Swimming Upstream: Why It’s So Hard to “Get Healthy”

Spoiler alert: It’s not your fault that it’s hard.

I bet that most of my friends and acquaintances don’t want to be unhealthy. Nobody signs up to be pre-diabetic or chronically ill. Nobody signs up for food intolerances, gut problems, or immune system dysfunction. Nobody is dying to become depressed or anxious.

If I told you there’s a possible, potential way to heal yourself of these things through diet and lifestyle, you might say – wait, really!? If you were really struggling and ready for change, you might even try changing something one day. Maybe for a week. Maybe even for a month.

But let me tell you, all of us that are trying to be healthy are swimming upstream.

Salmon literally run themselves ragged trying to get upstream, and all they have to do when they get there is spawn and die. Being healthy is an uphill, upstream swim with no real destination and no end in sight.

Here’s a few reasons why:

We evolved in an environment of “food scarcity.”

As hunter-gatherers and cavemen, eating relied on finding food, trapping it or catching it, and cooking it – all in the great outdoors. It seems obvious that there was no “UberPrey” delivering us fresh kills for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We had to walk everywhere (and be very lucky) to find food in the first place, let alone be skilled enough to catch it. So, sometimes we went without food. It was never on-demand exactly what we wanted.

That part is obvious, but what may be less obvious is what that did to our bodies.

In my exposure to the world of nutrition, one very common piece of information I’ve picked up is that our bodies are designed to seek and binge high-reward foods. This means dense carbs (bread, pasta, cookies, cakes, pizza, etc.) and sugar (candy, ice cream, cookies, cakes, etc.), both of which were very scarce in our primal diet.

We probably almost never had access to these things in our caveman years. Dense carbs and sugars were like the dopamine hit of the year when they appeared. As a result, when we saw an apple, we would be biologically compelled to grab it and eat the whole thing. And because they were so rare, many of the mechanisms in our body are designed to store away the nutrients in these things – as fat.

Yep, they both turn into fat.

Actually, in caveman days they probably didn’t. They probably instead got used up in the highly ambulatory lifestyle of our ancestors. The occasional packet of glucose (apple), not to mention the stored fat, was probably essential and critical for survival.

So here’s our problem:

Now, at least in the city, we have UberEats. We have AmazonFresh. We have fast food restaurants, we have grocery stores with everything we could possibly want. Food scarcity is completely not a thing.*

Not only that, but we have food scientists, hired by companies to make sure that food optimally targets alllll our reward pathways. They understand that the brain is wired to seek and crave and binge certain flavors, and they use this to mix new things that leave us bingeing and craving and spending more and more $$$ to get our fix.

TL;DR: We are literally genetically programmed to crave and binge on these high-reward foods, and food companies take advantage of this to sell products

In order for our bodies to be adequately able to digest things like pizza, we would have to have a significant change in our mechanisms for digesting and metabolizing nutrients. Our bodies would have to become smarter waste-disposal systems to adequately filter out all of the non-nutritious (and sometimes poisonous) crap that is in our food to make it taste good and make us want more. That change simply is not going to happen unless we have another 1,000 years to evolve over generations – simply to catch up to the food environment we have today, and that’s if nothing changes in the food industry.

So, Reason #1 that it’s not our fault that it’s hard to get healthy:

Our bodies weren’t designed for the amount and types of food that we now have at our disposal. We are programmed to become slaves to high-reward foods and the people who are making them know and exploit this fact. 

It’s not your fault, it’s an unfortunate combination of social norms, capitalism, and genetics. If you’re trying to avoid these foods, you are barraged with advertisements, pizza smells lurk around every corner, and getting happy hour with friends becomes a battle of wits with the menu and the servers to find out what the heck is in your food.

I know because I’ve been there. It sucks. It’s hard.

Other things that suck and are hard: being chronically sick. Being depressed and anxious. Having no energy.

I chose the first one simply because I was so tired of feeling ill. And you have to be extremely motivated to make changes like this happen, given all the forces working against you. For everyone who just is lethargic sometimes, who has a few skin issues, who sometimes gets an upset stomach – it may feel like more work to do the food thing than it’s worth. I feel that. If you aren’t sick, why do it?

