Nutrition Experts Podcast Episode 02 Mindfulness and Embracing The Challenges of Eating with Amina Altai
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Mathea Ford: [00:00:00] Hi there. It’s Mathea. Welcome back to the Nutrition Experts Podcast. The podcast featuring nutrition experts who are leading the way using foods starts today right now with our next guest. It’s great to have Amina Altai on the show today. Amina, welcome to Nutrition Experts. I’m excited to have you on the show and share your expertise with my tribe.Amina Altai: [00:00:26] Hi Mathea! Thank you so much for having me. It’s such an honor to be here and an honor to share my expertise.
Mathea Ford: [00:00:33] Great! So, we were talking and you tell me that you’ve kind of done some research in nutrition, done a little bit studying, kind of an all around, different focuses but mainly towards Integrative Nutrition. What is it about food that most people are missing that causes some issues or problems?
Amina Altai: [00:00:56] That’s such a great question. I think many of us aren’t exactly conscious about the way we eat. Right? Sort of we grow up in these households and we learn from our caretakers whether it’s our parents, teachers at school, our peers what have you. We eat in a certain way and it’s generally learned right from the group settings that we’re in or [you know] what’s taught to us by our families but we’re never really conscious about what works for our bodies in particular. Right? And now we might read about the latest diet and nutrition information online but do we ever really check in with our bodies and say “OK, this is what feels really good for me or you know this is what I need for my body to work optimally.”
Amina Altai: [00:01:33] I think oftentimes we’re just not conscious enough about the way we’re eating and what it does to our bodies. And I think the biggest thing that we can do is you know create a plan that is both joyful and functional. Right? Because food [should] should be really joyful. You know a lot of the times when we stick to a particular way of eating there’s an absence of joy in it and we do want it to be a happy moment and an exciting moment and joyful as I say but it should also have a really functional role for your body. Right? Everything that we ingest on a cellular level should support our systems [you know.] Energetically, our minds so we can show up for our lives really fully. And I think just sort of reframing it and thinking [you know] “Is this going to work for my body? Am I being really conscious about what I’m putting in and is it going to help me shot for my life in in the biggest and best way possible?”
Mathea Ford: [00:02:23] A really great observation. Thinking through like [you know] I sometimes have ideas about food even of the dietician just little words that come into my brain when I’m eating something that I know with said to me as a child. For example, potatoes will make you fat! I mean that seems like a strange thing but I specifically remember being told that and so that comes into my mind and potatoes are [you know] they can do different things but the food in of itself is not bad. So [it’s] it’s just funny because that is something that most of the time were probably not even conscious of. So, what are some of those things that we can do to kind of do better with that?
Amina Altai: [00:03:16] Yeah that’s a great question and I love that anecdote that is shared and that so many of us right. So we’re programmed from a young age to think that certain foods are acceptable and certain foods are bad or what have you have or they’ve been labeled and we internalize that and that becomes our thinking and the way we move through life and through every meal. One of the biggest things that I can recommend is really being mindful at every meal. I do a lot of corporate wellness work and two weeks ago I lead a mindful eating lunch for one of my clients. And it was really an opportunity for us to get really present with what we put on the plate and how food even tastes for us and what was so interesting was you know I had basically participants [you know] you know plate themselves some food in them. I walked them through a process of eating mindfully and everything from the way we put the food in our mouth to the way that we chew, how much we chew, when we swallow. And by far and away the biggest comment that I got afterwards was most people put things on their plate that they don’t enjoy because they think that they should eat it. And it’s so interesting even if it’s you know something healthy and they think “OK, let me in abundance of spinach.” Well. Actually I don’t like spinach at all but I really like arugula. But we were not conscious enough.
Amina Altai: [00:04:26] We don’t take enough time and really spend time with our food to ingest it and assimilate with it and chew it properly to really understand what it is we need and what we like even.
Mathea Ford: [00:04:36] So what do you think is at the core of that dissatisfaction. I mean is it something that we learn as a child or is it somehow that we… Cause I know, we spend most of our life distracted. So, how does that play into this or affect it?
