Is it possible we have lost the connection to our internal measurement of true hunger? In an age where our collective behaviour around food is clearly causing havoc on the nation’s health, isn’t it time we stopped and took a long hard look at what we’re doing at mealtimes?
Our inbuilt hunger-detecting mechanism is subjugated to the wisdom of literally thousands of books, tips, blogs, government guidelines and scientific or medical studies on the subject of eating. Without discounting the valuable work of scientists and nutritionists, it appears that we increasingly choose to place more faith in our eating style with authorities outside of ourselves rather than listening to our own body’s barometer – which is there to entirely to support and serve us.
How many times have you said to yourself, “I don’t need this. I think I’m full.” Yet battled internally because: “there’s only a little bit left so best finish up.” That ‘little bit’ over time on a daily, aggregate basis builds up into excess weight that can be added to your body for decades. Even more importantly, those ‘little bits’ can and do dull our sense of fullness every day that this approach to eating prevails.
We might consider the possibility of another way – to work with the body’s own messaging service – to really feel what food is needed; to only eat when you feel hungry and to eat what your body is hungry for. If you eat what your body craves, then you’ve got an addiction and that’s just masking a feeling you’re trying to ignore – emptiness, overwhelm, tension – worthy of a blog in its own right rather than ticking off your ‘five a day’ or whatever diet plan you currently follow. After all, appetite and food preferences are intensely personal and subjective.
The solution is simple. Eat what the body knows it needs, for our bodies have such wisdom, well beyond our ken.
How would you feel if you were told “you no longer have to eat as much as you do.” Would it bring up cries of: “but I deserve it! But I want it! But I like it!” True that may be, but what if your body didn’t actually need it? With the prevalence of food and its role in our daily world, the onus is on ourselves to take the matter in hand and have a strategic rethink on our relationship with food: why we eat, when we eat and how we eat it.
When I eat foods that are heavy or dense, I start to take on the characteristic energy of those foods fairly soon after. My mood changes and life doesn’t flow as smoothly as when I eat lighter foods and smaller portions.
But the only way to know is to experience it for yourself and then becomes known to us, because it has been lived and felt in us. How many times in my decades of dieting did I notice it wasn’t what I was eating but the fact that I was eating less that was making me feel vital? Not the what, but the how much and the how frequently.
If we agree with the popular saying that ‘we are what we eat’ and Einstein’s finding that everything is energy, then could this mean that I literally influence my state of being, my way of feeling, my energy levels, with every mouthful I choose to eat? If this is the case, then is this not revolutionary knowledge for health and wellbeing?
How many times did I notice on days when I was working flat out and only managing one meal a day, how much lighter and clearer I felt? And yet why did I stubbornly choose not to adopt this in my approach to eating? I think I was so socialised into a cultural pattern of eating, so influenced by it, that I actually gave up my true knowing of what my body really needed in favour of fitting in with a behavioural norm. I am not advocating that you pare down your meals to one a day, just to listen to what your body says it needs. See it as your very own scientific research project with your body – a lifelong one.
When I really listen to my body each time I reach for a ritual breakfast, elevenses, snack or three course meal and am open to the signals that tell me if it’s truly my body that’s asking for this right now, if this food will nourish and support me or dull and dampen my energy, the body’s reply is always honest, always revealing.
My view? Revert to factory settings. Go back to the absolute basics. When meal time comes around or the urge for a snack strikes, ask ourselves what we truly feel hungry for and whether we are indeed hungry right now – without being bamboozled, coerced or persuaded into anything other than what is right for our own body. Otherwise, we have no-one to blame for dulling our lightness of being but the very hand that feeds us – our self.