They protest, quietly at first, but later can come louder interruptions, like illnesses. Learn to hear the first signs and you’ll be a lot healthier in the long term.
Many people are fundamentally out of touch with their bodies. Their minds and their matters speak different languages. We overstuff, undernourish and wear them out.
Have you ever stopped to wonder if what you’re consuming every day is what your body really needs?
Have you ever tried a fad diet or a lifestyle, like veganism, that just felt plain wrong, but because Celebrity X said it worked wonders for him or her, you continued to force yourself to follow it?
The very first thing to do when you’re trying to make a change in your diet is to bridge the gap between your head and everything below.
Stop letting your brain make the decisions by itself. Stop letting it wear the pants. This is a partnership, not a dictatorship.
If you learn to listen to your body, I can promise you that your eating habits will improve:
1. Cut the cord between the clock and your fridge.
Don’t eat unless you are really, truly hungry. We fall too easily into our routines of breakfast, lunch and dinner. As fully functioning adults, no one is making you come to the table and finish your plate anymore.
Eat when you’re hungry, not when it feels like it’s time. If you want to have six small meals throughout the day instead of the usual three big ones, go right ahead.
2. Snack as much as you want, but make it healthy
If you’re hungry, eat. But, throw away everything that calls itself “snack food,” like the chips, the pretzels and the over-salted, sugary empty carbohydrates.
Buy fruit, vegetables, whole-wheat crackers, hummus, baba ghanoush and olives. Eat whenever you feel like it, but eat intelligently.
3. Stop when you’re not hungry anymore
You know that feeling you have when you’re waiting for your work friend to finish up her stuff so you can go for lunch together?
You’re hungry and you’re having trouble concentrating. All you can think about is food.
Eat until that feeling goes away and then stop. Are you still hungry? No? Then don’t put anything in your mouth.
Let’s go with a car metaphor: You don’t need to fill up your tank all the way. Your body stores the extra calories you take in as fat to be burned later.
If you stop eating when you feel like you can function again, there won’t be much to store.
Unfortunately, many food items are sold in portions much bigger than most people need to quench the hunger.
4. Eat slowly
I am a giant hypocrite writing this because I consume food at a similar velocity to a high-powered vacuum cleaner. But maybe you can do better.
Eating slower will give your body the time to realize when it’s satisfied rather than suddenly realizing you’ve accidentally stuffed yourself.
Leave a good portion of time between courses when you’re out for dinner.
Order your appetizers and your drinks first and wait to order your main course until the waiter comes to clear your plates.
Order dessert after they come to clear your plates again, but really assess whether you have the space.
This will also let you have a nice, relaxed, conversation-filled dinner.
5. Think about what you need, not what you want
Let’s imagine you wake up hungover. You feel headachy, tired, awful and dehydrated. The best food to replenish the water you’re missing is a soup and a salad. Grab some broth and water-filled veggies.
But, the reason no self-respecting Sunday brunch-serving restaurant has soups and salads on the menu is because our brains take over. We feel like sh*t, so we eat what we associate with happiness: big, greasy meals.
You opt for syrup-drowned pancakes and starchy French toast. Your body is trying to recover from all the alcohol, and the very last thing it needs is a heavy meal to process, too.
But we eat it because we feel happy while chewing. Afterward, we seldom feel much better.
6. Eat clean and local
Eat foods in their natural forms. Buy your meat from a butcher rather than wrapped in plastic from a chain grocery store.
Most cities have a farmer's market on the weekends, which sell fresh and seasonal fruits and vegetables.
You’ll notice that the flavors are so much better than grocery store produce that was picked green, transported across the world and artificially ripened.
7. Eat what you crave
Everyone is different. The first thing to remember is that it is completely okay if the paleo diet or going gluten-free doesn’t feel right for you.
If it’s genuinely difficult to stick to, it’s safe to say that it’s not right for you.
If you go vegetarian and the smell of grilling meat drives you absolutely crazy, you can assume you were not built to be subsist on greens and need to add some animal protein to your diet.
If it’s feels natural and easy, you know you’ve made a good change.
8. Everything in moderation
There are so many delicious foods in the world. Life would be significantly less fun if we never allowed ourselves to enjoy them.
However, it’s important to understand the moderation rule. Your body does not want to process half a cake or an entire package of cheese, no matter how tasty it is.
You know that heavy, uncomfortable feeling after Christmas dinner or a big bowl of pasta? The sugar rush after eating a bag of candy?
These are not good feelings. Try to eat small portions of heavy or very sweet things. Your body will thank you.
We are so good at listening to our bodies in other ways. We drink water when we’re thirsty, go to the bathroom when we need to and we adjust accordingly when we feel too hot or too cold. But with food, it’s different.
So many people allow feelings to dictate what they eat rather than putting the things in their mouths that their bodies truly need.
Food has become so much more than fuel; it has cultural significance. We link certain meals and smells to holidays, family and comfort. We have been conditioned since early age to finish the food on our plates.
Break those rules and listen what your body is really saying. You’ll feel the change.