What did you have for breakfast today? Was it the same as yesterday? Did you then eat it again at dinner? My husband LOVES breakfast for dinner (me not so much!). Why am I asking?
Repetitious eating is easy right? You find the foods you love and just eat to your heart’s content! MOST PEOPLE DO! And if they are not eating that way now – they probably did before. Myself included (in the past). Unfortunately there are some real downfalls to this type of eating.
#1: Repetitious eating can create nutrient gaps
If you only eat eggs, butter and garlic all day – the nutrients in those three items are the ONLY nutrients your body receives. You are limiting your access to amino acids, carbs, fats, etc. Then there are the micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) that aren’t in those items you chose. Without supplying something different later in the day or the next day, you run into deficiency.
This is something that most people do not think about. Without certain nutrients, and micronutrients, you can also develop other things like digestive distress, and lack of microbes in our gut that die off from not being nourished. These then lead to the next part of this.
#2: Repetitious eating can create food sensitivities
Based on what we know about the gut changing from the foods we eat, if we are only eating the same 6 foods every day all day long our guts will lose microbes that aren’t being fed, they will gain some that are being fed (generally not good ones) and that can create issues with certain foods (usually the ones you love so much).
For example – if your gut has a lack of O. formigenes you struggle to breakdown high oxalate foods well (among other reasons possibly). I am seeing this more and more in practice. Many people are lacking this ability. Not being to break these down is troublesome if you want to eat things like spinach, sweet potatoes, nuts, beer, beans and more. Unfortunately that microbe is easily killed off also by repeated antibiotic use. The other issue with this particular oxalate dilemma is that you can get kidney stones from high oxalate intake and not being able to process them out.
What this means is that you no longer can eat the foods in this category without pain, gas, and suffering. This is just one example of how this type of eating works in our body.
#3: Repetitious eating can lead to gut imbalance
Not only aren’t we getting the nutrients we need, we alter our guts when we eat the same foods. We condition the gut for those, there is no variation and no introduction to other beneficial microbes and nutrients we need to function. These can lead to inflammation, irritation or just lack of production of necessary components of digestion or body function.
We want a variety of gut population which we get best through food. Probiotics are helpful, but they just pass through – they don’t permanently stay inside your digestive tract.
We want to provide our guts and bodies with as many nutrients in all categories as possible. The only way to do this is to eat a variety of different foods every day and all day. If we happened to miss certain amino acids at breakfast, by eating a different protein source at lunch we work toward filling that gap. We also then can provide more microbes to our gut.
What can we do about this?
This is the number one way to be sure you don’t fall trap to repetitious eating. When you sit down to map out every meal and snack each day you can be mindful of avoiding the repetition.
Now does that mean you can’t eat the same food more than once in a week? Of course not! BUT we want to have a rotation of proteins, a rotation of carbohydrates, vegetables and fats all week. We may use olive oil more than once a day to dress foods or cook, but we should try to work in other sources as well. We may have eggs on Monday, and then again on Friday. That is OK, as long as you have had something else the rest of those days beyond eggs, and on the other days a week.
Your dinner should be different every day, and the repetition you crave could be using some leftovers for lunch. This is good meal planning and is OK. As long as tomorrow you have something different for one of both of those meals.
When we are in a rut of symptoms and repetitious eating, it is important to food journal daily. This would include a time of the meal, any medications or supplements taken with the time taken, bowel movements, feelings, and pains or symptoms you have with timing to meals. This is how we identify our sensitivities and remove foods that do not work for us personally.
I am often asked, “Oh is this food, or that food, hard to digest?” The answer is that one particular food isn’t just offensive to all people but for them personally it certainly might not be OK. Spinach is a great example. I can eat that with my breakfast in the morning and experience no digestive symptoms at all, but my oxalate sensitive clients cannot eat spinach with breakfast without experience very upsetting cramping, pain, or gas. So spinach isn’t “hard to digest” as a food, but it certainly doesn’t go smoothly for those sensitive to it.
Think food allergies if you are having trouble grasping it. Of course there is plenty of peanut butter on our grocery shelves right? PBJ is iconic in our culture… but if you give that to someone with a peanut allergy things go south fast right? Even if just a sensitivity this could lead to diarrhea or other reactions. It doesn’t mean peanut butter itself is “bad” or “hard to digest” – it just means that some people cannot tolerate it. Think dairy as well right? You may be able to have a huge ice cream and feel awesome after, while some need to run to the bathroom. These are our PERSONAL digestive issues.
We often have not fully realized our own food responses until we do a food journal and start examining the sources of our symptoms. You may have wondered – hmm why can’t I eat that? But if you haven’t been over your issues with a practitioner you may have not realized what it was or exactly how to manage it in your life. This is often frustrating for those trying to make real food changes. To move away from packaged and processed foods is hard for most people. Then on top of that they find they have a sensitivity to a food category and they feel like there is “nothing to eat.” This is a very typical response and reaction for most people. The great news is there are actually more than just a handful of foods available to us today in our supermarkets. Real food! I have an entire encyclopedia of healing foods that is thousands of pages long and they don’t include processed products. So if you are restricted from eating 5-10 foods … it can be frustrating but there are WAY more than just those 5 foods out there. It will take time, education and creativity with balance (and probably some work with a practitioner) to get you on a new path that will help you balance back out.
Variety is truly the “spice of life.” Quite literally variety will SAVE your life (and guts!). Don’t be afraid to branch out. Grab something you have never seen at the grocery (the clerk said to me just last week – what is this thing? Rutabega… what she says?) Grab it. Don’t know what to do? PINTEREST! Seriously – just look it up. You will be surprised how tasty all these foods are you have never tried before!