increasingly look at food as fuel for your body, this makes a big difference in how you approach your food choices. Many people say they simply love food too much. But even if you’re a foodie like me, you can make choices that show love for food and love for your body.
You Cannot Out-Exercise a Bad Diet
It can’t be done. Maybe over the short term, but exercise can’t do anything about nutrient deficiencies and will only exacerbate inflammation in your body caused by unhealthy foods.
No matter what your genetics say or what underlying conditions you have, there is no person for who whole foods don’t hands-down beat processed foods. When in doubt, a Mediterranean style diet works for most people. A simple Google search will also convince you that this is an incredibly delicious way of eating!
You need enough water to properly absorb your food, aid your digestion and promote overall health. Make sure you drink enough for your body (this again is an individual thing so tune in to your body). If possible, filtered water with added sea salt is first prize.
Change your Relationship with Food
Fuelling for physical performance, brain function or weight loss are all important aspects of fuelling for purpose. A craving for a particular food is simply your body’s way of telling you that you’re deficient in something.
For example, craving sugar often means that we need more magnesium, chromium or tryptophan in our diets. That being said, sugar is also a highly addictive substance and studies show that individuals with high sugar and processed food intake are more aggressive and suffer from more depression than people who limit these. It is therefore so important to cultivate a healthy relationship with food.
Read More: To Supplement or Not to Supplement
Are you part of the Clean Your Plate Club? You finish what is on your plate, or else! Either because that’s what your parents taught you or because there’s no off switch once you start eating and the food is just sooo tasty, but the struggle is real! I’ve already alluded to emotional eating, not to even mention period cravings (women have different nutritional needs depending on where they are in their cycles).
Read more: How to Optimize your Cycle
So how do we learn to love food while also loving our bodies? It mostly comes from a mindset change, where you start seeing FOOD AS FUEL. Not as comfort or a pastime (familiar with checking your watch to see if it’s time for your next meal yet?).
Understanding Your WHY!
Understanding your WHY when reaching for food is essential. Ask yourself: Am I you really hungry?
Food literally fuels everything in our bodies, from our energy levels to mood to skin to personality. This is fabulous, because it means that we get to choose how we look and how we feel!
Sure, easier said than done, but start to tune in and being mindful when you eat. Research shows that when you’re chomping down on a meal while driving and taking a call, the meal actually has a different impact on your system compared to when you are sitting at a table, mindfully eating your food with a sense of gratitude. Same food, literally different health outcome.
Learning which foods work for your unique body is essential for optimal performance in every aspect of your life. The best fuel for you will be different to the person next to you.
Elimination & Reintroduction Protocol
One of the best ways to figure out your personal optimal lifestyle is through an elimination and reintroduction protocol (like the Whole30 or FODMAP protocols). The idea is to eliminate most foods that can potentially cause an inflammatory response (especially plants) and slowly reintroduce foods to test their impact on you.
Examples of typical perpetrators are nightshades (tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, potatoes etc) and oxalate-containing foods (many nuts and seeds like macadamias, legumes, certain fruits and vegetables etc). Despite being touted as health foods, if you have an intolerance to any of these, your body perceives it as a stress and spikes your blood sugar because cortisol is released, telling your liver to dump glucose in your blood for fast energy release so you can run away from a predator (ancestrally speaking that is). So even eating a healthy food that does not suit YOUR body creates a stress to your body similar to being chased by a lion! The result is inflammation from eating your required servings of veggies that day!
Once you’ve eliminated foods, the idea is that you add them back slowly to see where the issues arise or to give your gut time to heal. There is significant information on this available if you Google elimination diets and it is a very effective tool if you’re eating healthily but it feels like the weight is just not coming off or you’re just not feeling 100%.
Get Key Nutrients
To fuel your body, focus on getting key nutrients. That could come from a more traditional, whole foods Mediterranean style diet or it could even be from a nose-to-tail carnivore diet or a vegan/vegetarian diet combined with a lot of supplementation and correct food preparation (fermenting, soaking and sprouting). Make sure that you figure out what YOU need. If you’re a hard-charging athlete, you need to fuel extra.
Don’t stress too much about how to fuel pre-workout or post workout. Studies keep bringing out contradictory information so again, experiment and see what works for you.
Shop Here: Nutrition on OPTMZ
Hopefully this doesn’t sound like too much work. After all, grabbing a “healthy” energy bar or brown bread sarmie is as much effort as we feel up to some days, especially if food prep for you is synonymous to sticking a red-hot poker in your eye.
But I think what is important is to keep your Purpose in mind. If you can shift your mind to view every bite of food you put in your mouth as fuel for your body, you’re more than halfway there already. We wouldn’t put petrol in a diesel car or vice versa. So why would we put foods that weren’t designed for us or don’t fuel our systems appropriately in our bodies?
We’ve all heard that when it comes to our health and physiques, exercise counts for 10-20% of your goal. The balance: what you put in your mouth.
In our modern environments, food has become so abundantly available. Our choices are endless, cravings and boredom are confused with hunger and there is a fast-food store somewhere selling something that is addictive to our brains in the same way that heroine is (if not more so).
To fuel for purpose, i.e. being healthy, happy, able to meet our physical demands and be comfortable in our own skin, is to be come acutely aware of what works for YOU, to build a healthy relationship with food and knowing whether you are fuelling a physical need or are addressing an emotional one.
Fuel your body for optimal performance. The mental health and physical benefits from loving your food AND your body (by seeing food as fuel) are endless!
- Thea is the founder of Neolaia – Biohacking SA and passionate about all things biohacking, functional medicine, holistic and ancestral wellness. She enjoys the occasional triathlon, is fanatic about yoga and the gym and loves n=1 biohacking experiments more than anything else! Learning about the latest in scientific research for health and wellness and applying this knowledge is what makes her happiest!
This information does not serve as medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is for informational purposes only and does not provide a comprehensive explanation of the different compounds. Always consult your doctor first when making any changes to medication or supplementation.