But what if you do really want to be healthier?

My future posts are going to contain things you can do that make it less hard. It’s been almost a year now since I overhauled my diet and lifestyle, and this anniversary has me reflecting on what’s been working and what’s still not where I want it to be.

I just want to acknowledge to everyone that anyone who does anything (yes, really any little thing) to be more healthy is a hero and a champion and kudos, because it’s really hard. You’re battling social norms, misinformation, capitalism, evil food scientists, your own body – even your friends and family.

I’m with you, superhero.

 

* This is disregarding socioeconomics, location, and systemic issues – food as an access/social justice issue is a beast for a different post.

Swimming Upstream: Why It’s So Hard to “Get Healthy”

WTF is Existential-Phenomenological Psychology?

I started graduate school last week. Yes, I am working too. And I am still in my online nutrition program. Life is a little crazy.

But it’s crazy in the best way. Rarely in my life have I felt so much alignment between what I’m doing and what I love to do. I thought I’d write up a little list of things that characterize an existential-phenomenological approach to psychology, for anyone who has ever asked me and will ever ask me (although it may grow as I learn more throughout this year).

An existential-phenomenological approach holds that:

Anxiety is a human condition. As beings, we are constantly aware that someday we might cease to be.

Anxiety is a necessary part of being human. Anxiety most frequently arises when we are confronted with a change in our world (as this is close to the feeling of losing ourselves).

Change is an essential part of continuing to become as we transform throughout life. Thus, anxiety will never entirely go away (and it shouldn’t, because that would mean that we stopped transforming).

Rather than objects to be analyzed, people are dynamic beings who have the infinite potential to design their worlds (while they are also being created by their worlds).

They “design” their worlds by responding to situations. Freedom to choose a response or reaction is one of the primary features of human beings.

Humans are infinitely creative, so there are countless ways to think and feel.

Someone with a “psychological disorder” is someone who has become stuck, or locked, in a world that seems without possibilities.

The goal of therapy is to illuminate those possibilities again by means of the therapeutic relationship. The therapist endeavors to shed light on the client’s world, to help them to see it clearly, so that they can begin to think of other possible worlds.

The primary tool of a therapist is presence. The therapist must be aware of themselves while being completely present for the person before them, suspending judgment and expertise in order to listen deeply and respond.

The therapist must understand that the person across from them is another human, and that they are also human themselves. In fact, the power of therapy lies in the interaction between two humans: the creation of community.

Healing requires commitment. In order to heal, a person must be committed to becoming aware of the possibilities of their life once again.

There is no list of techniques to choose from when addressing a client. Rather, the therapist’s first job is to attempt to understand the world of the client on their own terms. Only then can the therapist attempt to help the client heal.

– End of list (for now)-

I love this approach so far, because it speaks to something that I’ve always believed: every person is a universe. We are all a product of our experiences, yet we have the freedom to influence how they continue to influence our lives. We can only do that, however, by delving into our present: our patterns, our self-talk, our habits. It requires love and attention – loving attention – to what we’re doing.

Most of us do most things automatically. I eat mindlessly. I mindlessly surf social media, mindlessly drive, mindlessly walk, mindlessly prep food…everything can be mindless.

Or it can be mindful.

We can tune in to our feelings (not second-guess or repress). We can move toward anxiety (not move away via distraction or run screaming to the hills). We can assert ourselves in our relationships. We can look for the positive. The freedom. 

The countless choices that we make every day can become intentional, real choices.

It’s challenging and worthwhile, to become the very best becomers that we can be.

WTF is Existential-Phenomenological Psychology?

The Morning Pages

Every morning, I get up and write three pages.

I’ve been doing this for – maybe 6 weeks? I’ve lost count. And even if some mornings I forget or don’t have time, I keep coming back.

I started doing this because I was struggling with my inner creative spirit. I am an artist (and everyone is), and I wasn’t letting myself create.

