With all these external rules on what and when to eat, let’s go back to the basics and start asking ourselves this one question.
BY: LAURA JEAN, APD
What goes through your head when you are about to eat? Is it a list of food rules? Do you check the clock or calculate when you last ate? Do you run through a list of food options based on what’s available or what you are ‘allowed’?
Do you ever check in with your body or your physical cues?
If you answered no to that last question you are in good company. For most women, the thought of checking in with their body doesn’t even cross their mind. When it comes to food, we often make our decisions based on cues and information outside of ourselves. But what’s the alternative?
Why should you listen to your body?
If you were to believe all the latest information that floods your news feed about food and nutrition, then you couldn’t be blamed for thinking that the body is NOT to be trusted. But did you know that we were all born with an innate ability to know when we are hungry, how much we need to eat, and exactly what our body is looking for?
Have you ever watched a baby or toddler eat? They are using this built-in system all the time. They haven’t been taught to not trust their body yet. They’re hungry when their body tells them so, and they just aren’t interested in food when they aren’t hungry. They generally eat just enough to satisfy themselves. No amount of coaxing will get them to try ‘just one more bite’ when they are done.
They are completely in connection to their body, and this is how you were born to interact with food.
So what gets in the way of your ability to listen to your body? Over time, you become exposed to so many external messages about food and your body. From family, to schools, to friends and the media – someone always has an opinion on what you should or should not be eating. It’s no wonder that you start to lose trust in your own body; after all, these are figures of authority (especially when we are young) – what would little old you know?
The fact is, you know a lot.
You are the expert in your own relationship with food and the way to a healthier relationship is through connection to and trust in your body. So how can you reconnect to your body around food? There is one simple question you can ask yourself to begin this process:
Am I hungry?
Every time you go to eat, and anytime you try and stop yourself from eating, simply ask this question. Then listen. What is your physical body telling you?
Generally there’ll be one of three answers: yes, no, or I don’t know.
If the answer is yes – eat and enjoy.
If the answer is no. A follow-up question might be: “Why am I thinking of eating?” This question is asked simply to gather info, not to try and stop you from eating or to pass judgement. The outcome may be that you eat anyway, that you wait a little longer for your hunger to kick in, or that you do something else.
If the answer is I don’t know, then you might do a little digging. First step is to figure out what hunger actually feels like for you. Maybe you haven’t felt hunger for a while, or you’ve suppressed it for so long that it doesn’t even register. Perhaps you’ll ask yourself the follow-up question above and dig in a little deeper. Again, the outcome might be that you eat anyway, or you wait a little longer for your hunger to kick in.
By getting in the practice of asking this simple question and taking the time to listen to your physical response, you will start to reconnect you and your body.
And by doing so, you can fully enjoy the experience.
Adapted from the original article.
Laura Jean, APD is an Accredited Practising Dietitian based in Canberra, Australia who focuses on the ‘whys’ of eating and how we can connect to our body to guide our interaction with food. She is passionate about helping women develop a healthier relationship with food and enjoy every eating experience. Laura works with individuals, families and workplaces to promote mindful connected eating. Find out more at Eat With Awareness.