Developing your best way of eating takes a bit of research and planning, but it's a worthwhile investment. Rather than viewing eating as a chore or stress reliever, consider meals as special events. After all, food is fuel that can enable your body to function and feel its best, and the right meals can make each day more pleasant. On the flipside, eating food that doesn't agree with you is like putting dirt in the gas tank of your car, but manifestations are not always obvious.
"A lot of hormone imbalance is inflammation and metabolic problems from food sensitivities," says Tammy Post, DO, an integrative physician and founder of Project Fabulous (projectfabulous.com), a weight-loss program that addresses food intolerance and hormonal issues. Such issues are immune-system reactions that can take hours or days to express themselves, making the connection difficult to detect. Although each woman is unique, there are some common foods that many of us have difficulty with, especially if they are eaten on a regular basis or in large amounts. Identifying your personal triggers and designing your own diet will give you the best results.
Know the Top Problem Foods
Post has found that four food types most often provoke inflammation, discomfort, and weight gain: gluten, added sugars and artificial sweeteners, soy, and dairy. To heal your system, she recommends avoiding all four for 21-28 days, especially if you need to lose weight, because the underlying inflammation prevents weight loss, as well as disrupting hormones. Avoiding problem foods is a form of detoxification that calms inflammation and enables your body to reach a healthier state. Although not every woman suffers from intolerances, anyone with hormonal, weight, or mood issues is likely to benefit from a food overhaul.
Go Naturally Gluten-Free
Since gluten is found in many packaged foods beyond baked goods, including salad dressings, soups, and sauces, it's safest to stick with whole foods. Focus on foods that naturally contain no gluten-fresh vegetables, fruits, legumes, fish, organic or grass-fed poultry and meats, seeds, nuts, and unadulterated oils and coconut products. Substitutes for grain-based foods include crackers made with seeds, nuts, and dehydrated vegetables. And nut, seed, or coconut flours can be used in baking.
Become a Food Sleuth
Examine the packaged foods in your cupboards and fridge. Write down the name of each product that contains problematic ingredients. Don't overlook all the forms of added sugars, such as syrups, as well as artificial sweeteners. Also note products with artificial flavors and preservatives, and hormones in conventional meat, poultry, and dairy products, since any type of toxin can contribute to hormone disruption.
Avoid anything you can realistically live without for the next 21-28 days. For each remaining item, find a healthier alternative. One approach is to take a list to your local health food store and find similar products without the unwanted ingredients. For example, nut, coconut, or hemp milks can replace cow's milk, and herb and spice blends can replace sauces.
Develop a Plan
After abstaining for 3-4 weeks from potentially problematic foods, try eating small quantities of one such food at a time, see how you feel during the next few days, and determine if you can tolerate it occasionally, in small quantities, or not at all. Repeat the process with the other foods, and find what works best-only you can tell.
Don't Eat Like Your Man
Some women gain weight or experience other symptoms when they begin to share life with a man because their eating habits become more like their mate's. Aside from obvious gender differences, the authors of Eat Like a Woman found evidence that:
- Women take about 47 hours to digest their food; men take about 33 hours.
- Women's stomachs take an hour longer than men's to empty.
- Women's bodies have more fat cells, as they're designed to store more fat.
Around a mate, it can become a habit to eat more, or more often, than a woman needs to. But it isn't a requirement for a good relationship.