More than that, I wasn’t letting myself out. There are many reasons why we don’t let ourselves out into the world. My personal reasons include fear, perfectionism, boredom, obligation, lack of time, lack of money, lack of energy, worry and uncertainty about “the point.”

One of the wonderful things about working with kids is relearning how to play.

All day every day:

  • I exchange jokes with them
  • I hear about something exciting
  • I listen to a long monologue about a favorite [game, sport, activity, food, restaurant, etc.]
  • I watch them learn new things
  • I see them explore and share what they’re passionate about

I have kids who are really into basketball, horses, guinea pigs, video games, books, baseball, art, and farming equipment. No matter what it is, they are really into it.

Where does all of that enthusiasm and passion and playful spirit go, as we get older? It seems like learning to be in society means learning how not to bore others with our interests, how to talk about things everybody likes, how to please the people around us. We get filters and walls and limits that we didn’t have as babies, kids, or teenagers. There’s an open minded beauty to a child’s explorations of the world, if they feel safe and welcome to explore it.

My morning pages are my space to be a child. Or maybe they’re my space to be an adult. I write down all my dreams and worries, what I’m looking forward to and what I’m dreading. When I’m finished, three pages later, I breathe a sigh of relief and let it go.

Part of my becoming process is learning how to tap into my inner child. As a kid, I used to spend hours on my favorite activities. I had an urgent need to keep doing them. I wrote stories – novels – I played with dolls, I created entire worlds in my head. And they were real and vivid and beautiful works of art.

We all did it. We all must do it again. We have an even greater capacity as adults to imagine, dream, plan, and create.

That’s what will make the world more beautiful, one person at a time.

The Morning Pages

The Secret of Happiness

I discovered the secret of true and deep and lasting happiness.

Aren’t we all looking for happiness? Aren’t there images everywhere, all around us, of ways that we could be happier? Don’t we, in almost all of our conversations, assume that happiness is the ideal state of being?

In my nutrition school last week, we had a lecture video by Gretchen Rubin, who researches habits and habit formation.

She gave us 7 keys to happiness. Here they are:

  1. Sleep 7+ hours every night.
  2. Exercise regularly.
  3. Cultivate good smells. (my favorite)
  4. Organize possessions and declutter your space.
  5. Make your bed every morning.
  6. Establish and deepen relationships.
  7. Build self-knowledge.

These are phenomenal suggestions, some of which you and I probably already knew. I have invested significant amounts of time in all of these areas since beginning my year of intention, as I’m now calling it. And, they work. If all of us do just these seven things, I think we’d see a significant improvement in happiness.

This led me to a conclusion of my very own. The secret to happiness.

Here’s my equation:

Health > Happiness

The sign in the middle is a greater than sign, maybe. It might also be an arrow. We could read this as “health is greater than happiness,” or “health leads to happiness.”

What kind of health? All kinds of health. A healthy body, a healthy brain, a healthy spirit. In R.A. training in college we called the health areas “SMELPS” – Spiritual, Mental, Emotional, Lifestyle, Physical, and Social.

News flash:

These areas of health still matter in adulthood. Maybe more than ever.

Let me pose you a question:

Is there one thing that you know, if you did it right now, it would make you healthier? At this very moment?

Maybe it’s brushing your teeth. Maybe it’s having a glass of water. Maybe it’s reading a great book before bed. Maybe it’s listening to your favorite  music, burning a favorite candle, remembering your favorite childhood bedtime story.

Do one of these things in the next 24 hours. Do one thing that makes you healthier. Maybe more than that. If you do a thing anyway, without meaning to, pause and recognize it. Like: “hey, healthy thing. Thanks for making me feel better!”

Odds are, it’s also something that makes you happier.

Both happiness and health live in the inconsequential corners of our lives. They reside in the minutia of our mundane daily rhythms. Health and happiness are both achieved by making small, intentional choices about how we spend the next moment.

Neither are things we “achieve.” Neither are permanent, nor are they a given. They take diligence and work, but not the hard or tasking or monumental kind.

Health, and therefore happiness, take the kind of work that begins with mindful attention to what we need or want, and ends with following through to get it for ourselves. Moment by moment.

