Boost your metabolism without starving, dieting or depriving yourself? Say what?! A surprising technique for revving your body’s engine with food you love. Read on...
What is your favorite food?
If you are 1 in 8 Americans, you love pizza.
Donuts are also pretty popular with more than 10 billion consumed in the US every year.
And according to this one poll, chicken and waffles (eaten separately) rank within the top five (favorite foods).
Whatever food you so choose, there is a reason that food is your favorite (and chances are, it’s not because all the vitamins and minerals that food boasts). Even if it’s a “healthier” food (Dare I say, Brussels sprouts?!), the reason one generally labels as food as a “favorite food” is not first related to it’s nutritional makeup.
What is it related to?
The reason we like our favorite foods is because they:
- Taste good
- Remind us of a happy time or moments
- Satisfy a craving
- Equal a sense of reward or treat
And it all makes sense!
I talk a lot about food’s role as fuel and its main job of nourishment for our bodies, BUT food is also a wonderful gift and PLEASURE in life—meant to be enjoyed, experienced and a far cry from worry and stress!!!
This topic came to mind this week as I was eating my favorite food of the moment: a Japanese sweet potato with coconut butter.
For this moment in time, I could eat that with every meal and totally be ok with it.
Much like, as a kid, I could eat a PB & J every day on white Iron Kids’ bread and feel completely nourished.
Or, as a teen and young adult, stuck in my eating disorder days, I could eat frozen turkey burger patties, microwave steamed zucchini and a pitcher of Crystal Light with practically every meal and feel completely comforted.
Eventually, my ‘favorite food(s)’ of the moment may change—but there is something universal about the favorite-foods’ eating experience that does not change:
Not only do our favorite foods bring pleasure to the eating experience, but also provide us a sense of being well-fed, calm and connected (to our bodies, our food and self-care: doing something ‘good’ for ourselves).
Without trying to get too philosophical with you all here, consider this “fact of the matter” a reason perhaps that dieting or particular habit changes with food does not work for you.
When you hear the word “diet” or “eating healthier” or “changing my diet” or “cleaning up my nutrition”, what thoughts or images come to mind?
- Cardboard-tasting rice cakes
- Social isolation (from alcohol, pizza nights, etc.)
- Inner-conflict (over what to eat on the menu; or making daily decisions to avoid the cookies on display and candy stash in your drawer at work, or to succumb to your old popcorn and wine habit or not)
- Pressure and deadlines (making time to meal prep and plan; reaching a goal by X-date OR else…)
- “Giving up my favorite foods!”
- Forcing yourself to eat foods you know are “good for you” and that are tolerable…BUTTTTT….(not your fav)
Whatever thoughts come to mind, all of these thoughts are the opposite of pleasure.
And you know what happens when we are chronically worrying, overthinking, planning and construing?
And you know what happens when we are stressed?
Our bodies become physically stressed…
And more often than not, that means one thing:
Our cortisol levels (‘fight or flight’ stress hormone) go through the roof.
And when our cortisol levels go through the roof, our bodies end up working against us (and our goals) rather than for us.
Do you have a burning desire to shed that stubborn baby weight, you’ve never been able to fully shake?
Chances are, if you are ‘forcing’ yourself to go on a diet, and ‘forcing’ yourself to eat foods that are not pleasurable to your palate, you are disconnected from your food.
And when you are disconnected from an enjoyable eating experience (i.e. just eating food as a ‘chore’ or diet checklist), then the self-inflicted stress from the eating and diet experience actually raises your cortisol levels—which, in turn, blunt and shake up your hormones and metabolism (often times impeding with your goals for weight or body composition changes in the first place!).
In other words: Your body does NOT like ongoing stress. And as heightened cortisol is a byproduct of stress, it keeps you from experiencing success (and pleasure) with your dietary changes or new habits.
Check out this one study from my alma mater, the University of Texas-Austin, reported by the “Psychology of Eating”, that found the pleasure (from your food) may actually positively affect your metabolism:
Participants with high cholesterol levels were placed on a low-fat diet, however, they were allowed to splurge every other day on a milkshake and a ham and cheese sandwich. According to conventional wisdom, they should have experienced a significant rise in blood cholesterol, but there was none.
The only elevation they showed was that of enjoyment. Despite the high-fat content of the splurge foods, their cholesterol-raising effect was somehow side-stepped by the chemistry of pleasure.
It isn’t hard to imagine that the splurges were the only relaxed and celebrated moments in an otherwise bland and stressful diet. And that decrease in fight-or-flight chemistry could have been, by itself, enough to lower cholesterol.
The inescapable conclusion is that the nutritional value of a food is not merely given in the nutrients it contains, but is dependent upon the synergistic factors that helps us absorb those nutrients. Remove pleasure, and the nutritional value of our food plummets.
Add Vitamin P (pleasure) and your meal is metabolically optimized.
So if you’re the kind of person who eats foods that are “good for you,” even though you don’t like them, or if you think you can have a lousy diet and make up for it by eating a strange-tasting vitamin-fortified protein bar, or if you’ve simply banished pleasure because you don’t have enough time to cook or find a sumptuous meal – then you likely aren’t doing yourself any nutritional favors. You’re slamming shut the door on a key metabolic pathway.
…Just some food for thought.
The bottom line?:
Finding pleasure from food is NOT bad thing…in fact, it’s a GREAT THING for your metabolism
AND the reason diets often fail you?
You were stressed and not finding pleasure in the foods you were trying to nourish your body with.
Does this mean eat all the pizza, ice cream or Dunkin’s donuts you want? Or go on a ‘free for all’ diet program that tells you to eat whatever you want—as long as you restrict overall calories to 1200 or less?
(In fact, packaged, processed and sugary foods equally raise cortisol levels—as they stress the body’s system!).
What this does mean is: Eating is NOT a crime, and on your mission to nourish your body well, explore, experiment and find the foods you actually like and that bring you pleasure to the eating experience.
Unsure of what “healthy foods” you actually like?
No time like the present to begin to explore!
Try this easy recipe I made last night and begin to find and connect with healthy foods you actually love and enjoy.
Japanese Sweet Potato with Ghee or Coconut Butter & Perfectly Pan-Roasted Salmon
Japanese Sweet Potato
Coconut Butter or Ghee
Coconut Oil or Ghee (for cooking salmon)
8 oz. Wild-Caught Salmon (or other fresh wild-caught fish)
Sea salt, pepper, lemon juice, to taste
Herbs of choice
Heat oven to 425-degrees.
Wash and poke holes in potato.
Wrap with tin foil and place in oven for 50-75 minutes.
While sweet potato is cooking, heat pan on stove with ghee or coconut oil to medium heat.
Place fish in pan and season with spices/herbs as desired.
Cook each side for 3-5 minutes.
Serve alongside sweet potato and green veggie of choice.