Adapt your nutritional needs as you move through life
At this time of year, change is all around us. With every sunny day, flowers are blooming, and the leaves are gently opening, announcing the arrival of spring. As we go through life, constant modifications happen within our bodies too. I find that you only notice the change when you look at photos, meet up with friends you haven’t seen in a while, or stand on the bathroom scale. Whether you are aware of it or not, your body is constantly altering and adapting to its environment, and the food you eat is an essential factor in how your body deals with these changes.
This week I am looking at the various life stages when significant changes occur, such as leaving home, getting your first job, or having a baby, and how they impact our health and wellbeing. I will also propose a few ideas to avoid maintaining routines that are no longer relevant to your situation.
For many, moving away from home to go to college is the first time you find yourself making lifestyle decisions that until then were mainly made for you. College students often lack basic cooking skills and rely on convenience foods. Premade meals and fast foods are loaded with added sugars and salts, which are known to be a precursor to developing fatty liver and type 2 diabetes. Before leaving home is the best time to learn some basic cooking skills. Once moved, look at new routines and schedules and check out the local grocery stores to figure out what works for you. A good option is to share the cooking with housemates. Alternating dinner-making duties on different evenings of the week instead of always relying on takeout or premade meals can also save money.
Our mid-twenties is when young people start their first job, which for most means that life suddenly becomes much more stressful. Activity levels often drop, and exercise takes a back seat in your daily life unless you make an effort. However, out of habit, people tend to eat the same amount of food as in college. The combination of these three factors often means that, without realizing it, unwanted weight will slowly start creeping in. In response, it is not uncommon for people to turn to fad diets, such as calorie restrictions. However, the body does not do well with setting limits, so it will initiate a physiological response that will only increase your hunger and body fat. Any weight lost will return sooner rather than later. Restrictive diets also mean that there is a strong focus on food, which can lead to binging to compensate for the imposed limits. Instead of restricting foods, changing your focus to feeling comfortable with food is important. Tune-in to your hunger cues and don't simply eat out of habit. This is an excellent time of life to park the car a little further away and walk an extra 10 minutes or take the stairs. It may seem like a small change, but it is a good habit that will be a source of exercise and help lower your risk of other serious health problems.
When you begin a new relationship, you bring your own history of what you like and dislike. This is an excellent opportunity to be open and discuss diet and lifestyle and find a way to blend and comprise your tastes with your new partner. If one of you eats well and the other doesn’t, instead of feeling trapped because you are now a ‘duo,’ try taking turns cooking meals on certain nights and use weekends to try out new meals or flavours. Maybe even registered for a cooking class together. A new relationship is a great opportunity to be open-minded to trying out new foods but beware of trying out ‘crash’ diets or diet fads such as gluten-free or ketogenic before your wedding or big celebrations; most of the time, this weight will come back as before.
ABOVE: This delicious one-pan steak, asparagus, and broccoli dish is an easy meal with minimal prep.
No woman should ever be expected to ‘snap’ back into her former shape or body after having a baby. Routines are turned upside down with your first child, so this is no time to add more guilt or stress to the situation. Things will start to settle down at about six months postpartum, and you will find yourself in a routine. This is an opportunity to reevaluate your eating habits, but don't do a complete overhaul. Focus on how certain foods make you feel (energetic or sluggish?) instead of what you look like. Using a delivery kit system, batch cooking, or a slow cooker are good ways to make small changes. Make sure to keep meals nice and straightforward, such as with this one-pan steak, asparagus, and broccoli dish, where prep is minimal, and everything cooks simultaneously. If you have a bad day and have relied on cookies to keep you going, don’t be hard on yourself and know that tomorrow is another day. No one is perfect!
Being aware that you are in a slow state of constant change means that you can constantly reevaluate and adapt your nutritional needs according to your situation. Talking to friends and family in similar situations and seeking professional help can easily keep you feel comfortable and energetic without the sensation of deprivation that comes with restrictive diets.
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