Happy moments add up to make happy lives.

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The Secret of Happiness

Mindful Consumption

“The Fifth Wonderful Precept:

Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful consumption, I vow to cultivate good health, both physical and mental, for myself, my family, and my society by practicing mindful eating, drinking, and consuming. I will ingest only items that preserve peace, well-being, and joy in my body, in my consciousness, and in the collective body and consciousness of my family and society. I am determined not to use alcohol or any other items that contain toxins, such as certain TV programs, magazines, books, films, and conversations. I am aware that to damage my body or my consciousness is to betray my ancestors, my parents, my society, and future generations….I understand that a proper diet is crucial for self-transformation and the transformation of society.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

These words were given to me this past week by a counselor, who thought they might speak to me. She was right.

My personal challenge of the week may sound strange and shocking (it did to me at first, too). It is reading deprivation.

Yes, I am depriving myself of reading for one week. Because I obtained this challenge from a book that was written in the 70s, I’ve edited and extended the challenge to consumption of all forms of media. I am not allowed to scroll mindlessly through Facebook or Instagram, spend time watching Netflix or Snapchat or Instagram stories. I can’t read any of the books I bought recently, including ones that I have to start reading for my grad program. I can’t consume any written words, aside from those that are unavoidable and those I write myself.

I made an exception for this week’s episode of Game of Thrones, because I’m an adult with free will.

But, aside from my favorite medieval gore-fest, I am totally off the written or mass-produced word. It was shocking to me, because the book I got it from is a book about how to be a more liberated artist. I thought that other art could only serve as inspiration for my own, which I still think it does. But, as it turns out, the key to being an artist is listening to your inner voice.

Sound familiar? I just wrote a post about this in the context of intuitive little Baby Anne.

So this week, I’ve been thinking a lot about consumption.

We live in a culture of consuming. We consume food, we consume entertainment, we consume products that improve our lives. We consume precious resources and irreplaceable energy reserves.

My own food-consumption journey has undergone one primary, overarching change: it has become more mindful. Gone are the days of opening a bag of chips and a pint of ice cream and wolfing it down so fast I hardly taste it. I select it, I prepare it, and I consume it. I try to savor every bite (but it’s not a perfect world over here, either – sometimes I just gotta eat).

Many people have said to me: it must take so much time, doing all that for every meal. How do I have that time to spare?

In truth, being more mindful has given me back my time. Rushing to consume food at mealtime goes faster, yes, but it’s also time that disappears. I often had the experience of forgetting that I’d just eaten something. Not realizing an hour had gone by. Spending days going from one thing to the next without really realizing where I was at any moment.

In this week without Instagram stories (which I honestly didn’t think really posed a problem in my life), I have more time when I get up in the morning. I have more space to breathe throughout the day. When I can’t check my phone, I’m more present in my surroundings and less immersed in a world that’s less immediate. As a result, I’m less stressed about my time.

Cooking and consuming also becomes a ritual. It is a sensorial experience: first we feel the food as we prep it, then we smell it, then finally we get to taste it. It’s calming and reassuring and nourishing, and it pays off to sit and just savor the time I have to eat. I have time to realize I’m full and stop eating, then maybe pick it back up again after a moment’s digestion.

I think this can extend to the written word, as well. Often, I feel like I’m in a rush to consume as much new information as I possibly can. Especially because I’m a lifelong student (seriously, I’ve even progressed to being in three schools at once this year! I’m a crazy nerd). This week has made me realize that what I consume affects what I think about. And even how I think!

My favorite line of the Buddhist precept at the beginning of this post is: “I will ingest only items that preserve peace, well-being, and joy in my body, in my consciousness, and in the collective body and consciousness of my family and society.”

I think. most of the time, I consider many things I consume to be just neutral. When I’m consuming social media, I don’t really notice the effect it has on me. When I consumed food in the past, I ignored the effects on my system. Sometimes these effects were negative, sometimes they were probably positive, but I didn’t really think about the feelings as they came. It was like a time-filler, something mundane to do as I waited for the next thing.

