Trading Your Bowl for a Plate
After years of dabbling in all sorts of dietary practices from high protein to all raw, non-fat to bring on the lard, I've come to settle on a mostly Ayurvedic diet and lifestyle. This means for the past few years, I've focused on eating foods and creating habits to balance my vata-pitta dosha or constitution. Vata is composed of the air and gas elements, while fire tends to dominate pitta. Traditionally a vata balancing diet includes healthy grains, root vegetables and warm moist foods along with certain herbs - really anything to ground and literally 'root' one to terra firma. It also emphasizes the sweet taste. My typical breakfast consisted of oatmeal with chia or flax, some sort of nut or nut butter along with a raw date and lots of spices such as ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, and nutmeg. Often I'd throw in a bit of honey for an extra dose of sweet. I'd hate to admit to myself I'd be hungry a little over an hour later.
While smoothies and blended fruit 'bowls' are not particularly recommended for a vata constitution, now that I live in Texas, my pitta would predominate during the day encouraging me to ingest liquid lunches of berries and other ingredients such as greens and various 'superfoods.' I would toss a half a scoop of vegan protein powder in there for good measure. More often than not, I'd still be hungry or find myself craving sweets directly after. Truth be told, I would feel hungry most of the day and nosh on nuts or a protein bar.
Dinners were usually what I considered super healthy - brown rice and veggies, or a salad with lots of healthy fat - avocado, olive oil, tahini, ghee, etc. My meals were filled with greens and often root veggies such as carrots, sweet potatoes, etc. Again, however, I'd find myself noshing at night.
What did all my meals have in common? Mostly that they are all served in a bowl. In the past few years, I can count on one hand the number of times I've used plates, or a fork for that matter. Spoons filled my drying rack.
You know what else they have in common? You probably have already guessed it - carbs. And sugar. While I always used 'natural' sugar such as honey or maple syrup or chose fruits and veggies such as beets, sweet potatoes, blueberries, etc. my diet was loaded with starch. My body relied on fast releasing carbs as its primary source of energy, resulting in that "hangry" (hungry + angry) mode as soon as that quick burning fuel hit empty.
It's no coincidence that I've gained quite a few pounds in the past five years. Granted, some of these were needed for me to be truly healthy. But others just seemed to live in this constant 'bloat' in my low belly. On top of that a recent health evaluation reported that my triglycerides were high.
I saw my nutritionist shortly after I received the results from my test. What I viewed as 'healthy' eating habits were actually slowly wrecking havoc on my health. High triglycerides have nothing to do with a high fat diet - they are the result of a high sugar diet. He immediately ordered more protein with every meal and a much more balanced plate of protein, greens and carbs - which includes root veggies.
Funny enough, as I began incorporating these changes to my diet, I noticed the plates in my cupboard were seeing a lot more action! I replaced my morning oatmeal with a protein pancake recipe I've learned to love. I've tossed drinkable or spoonable lunches aside in favor of bigger salads or steamed veggies with tuna, salmon or sardines or an egg scramble with lots of veggies and avocado. And while I still enjoy my brown rice 'bowls' for dinner, protein plays a more prominent role in the dish often resulting in the necessity of a plate!
Within a week I noticed my low belly bloat begin to shrink. My incessant craving for snacks (mostly sweets and chocolate!) has diminished. I even witnessed my anxiety around food decrease and my focus increase. I no longer experience that huge crash in blood sugar (thanks to a prescription of drinkable protein within 10 minutes of strenuous workouts such as cycling, dance or weights) and that hangry, "I have to eat something or I am going to kill someone," feeling all but disappeared.
My new diet brings about new challenges - I sometimes struggle with the protein thing - not because I am a strict vegan or won't eat meat. I love fish, etc., but I don't love protein such as chicken and turkey and although every once in a while I crave a burger, consistently finding grass fed, organic, non-hormone laden red meat can be trying. I've begun to appreciate a very simple diet.
No doubt I'll be spending more time in the kitchen learning new recipes. While I'm excited my pans are seeing more stove time than my pots and blender, I loved how easy it was to cook up and save large portions of previous high grain and veggie diet. Now I'm forced to do a lot more time in the kitchen along with clean up. (Do you know how easy it is to clean a Vita-Mix???)
What I do love, however, is that my diet, as well as my palate, has been simplified and at the same time, diversified. I now taste sweet on a whole new level and crave less of it. I'm experimenting with new ideas and foods and it's fun! Like anything else that's new, I'm in the midst of a learning curve.
The point of this is not necessarily to encourage or promote one particular style of eating or suggest you need to change your diet. What I do encourage is that you don't be afraid to change something that may not be working for you or experiment with new concepts - whether that be in the kitchen or the gym. Take your health into your own hands. Find the counsel of people you trust and know that your health, like your life, is one big experiment! Forks up!