Think about it, as a child if you fell off your bike and cut your knee how did you know you were hurt? Maybe the cut was bleeding, maybe it throbbed or was sore to the touch. Your body responded to something that happened to it, and our natural response was to react - cry, yell "ouch", etc. We would have mom clean it, put a bandage on it and we'd be on our way.
Or what about when you are having a long day and your temples start to throb? Your neck and shoulders are tense and your body responds by sending a headache to tell you to take a break. Ever have a big presentation or event coming up and you start to feel a flutter in your stomach? You know that your body is telling you that you're anxious or nervous, and to take a deep breath. Sometimes our sinuses get congested or a fever spikes and our body tells us that we're getting sick and need to slow down. All of these signs prompt us to react accordingly.
Why is it then, when our stomachs tell us we've had enough to eat, we keep eating?
When you were a child were you ever told to finish what was on your plate before you could have a popsicle? Were you ever informed about starving children who aren't fortunate enough to have the food you were eating, and therefore, you should eat all of it in a futile attempt to bring balance back to the world? Were you ever forced to eat something even though you were gagging it down to begin with?
Don't get me wrong, I don't blame my mother (or her mother, or her mother's mother) for these things - but it sends the wrong message from early on. Kids know when they are full. They also know what they like and don't like. Why is it when a baby grimaces at a spoonful of green beans we declare they don't like them but when a 6 year old tells us with their words that they don't like the same food, we tell them they need to eat it or they are punished? I'm not saying that children can't be deceitful and play you like a fiddle to get at that cupcake, but most parents genuinely know the difference between deceit and dislike, and can respond accordingly.
As adults we at least have the freedom to pass on a dish that isn't appetizing to us; however, when we find something we really enjoy, we eat much more of it than we need - because, you know, there are starving children somewhere and wasting it would be shameful.
I often find that clients tell me they feel bloated, heavy, full and uncomfortable after meals. I usually respond by asking them what they ate, how long it took them to eat it and what it tasted like. It's not surprising that I'm left with blank stares.
The next time you have a meal, I want you to do a few things:
1. Give thanks. Taking a moment before you eat to acknowledge the plant or animal that you are about to consume, give thanks to God, or whatever you believe in for providing you the nourishment. Remember that food is to be enjoyed, but it's also the fuel we need to survive.
2. Halve your normal portions. Remember, you're not a starving child in a third world country - if the small amount you took wasn't enough, go back for more. Just remember, a little really does go a long way.
3. Chew.Your.Food. Many people finish their meals in 7-10 minutes. I understand sometimes you're in a rush, but that shouldn't be too often if you're properly managing your day. Chewing your food allows you to not only taste what you're eating, but it helps your food to digest properly, leaving you less bloated after dinner. Digestion begins in the mouth as our saliva helps to breakdown our food. Additional breakdown occurs in the stomach and intestines. The smaller the food particles, the easier it is to break down. Smaller food particles occur from chewing each bite for a good solid minute (start with 20 seconds and work your way up). Taking time to chew allows your brain time to figure out it's full. When your brain figures out it's full (and you actually stop eating) you end up less bloated and less gassy. When digestion occurs properly you're left with a regular bowel movement (sorry, but it's true). If you don't allow digestion to occur properly you're left with waste (poop) sitting in your body for way too long - which can become toxic. Gross? Yes - so chew your dang food!
4. Put your fork down. I would challenge you to put whatever utensil you're eating with down after every second bite. If you're dining with friends or family, use this time to have a meaningful conversation. Meals are meant to be enjoyed, and people are meant to be enjoyed. Use your meals as a time to not only taste good food, but celebrate the people you're sharing it with. This will also help you to slow down and give your stomach time to send your brain a message.
5. Ask yourself if you're full, and if so, stop eating. I don't care if you still have half of your dinner on your plate - if you're done, you're done. If you're at a restaurant you can ask for a to-go container. If you're at home you can save it for another meal. Either way, stop eating when you've had enough. If you've followed the first four steps, you should be about 20 minutes or so into your meal when you begin feeling like you've had enough. Keep in mind, this does not mean you've been shoveling food into your mouth for 20 solid minutes. It means you've been at your plate for 20 minutes, alternating between chewing and resting.
Even if you've followed these tips and still need some help with digestion there are a few things you can do. Taking a short walk, laying on your left side and taking a probiotic regularly can help. I truly think you'll be amazed at how little you end up eating when you begin to listen to your body. Following these tips at home can help to set a wonderful example for your children as well.
Do you have any tips that you'd like to share with readers? What have you learned from listening to your body?