I love the idea of instead intentionally consuming what brings me joy, peace, and well-being.

I’ve learned that I can’t say that Facebook or Instagram ever bring me “joy,” or really even “peace” or “well-being.” Connecting with friends does, especially through messages and photos. That’s why I’ll keep them. But I like to think I’ll be more mindful about watching or scrolling just for the sake of having something to do. And, I’ll think more about exactly what I see, and how it feels.

I won’t stop consuming, but I’ll continue consuming mindfully. This year, and really in all of life, I’ll need all the peace, joy, well-being, and time to breathe that I can get.

 

Mindful Consumption

5 Free & Easy Steps Toward Being Well

I’ve been tuned into the wellness community for a few months now, and I want to share some patterns I’ve noticed in wellness advice that can help everyone. Many people think it’s too expensive and time consuming to make themselves more well. Fresh and organic food costs money, cooking takes time, etc. etc. The five things I’m about to write for you are steps that don’t take any money and take very little time. They won’t be easy for everyone. But, if you do just one of them, you’re already taking a step in the right direction!

1. Read ingredient labels. 

This first tip is probably the most important and life-changing thing I started doing as a result of my first round of Whole 30.

Here’s a label from Nature Valley Sweet and Salty Bars (made with 100% natural oats! What? Are there even unnatural oats?)

Screen Shot 2017-08-07 at 15.15.13Screen Shot 2017-08-07 at 15.09.08

I know it’s blurry, but this illustrates the importance of reading labels. These bars, or similar bars, could be made at home using nuts, seeds, oats, chocolate and peanut butter. Easy. They are billed in the store as a healthy choice. However, look at the ingredients! (I know, I’m sorry it’s blurry, I’ll write them out for you):

Whole grain oats, Corn syrup (this is the 2nd ingredient!! And it’s sugar.), Sugar (again), Whole grain wheat flour, almonds, vegetable oils (only mass-produced and nutrient poor ones), rice flour, Fructose (sugar again), Tapioca syrup (sugar again), vegetable glycerin, cocoa, salt, soy lecithin (inflammatory, made from soy), corn starch, barley malt extract, milk, baking soda, yeast, natural flavor, mixed tocopherols added to retain freshness.

And, on the bottom it says: “Partially Produced with Genetic Engineering.”

Notice how many of these ingredients were SUGAR (four of them) and how many ingredients there were in total. I could write things about all of these ingredients, but I don’t want to give you more information than you need.

Suffice it to say that in creating foods like this, the food industry has removed real ingredients (expensive) and replaced them with cheaper, genetically engineered, and easy to mass-produce ingredients. This has put food on the shelves that is nutrient poor and full of inflammatory chemicals/additives/fake foods/sugars, which are causing our national health crisis.

The most important takeaway is: read the labels! You never know what kinds of sugar/flour/soy are hiding in even the “healthy” food. A good rule of thumb is to eat mostly foods that have fewer than 8 ingredients – and, the fewer the better.

2. Drink more water.

Water is the drink of LIFE! Most people don’t drink nearly enough. My doctor recommended at least 60 oz per day (two big Nalgene bottles): drink more in the morning, tapering off throughout the day so we don’t get up all night to pee. This has the added benefit of crowding out the other, more sugary drinks that we might pick up. There is a limit to exactly how much fluid we can consume each day, and most of it should be water.

3. Eat more vegetables.

This has a crowding out effect as well. More vegetables most likely won’t increase your intake of food; they will replace something less healthy on the plate. In changing to the Autoimmune Protocol, I was eating far more veggies than before, almost solely because I couldn’t eat potatoes. Veggies are the healthiest form of carb, with the most nutrient density aka vitamins and antioxidants and stuff like that! They are also the most sustainable food group, and many people even have the time and space to grow their own.

Despite being grouped together frequently, fruits and veggies are not created equal. Fruits are sugar/carbs. The most nutrient-dense fruit is strawberry! They are better than processed foods with sugar simply because they have more nutrients and enough fiber to make us feel full.

