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Fuel Up!

Articles Inspirational articles from Hay House authors

Fuel Up!

Eating right for maximum energy.
Ashley  Koff R.D.
Ashley Koff R.D. More by this author
Sep 06, 2011 at 10:00 AM

You remember the days when life was relatively easy. You got up, went to school, probably did something fun afterward, and then sat down to do homework before going to bed to rest up for another day. Your choices in snacks were probably healthier than they are today, too, by virtue of the fact we didn’t have so many processed options back then. Thoughts about the “real world” and having children were farther away than your dreams. The kind of math you were trying to understand was something along the lines of a + b = c.

You may have forgotten algebra now that you are, in fact, in the real world, but the beauty and simplicity with which algebra allows us to make certain calculations can be applied to our biology. Metaphorically speaking, that is. When you treat your body in simple, straightforward terms, it will respond by maximizing functionality and energy production. When you feed it “fake” ingredients, suddenly a + b no longer equals c. Instead, we get a1 + b + 2 = c1 + 2. Body chaos ensues. The energy equation breaks down. This is what lays the foundation for chronic disease and blocks energy.

Nutritional medicine is a rapidly growing area of research that will continue to gain momentum as we learn more and more about the connections between nutrition and health—not just for general health, but for all kinds of health concerns. In fact, the link between nutrition and diseases such as obesity, diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease are well documented. Because we know that oxidative stress, inflammation, and, to a lesser extent, genetics, are the chief “agers” in our bodies because they spur chronic conditions that wear us down physically, gaining the upper hand on these is key. And if diet can help this in any way, then we should be paying attention.

Anything that goes against the natural design of our body’s most basic and elemental needs will invariably sabotage efforts to maximize energy. For example, that diet soda or latte may work as a (very) short-term fix, but it will only exacerbate the problems that are underlying your energy shortage. Similarly, if you’re conscientiously following a diet program that isn’t operating in sync with your body’s true needs, then no matter how “good” you’re being or how saintly your intent, you are not going to see the results you are working so hard to obtain.

We realize that you may have heard (and tried) to “avoid processed foods” in the past to drop a few pounds or get healthier. But your efforts eventually failed. We agree, it can be daunting and ultimately unsatisfying, as well as unrealistic. We live in the 21st century, and there’s something to be said for having access to quick and great-tasting food. We’re not asking you to nix everything that hails from a factory or conventional (non-organic) farm. We’re just asking you to manage the energy drainers in your life by (1) recognizing where they are, and (2) being more mindful of how much you choose to pick from the energy-giving plate versus the energy-sapping one. And therein lies the challenge: knowing the difference between what you think you’re eating and what you really are. Today’s marketing dynamics are just as much to blame in perpetuating body chaos as we are to blame for favoring processed foods over wholesome, natural ones.

Modifying the way you eat and buy goods may take some time to get used to. We won’t sugarcoat the reality: if you’ve been eating processed, packaged foods regularly for years, shifting how you eat won’t happen overnight. And that’s okay. Make it a goal to just upgrade at a pace that’s doable and with choices that give you the biggest nutritional bang for your food buck. If you can’t imagine changing your breakfast or lunch staples, then what about adding organic vegetables to them? What about swapping out a less healthy fat for a healthier one in your dressing? What about splitting your meal in half and having the second part three hours later for better energy balance? What if these evolutions, not revolutions, resulted in more energy, looser-fitting clothes, and an internally healthier you? We can confidently say they can and will. We’ve found the weight-loss factor in particular to be enormously motivating for women. In fact, both of us have witnessed women who simply stop using coffee creamers and artificially flavored beverages (sold under the guise of “light” or “diet” items) and achieved significant results in just a week’s time. And they far outpace those who go back to consuming artificial ingredients in their weight-loss efforts. Keep it simple, and the body gets it and has an easier time getting rid of excess fat, not to mention toxins that go with it.

If the thought of depriving yourself of the foods you currently enjoy doesn’t sit well with you, then simply pick up more fresh fruits and vegetables at the market and don’t change anything else. Make additions rather than deletions to your lifestyle at the start. You can and will wean yourself from the stuff the real energy is not made of once you begin to incorporate nutrient-dense, energy-supporting alternatives into your life. Over time, when you aren’t operating from a self-deprivation strategy you will notice that your taste buds have changed and you’ll find yourself obsessing less over the displays at the bakery and more over what you can do with the colorful array of goods in the produce section of a market. Or as one mom energy model shared with me: “We get a delivery now once a week of organic vegetables so we’ve had to get creative about how to use them. I love the recipes they send, but I have also started swapping with some friends on Facebook who get the same vegetable box.” As with anything, as you become comfortable with it, your priorities change and you begin to instinctively make different choices. (Does this remind you of other big changes you’ve already gone through in your life as a mom?) You’ll start to order food differently in a restaurant and be more conscious about reading labels and asking questions about how your meals are prepared.

One prominent food manufacturer once promoted its brand by challenging children to recite the ingredients in a popular product. The kids who read the label could clearly state—and understand—the words, such as eggs and milk. The kids who read the competition stumbled over long, convoluted ingredients that sounded like a chemistry set. The lesson: if you can easily pronounce the words on a list of ingredients, nine times out of ten you’re eating something close to nature. That’s a pretty good barometer to use.

About Author
Ashley  Koff R.D.
Ashley Koff, R.D., appears regularly on The Dr. Oz Show, GMA Health, The Doctors, CBS’s The Early Show, CNN, AOL, and E!, and was the lead expert for The Huffington Post’s “Total Energy Makeover.” Koff is frequently featured in The New York Times, In Continue reading