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Breaking Bad Pandemic Eating Habits

Wellness – Eating Habits

June 22, 2021

Jiying Zhang joined us for a Wellness conversation about reexamining our daily eating habits to reboot and reclaim our health.  She shared her own, personal story of learning about her own health to recover from chronic stress and exhaustion. Then, she provided actionable tips to alter our approach to eating, highlighting how a mindset shift can make nutritious choices far easier, which in turn leads to positive changes in our overall well-being, improving our energy, focus, and vitality. She introduced us to resources and options for when we’re tired of cooking from home and then spoke to the necessity of using supplements. Jiying’s accessible advice made starting over with our dietary patterns feel exciting, necessary, and wonderfully doable.

Jiying began by emphasizing that our approach to breaking the habits which formed during the pandemic should not come from a place of shame or punishment. Many companies are taking advantage of the fact that people have gained weight this past year, and they are guilting people into buying products to shed pounds. Her advice is not about weight – it is about helping you feel your absolute best. It is about self-care and self-love. It’s essential to establish this mindset and intention before beginning to change your habits.

Jiying’s StartOver story

Jiying started her career as a strategy consultant. She loved the position, but it was a tremendous amount of responsibility and pressure, and its fast-paced nature resulted in chronic fatigue, overwhelming stress, and various health issues. She took a sabbatical, went home to Portland, and started tending to her health. She educated herself about nutrition both to heal herself and out of genuine interest. She began taking supplements and worked on her diet. 

Then, in 2013, while working on a project in Shanghai, she learned about the Chinese supplement market – specifically, that it was underdeveloped, with a lot of subpar products and misinformation. She knew this market was a huge opportunity. In 2017, she decided to quit her job, sensing it was the right time to take a risk. At 27 years old, she moved back to China to gain a firm understanding of the market. She spent two years there, selling professional grade supplements from the U.S. These supplements were high quality, akin to what doctors give to patients. Word of mouth about her products developed organically. During this time, she also became passionate about education as most people in China were unaware of lactose and gluten intolerances.

Jiying started hosting health bootcamps, but she had the urge to do more. In 2019, she started blogging and her businesses continued to grow. People followed and trusted her, eager to buy products she believed in.

Jiying’s businesses developed organically, by building trust and relationships with her customers. She is now a wellness blogger, health coach, and online retailer. On her blog, she explores all different aspects of health, including career fulfillment and emotional wellness, taking an integrated approach to well-being. As a health coach, she supports her clients individually, providing expertise and accountability for their unique needs. She curates products for her online marketplace, only stocking it with her personal favorites. She scoured the globe for the very best products, so her online store is a true, warm extension of her home, kitchen and pantry.

More information about each business can be found at this link.

Breaking Bad (Eating Habits) 

Feeding ourselves during the pandemic became another responsibility to handle each and every day. Without any takeout or dining options for the first time, we had almost no alternatives beyond cooking for ourselves. We all managed this new role the best we could, with many of us resorting to easy, quick meals with questionable nutritional value or grazing mindlessly throughout the day. 

Jiying offered strategies to shift our thinking so we can make more nourishing choices with minimal effort.  

First, focus on key decision moments, like exercising, breakfast, and your afternoon snack. If you prioritize exercising, even briefly, you are much more likely to make healthier choices for the remainder of your day. When selecting what to eat for breakfast, choose protein and healthy fats, which will balance your blood sugar, fortifying you for a productive morning. Carb-heavy, sugar-loaded breakfasts spike your blood sugar and then leave you tired and reaching for more food within a few hours.

We all experience that afternoon dip. Don’t be afraid of snacking – a nutritious snack can restore your energy. Avoid anything sugary, which may give you a short-term boost in energy, but you’ll crash soon after. Instead, pick up a handful of nuts, veggies, hummus dip, or almond butter, which are all satiating and energizing options. 

If you focus on these key moments, and make the choice to exercise and have a balanced, protein-filled breakfast and afternoon snack, you’ll gain momentum and it will feel so much easier to continue with these positive choices throughout your day. One good decision leads to the next.  

Secondly, cut down on mindless snacking. Often, we’re snacking not because of true hunger, but due to stress or boredom. Before opening up your cupboard, ask yourself, ““Do I feel like having veggies?” If your answer is no, your hormones are making you feel hungry and you’re simply craving sugar.

Set yourself up for snacking success by increasing friction. Put healthy snacks in visible places, so they become the easier choice. Hide unhealthy snacks, or even better, don’t bring them home.