4. Cook at home. 

Cooking at home has many benefits. This is often the hardest part for all of us, because we want the convenience of hot and ready food of any variety right when our limited mealtimes fall. It is much easier to go out, order in, or heat something up than it is to prepare foods from scratch, at least in the beginning.

However, in practicing cooking at home as a daily habit, I can say that it gets so much easier! The secret is prep. One of my favorite time-saving tips is to chop all the veggies right when you get home from the store, storing them in glass containers with a small amount of water until you’re ready to use them. Then, you wash one cutting board, one knife, and chop everything all at once. I use chopped veggies to dump in pans and roast, in scrambles, and to make salads.

Always cook enough to have leftovers. This is easy when cooking for one, harder when cooking for a family. Freeze the leftovers if you get bored with the food, or remix them (e.g., turn roasted chicken into a chicken scramble with toast or chicken salad over greens).

Cooking at home’s benefits include: more social time and me-time (with family, friends, yourself – whomever you’re cooking with and for), bringing us closer to our food, enhanced enjoyment of our food, more healthful eating and less spending. It’s also a really pleasurable ritual once it becomes easy enough to do regularly. I’ll probably write a whole other post on this one.

5. Limit sugar and processed foods.

Notice – this is the only tip that involves taking something away/restricting a thing in your diet. What are processed foods, anyway? Basically, anything that’s made in a factory instead of grown or raised on a farm. Most forms of snack and junk food are heavily processed, as are many desserts. Processing reduces the nutrient value of food and exploits our taste buds. Food chemists create flavors that keep our brains totally hooked on things that do nothing to nourish our bodies. This is the true “empty calorie.”

Sugar & processed foods (most of which also contain TONS of sneaky sugar) are nutrient-poor, not satiating, and generally make humans less healthy. By not satiating, I mean that they don’t have enough fat, fiber, and nutrients to signal our bodies that we should stop eating when we’re full. This, combined with the psychological effects of sugar (a hit of dopamine, triggering a feeling of pleasure), make us crave more and more and more even as it nourishes us less and less. It’s extremely hard to consume in moderation and very hard to give up. This is not our fault.

In addition, buying processed foods supports an industry with unregulated marketing capabilities and no interest in people’s health or well-being. It’s a social justice issue as much as it’s a health issue: buying food that makes us less well helps these companies to continue exploiting our cravings for money.

As I experienced with my first Whole30, when I quit eating sugar, everything tasted better. Carrots, snap peas, and avocados are sweet. Apples and bananas are almost too sweet. Our senses are dulled by these incredibly powerful synthetic flavors, and that makes us think they’re so much better than natural foods.

We lived off nature for so long for a reason: it provides all the nourishment and satisfaction that we need. And, the more we eat real food, the easier it becomes to be healthy.

5 Free & Easy Steps Toward Being Well

A Lesson From Baby Anne

I have a little baby as a neighbor. I’ve become friends with her mom, so I get to see her quite often. Not only does she always brighten my day, she also frequently puts things that I’m thinking about into perspective.

As humans grow, we receive messages about our worthiness, our likability, and our identity. They come from our families. They come from our friends. They come from the particular culture of our hometown. They come from the media, whose influence is only growing as our world becomes more connected.  They even come from advertisements.

These messages are often wrong. Often, because they generally aren’t based in the understanding that everyone is different.

When I was a baby, I ate every two to three hours, and I always ate “snacks.” I knew exactly when I was hungry and when it was time to stop eating. I knew whether or not I liked a food, and I’d respond accordingly.

I have no idea how I knew, Baby Anne being incapable of metacognition, but somehow I was able to eat for fuel based on nothing but intuition. I still have fond memories of my favorite baby food (sweet potato), which I’m pretty sure I ate well into childhood (and SP’s are still my favorite today).

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Almost-Baby Anne

We all have this miraculous ability as babies. We were all capable of regulating our own fuel intake (with delicate, gentle signaling to our caregivers…right Mom? ;)). Healthy babies aren’t obese or suffering from cravings and food addiction (special circumstances such as fetal alcohol syndrome, drug addicted babies, etc., change things of course).

