The New York Times had an article on Sunday entitled “Why Nutrition Is So Confusing” that I want to share with you. It resonates with me a lot, because I teach a class on mindful eating filled with people who come in confused about what they should or shouldn’t eat because of all of the different and conflicting messages we hear and read. I am sure they are not alone.
Even when you follow the research carefully, as I try to do, you will be left shaking your head in wonder. There are studies showing success on many diets –low carbohydrate/high protein, moderate-carb, high protein, moderate-fat, Mediterranean, etc. Then there are the lists of diets that “experts” have determined are the best. According to U.S. News rankings, even the Slim-Fast Diet made the list at #6 this year. Granted, there has been research demonstrating it’s efficacy in the short term. The problem is that we also know that most diets aren’t realistic over the long haul. You go off the diet and then you gain the weight back. Are you really going to drink Slim Fast all of your life? Even if you did, chances are you will also eat a lot of other things that will not result in long term weight management.
The solution: Mindfulness of the Body
In lieu of waiting for the definitive answer on what to eat and why, there is a fount of wisdom inside your body just waiting for you to listen. It may take some time for you to really hear what the body has to say if you have ignored it for a long time. However, before too long you will be able to discern the food it does and doesn’t like for you to put into it. When you eat food that it likes, you will have more energy and feel healthier. When you eat the “right” amount, you will not feel weighed down.
When I started mindfulness meditation practice, I was shocked at the messages my body was giving me that I had managed to miss for most of my life. The first thing I noticed was the chemical taste of Diet Coke. I had been a dedicated Diet Coke drinker for years and, all of a sudden, I REALLY tasted it. The taste was so unappealing I immediately stopped drinking the stuff. Do you really think your body wants colour (caramel E150d), sweeteners (aspartame, acesulfame-K), caffeine, phosphoric acid, citric acid and phenylalanine (the ingredients besides water in Diet Coke). Granted, I still drink coffee and get my cup a day caffeine fix, but without the extra chemical additives.
Fifteen years after that discovery, I’m still checking in with my body at every meal to see what it wants and how much. Just today at noon, at lunch with a friend, I looked down and saw that both of us had left food on our plates. Just because there was food doesn’t mean that we needed to keep eating. We were both full. We threw the rest away. My body feels good this afternoon because it’s not loaded down with food I didn’t want or need.
Body awareness is a key component in the road to weight management. Any program or diet that doesn’t include this as a foundation is likely to be doomed. Start your body awareness practice right now by simply scanning your body from head to toe (with particular attention to the belly). Spend even a minute in this way and you can begin to notice and release tension. Done before you eat, you are more likely to discern what and how much you need. Practice with all of the BASICS of mindful eating and find out what you’ve been missing about what you eat and drink.
To re-train your taste buds and your mind to listen to your body, start by using the BASICS of mindful eating. Here is a reasonable road to weight management. If you followed these guidelines alone, you would solve most of your problems with food.