Don’t underestimate the power of portion control. The philosophy that you can have what you want, but just a smaller amount holds true for snacks, too. Pour that delicious popcorn (or your snack of choice) in a bowl, but be sure to stick the bag back in the pantry. 

Next, “healthify” takeout and eating out. Takeout foods are often high sodium, greasy, low in fiber, and have a lot of unhealthy carbohydrates. You don‘t need to take these meals as they come. Make changes to it based on your taste and preferences. As a rule of thumb, keep in mind that 50-75% of your plate should be veggies, so add something green to your meal! Slice up some avocado or toss a simple salad into the mix.

If you’re going out with friends, pick the restaurant. Be proactive and provide them with options that you’re comfortable with. Also, there’s no need to be sheepish about your dietary changes; take the initiative to have a discussion about your new choices and lifestyle. It’s quite possible that they’re itching to make changes, too and may even be relieved to have someone to talk to about dietary habits, food intolerances, or just trying to feel their best. 

Again, be mindful of your portions. Choose a satisfying amount of food and put the rest away. You should feel comfortable and energized after your meal.

If you’re struggling with gut issues, low energy, or an unstable mood, try an elimination diet. The most common intolerances are lactose and gluten, but others include sugar, soy, shellfish and nightshades. For 30 days, remove these potential allergens from your diet and you’ll feel a huge change. Then, introduce them back in, one at a time, and your tolerance for them will be very clear.

Finally, “crowd out” the bad – focus on adding good stuff to your diet, like veggies, which will naturally crowd out eating junk. Taste and health are not mutually exclusive; eating in a healthy way can and should be extremely delicious. Consciously focus on nutritious foods for a bit of time, and before you know it, you’ll be craving vegetables.

Ultimately, the right diet is the one that makes you feel your best. Honor your needs. Take care of yourself. 

How Do I Deal with Cooking Burnout?

Most of us are over constantly cooking for ourselves. We baked all the bread. 

The reason cooking from home can be so exhausting is because there are so many steps involved. Below are a few tips to simplify and shorten each part of the process, while still creating a delicious, wholesome meal.

1) Planning

You don’t need to invent your own recipes. Instead, find them. You can find fantastic recipes in Bon Appetit, Food 52, cookbooks, and on food blogs.

Once you scour these recipes, have some staples. You need at least 5 simple and easy recipes that are go-tos, and when you grocery shop, be sure to pick up the ingredients for these meals. 

2) Shopping & Prepping  

This tip is a game changer – prep for your meals right after grocery shopping.

Don’t skip the canned and frozen aisle. Frozen and canned fruits and vegetables are packaged at peak ripeness, so they’re even more nutritious and flavorful than fresh produce.

3) Cooking

Embrace DIY meals and sheetpan meals. For example, if you want to serve a sushi meal, spread out various ingredients and let everyone pick what they want for their rolls. It makes your life far easier and everyone can select exactly what they want; plus, it still brings you and your loved ones together.

Also, we can still cook together! Often, we’re missing out on the social aspect of cooking. Invite a friend or family member to cook with you virtually. It can be a blast and keeps you connected to someone far away.

4) Have Backup Options

Exhausting day and you just can’t bring yourself to make another meal? Have some favorite backup options. Smoothies can be an excellent choice. If you do decide to make a smoothie, focus on protein, avocado, greens, and a little bit of fruit. Don’t overdo it with the sugar. Additionally, over the past few years, healthy frozen meal options have grown exponentially, so check out the frozen aisle in your market. Finally, scope out some favorite, nutritious takeout options. Enjoy.

Do We Need Supplements? Yes.

The food we eat is not nearly as nutritious as it used to be. There are myriad reasons for the nutritional degradation of our food, one being depleted soil, so there are fewer vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals in our food. 

Also, our modern lifestyle leads to vitamin deficiencies. We are all coping with unprecedented levels of stress, far exceeding what we’ve encountered in the past, which results in less efficient metabolism of vitamins and nutrients. Specifically, many people are deficient in Vitamin D, particularly since we’ve been working from home, getting minimal, natural sunlight. Vitamin D is crucial for bone health, your immune system, maintaining energy, and mental clarity. 

Jiying recommends Vitamin D, fish oil and probiotic supplements for everyone, and additional supplements should be based on individual needs and goals. Jiying personally selected the highest quality supplements, which can be found at her online store.

You can learn more about her approach to wellness and connect with Jiying at jiyingzhang.com.

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