I often get asked a certain question. It doesn't always sound the same... maybe something like:
"Can you give me an idea of what to eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner?"
"What should my meals look like?"
"What do you eat?"
"How do I eat that much fat, meat stock, fermented vegetables, etc?"
But at the root, all these are really a way to ask the same question:
"Can you make me a meal plan? Just tell me what/how to eat and I'll do it!"
But although the question seems simple enough, there is not a simple answer. What and how to eat food is one of the most defining difference between natural, healthy eating (even in a protocol like GAPS) and a "diet." In many diet plans a strict regiment is provided for you to follow, for example you can eat a certain number of processed "food" packages a day, or keep a strict count of calories or grams of protein. In other plans you can eat as much as you want of a certain type of limited foods, or any kinds of food under a certain daily amount. This is not a natural way to eat! And it is certainly not a way to learn to listen to what your body is trying to tell you through symptoms and signals (hunger, fatigue, pain, indigestion, etc).
"You eat what you body is asking for."
I understand this is a hard concept to grasp. I'm still working on it myself. Practically everything we have ever been taught about food and eating goes against this concept:
Eat what you want, as much as you want, whenever you want.
Now, before I go further I want to clarify that this advice is ONLY good in the context of eating real food. If you eat processed food, unprepared grains, and refined sugar this way you will gain weight and become very unhealthy.
Additionally, if you have a major imbalance in your microbiome, then the out-of-balance, "bad" flora will cause cravings and desires that are not actually in your body's best interests. If you crave sweet things (even fruit and honey), then you also need to address your microbiome balance with lacto-fermented foods and probiotics.
And if you have ever struggled with an eating disorder, it's important to ask someone to help you be accountable as you make food choices in the beginning of your journey, until you have learned a healthy balance.
So now that we're clear that we are talking about eating realfood that has a potential benefit the body, there is one more thing I want to address.
And that's the craziness of this idea.
I acknowledge it. I, just like you, have eaten candy and cookies for dinner, or too much Thanksgiving mashed potatoes and gravy, and been left with a headache, stomachache, and regrets. The thought of eating what I wanted, as much as I wanted, and whenever I wanted seemed crazy.
But can I share what I have learned???
When I learned to pay attention to the amounts that my body wants to eat, and the times my body wants to eat, I didnot overeat. Digestion was easy and light. I felt better, not sick.
So I want to share with you an average day in my life. I will walk you through how I decide when, what, and how much to eat.
And I hope that it helps you.
I know this post is long (I told you it was not a simple answer!), but make sure to keep reading to the end! I share articles and other resources that helped me learn how to do this. You don't want to miss those!
A Day in the Life of Eating
I wake up naturally usually between 7-8am.
I drink about 8 oz of room-temperature, filtered water.
With the water I take my PMG supplements.*
I oil pull for 20 minutes then brush my teeth.
*PMGs are a supplement made up of specific organs of animals. I take ones that correspond with organs in me that need some extra help. These are taken on an empty stomach. More on the amazing thing that is PMGs in another post, soon!
Sometime later in the morning...
Between 9-10am I usually get hungry for breakfast. Sometimes it is much earlier.
I ask myself what it is that I would like to eat. I do not limit myself to "breakfast foods."
Sometimes what I want is stock, bacon, leftovers, or eggs, other times it is juice, carrots, fried garlic greens, or a tomato. Or it's a mixture.
As I prepare whatever I am wanting to eat, I choose a fermented food to eat alongside it.
I try to eat at least a couple bites (or sips) of that fermented food 5 minutes before eating to help prepare my body for digestion.
When I prepare my plate, I assess the amount of fat present. If there isn't naturally-occurring fat (like bacon or a fatty piece of pork chop) or if I didn't cook it in fat (like the 2/3 stick of butter I add to my fried garlic greens) then I think of how to add it to what I am eating.* That may through be a large dollop of sour cream, or a couple tablespoons of room-temperature butter for "dipping sauce."
I eat the portions of fat, fermented foods, and other foods that my body is wanting.
If I prepared more food than I wanted to eat, I put my plate with whatever is left on it in the fridge.
When I'm done eating, I sit still for 10-15 min (or more) to digest well. I usually keep a book at the table to read.
*If, at that time, I want to eat only raw vegetables or freshly pressed juices, my body is often in cleaning mode. If this is the case I may or may not add fat to this "meal." It depends on what my body is asking for.
When I get hungry soon after breakfast...
