Imagine. Bright sparkling lights outside, the city filled with revelry and you are home with family and friends dressed in festive finery, gathered around. You are sitting at a table filled with every food item you love. You waited so long for this. Your hungry stomach is growling loud enough for the person next to you to hear. If you don’t feed yourself now, you may even bite someone’s head off. You want to pile everything on your plate and feast on it. Dive into it. Swim in it. Your taste buds are ready to go and mouth is watering. And then you remember. You are supposed to be on a diet. There’s conflict. One voice says, chuck it, just eat, you can restart the diet post the festival. Another says if you don’t stick to the diet now, you will never do it, where is your will power? Yet another thought says, why are you thinking so much, it’s your favorite stuff, when will you all of this at one time again. You can’t wait a whole year for this!
So, what’s the error in this entire scenario?
Yes, take a few seconds to guess….
You are at war. With your body. With your mind. With the food. It’s the festive season and I am asking you where’s the love? Where is the gratitude and where is the health?
Your body’s health begins in your own mind. The war zone created up there with all these conflicting thoughts is what will create the same level of chaos in the body. You have already fed your mind and body with guilt, shame, anger, blame and regret. On that kind of emotional diet, your body will not be able to process the food you feed it later and it may result in overeating, binge eating, starvation mode from the guilt of having eaten the table, indigestion, bloating, flatulence and possibly even the dreaded cycle of chronic dieting. Where you yo-yo between stuffing yourself and starving (going on a diet) …never really resulting in anything other than more health issues. You could even go to a workout mania edge and fall off with militant workouts at the gym, hire an expensive trainer, and basically overcompensate for the guilt of having eaten. Ok, so enough of doomsday scenarios. Let’s make a switch to some happier news.
So, what if I tell you, it does not matter so much what you eat? Yes! It does not matter what you eat. What does matter is
Being aware of all of these factors is where you truly love your body and are grateful for it. The same way you won’t abuse someone or something you love and respect, if you truly love your body, you won’t abuse it either.
For decades, dieticians have been super focused on what you put on your plate and how much of it you put on it. I have come across so many people who weigh their food before eating it. This is a clinical approach to eating and takes away the love, joy and gratitude of one of the most primary things we do as living beings. This is possibly the lowest point in your relationship with food.
Of course, you cannot live on a diet of love and gratitude only! A person’s got to eat, right? How do you love your body and eat well and not worry about the results?
Good question. Let’s try to answer this.
What do you experience when you see food?
No answer is correct and you may have more than one that works for you. If you choose:
These are some different ways we look at food and eating. As babies, our source of love and food was the same. Our mother. Food is looked upon the only thing external to us that nourishes us, fills us up physically and emotionally and provides sustenance. But when we begin to substitute food for love, it becomes a problem. Love and gratitude should not be sought outside of oneself. In the failure to get it, many millions of people turn to food for comfort. So, when food, a source of love and nourishment starts to get overused and misused, it results in food and body abuse. All emotional conflicts arise when we are in this state of self-abuse. Binge eating and chronic dieting are at an all-time high with all kinds of food readily available at our fingertips. And of course, we are getting lazier by the day and food is literally at our doorstep with a few taps on our phone screen with Zomato, uber eats and Swiggy.
The only way out of any kind of abuse is self-awareness, self-love and being grateful for every step you take towards a healthier lifestyle. So, what are the ways you can actually begin to make these changes and what steps can you take starting right away?
It is a known fact that it takes approximately 15-20 minutes for the stomach to signal to the brain that it is full. If you speed up eating within that span of time, you end up overeating which results in a food coma effect after 20 mins. Where the brain gets foggy, you get slower, and you want to vegetate and be immobile and worse, take a nap. So, what is the way out? Eat slow. Not at a tortoise pace but truly enjoying the burst of flavors and textures in eating a mouthful. Chew as much as you can as the digestion of food begins in the mouth. The more you breakdown the food in the mouth, the faster it is absorbed into the body and quicker the stomach’s work. Don’t be in a rush to finish whatever is on your plate. Take it easy, take your time. Many people have gotten leaner with this one little tweak in the way they eat.
