So it’s our discomfort – and even disgust – with the joy of eating that frightens us. And that’s because of a culture that tells us, in a thousand ways, from the time we first start solid foods, that this comfort cannot be trusted. That we cannot be trusted to know what and how much to eat. We must outsource this judgment to experts who know better – first to our parents, then to teachers; then to food gurus and big brands, who sell us on diets, cleanses, food dogmas, and “lifestyle changes.” We cede our knowledge, our own personal relationship with food, to an entire world built on the premise that we don’t know how to feed ourselves.~Virginia Sole-Smith
Our anxiety about food leaves many of us overweight and never satisfied. We define food as good, bad, healthy, and unhealthy. Many of us have a destructive relationship with food that’s a constant source of anxiety and frustration.
There are those of us who spend most of our adult life in search of the perfect diet. Many people have jumped on the bandwagon to follow the Keto diet or intermittent fasting in hopes of finally reaching that perfect number on the scale. And there are those more desperate who try diet pills with the promise they will magically transform their bodies without changing eating habits or exercising.
Our bodies are amazing, complex machines that are designed to provide us with true signals of thirst and hunger. But the truth is we’ve destroyed our natural hunger cues. We associate food with our emotions and stuff ourselves with processed foods containing foreign substances our bodies don’t recognize.
Many of us eat while watching television, commuting to work, talking on the phone, and a multitude of other distracting activities. We’ve lost the experience of savoring and enjoying meals. Many of us scarf down our food in less than ten minutes and wonder why we are still hungry when we’re done?
Have you noticed most grocery store displays are cleverly positioned in the middle of the aisles, stocked with junk foods designed to catch our eye and make our mouths water? Our bodies are bombarded daily with chemicals from manufactured foods that have left our taste buds numb and with little desire for “real food.” Therefore, we find ourselves unsatisfied and craving junk food that is shoved down our throat every day via food product marketing and the media. And how many commercials do we see on a daily basis filling our brains with images of mouth-watering junk and processed foods?
Many processed foods have been engineered to be so incredibly “rewarding” to the brain, that they overpower anything we might have come across in nature.
We have complicated mechanisms in our bodies and brains that are supposed to regulate energy balance (how much we eat and how much we burn) which, until very recently in evolutionary history, worked to keep us at a healthy weight.
There is quite a lot of evidence that the reward value of foods can bypass the innate defense mechanism and make us start eating much more than we need, so much that it starts to compromise our health
One of the common barriers to weight loss is the uncomfortable sensation of hunger that drives overeating and makes dieting fail, even in those who are obese from over-consumption of calories. Over the past two decades we have worked closely with approximately twenty thousand patients in a private suburban family practice in New Jersey specializing in nutritional interventions for weight loss and disease prevention/management. Our experience is that enhancing the micronutrient quality of the diet even in the context of a substantially lower caloric intake dramatically mitigates the experience of hunger. A diet high in micronutrients appears to decrease food cravings and overeating behaviors. Sensations such as fatigue, weakness, stomach cramps, tremors, irritability and headaches, commonly interpreted as “hunger”, resolve gradually for the majority of people who adopt a high nutrient density diet, and a new, less distressing, sensation (which we label “true” or “throat” hunger) replaces it.
This study suggested that a diet high in processed foods resulted in inflammation causing sensations of “toxic hunger” which resulted in withdrawal symptoms, and overeating. Those on a nutrient dense diet more often experienced true hunger and a decrease in overeating and cravings.
Please Tell Me What To Eat
As a personal trainer, the majority of my clients want to know about the latest diet craze and want me to tell them what to eat. Although it’s a good idea to track nutrients to assure you are getting sufficient amounts of protein, complex carbs, and healthy fats; the truth is, there is no perfect diet. Many who lose weight on diets often gain the weight back once they return to old eating patterns. The key is to get back to basics and retrain your brain by adding more nutrient dense foods and gradually decreasing processed foods. Our bodies need real food to stay healthy and function properly. You can’t go wrong by going back to nature for the PERFECT DIET containing fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds.
Therefore, it important to make gradual dietary changes to increase the likelihood of adapting to a more healthy plant-based diet. Drastic dietary changes are often unsuccessful and leave us more obsessed with labeling foods as good and bad. Instead of subtracting unhealthy foods you currently enjoy, try adding more fruits and veggies to your current meals. Learn to enjoy the experience of planning meals, researching new recipes, and cooking real food. Begin to train your brain to pay attention to real hunger cues by practicing mindful eating. Before you know it, your body will respond by craving nutrients from fresh fruits and vegetables instead of junk and processed foods.
We don’t need others to tell us what and when to eat. Our bodies are designed to tell us when we are hungry and what nutrients we need. There is nothing wrong with occasional splurges of your favorite dessert, pizza, or fries, but learn to enjoy these foods in moderation. Getting back to our true hunger can be accomplished by practicingMindful Eating- 10 Simple Ways To Celebrate Your Meals.
Food is a large part of our lives. It should be enjoyed and celebrated. Learn to make peace with food by practicing these following tips for mindful eating:
Plan your meals– Search for recipes and make a grocery list- explore new foods, herbs, spices.
Make your plate colorful- Prepare a beautiful plate. Use your best china. Many people save their best china for a special occasion. Make every meal a special occasion. Celebrate food, celebrate each day of your life.
Turn off the television, take a break from your phone– It’s hard to be mindful and tune into your meals when on social media, watching television or texting. Put your phone away and turn the TV off.
Take time before your meal to be thankful- Take a moment before your meals to realize how lucky you are to have a place to sit, a roof over your head, and food to eat. There are much less fortunate who don’t.
Chew your food– Don’t gulp down your food. Slow down and chew it completely.
Take small bites- Use a fork and knife and cut small pieces.
Really taste it. Savor the smell, the taste, the texture.
Enjoy a glass of wine– If you like wine, experiment with different types and explore and research pairing your wine with different foods.
Make it a celebration– We all love celebrations. Make this family time or just time alone to relax, unwind and enjoy your meal. Make your meal something to look forward to every day.
Don’t rush it!- Take time to cook! Get the family involved cutting up veggies, setting the table and then turn onto mindful eating. As you experience the wonderful meal you prepared, think about all you have in your life to be grateful for!