We like to be told what to do. When things go wrong, we like to be able to blame someone else. We like our experts. We like to follow people who we admire for one attribute or another in the hopes that we will become more like them. These aspects of our nature are not true all of the time, but everyone exhibits this lemming mentality to some degree.
There are too many diets out there to count. If you want to lose weight, be healthy, have young skin, or any other countless nutrition related goal, there is a diet out there that will give you a mantra on how to eat. Protein good. Carbs bad. These fats good. These fats bad. Exercise. Don’t stress out.
There are good principles to learn from the nutritional information available, but something is lost in the way our culture treats food and diet. We act like food is scientific, something that the head has to understand and regulate for the benefit of the body. But food, by nature, is for the stomach. So, why don’t we let our stomachs guide our eating habits? Why do we ignore or bellies, and comfort ourselves with esoteric information about calories, points and grams?
I can easily be addicted to sugar, but I don’t feel like I have the will-power to say “no” to sugar. As a drastic move, Mr. Wetzel and I just tried a sugar detox program, and in week 6 we were supposed to cut out pastas and breads. During this week, I was tired and lethargic most of the time. It occurred to me at the end of the week that I was most likely suffering from some form of carbohydrate withdrawal. I already have problems with insulin resistance, so taking almost all the carbs that I normally eat out of my diet hit my system like a drought.
We decided to forgo the last week of the detox (no starches, including bread, pasta, potatoes and rice), and reintroduce healthy carbs, as well as a moderated amount of sugar, back into our eating habits. It’s been about a week and a half since, and I have felt more energetic and healthy ever since.
I remember when the idea of “listening to my stomach” was a foreign concept for me. I have had several roadblocks to overcome:
I did not trust myself. (Learn faith)
From PBS commercials to Health class to Girl Scouts to the dinner table, I was indoctrinated from a young age to approach eating choices as a program that I was a part of. The people in my life that cared for me wanted me to be healthy and happy, but the way our culture approaches success is to superimpose a system onto the individual, and not let the system evolve around the needs and desires of that individual. I remember being scolded by my grandmother for wanting to eat milk and cheese for a snack. Two dairy products together just wasn’t done. I was allowed to have apples and cheese.
This mentality carried over into adult life. I avoided fats because I was told to. I balanced my meals because I was told to. If I had a craving that I didn’t think I should have, I would beat my body into submission.
Serving sizes don’t make sense. (Learn balance)
We are supposed to finish everything put on our plates. Waste not, want not! But when you eat to the point that you are so full you’re popping, all you really ever hear from your stomach is that it’s screaming at you. I used to think that being done eating meant that I was stuffed. Being stuffed is not a happy feeling, my friends, and should be avoided for the most part.
Don’t let the serving size determine how much you eat. Eat slowly, and pay attention to how full you feel. Stop when you are ready, no matter what your plate looks like.
I was addicted to unhealthy foods and habits. (Learn temperance)
Pay attention to how different foods make you feel. For the most part, we know which foods are unhealthy for us. If you don’t hide behind a dietary plan, but instead admit to yourself and those that you eat with, “I am eating this because I think I should,” or “I am serving this because I want to,” then you and you alone are taking the glory or the shame for your eating decisions. In many ways, diets make us feel self-righteous about most of our food choices so that we can appease the guilt we feel when we cheat and eat things we consider “off-limits.”
Instead of bringing morals into the kitchen, let the food just be food. Approach eating as a person with a palette and a stomach. Use common sense. Don’t over-do withdrawal or indulgence, and pay attention to how the food you eat makes you feel.
I do not always make the right choices. (Learn grace)
You’re going to eat things you shouldn’t. You’re going to over eat and under eat. You’re going to insult someone by accident because your food choices contradict theirs. You’re going to refuse good advice and follow bad tips.
Don’t worry about it! Be humble. Learn from your mistakes. Be open-minded. If you’re willing to be receptive to change, over time you’ll learn to laugh at the next diet fad that comes out. I can’t really explain it to your brain, but when you hear about the new studies and findings that others are getting so worked up about, you’ll just have a feeling in your gut that tells you there’s nothing new under the sun. And that you’re hungry for that thing you always love to eat so much.