It’s the middle of week 1 of the Diet Improved Nutrition Program and I’m feeling good about the food choices I am making. I know eating little to no sugar is helping to decrease inflammation and I can tell my wedding ring (and pants) are already fitting a little bit better. My breakfast smoothie is keeping me full until lunch, my lunches are very GREEN and I’m being strategic with optional snack choices and not eating after dinner. My energy is okay. I’m noticing it is more consistent in the afternoons which is an improvement, but not necessarily the conquer-the-world energy I’ll hope to see as I become more metabolically flexible with using both fats and carbohydrates as fuel sources.
Almond butter. Let’s talk about the almond butter I got into on the third day of following this food plan. Nuts and seeds, including almond butter are reintroduced in the second week. Is almond butter unhealthy? No. Do I have a complicated relationship with almond/peanut/nut butter? Yes. Nuts, dark chocolate and berries are added back into the program in the second week because of their numerous health benefits. They are left out of the first week of the program to keep carbohydrates very low to rapidly drop insulin (and inflammation) levels, allow for weight loss, reset cravings for sweet foods and to emphasize the foundational importance of eating meals anchored with green vegetables, anti-inflammatory fats and adequate protein.
I ate almond butter later at night on a day that was jammed packed with to-dos after a night of poor sleep. Does this sound familiar to anyone who has ever felt called to their pantry when they are more emotionally exhausted than hungry? It was not a small portion of almond butter. I woke up the next morning with the feelings of a food hangover: my body felt heavy and sluggish and my mood was low because of my lack of follow through with my commitment to follow my program. So what happened next? I got on with it. I resumed where I left off. I had a healthy day the next day and I tried to tell myself what my husband can so easily point out: It’s just almond butter.
Intuitive eating, a nutrition philosophy that rejects dieting in favor of listening to internal body cues, would say to eat the almond butter and pay attention to how I feel while eating it. We should all strive to be intuitive eaters. Although the Diet Improved Nutrition Program is a type of structured diet plan, I feel convicted that the educational foundation patients gain when following the program allows for them to embrace intuitive eating with: (1) the established practice of understanding how certain foods make them feel due to the elimination structure of the program and (2) an elevated understanding of nutritional science.
Perfect, awesome patients follow meal plans imperfectly all the time with transformative results. It’s your plan and listening to your body will always be more important than following some words on paper. Eating almond butter at night didn’t make me feel great. It puts a spotlight on a behavior I am trying to avoid which is eating after dinner, a time I choose calories to try to satiate emotional needs and not physical hunger. It reinforced how eating heavy nut butter energetically leaves me feeling tired. I tell any patient who feels shame around their food choices to give themselves grace and learn from how their food choices make them feel.
There is nothing wrong with any food or any food decision. There is only the priceless understanding about who we are and how we can best use food to nourish ourselves. Almond butter is a nutrient dense (healthy) week 2 food. A new update to the program is the recommendation to eat intuitively and if this means including a food option from an upcoming week, enjoy. Listen to your body and your innate wisdom about how each meal, snack, food, food combination, portion and food environment increases or decreases your vitality. Enjoy your perfectly imperfect delicious life.
In improved health,