Amina Altai: [00:04:57] Yeah I think that’s a great question and I think it’s really two-fold. I think it’s that lack of consciousness so we’re moving through life so fast we often don’t take time to think and really choose and be present in the moment. And then I think it’s that programming too. So those two combined it’s like well, as a child I always ate this and I was told lthat this was good. I’m not present right now, et me just do this. But if we stop for a moment and we check in with ourselves and we say “OK, am I really hungry? Do I actually want to eat this? Is this what my body needs?” It’s a very different experience than just moving through life on autopilot. What’s interesting too is you know the amount of food we eat is really [has] has implications for that consciousness piece if we’re not really checking in with our bodies and saying “Am I really hungry? Is this what I really need?” We tend to overeat, right? We just sort of eat what’s on our plate or what’s been put in front of us.
Amina Altai: [00:05:44] So I think the being present and aware and sort of overcoming that programming are two pieces to really pay attention to.
Mathea Ford: [00:05:54] So what are some you know like I said “oh I have this voice in my head like hey that will make you fat!” So, what are some typical blocs or issues that people have regarding food or nutrition, like what are some common things you come up and here over and over?
Amina Altai: [00:06:13] Yeah, I think one is that [you know] fat is bad. That’s a really common one and of course there are good fats and there are bad fats. It’s about finding the right ones and working them into your diet. And then with people that have adhered to a particular way of eating for a long period of time, a lot of the times they think [that] that eating can’t be joyful or that healthy eating can’t be joyful. So you know for example, I have two autoimmune diseases – I have celiac disease and they have Hashimoto’s – and I have to eat in a particular way to support those two diseases. And along the way and along my journey I’ve found ways to incorporate little fun into those particular diets. But one of the things that I do encounter is that [you know] if somebody is on the autoimmune protocol for example or is eating gluten free or you know a Ketogenic diet, they think that it can’t be fun and it can’t be joyful but sort of being present and finding ways to get creative and bring joy back into that experience. It can be done for sure. I think it’s just reframing our thinking and again getting present and finding new and exciting ways to embrace the challenge.
Mathea Ford: [00:07:17] So that just plays right into my next question because you’re making a think what steps can people take to get out of a rut in their health or in what they’re doing.
Amina Altai: [00:07:28] Yeah! Another really great question Mathea. [You know] one of the interesting things is that most people come to me when they’ve already had, they’ve taken a hit for example like maybe they’ve taken a health hit [you know] where maybe their cholesterol has gone up or they’re not feeling very well or they’re super lethargic or they’ve taken a career hit let’s say where they can’t show up for their big and juicy job and career and they need someone to kind of infuse new life into their wellness routine. And so, I would love it if people would come to me before that point right because it’s a little you don’t want to see people experience tough times or pain or what have you. So, you know if people can get conscious and aware you know and just check in with their bodies every day you know meditation is such a powerful tool. And even just a simple body scan noticing if there’s places you’re holding tension or discomfort. [You know] places where you need to be kinder to yourself or take care of yourself a little bit more. We wouldn’t get to that point of burnout we wouldn’t take that big hit first so that would be I mean my biggest wish is that people come to me before that big hit. But I think one of the best things that we can do is and I keep saying this over and over again but it really does bring consciousness and awareness to the way that we move through our days.
Amina Altai: [00:08:46] So a lot of us start the day, we fly out of bed [you know] maybe we hit snooze on the alarm and [you know] we don’t really take time for ourselves and our morning routines are hurried. But what if we designed a morning routine that really supported our health and wellness. [You know] we get up at a certain time and instead of just having coffee on an empty stomach maybe we make ourselves a beautiful breakfast the night before. [You know] maybe we take some time to dry brush our skin and use some great body oils and really just like honor our bodies and take care of them and just be really aware about what we’re putting in and on our bodies and approaching every meal the same way you know not just grabbing what’s most convenient on the way to the office but really thinking ahead and designing something that’s going to support you in your highest potential.
Mathea Ford: [00:09:31] So what created your interest in this topic, Awareness of mindfulness and Nutrition and what kind of sparked your interest and wanting to know more about it?