I am often hungry on-and-off all morning. Sometimes I don't pay attention, and I "snack" on fun foods (dried fruit, crispy nuts, etc.).
When I do pay attention, usually I find that my body is hungry, not bored. Then I try to choose a nutrient-dense food to eat.
I'm usually working or running errands at this point, and can't take the time to cook and digest another "meal."
I choose foods that are high in fat and nutrients, and are easy to absorb. Foods like sour cream, meat stock with added fat, bacon, a cold pork chop, etc.
This really is a great time to get some extra meat stock in—have a mug or two with added fat and delicious sea salt!
A satisfied body is not hungry... if my mind is still on food, then I need to eat nutrients, not just calories, no matter how recently I just ate.
This is not a time to eat fruit, sweets, starches or fillers. Think of this "snack time" as additional meal times—even if it comes 30 minutes after the last meal.
If you find that you are consistently hungry soon after a meal, try increasing the amount of fat in that meal*.
*I am still healing. Although I am hungry in the morning and desirous to eat, I find that in the morning my digestive system often does not allow me to eat a meal large enough to satisfy me until lunchtime. I have been addressing this, and it is improving, but at this time I find that I need to eat multiple meals through the morning. If I don't, I will snack on fruit and other like things throughout the entire day. Like me, you may have limitation based on your current stage of your healing journey. Again, this is why eating in completely individualized, and how and what you eat will change from day to day and season to season.
Sometime around lunch time...
When I get hungry again, often between 12-1pm, I ask myself again "What do I want to eat?"
When I think of it, I start preparing it, not limiting myself to "lunch foods."
I choose a fermented food (as before) and again eat a little before sitting down.
I make sure I have (or have added) at least 2-3 TBS of fat in my meal. And often more!
When I feel full, I stop eating and save the rest of the food for later.
If I am still hungry after eating my plate, I ask myself if I want more of the same, or something different.
I top myself off with whatever it is that I'm craving.
When I'm done eating, I sit still again to digest.
Throughout the afternoon...
The afternoon is another window of time to give your body the extra nutrition it needs.
If you are hungry, eat real food like meat stock, meat, butter cubes, and good quality salt.
If you are not hungry, make sure you are remembering to drink water throughout the day.
Dinnertime can vary greatly based on my work or home schedule, and when I last ate.
Try to eat at least 2 hours before you plan to go to sleep.
Listen to what your body wants. Some people eat their largest meal at this time, others have only a light meal. Your body will tell you.
Pick foods to eat using the guidelines we already discussed.
The evening meal is a great time to eat even larger percentages of fat (as your body wants), as the fat will help you sleep restfully, your body will be able to use the cholesterol to repair inflammation damage as you sleep, make hormones, and nourish things like your adrenal glands and your brain.
Make sure you also eat fermented foods.
This, like all meals, should be done while relaxed. Avoid eating in front of the television.
If you want a sweet "dessert," choose something that is also high in fat. Fruit baked in butter, a full-fat dairy and honey treat, Russian custard, or a full-fat yogurt smoothie can be delicious little treats!
Most of the time it's best to not eat right before bed, but there are a few instances when you may want to consider it.
If you have significant adrenal fatigue a high-fat, nutrient-dense snack before bed will help improve sleep.
If you are still struggling with blood sugar imbalance eat a protein and high-fat snack before bed to prevent blood sugar lows in the middle of the night.
If you are hungry (not bored) for any reason, then your body is telling you it needs something. Ideally, try to eat more fat with your evening meal. But if you go to bed truly hungry, you are putting stress on your body. Of course, I'm talking about eating a high-fat, nutrient-dense snack, not chips, fruit or anything sugary.
Consider going to bed earlier. If you are up and about late into the night (roughly after 10 pm), your body (unsure of how long its going to have to have energy for) may trigger hunger in preparation for more hours of alertness. So pay attention to what time you get hungry (it often comes with the "second wind") and try to go to bed before that time.
You made it through! I hope this will help give you some idea how to transfer this idea of eating what you want, as much as you want, whenever you want into your life. I know your schedule may not be as flexible as mine, but I can follow this type of eating even when I am gone from the house all day. (Hint: it involves bringing some variety of food with me, and maybe more than I will eat). But your body also understands, and will work with what you bring. For some further reading on this, check out these articles by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride. One Man's Meat is Another Man's Poison!Feeding Versus Cleansing Let me know how this works for you, and what struggles you run up against (or anticipate). Use the comment section below!