Nutrition Made Simple – The 3 Pillars and the Expert

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Let me guess… you are trying to be “healthier”. You’d like a little more energy and a few less pounds, but you’re confused. The buzz words floating around the health & wellness space make it impossible to keep up. We are bombarded with the latest studies, fad diets, and expert opinions and we are often left not committing to anything and not seeing the results we want.

The truth is, if you want to get serious about your health, nutrition is something we must take seriously, but it doesn’t have to be confusing. Allow me to make it simple for you. You need to design your approach to nutrition around what I call the 3 Core Pillars of optimal nutrition - WHAT to eat, WHEN to eat, and HOW to eat. If you aren’t currently considering all 3 Pillars, you simply aren’t optimizing your health and missing a big part of the picture.

Pillar 1 - WHAT to eat  

This is where the vast majority of “experts” spend their time and is where most of us think nutrition begins and ends. An endless array of words like protein, carbs, fats, fibre, sugar, whole-grain, organic, saturated/unsaturated, vegan, vegetarian, Paleo and Keto live here – to name a few! Although what we put in our mouths is important, it is not the end of the story. Pillar 1 of proper nutrition is identifying what foods work for you, what foods work against you and what quantities your body functions best with. This is the Pillar where everyone is yelling at you and we can get stuck before we get started.

Pillar 2 -WHEN to eat

This Pillar is often a factor overlooked by many of us, but it is a critical pillar to optimizing your health. Although there is less noise here, there is still enough chatter to cause confusion. Terms like Intermittent Fasting, Extended Fasting, Time Restricted Eating, and Eating Windows live here. Pillar 2 is about understanding when meals and snacks should be consumed to work best with your lifestyle and energy requirements, and what periods should be dedicated to allowing the body to rest and repair.

 Pillar 3 – HOW to eat

This is the Pillar that no one is talking about. It is by far the most overlooked aspect of nutrition but can be a game-changer for those with busy and stressful lives. How we eat, deals with the science of stress and how it affects our metabolic and digestive processes.

Our Sympathetic nervous system is the fight or flight mechanism in our body that reacts to stress. It turns off digestion by moving blood flow away from the stomach and to our limbs. It was designed to support us in life-threatening situations, like the textbook example of meeting a lion. We don’t want our body wasting any energy on digestion when we need to run as fast as we can! In today’s culture, we feel we are under attack daily. It could be a looming deadline at work, screaming children at home, a toxic relationship or a traffic jam. But here’s the secret: our body can’t tell the DIFFERENCE between the lion and the deadline! So your sympathetic nervous system is activated and digestive upset and poor nutrient absorption occur.

We need to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system around mealtimes. This system is your “rest & digest” system. It directs more blood to the stomach and prepares your cells to receive fuels. The best part is, this system is easy to activate – just slow down and BREATHE! You don’t breathe deeply and slowly when being chased by a lion and you don’t breathe deeply and slowly when you are rushing out the door spilling coffee on yourself, while reading a text, yelling at the kids and eating a bagel! Slow down. Breathe. Connect with your food. Breathing with intention is a powerful metabolizer.

The Expert

These 3 Pillars all have one thing in common - you have to turn off the noise and be present. So stop reading that latest diet book and stop googling “fat loss” and start paying attention to the only expert’s opinion that matters, YOUR BODY. Take the time right now to re-introduce yourself; it’s been trying to talk to you for years.

Eating is an act to provide your body with fuel. Start with that solitary premise. Then listen for what the resident expert (your body) has to say, and you will be amazed at the results. It really is that simple.  Your body knows, but you stopped listening. Slow down and take a deep breath. Observe and be curious. Listen to what your expert says about WHAT you eat WHEN you eat, and HOW you eat. Trust the innate wisdom your body has to offer. The answers are right there.

Jason Podollan