Amina Altai: [00:09:45] Yeah I’m exactly the client I needed myself 10 years ago. So, I had a really crazy marketing career. I had my own agency for about seven years and I was working 80 hour weeks and I had no boundaries and I wasn’t taking care of myself whatsoever. I was skipping meals and [you know] fueling myself only with coffee, pulling all nighters. One too many unhealthy team outings, you name it. I was doing it and I was sabotaging my body in the process. And I eventually [you know] started to feel so sick I was. My memory was going, my hair was falling out and I was just so tired at one point I could barely lift myself off the sofa and I went to seven different doctors before I was diagnosed with the two auto immune diseases and Chronic Iron Deficiency Anemia. And at that point like I basically had no choice. It was you know eat healthy and take care of yourself, manage inflammation, manage these two diseases. Otherwise, you’re going to continue on this trajectory of feeling terrible and not being able to show up for the life that you really want. And that was a crossroads for me and the decision became very very clear. And at that point I felt like well my mission is to mitigate the learning curve for everybody else because we’re not taught how to take care of ourselves. We’re not taught how to eat. We’re not taught how to be conscious and mindful about designing what our bodies need. We don’t learn that in high school you know some people learn that in their families and that’s amazing. But it’s not necessarily something that we’re taught. But I think it you know desperately needs to be learned and that’s what I seek to teach. So, [you know] professionals or people that are entering the workforce they don’t have to [you know] have that crash and burn. I want to mitigate the learning curve for them so that they can take care of themselves and flourish because when we feel good so much more is available to us. Right? In terms of our families, our careers, who we are out in the world like when we feel good we shine so bright and then everything around us shines so bright.
Mathea Ford: [00:11:43] So what you mentioned [you know] I think that’s a great example of a crossroads. But when I think of my life like I know what to eat. I know better. But I have two children. I’m busy. I do lots of things. So how [you know] we have this hyperactive world. We live in this world where we’re constantly connected on our phones, where you know we come home and maybe you know you’re you want to disconnect from all that being connected so you can next to the TV or whatever. But I just I don’t. I need a little bit more about how I could because even I struggle with creating a meal plan for the family for the week. So, then I go to a grocery store and buy the right foods. Now if you don’t have them in your house and you don’t have them available. It’s hard to eat them. [You know] when you have no fruits and push hard to have a pizza food. So, what can’t people do [you know] I mean have that change? What sort of shift do they need to do in their life, in their day, in their plans whatever that would you know create that ability to improve this part?
Amina Altai: [00:13:05] Absolutely. So I think the first thing is reframing thinking and reframing the role of food in our lives. What is the role of food for you in this hypothetical. [You know] Is it a functional role? “I just need calories and I just need to maintain my blood sugar so I can move through the day.” Is it a joyful role?
Amina Altai: [00:13:22] A lot of people hide behind food too and use it as a crutch as an emotional crutch for use. The first thing is really identifying the role of food. And if it’s somewhat off balance it’s about reframing it. Right? So, yes it should be joyful and it should be functional. We should never hide behind or abuse ourselves with it. And so creating a plan from that but to really have a healthy relationship with food and to be able to manage it in our ever hectic queues so always on society and we need a sort of a plan for what we do at home and to plan for what we do out in the world. Right? So, depending on how we’re reframing that approach to food [you know] thinking about you know what you’re going to have at your home and having sort of your go to healthy pantry items, healthy fridge items. And if you don’t have those and if you don’t like to cook there is no shame in that game. It’s about what do I do when I go out. And how do I approach healthy eating out in the world as well because I can totally be done. I have clients that are management consultants or nurse consultants and they travel literally every week and cooking a meal and making a meal is not something that could even be in the consideration set. So, for somebody like that it’s about “OK, well, where are you going to be and when and what types of restaurants and what types of food will you have access to and how do we create the healthiest approach for what’s within your realm of possibility because everyone’s realm of possibility is different.”
Mathea Ford: [00:14:43] So this is something that your client had basically made a priority. There like I’m done being sick, tired, whatever else.
