As I was learning to recognize true physical hunger, and wait for it before consuming any food, I was also learning to eat differently.
Now, most people will read the words “learning to eat differently” and think that I mean learning to eat different foods. That’s not what I mean. I mean learning to eat differently. Here are the three changes I began practicing:
- Eating visually and saving the best for first. How many times have we heard, “Save the best for last”? So very many. And that’s how I ate. I saved the best for last. I ate everything I liked least first, and then ate my favorites last. Unfortunately this meant that I usually ate more food than I actually needed. After eating all the least favorites there was no way I was gonna leave my favorites on the plate just because I was no longer hungry. Heavens, NO! I’m eating my favorites even if it means I’ll be uncomfortably full after. That’s the whole point of saving the best for last, right?!? Eating this way contributed to my sense of complete lack of self-control. I became convinced that I couldn’t stop myself from eating, even when I wanted to. MUST HAVE ALL THE FOOD. It was actually very discouraging, and I felt unable to overcome this overeating.
What I discovered, however, was that we eat visually before we ever eat physically. When I began practicing enjoying my food visually for a moment before eating, the sense of not having any control began to diminish. Then, I also changed what parts of my meal I ate first. I began eating my favorite parts first. It was amazing how much easier it was to stop eating when I was simply no longer hungry, even if there was still food on my plate. What was usually left was my less favorite parts, and when I wasn’t hungry anymore they weren’t very enticing. I was able to exercise self-control and stop eating before stuffing myself full. Between each bite I would visually enjoy my food again, then find the bite that looked best to me and enjoy it. This slowed down my eating, which also helped me to recognize that I was becoming satisfied and didn’t need to eat much more. It’s also much easier to stop when you’re already going slower. Physics teaches us that. =)
2. I started to really chew up my food. I’m sure my parents told me to “chew my food” a million times as I was growing up, but it never sunk in till I was 19. Chewing is the first part of our digestive process, and I believe that much of our digestive issues today are from not chewing well and overeating. Seriously. We don’t fully chew our food, so our bodies have to work even harder to digest it. But more than that, I noticed that we also miss out on so many more flavors by not chewing our food well. I remember vividly, the first time I ate a Snickers and chose to purposefully chew each bite. I was amazed at how much more flavor I enjoyed as I continued to chew the candy. I also noticed how much more satisfying it was. Snickers really does satisfy. 😉 I was only half-way through the candy bar and I was already feeling satisfied. Before, I would eat it so fast, barely chewing each bite, that when it was gone I half wished for more.
By taking the time to really chew my food I made it easier for my body to digest it, and I enjoyed it even more. I know that our blood sugar signals our brains when we are hungry or full, but I think maybe, our brains recognize how much we’ve been chewing and begins to tell us we’re full also. Seriously. It is amazing to me how much more satisfied I feel, and how much more quickly I feel satisfied, when I am chewing my food well.
3. I ate what I really wanted. I’ve saved this one for last, because I imagine some of you are thinking, “If I did that, I’d be 800lbs by the end of the year.” But here’s the thing: I’m not talking about a free for all, eat whatever/whenever/howmuchever you want. I’m talking about exercising self control in a different way. Before, when I had my good food/bad food lists, I would try to exercise self control by choosing to eat “good” food, and severely limiting my intake of “bad” food. I was not very good at this at all. Which ended in discouragement, condemnation, and feelings of being out of control. I usually always over ate because I would start with the “good” food, but not feeling satisfied, I would then go on to the “bad” food also. Then I would feel completely defeated. This dieting treadmill was exhausting.
When I began to exercise self control in the form of only eating when I was physically hungry, chewing my food well, and stopping eating when I was satisfied (instead of stuffed), I experienced a freedom I had not previously known. The sense of self control and power over food was amazing. I remember the fourth of July after beginning to practice eating this way earlier in February, being at the fireworks show and sitting there looking up into the sky and it dawning on me that I hadn’t thought about food the whole time we were there. At least a couple of hours, when my life before was consumed with food. I remember being truly surprised and immensely grateful that I was out from under that burden. The year before I would have spent the fourth of July watching the fireworks, but thinking about what I was gonna eat as soon as they were done. Desiring the “bad” food, but trying to convince myself to eat the “good” food.
I know some who for serious health reasons cannot eat “whatever they want”. Because of this, and the reality that some might misunderstand what I’m really saying, I’m going to devote a whole post to some more thoughts I have on this matter next week. So, if you are still skeptical about letting yourself eat whatever you want, then make sure to check that post out.
Changing the way I eat has impacted my quality of life tremendously. While I became aware of these differences when I was 19, it has taken years to transition out of old habits and to begin living in new habits more fully. Even now I still sometimes over eat, or don’t wait until I’m truly hungry. Those are happening less and less, though, and I’m enjoying (the act of) eating more and more.
p.s. Do you practice any of these eating habits? Are any of these ideas new to you and ones you wanna try? Do you have any different ones that have benefited you?