Are you eating to fill something up or are you eating because it is pleasurable? Anything overdone constitutes as excess and imbalance. Two pieces of a food item can be immensely pleasurable if relished and eaten. The same food item in 2-3 times the amount and eaten quickly can be very painful for the body and brain. Stress eating releases cortisol which has a direct effect on fat accumulation and being in survival mode. When eating foods, you really love, instead of scarfing it down and stuffing yourself as if starving, try the slow pleasurable eating. Maybe at the beginning, close your eyes and relish each bite. Make it playful and maybe even be seduced by the food! Whatever works to make it pleasurable. Eating food pleasurably triggers certain hormones in the body that flush the brain and the resulting emotions are joy, love, gratitude and a sense of lightness. Hormones such as endorphins otherwise known as the happiness hormone. These naturally occurring opioids can give you a natural euphoria or high if done right. Yes, eating foods pleasurably does make you happy. Instead of catering only to your taste buds and stomach through stress eating the next time, cater to your entire body and brain going slow and pleasurably! Now that’s truly a way to show the love ?
What mood are you in when you sit to eat? If you are coming from a stressful situation and dive into eating, however hungry you may be, you are feeding your emotions and not your body. The body does not get the nutrition it deserves, the stomach is not relaxed as the mind is not relaxed. The gut and mind have a very close connection and are constantly communicating with each other. Every mood of yours dictates how the stomach functions. Which is why in extreme fear, the bowels give away and the stomach churns. The stomach is the first organ (after the adrenals) that go into overdrive in stressed out situations. Imagine you being in extreme shock and someone trying to force-feed you. That’s what you are doing to your stomach. A stressed mind contracts the stomach and it is very unkind to yourself to feed it at the time as it is literally distressed. Best option would be to first take a few minutes to calm down. Deep breathing and counting to a hundred works. Eating food should be a sacred act for your body. Where you leave the world outside and dive in only the mood of love and pleasure.
Say it ten times. No, thank you! Say no to food once in a while when the body does not want to eat. There are days when, although we feel hungry, we actually do not feel like eating. Or when there is no hunger at all. And it’s fine. If this happens regularly, there may be other issues that need to be checked. But if it occurs once in a while, honor the body by having only fluids. Not feeding the body when it isn’t hungry actually benefits the body in numerous ways. It dips into the reserve energy and begins a deep cleansing process where it would be using the energy towards digestion if you fed it food. Also learning to say no to food in excess quantity, although if you had eaten with pleasure the first round, your body would have received the love and nourishment and would not need the second round of helping. These are the ways you can get a “reading” on how you are eating. Most importantly, learning to say no to foods that you know are actually damaging to your body, so that every time you say no to these things, you are letting your body know how much you love it and are grateful for it.
Our body speaks to us in cravings. If the cravings are for certain foods regularly, be rest assured that the body is not getting its complete nutrition and get this checked. If you have cravings once in a while for foods that you do not eat regularly, please give in. Do not deny and be militant with yourself. The key here is creating balance and harmony in the way you eat and what you eat. That is being loved towards your body. During the festive time, you know you are going to be eating foods that you don’t regularly eat. Instead of going to war with yourself, give yourself a 3-4 day break and make a note to taste everything you love in moderation. Keep your fitness goals going. There also may be rare days when you do feel a binge coming on. Forgive yourself after you indulge in it. The damage is caused more by going to war with yourself and having an emotional conflict around it than the actual act of the binge. Do the binge and get back to your regular way of eating. It will not cause a flicker in your routine. Be very aware that you do not get into it all the time.
It is not a herculean task to be able to love your body. You know it. You did it when you were a baby. Then while being brought up to do things correctly, we cut off our awareness with the body, hunger and food. Things like, “finish everything on your plate, there are poor children dying of starvation” or “you must eat at the right time” instead of eating only when you are really hungry and so on have wrecked our body’s natural circadian clock. That is the body knows when it wants to eat, sleep and do certain activities. We have not learnt to honor this natural body clock resulting in going to war with ourselves.
When we choose to go with the natural rhythm and flow of the body, the body heaves a sigh of relief and knows how much you love it and are grateful to it. Then all it takes is for you to simply ask it to lose weight perhaps when you need it to and it will oblige.
Have a Happy and Healthy Diwali
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Thank you so much! Hope you are well.