Amina Altai: [00:14:52] Totally! Totally and you know it also is [you know] how much of a priority can you make it right. So some people might be like I’m done being sick and tired and they’re like “Hey! I want to do this to 100 percent. I want to live my best life. I never want to feel sick etc.” And those are like my type A plus plus students. People that are like you know “Hey, I want to feel less crappy. I want to feel a little bit better. I can’t do everything to the letter of the law and I want to have fun and you know 80/20 or 70/30 feels good for me and that’s about doing the best with what we have and where we are. So it really depends on the client.
Mathea Ford: [00:15:28] I think you know on a good thing there like the 80/20 rule because you can totally change a small thing, just one thing and see that 80 percent improve.
Amina Altai: [00:15:41] 100 percent and it’s so interesting and astounding to see and of course everybody and their bodies and their biochemistry are so different. So [you know] the change that one person might make will be very different results than somebody else of course. But you know I had a client who simply gave up soda and lost 20 pounds and fell markedly different.
Amina Altai: [00:16:03] And then I’ve had clients that are you know for all intents and purposes have a really healthy BMI, they’re doing really well but they have maybe three to five stubborn pounds and that type of client generally has to work a little harder, do a little bit more to see more of a change because they’re already within [you know] a really really healthy space so it totally depends on the client. But yes even tiny changes like swapping soda for water you can see a big result.
Mathea Ford: [00:16:29] What would you say is next? Like what in this field that you work in, [you know] what’s kind of the next thing that are coming out?
Amina Altai: [00:16:39] What’s so interesting and I encountered this company last year. So, obviously in the world of nutrition and functional medicine, genetics are a big area of study as is the micro biome. [You know] with genetics basically 2 percent of our DNA is fixed. Ninety eight percent is expressed via environment and lifestyle. So you know you’ll see the emergence of a lot of genetic testing and you know giving people diet plans and healthy lifestyle plans based on that but they’re not specific enough because you don’t know, you know they say for example I have a gene for Alzheimer’s and so do you. But we don’t know if I will express mine at 40 and you’ll express yours at 80. We don’t know. Right? So, you know they’re giving us recommendations based on a what if. But there is an emerging field of study called MetabolomX which basically studies the metabolites our bodies produce. So based on the metabolites they can recommend a particular way of eating and moving and managing stress which is very very specific.
Amina Altai: [00:17:38] So it’s looking at our microbiomes and the metabolites produced by your specific microbiomes and it’s a snapshot and then they’ll give specific dietary recommendations so I think that you know the area is in or the the category in the market is getting really specific. It’s about nutrition and wellness advice that specific to me and my needs and it’s getting even more and more and more specific so I think gone are the days of the one size fits all this is good and this is bad. It’s really about what’s going to work for you and the current state of your body your microbiomes etc..
Mathea Ford: [00:18:13] Yeah I’ve seen some testing that people can do basically saliva, blood, whatever where it kind of tell you what allergies and what kind of foods your reacting to. And you can adjust those in your diet to see that reduction inflammation there [you know] affected change. So that’s awesome! I love that example!
Amina Altai: [00:18:38] Isn’t it exciting?
Mathea Ford: [00:18:40] That’s exciting! I mean, just to think how well we can measure on an individual level and make recommendations on an individual level or what you can do and it will make a difference.
Amina Altai: [00:18:56] Absolutely!
Mathea Ford: [00:18:57] Not like you exercise more, eat this differently because people react to to foods differently.
Amina Altai: [00:19:04] 100 percent. 100 percent. And it also really democratizes health care at the same time, right? You have the emergence of a lot of these companies that are trading at home testing kits that are really specific to you and your body. And so instead of going to your healthcare provider and them giving you this really templated approach. We’re basically putting it in everybody’s hands which is amazing and so empowering I think. We’re more empowered to make healthy decisions now than ever.
Amina Altai: [00:19:28] And you know we know which foods to choose for our specific body and our needs states and our disease states. And I think it’s really empowering.
Mathea Ford: [00:19:38] That is great. I’m so excited about that. Who would you say is best suited kind of for this type of change? Who do you find is like your A plus plus student like what type of person is going to be best to adjust to these types of things?
