I watched a TED talk recently on diet. Technology, Entertainment and Design now extends to weight loss. Well, whatever, it was a great talk by Sandra Aamodt and I liked the premise of her presentation: diets don’t usually work. At least not in the long term. Millions of people go on diets and millions of people lose weight. And then Millions of people gain the weight right back as soon as the diet is over. The trick, Dr. Aamodt said, is to learn to listen to your body. And that means to stop eating when you’re full.
“But see?” said a friend of mine when we were discussing this, “It’s that stopping part that freaks me out. If I focus on the stopping, then I get upset. Like I feel deprived.”
I had never thought about the “stopping” part of eating as the problem, but I see her point. Stopping puts an end to the fun of eating. Finité. It’s over. Put a fork in it! Wait. Stop putting a fork in it!
If you like eating as much as I do, that can definitely be a bummer.
But what I realized…after several days of contemplation (imagine me in the sitting pose…with a little more clothes on please!), is that the important thing to focus on is listening.
In fact, stopping is basically the action you take in response to listening to your body. Dr. Robert Lustig, a pediatric endocrinologist, and author of the book Fat Chance: Beating the odds against sugar, processed food, obesity and disease, urges his readers to allow time when eating. That’s because your food must get through 22 feet of intestines before it reaches the switch (otherwise known as peptide YY cells) that signals to your brain that it’s it’s OK to put the fork down. You’re full.
That’s where that 20 minute rule comes into effect. No, I’m not talking about waiting 20 minutes before swimming thing. I’m talking about all those people who say it takes 20 minutes to realize you’re full.
I don’t know about you, but I can put down a lot of calories in 20 minutes. And that’s probably why I can find myself feeling kind of miserable after those 20 minutes are over. Why did I just do that to myself???
So, without further ado, here are my favorite tips for learning to listen to your body:
- As my mom (and Dr. Lustig) always said, chew your food and eat more slowly. This allows your body to send out and receive those important signals that you’ve had enough!
- Reevaluate goals. You can never eat so much as to never be hungry again. Crazy, concept I know, but it’s true. You will be eating again so the goal isn’t to get stuffed…it’s to not be hungry. At least not for the next couple of hours. You’d be surprised how little it takes to make that happen.
- Be aware. Personally, I don’t like it when the experts say whether you should sit or stand to eat. I spend a lot of my day sitting, so I don’t mind having a meal on my feet from time to time. However, remembering to stay aware is the key. If you’re eating an apple, think about what it tastes like as you’re eating it. Really enjoy it and allow yourself to live in that moment.
- Be careful. Listening to your body is different than listening to your brain. I’ve got a little seven-year old that lives inside my head that wants nothing but macaroni and cheese and ice cream. There are times I give in to that seven year old, especially when my mom makes me some vegan, gluten-free chocolate chip cookies. (Thanks, Mom!) But, for the most part, truly listening to your body will lead you to the things that make you feel good after you eat them – like broccoli and hummus. Oh, how I love the hummus!
- Meditate. This is my favorite tip because meditation teaches you to live in the moment and be aware. I’m currently in the middle of the Headspace meditation program and loving it. I spend 20 minutes each morning listening to the calming voice of Andy Puddicomb guiding me through the Headspace meditation exercises. I’ll confess, at first 20 minutes seemed like an eternity. But now it’s just part of my morning. I get up a little early so I have the house to myself, and all is quiet, and start my day centered.
After just five 20-minute sessions of meditation, people had increased blood flow to an area of the brain vital to self-control. — Headspace.com
So, it’s not about being on some special diet that says we can eat this, but not that. And it’s not about the stopping. It’s about the listening. Pushing past the daily noise of our lives to listen to our bodies — this is the way to finally put down the fork and move on to the real exciting part of our day…life!