A Revolutionary New Way to Eat
Brace yourselves. I mean it. Grab the arms of the chair you are sitting on and hold on tight because I am going to say something crazy. Ready?
You can absolutely change your body without ever going to the gym, hiring a personal trainer or paying for some expensive diet service to make all your food for you.
You could even do it without hating every second of it.
“Bullshit,” you say.
Hell, that’s what I said. It sounds impossible. But it is NOT. You have to start having a little faith that your body knows what it needs better than anyone else does.
I did the various diets: Body for Life, Paleo, Low Carb… you name it, I tried it. I was SO uncomfortable in my own skin for years. I hired a personal trainer, meticulously counted calories and that just led me to this sense of terror whenever I was asked to go out and eat with friends. You know why? because I wouldn’t be able to control what I was eating and it could be outside my diet plan.
You know what that’s called? UNHEALTHY.
I used to get so frustrated because I felt like diet and exercise plans weren’t even realistic. I was working full time, so I couldn’t shop for and prepare every meal in advance. Also, anywhere from 3–5 times per week I had lunches and dinners out with colleagues or clients. Work conferences were the toughest —food was brought in so I didn’t even get a say in what we were going to eat.
Here’s what I found though, that changed everything. I was able to maintain and/or lose weight even in the toughest of circumstances:
I had to change the way I approached food.
One major, underlying premise of this approach can be found in the blog post below. Everything I’m writing today comes after this basic idea:
I put up the picture above to give you a sense of me, the person writing this post. I didn’t always look like that. I…medium.com
If you can wrap your mind around there being no such thing as “bad” food, read on.
I found I just needed to rewire my brain to do the following 5 things:
- Identify True Hunger
- Identify What you are Hungry For/Craving
- Get that thing
- Eat the BEST parts of that thing First
- Stop when you are Full/Identify Fullness
Sound simple? It’s not. It takes time and practice. You have to build new neural pathways about food. But let’s take a look at each one of these things in detail:
Identify True Hunger
I was surprised to find just how out of touch with my body I was when I started this. I was shocked to find how often I was eating just for the sake of eating or for social convenience, as well.
True hunger for me comes about every 2–3 hours. I often feel hungry at an hour and a half, but when I have eaten at that point, food doesn’t taste good, so I know that’s not a true hunger point.
My most tried and true way to know that I am hungry is that my ability to focus weakens, I feel tired and I start thinking about food. (Side note, I am also hypoglycemic, so these things may feel stronger for me.) When I am truly hungry, I can fully taste food. That’s how I know I have correctly identified it. That leads us to to step #2.
Identify What you are Hungry for/Craving
This one takes some time and some listening and once you tune in, you may be surprised at what you find. Pregnant ladies are famous for their weird cravings, but I have had plenty when I am not preg-o that were just as odd.
Here’s the deal: you have to ask yourself, “What sounds good right now?”* If I stop and really think about what I want to eat I come up with things like:
“You know what sounds good? A banana. Ooh and some peanut butter. And honey. How about a sandwich?” (My husband thinks this is a disgusting concoction, but he eats peanut butter and pickle sandwiches, so to each his own…)
You will know you nailed it if you try that thing you were craving and it tastes awesome.
Get That Thing
This may feel redundant but it merits its own section. Once you have identified your craving, get that thing! Don’t get something else. If you do not eat what you are craving, most often you eat 3–4 other things until you give in and eat what you wanted in the first place. Save yourself the drama and the calories.
Eat the BEST Parts of that Thing FIRST
This one kicked my butt. It’s not how we eat meals in the US. We don’t start with dessert and then make our way to dinner, we save the best for last.
That is the opposite of what we should be doing. Food tastes the best when your hunger is the strongest. Why should we waste that sensation on the crappy parts of the food?
So here’s an example of how this works. If I am eating a burger, I think the middle is the best part. So, I cut that burger in half and eat from the inside out. If I am eating a piece of cake and the best part is the frosting, I start there. This ensures that my craving is satisfied to the best of my ability.
The fifth step though, is the real kicker and the hardest one possibly to get used to:
Stop When you are Full/Identify Fullness
Fullness is not when you can no longer taste food period, nor is it when your stomach hurts so much you can’t stand up. You have passed fullness and are just into pain at those points…
Fullness is when food stops tasting good.
Identifying fullness takes concentration on the actual eating process. You have to pay attention to whether or not each bite tastes as good as the last. And when you hit that point where it tastes kinda bland? You found it. (Please note that salty foods, sugary foods and high fat foods are always going to retain flavor longer than other foods because of how your taste buds interact with them.)
I have found that the best method for me when dining out is to cut my food in half or cut out the best portions and move those closer. Once I am done with half, it is a good point to stop and check in on hunger. Sometimes I am still hungry and keep going, but most often not. And sometimes I still overeat because I just really want to eat all of it. It’s good to be able to identify those times and not beat yourself up for them as well.
It’s progress, not perfection.
So that’s it. No need to join a new gym or sign up for a new service. No need to fear eating out or work lunches. No need to avoid one food or substitute one for another. All you need to do is be mindful of what your body is telling you.
Start small, too. Don’t expect to nail this next week. At first you may want to pick just one meal a day that normally makes you feel uncomfortable and start this practice there.
Trust yourself. Trust your body. Trust your mind. You have all the tools you need to be successful already!
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*If you find that you are one of the rare few always craving pure sugar, take note of that. In my experience, hypoglycemia always pointed me to sugar first and that was really detrimental for me. For others its not and can be right on. It would be worth talking to your doctor about if you find that is the case.