Wellness Challenge Week 3: Nutrition
Our Wellness Challenge is designed to address sleep, exercise, nutrition, and mindfulness – all areas where we have experienced disruptions due to COVID-19.
Now that we are closing our third week of The Challenge, we have already focused on improving sleep and productivity and gradually increasing training volume and improving hydration. This past week had us practicing mindful eating with tips from our nutritionist, Adena Neglia MS, RDN, CDN. See below for the details of this week’s challenge and a number of nutrition questions we received from members of our community throughout the week.
Week 3 Goal:
How often do you think about food? Are they positive or negative thoughts? Do you experience guilt or shame after eating? Do you consider some foods “good” and some foods “bad”? How do you feel after eating?
This week’s goal of mindful eating is centered on getting back in touch with your body’s internal cues and your eating experience. In a world where so many of us are multi-tasking, this simple pleasure gets lost among the hustle and bustle. We find ourselves eating breakfast on the go, lunch while answering emails, and mindlessly snacking on the couch at the end of a long day. When we eat mindfully and intuitively, it allows us to connect to our bodies internal hunger and fullness cues. We can choose what and how much we want to eat without the external cues of the latest diet or other “food rules” that are unsustainable long term.
If you’ve been on and off diets or have tried other means to control your food or weight, it is likely that you are disconnected from the fullness and hunger cues that our body naturally has in place for us. Restriction tells us to ignore our body when it feels hungry – which can ultimately lead to more extreme sensations of hunger. And what happens when we are overly hungry? We are more likely to push past comfortable fullness and end up feeling stuffed.
When you are reconnecting with your hunger and fullness cues, it can feel a bit like swinging a pinata blindfolded. But, the simple act of paying attention throughout the day will help you better understand what different levels of hunger and fullness are like for you.
The hunger and fullness scale is a great tool to help us connect to our body about when and how much to eat.
For more discussion on food relationships, see a previous blog post by Adena, Nutrition and Healthy Habits During COVID-19.
This Week’s Challenge:
The Hunger + Fullness Scale
- Before jumping into the hunger/fullness scale, attempt to create scenarios that are more conducive to mindful eating:
- Try to create a calm environment and eat without distractions – no TV or phone during meals.
- Take three deep belly breaths before starting your meal. Take note of the food on your plate. This process helps remind you to slow down, and to pay attention. It also helps your body get into “rest and digest” mode.
- Hunger + Fullness Scale:
- When you go to get a meal or snack, ask yourself where you are on the hunger and fullness scale. Ideally, you’ll be at a 3 or a 4 before eating (see below scale). When we are less than a 3, our blood sugar is low and we are more likely to make less rational and intentional choices about what and how much to eat.
- Halfway through the meal – pause, put down your fork and knife, and ask yourself, “Where am I on the scale now?”
- Eat until you are at a 6 or 7 and stop. Remind yourself that you can always wrap up the rest and have it later.
- If you struggle to notice any hunger or fullness cues, ask yourself:
- Do I often go long hours without eating?
- Do I often skip meals or snacks even if I’m feeling hungry?
- Do I graze all day so I never feel hungry?
Always remember – this is a tool, not a rule. Try it for a week or until you find yourself getting more acquainted with these cues. It takes practice!
Hunger + Fullness Scale:
|10||Overstuffed, so full that you feel physically sick|
|9||Uncomfortably full, feel like you have to unbutton your pants|
|8||Slightly uncomfortably full, feel like you have to loosen your belt|
|7||Satisfied, but not stuffed, not physically uncomfortable|
|6||Satisfied, no longer hungry|
|5||Physically full, comfortable|
|4||Beginning signs of hunger – thinking about food, energy levels slightly low, slight empty feeling to stomach but no pangs|
|3||Ready to eat|
|2||Uncomfortably hungry, hangry, need food fast|
|1||Very uncomfortable hunger, dizzy/faint, severe headache, nauseous, irritable|
Exercise Q&A from instagram:
Can you drink enough water to counteract a high sodium diet?
If you need to be on a low sodium diet for medical reasons, I would not suggest this. If you are otherwise healthy and looking to lower the sodium in your diet, I’d want to know the reason why before making a recommendation. In general, adding more fruits and vegetables could be helpful.
How do I gain weight? I struggle to get enough protein in my diet – what are the best strategies?
Protein shakes, milk shakes, and adding peanut butter or olive oil to foods can be helpful. You can also try adding liquid calories to your meals such as milk or juice (drink after eating so you don’t fill up!). It might feel uncomfortable to add more food at first, but the body eventually adapts!
Should the amount of protein in my diet change if my lifestyle has become more sedentary?
Protein is important whether you live an active or sedentary lifestyle. If you went out of your way to get additional protein when you were more active (ex. protein shakes), that may no longer be necessary. Best thing to do is focus on eating balanced meals and spreading your protein intake out throughout the day rather than focusing on exact amounts and numbers.
Is intermittent fasting beneficial?
I don’t recommend intermittent fasting (IF) for several reasons. However, some people naturally intermittent fast and that works for them (Have you always skipped breakfast? Congrats, you’re intermittent fasting).
My clients that have tried IF in the past often experience binge eating, and for women, metabolic and hormonal disturbances. There is an enormous drop-out rate in studies that look at IF, which suggests that it is not sustainable for most people.
I see it as another diet, and research shows that 95% of diets fail! If you can’t picture yourself doing it long term, it probably won’t work for you.
When I go to bed, I am sometimes hungry. Is it best to eat something small or just go to bed hungry?
Listen to your body! If you’re hungry, eat. I’d also ask yourself if you are eating enough throughout the day.
How much coffee is too much coffee in a day?
That mostly depends on the individual. The FDA has cited that about 400 mg of caffeine per day is safe (around 4 cups of coffee depending on how strong it is). If you feel jumpy, jittery, nauseous, etc., you’ll want to aim for less.
I am contemplating going vegetarian. Any diet pointers on protein replacements?
Nuts, seeds, tofu, tempeh, plant-based protein powders, lentils, and beans all contain protein. Keep in mind, plant-based proteins are not as bioavailable as animal-based proteins, so you may want to aim for a higher overall protein intake. If you decide to eat eggs and dairy, you’ll have more protein options.
You’ll also want to be aware of vitamin B12, iron, calcium, and omega-3 fatty acids. If going for a run, should I eat before or after?
Both! Aim for a pre-workout meal about 2-4 hours before your run (or a snack 30-60 minutes before). Try to have a post-workout snack or meal within the hour or so of completing your run.
Is candied ginger equivalent to other candies (ie. bad) or better because it is ginger ?? It has become my new favorite sweet during COVID.
I don’t see food as “good” or “bad”. If you find that the candied ginger is delicious and satisfying, stick with it!
Need More Guidance?
If you are in need of personalized nutrition counseling, we encourage you to schedule a virtual or in-person visit with one of our providers to discuss your needs more in depth. Members can contact our Personal Health Navigators by chat through the member portal or by calling 646.819.5100 to schedule.
This Week’s Prize are sponsored by: Hyperice Hypersphere Mini, Rhone, Lululemon, and Bluestone Lane. If participating in the Challenge, see your email for how to enter this week’s drawing as well as exclusive discounts available to Challenge participants.
From your care partners at The Health Center at Hudson Yards
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