The How and Why of Eating
On the internet these days there is unlimited supply of ideas on what to eat with a million testimonials to “back it up”. Most people’s motivation to eat better comes from wanting to lose weight. Often the newest fad diet will start off good where you lose a little weight, but then after awhile you can’t maintain it and you shift back to your old way of eating. Or it leaves you hungry, still struggling to get those extra pounds off, and feeling guilty that you failed. No matter what diet you pick there will be pros and cons, some diets will work for some and not others. Unfortunately, there is no magic equation for the perfect diet for everyone.
In truth weight loss is not as simple as burning more calories than you are taking in. Truth is even with restricted calorie intake and hours of burning calories at the gym you may find yourself at the same weight or even gaining weight.
The bright side is the base of all healthy diets is the same: Eat simple real food. That means eat the food with the least amount of processing possible. Nature made food pretty perfect and we as humans have done a stellar job of messing it all up. Portions should be enough to satisfy you until your next meal.
Be weary of anything with a label telling you how healthy it is. Companies with the desire to sell you more food do not have your health in their best interest. The more additive their food is the better, because you will buy more of it. Also, the cheaper it is for them to make it the more money they make every time you buy it. The true is real health food doesn’t have a label or ingredient list, it is just real food straight out of the ground.
People spend a lot of time thinking about what they should eat. Questioning if that is “on their diet” or “how many calories are in that” but they are missing a very big piece of the puzzle.
The first place we should start when eating healthy is not actually about what we are eating but how and why we are eating.
How long did it take you to eat breakfast this morning?
Did you even eat breakfast this morning?
What else were you doing while eating breakfast?
Were you checking your email? Watching the news? Driving your car on your way to work or dropping the kids off?
Did you just have coffee instead?
Do you remember what you ate?
What did it taste like?
Did you enjoy it?
Was it satisfying?
I have found that the average person spends very little time actually eating and often has a hard time recalling what they ate in a given day.
Why did you eat?
Did you eat because you were hungry?
Because you were stressed? Depressed? Anxious? Happy?
Or because it was just time to eat?
Did you just eat because it was there?
Why did you stop eating? Because the plate was empty? You ran out of time? You were stuffed?
Or were you satisfied and content?
The human body is a complex organism that requires many different types of nutrients to keep it running at peak performance. It can put up with a lot of abuse but eventually it will start to break down if not given the proper building blocks. We can be overfed but extremely malnourished because we are over eating foods that are high in calories and very low in nutrients. The vast majority of people are deficient in micronutrients because of poor diversity in our diets.
So before we even begin to change the foods that you are eating I want you to first change the why and how of your eating.
Why and How rules:
Eat because you are hungry.
Focus on eating
Stop when you are satisfied.
We need to eat to nourish the body, because we need to fuel our bodies with the proper elements to maintain the complex system that it is. Give yourself permission to eat. It is important to eat at predictable times so the body can depend on nourishment and not be in doomsday survival mode where it wants to store extra calories incase it doesn’t get fed again.
There are many reason why we might be eating but we must truly listen to our body to know if we are actually feeding hunger or just appetite. Are we eating because we need nutrients or do we just have a craving for the taste or texture of what is on our plate. Are you eating out of social obligation?
When it is time to eat, sit down and eat. No distractions with TV, phone, computer, book, etc. If you cannot take the time to eat you might not really be hungry. Take your time and chew each bite. Did you know for proper digestion we should chew each bite at least 50 times? A meal should take about 20 minutes to eat.
If you are wolfing down bite after bite without taking a breath, you are missing the meal and not really enjoying all the tastes, smells, and textures of your food. Also it takes time for our nervous system to send messages from the stomach to the brain saying that it has had enough. If you eat to quickly you will likely over eat. Or if you don’t actually focus on the fact that you are eating you may find yourself hungry again shortly after eating because your body didn’t recognize that you just ate. Do not eat on auto-pilot.
Ways to focus on eating include actually sitting down to eat. Don’t eat standing at the counter, or eat in the car, or while you are doing anything else. Set your fork down between bites, or if it is hand held food set it down between bites. Don’t start the next bite until you finish the one in your mouth. Have a sip of water between bites. Think about what you are eating. Ask yourself if you can pick out different flavors in the dish.
When eating meals with others focus on the conversation and spend time talking about something interesting and pleasant. Don’t talk with your mouth full. Eating is a social thing, and dragging the meal out with good company doesn’t mean you need to over eat.
So with all this information I challenge you today to think about the how and why of eat. Pay attention to how long it took you to eat, how you felt while you were eating, and if you were satisfied after. The next step is to make small changes in the how and why you eat.
If it is only taking you 2 minutes to eat your average meal, for the next week try to make it 3-4 minutes. I don’t expect you to go from 2 minutes to 20 overnight. This is how you have been conditioned to eat for a long time, lasting change also takes a while. I challenge you to put your fork down between each bite, it seems simple yet it can be very challenging to actually slow down and eat with intention.
I know that if you stick to the 3 steps above and work towards more conscious eating after time you will find that you are eating only what you need and you are making better food choices naturally. That is because you are more in balance with your body and in listening to the natural cues your body is telling you. Our innate intelligence knows what it needs to be healthy, we just have to turn down the volume on the rest of the world so we can actually hear it.
Let me know how it goes!