By Amanda Castilone, Wellory Health Coach
Does this scenario sound familiar?
You stop by a coffee shop on your way to work at around 8:30 am and realize you haven’t thought about breakfast. So, you grab a fat-free yogurt parfait with granola to go along with your coffee. A couple hours go by and you start to feel stressed about all the demands of your day as you answer emails and phone calls. By 10:30 am, you’re on your second (or third) cup of coffee because you need your brain to be sharp to handle everything that’s coming in. You’re also feeling pretty hungry, so you reach for an energy bar to hold you over until lunch. This powers you through another two hours, and by 12:30 you’re ravenous. You go out and grab a quick lunch from your favorite place near the office. Maybe you have a sandwich or a salad and finish it off with something sweet like a cookie because you’re craving it.
You might be thinking that all of this sounds pretty normal, but did you know that this is NOT how it has to be? Let’s take a look behind the scenes at what’s really going on. By 10:30am, the caffeine in the coffee has increased your stress hormones (cortisol and adrenaline) and the sugar in that yogurt has increased insulin levels. Insulin increases inflammation in the body, and this makes you feel sluggish, tired and like you need some help to get through the day.
You continue on this way throughout the day: having sugar or caffeine to give you a burst of energy, it wears off and you feel foggy or tired and then the pattern continues. What you’ve really done by having that coffee and yogurt combo (or any other high-carb, high-sugar food) is create this hard-to-break cycle that leaves you without control of your choices throughout the day. Then by mid-afternoon, you’re crashing! Feeling drained, foggy, tired and maybe a little irritable.
It’s important to note there’s so much that can be going on with this situation, which is why working with a health coach or other health professional can be super helpful. However, if we look at this from the food angle, what’s happening here primarily has to do with blood sugar balance.
So, how do you fix it? The good news is, it’s simple! The not-so-good news is that it’s not always easy to change.
It all starts with breakfast. You may have heard this before, but the first meal you eat is literally breaking the fast from your last meal yesterday. The first thing we put in our bodies for the day is incredibly important! You now understand how it can make or break your entire day, so we must choose wisely.
I teach my clients the formula for a balanced meal that they can apply any time they eat - whether it’s one of their three main meals or snacks. Here’s what it looks like: at least half your plate or 1-2 cups of veggies (ideally including leafy greens), about a palm-sized portion of protein and 1-2 tbsp of healthy fats. Healthy carbs are optional but if they’re included, should be kept to about 1/4 to 1/2 cup portion depending on the person.
Here are some examples of healthy, balanced meals:
Breakfast: 1 cup of kale sautéed in coconut oil with 2 scrambled eggs and a handful of berries or 1/2 banana on the side
Lunch: leftover animal protein (if you eat meat) from dinner the night before with some steamed broccoli and cauliflower and 1/4 avocado. Option to include a handful of white rice (digests better for most people than brown!) or quinoa
Dinner: could look similar to lunch or you can opt for a meatless meal before bed. I love going meatless for dinner because animal protein takes a long time to digest, and we want to give our bodies space to repair and rest overnight while we sleep. This could be a veggie-based Buddha bowl: roasted root veggies like carrots and sweet potatoes with some roasted or sautéed kale and some pumpkin seeds for a crunch
By eating this way, you’re not only ensuring that you’re getting enough nutrients, you’re also balancing out your blood sugar all day long which will reduce cravings AND eliminate that 2pm slump!