Hello friends! Today I’m going to introduce a brand new column to my blog called “Dear Cait.” This column is going to be dedicated towards giving you, my dear readers, a platform in which to ask me your nutrition and health questions. In order for this new idea to work though, I’m going to need help from all of you because without your questions I won’t have anything to answer now will I? So today my question comes from a reader and addresses one of the most common questions I get asked: Where do I start?! So without further ado, let’s get to it!
I’m relatively new to the world of health and nutrition and I’m finding it pretty overwhelming. There’s so much advice out there on where to start. Some people say to cut everything out all at once and immediately throw away all your plastics and toxic cleaning and beauty products. All this information has left me kind of paralyzed and I don’t know where to start. Any suggestions you have would be greatly appreciated! Thanks, T
Well T, I definitely sympathize with feeling overwhelmed with the huge amounts of often conflicting information out there. I’ve been studying and working in the field of nutrition for years and I still get overwhelmed sometimes, but lets try to take this one step at a time.
The first place I typically recommend you turn your focus is to your diet. What you want to do initially is just become more mindful of what you’re putting into your body and when, any feelings attached to those foods, and any physical symptoms that might crop up. These could include:
- Gas, bloating, indigestion
- Anxiety or mood swings
- Aching joints
- Eczema or rashes
- Sinus congestion
- Headaches or dizziness
- Low energy
I recommend keeping a pretty strict food and mood diary for about 5 days in which you’ll write down every single food or drink that passes your lips. Do not change anything about your diet at this time. The key is to figure out what your baseline is so that you can start making mindful switches and upgrades.
After the five days sit down with your diary and start to look for patterns. Do you find you’re skipping breakfast, eating a quick lunch, then crashing in the afternoon only to find yourself reaching for a donut, a bag of chips, or a triple espresso?
Or maybe you notice that every time you get a new stressful assignment at work or get in a fight with a significant other you start inhaling M and Ms like they’re going out of style. Make note of your eating habits and the types of food you’re eating most regularly. You can divide them into:
- Whole Foods: Fruits, veggies, legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains
- Protein: whole foods vs. processed
- Healthy Fats and Oils (for a full list click here, here, & here)
- Probiotic Foods (Check out more info here!)
- Processed Foods
- Junk Food
- Sugary Drinks
- Coffee/Black Tea
- Water/Herbal Tea
Doing this for yourself will really help you figure out any dietary imbalances and will hopefully help you draw a connection between the foods you’re eating, your energy levels, and your physical symptoms.
For example, if you notice that every afternoon at 3 pm you eat a big carb-filled muffin, maybe you can start packing yourself an apple and nut butter (not peanut!), some jerky and berries,
- some homemade trailmix/granola
- Tahini Walnut Magic Bars
- my favourite Vanilla Matcha Cashew Bombs
- these delicious Grain-Free Granola Bars
- my super popular No-Bake Chocolate Walnut Brownies
- easy & tasty Sweet & Salty Chickpeas
- or some yummy Grain-Free Chocolate Chip Almond Butter Cookies
to get you through the dip in energy.
What you want to focus on in the beginning is slowly adding healthy food items, beverages, and practices into your diet to replace the processed and unhealthy foods. Maybe make a goal that you replace one item, say pop, with a healthier option like mint tea every week until before you know it you’re a healthy eating pro!
Once the food piece is in place, you can start worrying about all the other aspects of a healthy lifestyle, otherwise it’s really easy to get overwhelmed and frustrated and just give up. And you don’t want that! So take it slow and focus on one thing at a time 🙂
Well there we are friend! That’s my recommended first step towards adopting a healthy lifestyle. If you’re looking for some guided support in this process, I’m running my brand-new Happy Belly, Brain, & Body: The Love Your Healthy Self Nutrition Program for 28 days starting on Monday, January 18th. You can read all about it right here!
Stay safe and take care of each other!