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Food for thought: Healthy eating advice

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We’re all hungry to understand the healthiest way to eat, while enjoying what we put on our plates. Ray Robertson consults DB health coach and personal trainer Claire Mas.

Cut out sugar, cut back on carbs, and eat plenty of vegetables, nuts and seeds – the prospect of re-wiring your diet can seem an unappetising challenge. As a result, many of us now view food simply as sustenance, or even worse, as the enemy. But this is not how it should be, and definitely not how it has to be.

DB resident and 10-year health coach and personal trainer Claire Mas opens the conversation by saying, “We are intelligent, but we’ve outsmarted our own eating intuition. The last place we look to determine what to eat is inside our own hearts. When people want to know what to eat, they really need to look at and understand themselves.”

Eating for empowerment

As an internationally accredited Integrative Nutrition Health Coach through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in New York, and an internationally accredited PTA Global Personal Trainer, Claire’s approach to wellness is first and foremost holistic. She talks about the importance of achieving a balance not just in the food we put on our plates, the so-called ‘secondary foods,’ but also in the ‘primary foods’ – relationships, career, physical activity and spirituality.

“Finding balance in these areas is a constant push and pull,” she says. “We need to focus on the increase of nourishing relationships, career alignment and fulfilment, soothing spiritual practice, and satisfying exercise routine. This is the key to being happy, to gaining a deep understanding of ourselves, and ultimately smoothing out our secondary food imbalances.”

In her personal training sessions and bootcamp/ group fitness classes, Claire encourages clients not only to get physically fit but to challenge the way they see themselves and to thereby affect positive change in all aspects of their lives. During each workout, she introduces a different mental/ emotional health issue for discussion, anything from goal setting or stress management, to the importance of sleep.

Seeking to empower, Claire is adamant that diets should be based on the individual, not the theory “One person’s food is another person’s poison,” she says. “You have to factor in age, gender, race, blood type and level of activity. No one diet or lifestyle works for everyone. You have to understand what foods you’re attracted to and why.

“Diets don’t really work – there’s no one size-fits-all,” Claire adds. “You can’t tell people what kind of relationship to be in or what kind of fashion, movies and music they’re going to enjoy. Why is it acceptable to tell people what kind of food they should be eating? We are all different… so if you want to prescribe diets, they have to be personally tailored.”

Listening to your cravings

Cravings, typically for foods that are high in sugar or fat, can ruin even the most carefully thought out diet plan, unless we recognise them for what they are. Claire explains, “Many people view cravings as a sign of weakness, but really, they’re important messages meant to help you in maintaining balance. A craving is your body’s way of sending you a message, of telling you that something is out of sync. We need to look at the foods, deficits and behaviours in our lives that are the underlying cause of cravings. When you experience a craving, deconstruct it. Ask yourself, what does my body really want and why?”

Emotional eating, which often manifests as a craving for sugary food, can be an indication that you are lacking one of the primary foods. When women experience menstruation, pregnancy or menopause, fluctuating testosterone and oestrogen levels can cause cravings. Cravings can also be a sign that your nutrient levels are out of whack. For example, inadequate mineral levels produce salt cravings.

“Often times too, cravings come from foods we’ve recently eaten, foods eaten by our ancestors, or foods from our childhood. A clever way to satisfy these cravings is to eat a healthier version of one’s ancestral or childhood foods,” Claire says. “Cravings can also be seasonal. During winter, for example, many people crave hot and heat-producing foods like meat, oil and fat. Cravings can also be chemically created, for example, sugar is one of the most highly addictive substances.

When we eat sweet foods it induces sugar cravings, which in turn turn creates a vicious cycle.

“Dehydration can manifest as hunger, so the first thing to do when you get a craving is drink a full glass of water. But excess water can also cause cravings, so be sure that your water intake is well balanced.”

As everyone who has ever dieted knows, if we tell ourselves we can’t have something, then we want it all the more. With this in mind, Claire advocates the principle of ‘crowding out,’ adding foods instead of taking foods away. Eating more fresh whole foods will reduce our desire/ capacity for the foods that we want to cut back on.

“Note the emphasis is on ‘more and less,’ not ‘all and none,’” Claire says. “Once a person understands this concept, sustainable change happens.”

Secondary foods to increase
• Vegetables • Fruits • Wholegrains • Organic, high-quality animal proteins • Wild fish • Beans • Organic dairy • Nuts and seeds • Healthy oils • Avocado • Raw chocolate • Chia and hemp seeds • Maca • Clean air and water

Secondary foods to decrease
• Chemicalised artificial junk food • Processed foods • Refined grains • Conventional and/ or excessive meats and diary • Caffeine • Soft drinks • Alcohol • Tobacco • Sugar • Artificial sweeteners • Trans fat • Toxic air and water

You can contact Claire via the MAS FIT by Claire Mas Facebook page, by visiting www.clairemasfitness.com, or calling 9387 0735.

Image: Baljit Gidwani – www.evoqueportraits.com 

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