Amina Altai: [00:20:00] Yeah. So I would say. My clients really kind of fall into two buckets. So it’s somebody who is potentially just being diagnosed with a particular disease – be it autoimmunity or IBD or what have you. And then somebody who is that type A that feels like [you know] they have last five pounds to lose and they really need some fine tuning because they haven’t been able to get it right themselves. So, they really fall into those two buckets. [You know] as I mentioned before, I do wish that we could get to some people before they got to those disease states. That’s my big juicy wish to the universe. But you know that’s that’s why a lot of people have a wakeup call right? Because we’re moving through life and we think things are fine. And what’s interesting is actually [you know] a lot of people think that certain things are normal and they’re not normal like the idea of [you know] not going to the bathroom every day, [you know] chronic constipation something like that. Most people live with it and think that it’s entirely normal and it’s not. So, [you know] a lot of people are going through life and they think they’re fine.
Amina Altai: [00:21:01] But until you make some changes and they feel really great they have no idea how it even feels to feel great which is such an interesting thing and I was the same way. I had gone through life feeling fine you know getting headaches every couple of days thinking that was totally normal and it wasn’t until I [you know] adjusted my approach to eating and movement and my whole approach to wellness and I was like “Whoa! This is actually what it feels like to feel well?” That’s very different than the way I’ve been living. So, [you know] I do wish we could get to people earlier on but you know we get to people when we get to them – when they’re ready for it.
Mathea Ford: [00:21:33] Yeah go ahead of the pan and how ready they are for it too.
Amina Altai: [00:21:36] Exactly. Exactly.
Mathea Ford: [00:21:38] So Amina, I have one more question for you. What is your favorite food?
Amina Altai: [00:21:45] So this is a tough one of them. Do I have to pick just one?
Mathea Ford: [00:21:50] No. Pick a couple.
Amina Altai: [00:21:51] OK. OK. So I think I basically live on a diet of Cruciferous vegetables and dark chocolate.
Mathea Ford: [00:21:58] OK.
Mathea Ford: [00:21:59] So, I love the Cauliflower Rice is my absolute favorite it’s so versatile. Broccoli also so versatile. What I love about those two is that you can have them as whole vegetables or you can Rice them where you can even make your own pizza crust from them they’re so versatile and filling and full of nutrients and then dark chocolate because I do have a sweet tooth and if I’m going to have something sweet it’s also going to be something that has you know great health benefits so that’s where my dark chocolate comes in.
Amina Altai: [00:22:28] But I’m like I can’t go a week without it.
Mathea Ford: [00:22:33] I love cauliflower because it just takes on the flavor of so many things. You can just you know put it in. Like you said cauliflower rice regular cauliflower make into crust. It just, it’s very versatile. I mean…
Amina Altai: [00:22:48] So versatile. I agree. I actually recently made a Cauliflower Paella and that was I think hands down one of my favorite dishes so instead of using Rice like you would in a traditional Paella, I used the cauliflower rice and oh my gosh the way that it picks up the flavors of the saffron are just incredible. I think it was better than traditional Paella. Don’t tell any of my Spanish friends.
Mathea Ford: [00:23:12] Well just our little secret number nobody’s listening. OK so thanks Amina for being on the podcast today. I have so enjoyed talking to you. Is there anywhere that people can find you? How can the you know learn more about you and what you do?
Amina Altai: [00:23:29] Yes absolutely! Mathea thank you so much for having me today. It has been so much fun. You can learn more about me by going to aminaaltai.com. That’s A-M-I-N-A-A-L-T-A-I.com. And I also have a little gift, a little give away. That is all about helping people get unstuck in their daily lives and in their businesses and you know feeling well in their businesses and getunstuck.aminaaltai.com. So if you want to check that out that’s my little goody bag for you guys.
Mathea Ford: [00:23:58] OK I’ll put that in the show notes for everybody to be able to click on and go over there and get more information about you.
Amina Altai: [00:24:05] Amazing!
Mathea Ford: [00:24:06] Alright. Thanks Aamina!
Amina Altai: [00:24:08] Thanks so much Mathea. It’s been such an honor.
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