So what goes wrong?

The messages!

We should eat three times per day. We should eat whole grains, dairy, protein, fruit and vegetables. We should limit sugar. We should limit fat. We are fat, we need to restrict to lose weight. We should burn more calories than we consume. We should look like that picture in that magazine. We should fit into these clothes. We have to eat this and look like that to attract a mate.

These are only some of the more general messages. All of us also get specific messages that interfere with our natural ability to intuit what we need when we need it. “Should” is tyrannical and “should” be eliminated from our vocabulary. There is no should. There is only need or want and don’t need or don’t want.

Side note: my August intention is to eliminate “should” from my vocabulary, whenever I’m using it to make myself feel bad for something I’m not doing. If I’m not doing it, I don’t need or want it. If I need or want it, I’ll do it.

The processed foods!

Another thing that interferes with the ability to identify hunger-full signals and intuit bodily needs and wants is sugar. Or processed snacks. Crackers are my personal kryptonite: if I eat one, I keep eating until the box is empty (wayyy past when the stomach is full).

There is actually an entire industry (the “food” industry) that employs “food chemists” to determine the exactly perfect flavors to include in processed snacks that will make people crave more. They engineer combinations that tantalize and trap us into buying more more and more. That is how they make money. That is how we DIE!

Okay, a little dramatic. Some chips and cookies once in a while won’t be the death of us. However, falling out of touch with the needs of our bodies could.

Sugar is a particularly troubling disruptor of hunger-full signals and our ability to be intuitive. It actually causes the body to store energy through hormonal signaling, which means the food we consume turns directly into fat. We feel hungry because none of the energy was used immediately for fuel. And we also accumulate fat cells. Scary stuff.

Being ignored and/or restricted.

I won’t go into eating disorders here, because they are frightening and dark and require much deeper treatment. However, they are the extreme version of what I mean here.

Actively ignoring the body’s signals to the brain (I feel stuffed, but I’ll have one more…I’m craving meat, but it’s too many calories…etc.) will eventually turn them off. In the midst of busy lives, a sense of control is many people’s saving grace. However, control can be dangerous when aimed at the body.

Numerous studies have shown that restricting the food you can eat actually makes it harder to avoid eating what’s less healthy for you. I found no long-term success with rules like “I can only eat 1500 calories a day.” Some of you may say “but the Whole30/another elimination diet is super restrictive!” Yes, but it’s temporary, and you can eat as much as you want.

Melissa Hartwig did much research on habit formation, and she found that people more easily stick to habits if the “rules” are black and white. This is the reasoning behind the NO list on the Whole30. But, she’s up front that it’s not for the long term. It’s an experiment to figure out what your food future looks like. The key is to gradually reintroduce foods and see what happens, not to eliminate groups randomly forever.

So, black-and-white to kickstart a journey toward sustainable lifestyle change: yes. Black and white to fit into a dress/shirt/pair of pants or feel good about yourself: no.

Bingeing is the opposite, and also involves ignoring signals from the body. Using the W30 as an example again (tired of it yet?), one of the rules is that you can eat as much as you want. As much as it takes to feel full. So how come it doesn’t turn into bingeing, you ask?

Well, have you ever binged on some pan-seared chicken breast, cauli rice, and broccoli that you had to make yourself?

There’s your answer. Theoretically, and as I’ve found in practice, when we eat real food, we don’t want to binge on it. We feel full.

 

We should all be able to learn a lesson from having been babies. Not only did we all intuit our needs perfectly well (even better than we do now), we also were special enough to have someone addressing our needs as they came up.

Maybe we never had people who met our needs, or maybe we did; regardless, being an adult means suddenly having to do all that need-meeting all by ourselves.

The best, most healthy thing that anyone can do is to pay attention to their body. All bodies deserve their owner’s love and respect. That doesn’t mean that you can never have more than what makes you full. I overate some plant-based ice cream and super awesome sushi last week. But, that’s becoming an intentional choice rather than a mindless habit.

Love that body, it’s the only one you’ve got. ❤

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Lesson From Baby Anne