You know what I think is really cool? When you throw all of your beliefs about food out the window and start over. It’s a pretty refreshing feeling. To lift all of the sometimes limiting beliefs I have about what I like, what I don’t like, what makes me feel good and what makes me feel bad, and start over. I know for me, my body is affected differently from season to season by what I consume. This time of year I can tolerate gluten much easier and I am not as affected by alcohol either. It’s always refreshing when things change like that because I begin to question my food again and go back into the experimental zone. It’s a reassuring reminder to me that everything is connected and that we are all connected to the seasonal, ever-changing cycle of nature. This past week I have been paying close attention to my sometimes restricted and conditioned thoughts. I notice how it makes my body feel tense and try to let the thought go and relax in my body again. I’ve been carrying this same practice into my thoughts around food. I’m letting myself experiment more and changing thought patterns about what I tend to think is “good” or “bad” for me. Because in my opinion, nothing is really “bad” unless you really think that it is. If you are eating with guilt, you will ingest that emotion. I find that the more relaxed I am around food and the choices I make, the easier it is for me to digest and metabolize my meal or snack. It can be a little unsettling at first but do you find yourself in this same experimental place from time to time? Share your thoughts below!
Is this true for you? Have you figured it all out? I dare you to question your beliefs around food. In the food world, it seems that we believe everything we hear before actually testing it out ourselves. We hear “eat more protein” and we adopt this new eating behavior without even realizing the affect it has on us or thinking twice about it. Nothing ever stays the same, our bodies are constantly changing. A certain way of eating might have worked for you for a period of time in your life, and then as your body changed and/or your environment changed you may have found that your old ways of eating no longer sustained you. This is the key to finding what works best for you…to be in tune and aware of your body’s calls for something different (especially if you live in a place with seasons). It doesn’t mean we have to get frustrated or beat ourselves up, it just is the way it is, and if we can learn to go with the flow we will find less resistance and dis-ease…in all areas of our lives. Every single person or body on this earth is different, so one person might need to eat more meat than another person, some people don’t need to eat any meat, some people need more fat, some people need less fat, some people like to be marathon runners and some people like to walk and do yoga. It’s truly about finding what works best for you and realizing that the more rigid we become around food, the more disconnected we become from what our body really desires. Play around with different foods, experiment, HAVE FUN with it! Use your energy levels, your digestion and your moods to help guide you to the perfect diet for your body, at this point in time. Have you found that your diet has changed over time? How does it make you feel? Are you resistant to the changes? (I know I can be.) Please share your thoughts below!
The idea of eating "fat" was scary to me for a long time. Actually, for most of my life I avoided eating it at all. I was under the impression that eating fat=fat on my body. I had no idea how wrong I was about this until I began my studies in holistic nutrition. I learned that there is a huge difference between healthy fats and unhealthy fats. Healthy fats like olive oil, coconut oil, avocado, nuts, seeds, cacao butter (pictured above) are essential to a well balanced diet and a fully functioning thyroid (which helps aid our metabolism). Once I started incorporating healthy fats into my diet I was so much more satisfied at every meal, I didn’t have to eat as much, I felt happier (as healthy fats improve brain health and alleviate depression) and my memory improved. I recommend eating fat with every meal to help prevent heart disease, lower cholesterol and boost your metabolism for weight loss benefits. Are you afraid to eat fat? Play around with what fats you like best and please share your experiences with us below.
As a member of my college’s Cross Country team, it didn’t take me long to discover the correlation between diet and athletic performance (try eating a heavy turkey dinner before banging out a 5K against D1 running machines… not the best combo.) Eating light in the form of a primarily raw diet, however, gave me the energy and competitive edge I needed to win races and achieve incredible sustained endurance.
Most recently one of the foods I’ve found to b
e a miracle pre-workout snack is raw cacao! This came about the other day when minutes before I departed for the gym, I scarfed down two large pieces of raw chocolate.
“Oh man,” I thought to myself, “this is definitely going to give me a nice bellyache half-way through my run.” Not to mention the sluggishness I thought I’d feel, believing that cacao was more of a “heavy food” (compared to something like a cucumber.)
