Health tips are happening on my Facebook page lately. It’s just evolving in that direction. Yesterday’s was the following:
“Eat when you’re hungry. Don’t eat when you’re not.”
Yeah, groundbreaking stuff, there. I could almost hear the collective muttering, “duh” in a hushed exhale.
I concede that it’s not news. It’s not avant garde. It’s not the latest scientific breakthrough.
In my defense, however, chances are mighty, mighty good that you’re not following this old, ratty advice. Chances are pretty good that you are probably trying to find ways to eat less than you are actually hungry for a lot of the time and eating way past that full signal other times. How do I know that? What, am I made of stone? These things I speak of are things with which I am familiar, my friends.
Of course, in some part of your mind, or maybe a lot of your mind, you think that you can’t follow this little “rule” because there’s something quite wrong with you. I mean, really, it’s so easy a kid could do it. And before we cram crazy messages into their tender brains, they all do.
So if you can’t do it, what’s wrong with you?
Nothing. Absolutely nothing. That’s right. There’s nothing wrong with you.
There is probably something wrong with the nourishment that you are receiving though. I’ll bet a shiny new quarter on it, actually.
Here are the reasons that I think following this most obvious and simple guideline is so difficult:
1. We’re told that the body is not to be trusted. We get this message from early on from everywhere. So, when it’s 10:30 on a Tuesday morning and you’re still not hungry but stuff down some breakfast because you’ve been told that “it’s the most important meal of the day” or it’s 8:15 on a Monday night and your stomach is growling but you ignore it because “you’re not supposed to eat past 7”, you do this because you don’t trust your body.
2. You are malnourished. You will continue to eat until you get the nutrients that you need, not the calories that you need. This is a crucial distinction. We’ve shifted in the past 100 years to the caloric model of eating. You can eat a pint or more of low-fat ice cream during a commercial break. Just TRY and eat that much liver. And if liver is gross to you, you can change that to steak. Your body wants nutrients first and foremost. You understand this. A tablespoon of white sugar is not the same thing as a tablespoon of just about anything else. The calories may be the same but the drive to eat more will not be sated with the sugar. There are no nutrients. None. And worse, foods such as sugar and white flour actually use up your stores of other nutrients to digest. So, you’re not getting “no nutrition”, you’re getting “negative nutrition”. And what do you need? Positive nutrition in order to feel full, good, and healthy.
3. Malnutrition is not just a matter of food. If you feel agitated, you may need to go for a walk or punch a pillow. Cake will not allow the emotion to move through. Cake will numb it and repress it and that can feel helpful at times, but the agitation is still there, just buried under cake. The starvation you feel when loneliness overtakes you? French fries really don’t give a flip about your struggles. Friends do. The craving you have for affection will not be met by squirting the whole can of whipped cream in your mouth. This cycle only creates more agitation, more loneliness, more cravings for human touch. In the same way negative nutrition creates deeper and deeper deficits, using food to do something it’s not meant to do, creates deeper and deeper emotional deficits.
4. Portion prescriptions. Once you are able to connect with your hunger, portions are the stupidest thing EVER. There are days when I eat 5 snacks a day. None are big enough to be called a meal. Others, I eat the traditional 3 squares. Some, I eat one big meal with a steak so big it can’t fit on the plate. Once in a long while, I only want a smoothie for the whole day. Portions as mandated from the heavens assume that you are the same, day in, day out. They assume that your level of activity is identical every day. They assume that your hormones never fluctuate. They assume that you at 18 is the same as you at 45. Yes, I know there are “formulas” that allow for variance, but, really? Formulas? How hungry are you today? Well, eat. If you’re not, don’t. You don’t have to eat 5 meals a day if you’re not hungry five times a day.
I could probably go on and on but this will dissolve into a rant instead of something useful REAL quick, so I’ll stop there. In short, eat when you’re hungry. Don’t eat when you’re not. Basically, Nourish yourself into Freedom.
If you haven’t joined us for #30daymove, yet, it’s not too late. Never too late!