Food is fun. Food is necessary. Food is also a source of love/hate for some people. Whether you eat too much, not enough or have no idea what the heck you should be eating, our lives revolve around food. It’s social, it has expectations and we are bombarded with food information in media.
So, how do we know what information to trust or what is good for our body? How can we create meals and snacks that reflect better nutrition?
Just like your clients at the table respond differently to techniques, each of our bodies respond differently to foods. The convincing advertisements about the latest fad diet might not jive with your body at all. It’s time to level up your nutrition and make changes you can stick with.
Practice Eating with Purpose Instead of Dieting
Forget all the Keto, Paleo, DASH diet hype and simply eat with purpose. Diets that restrict entire food groups or limit calories excessively may not be sustainable. These types of diets often don’t fit well into busy lifestyles and rarely account for personal food preferences.
Not to say there isn’t a place for each type of diet, but there is the saying, “Keep It Simple, Stupid” (KISS) for a reason. When we KISS our diet, there is the relief of never having to learn new information again. Eat with purpose, that’s it. Eat when you’re hungry and have high quality food choices around when you get hungry.
Simple right? It’s simple to say but harder to do because it takes some effort. How much effort do you put into re-booking clients? It’s a skill you need to learn but worth it to keep your schedule filled. Your health and energy are directly related to the foods you eat. Plan to put half as much effort into food shopping and preparation as you do into re-booking clients and you will see positive changes in your overall health and energy levels.
Make a Food Plan for Better Nutrition
The nature of our business lends itself to a go-go-go type of day. The majority of massage therapists feel rushed by timeframes at some point during the day. A food plan, or a goal for eating is the first step to leveling up your nutrition. Do you count Macros, or is your goal to eat more fruits and vegetables? Are you going vegetarian two days a week or sticking to a fish-only week of eating?
Your eating plan may change as you get bored or want to change it up but always have a plan. Like studying for the MBLEX exam, the more time you put into it the more you get out of it. Your food plan needs some thought or else you will never see change.
Some food plan ideas you may want to adopt:
- No fast food during the weekdays
- Take your lunch to work every day
- Add vegetables to every lunch and dinner
- Reduce red meat consumption to 2 times a week
- Keep a journal of how certain foods make your body feel
- Eat berries for their antioxidant properties
- Plan to prepare your own dinners 4 days a week
- Read food labels before adding to your shopping cart
- Reduce the number of packaged snack foods you bring home
Develop Grocery-Shopping Skills
Keep a sticky note or small notebook on the kitchen counter so as you think of things you jot them down on your grocery list. Your skills begin at home with making the list with your food goals in mind. The vegetables you want to eat everyday will take some experimenting before you find your favorites. You will have your go-to items on the list that you repeatedly buy every week. Those are things like, fruits, vegetables, chicken, fish, (your favorite proteins), beans and yogurt.
Once you are at the grocery store, follow your list and don’t give in to the impulse buy of items that don’t align with your goals. This is not to say don’t buy your favorite cookies but keeping your food goals in mind will guide your choices. A small bag of your favorite dark chocolate is better than the giant quantity bought at your bulk warehouse store. Your shopping cart should have more whole, fresh items than packaged items.
Stick to picking items from the perimeter of the grocery store. These are the perishable items. The produce, meat, dairy, and refrigerated cases are usually stationed around the perimeter of the grocery store. While the processed, packaged foods are in the isles in the center of the store. Stay away from buying things with a long shelf life. Those items usually have chemicals, and additives that don’t make your body feel good and have little to no nutritional value.
Healthy Food Prep for Better Nutrition
This will help you keep more nutritious foods available and ready, which makes it easier to make positive choices. Food prep can be put into two categories. The shopping and chopping and the cooking. I like to separate these to appeal to those who don’t like cooking. Food prep doesn’t have to be time consuming, especially if you don’t have to cook.
Here’s how the shopping and chopping works. Your list for the grocery store will have all your fruits and vegetables, protein, and complex carbohydrates. When you get home, you will wash and chop the vegetables. The protein you can buy already cooked, plus include cans of beans which will only need to be heated.
For example, buy a rotisserie chicken, or something similar from the deli/bakery section of your grocery store. The frozen foods section always has pre-cooked protein options but watch the amount of sodium in these. Beans are a good source of protein and fiber and are a great staple to add to your diet. They can be heated or eaten cold in a salad. You can do a lot with black beans, kidney beans, white beans and garbanzo beans.
If you like to cook then your food prep day will include making extra portions of protein, boiling water to cook brown rice or quinoa, and maybe hard boiling some eggs. For example, cook 4 chicken breasts, brown some ground beef or turkey, bake some fish fillets (certain fish reheats better than others), or make soup in the crock pot.
Once you have cooked and chopped you can portion meals into containers with lids so they are ready to grab and go. Even if you don’t take this step, you have enough high-quality food to last all week. This makes eating for your goals a whole lot easier. Now, you won’t be caught without a lunch at work.
Eat Without Distractions
Eating more slowly and mindfully is also an effective strategy to increase your satisfaction with meals so that you feel less hungry prior to your next meal. Practicing skills such as turning off screens and other distractions while eating, putting your utensils down between bites of food, and utilizing all of your senses can help you to consume more appropriate portions.
This is a hard skill to practice when eating out with friends or eating while at work. Try paying more attention to the taste of the food, texture and how it makes you feel after eating it. Chew each bite of food more than you normally would. This awareness will be a good start to mindful eating.
Focus on Progress, Not Perfection
The focus of your eating and nutrition should be progress rather than perfection. No one eats perfectly all the time and perfection is not necessary to have good health. If you fall behind on your food plan, it’s no problem, just return to it as soon as possible.
Your nutrition is a long-term lifestyle, not a sprint. If finding time to get to the grocery store to buy fresh produce twice a week is difficult, buy more frozen vegetables or have your groceries delivered to your house. Problem solve and find what works for you. Forward progress is the goal and once you begin to notice a change, the momentum builds.
This may be a change in your weight, your cholesterol numbers, your digestion, your energy or how your body feels. Food has been used as medicine since ancient times. Hippocrates said, “Let medicine be thy food and let food be thy medicine.”
Making progress means honing your skills with choosing your foods, creating systems for food shopping and meal preparations, and eating mindfully. Your body is wise. Trust what it tells you and feed it foods with purpose. KISS your diet by following these tips and level up your nutrition to bring the best version of yourself to the massage room and your clients.
[Check back the last Thursday of every month for a new article by Angela Lehman, an educator who runs The Fit MT, providing self-care information to massage therapists.]
About the Author
Angela Lehman is a massage therapist of 25 years turned online educator, promoting fitness and nutrition for massage therapists. She runs The Fit MT. With her kinesiology degree specialized in nutrition, she trains therapists in healthy eating, exercise and body mechanics to prolong their careers. Search massagemag.com to read her The Fit MT column on topics including body mechanics, gut health and more.