But I couldn’t have been more wrong. To my most pleasant surprise, I found I had such incredible energy and more focus than I’d had in quite some time! As I cranked out a very productive workout, I thought about how valued cacao was in ancient Central and South American cultures, and that’s when it all started making good sense to me.
When I was through, I decided to do a little investigating on cacao’s positive impact on athletic performance. Here’s what I found: (Oh, and I started all my research old school – at the actual library, baby! But also found some cool articles online about cacao as a food for athletes.)
First and foremost, let me say this: the first thing I learned is that chocolate is truly a “food of the gods”! In their book The True History of Chocolate, Sophie and Michael D. Coe explain how cacao comes from the tree Theobroma Cacao. It was dubbed this majestic name in 1753 by 18thcentury Swedish scientist Carl von Linne. The second unit of the binomial (theobroma) is from the Greek and literally means “food of the gods.” Cacao, I found, was chosen for it’s barbaric resonance (makes sense since it later would spark some rather tempestuous behavior amongst its ancient consumers.)
Apparently, this bean was so valuable to the early natives of Central and Southern American cultures, they used it as their currency (one bean for a large tomato, 100 for a large turkey hen.) So, if to entire cultures this food was literally edible gold, there must have been some astronomical benefit to consuming it, right? But what could that have been? And could it have had anything to do with the extreme energy and enhanced mood I experienced every time I ate it? I think yes!
The Olmecs, members of the earliest American high civilization, were the first group of people to harvest wild cacao pods that they used to make into a chocolate drink. Shortly after, the Maya began cultivating the plant in the Yucatan Peninsula. Next the Toltecs, then the Aztecs, until eventually it was happed upon by the Spanish Conquistadors. But these guys weren’t indulging in creamy truffles and chocolate bars – they were gulping the stuff down in liquid form in a drink they would create using cacao powder mixed with water which was sometimes sweetened, sometimes flavored with various spices.
The most extensive medical study of chocolate was conducted by French dr. Herve Robert. In it, he found a slew of mood altering and enhancing chemicals that occur naturally in cacao. Caffiene, theobromine (similar to caffeine), serotonin (a mood lifting hormone), and phenylethylamine (a mood changing brain chemical similar to dopamine and adrenalin) are some of the chemicals in chocolate that create an anti-depressive and stimulatory effect.
So I originally started off believing that it must be the caffeine in chocolate providing me with that clean, intense energy burst I had experienced at the gym. But after reading a few books on the history of chocolate (and a very interesting one indeed!) I learned that it is in fact a constituent known as “theobromine,” an alkaloid structurally similar to that of caffeine, that occurs in greater quantities in cacao and that acts as a stimulant and promotes strength, endurance, and enhanced mood.
In Bennett Alan Weinberg and Bonnie K Bealer’s book The World of Caffeine, it’s stated,“(Aztecs) only nobility and warriors had the opportunity to partake of it. Although they knew nothing of theobromine’s physical and mental stimulating powers, the Aztecs were convinced that chocolate imparted both strength and inspiration from Quetzecoatl, and it was chiefly owing to its pharmalogical powers that cacao was highly esteemed.”
One of the earliest surviving accounts of the traditional method of creating chocolate from cacao beans was recounted by a European man who had recently returned to Venice after an American expedition in the company of Cortes. He explained how the natives created a chocolate drink with fortifying powers by pouring it from vase to vase and letting it foam (kinda like a cappuccino from what I gathered).
He goes on to explain: “This drink is the healthiest thing, and the greatest sustenance of anything you could drink in the world, because he who drinks a cup of this liquid, no matter how far he walks, can go a whole day without eating anything else.”
In a publication simply entitled Chocolate, Marcia and Fredric Morton provide a statement further supporting evidence of cacao’s use for its endurance enhancing qualities: “Finally – and probably of most importance to the war-minded, empire building Aztecs – chocolate was so certain to confer vigor and strength that in early times it was reserved for rulers and soldiers.”
So there you have it. Cacao really is a food of the gods and of the athletes. Now before you grab your yoga mat and head off to sweat it out at a Bikram session or throw on your Asics to pound pavement, do as the Mayans and Aztecs and Conquistadors did; have some chocolate!!!
By Amelia Cahilane
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