I would like to put this question to all of you, and although I can't necessarily hear your answers, I would love you to open up this line of enquiry for yourself personally. If there was no right or wrong, no judgement over any particular food choice, what would your body choose?
Now I think it is the rare person that doesn't have sugar cravings or want those extra fries every now and then. However how do the things we eat actually make us feel both mentally and physically? It is something I have been discussing, and thinking more and more of every time I sit down to eat.
How do you feel when you have the healthy choice over the sugar binge? Or if you eat the pizza, compared to having a well-rounded nutritious meal? Is it your thoughts or your body telling you what you want? Do you stop when you have had enough, or continue on regardless?
Following on from the previous article a few weeks back, I think a lot comes down to paying attention to what we are eating and mindfulness. http://www.sachastewart.net/blog/2015/4/27/mindful-eating
There are so many types of ways to eat these days and ideas about what makes a healthy diet. I think this actually brings much confusion, especially with all the options of nutritional choices, many cutting out this or that from our food groups, for example carb free, Paleo and raw food diets. I am not suggesting that these don't work for people or that you don't give them a go, however they may make one person feel amazing and another practically about to pass out at every turn.
I would actually love to be vegetarian, verging on vegan, and I very predominantly eat like this, but let me tell you after a few weeks my body tells me "Eat Meat" in a not so subtle way when I am about to keel over in dizziness ... so I have that steak and like magic I come back to life. However I know others that thrive on a vegetarian eating plan.
We all have to listen to what is going on physically for us when we eat and determine what is right for ourselves. Even keeping in mind at different stages of our lives our bodies may need and want different things, as our cravings are usually a sign that we may be deficient in something and need certain nutrients or minerals in our body. For example if we are wanting fried food it may mean that our bodies are craving healthy fats, or chocolate that we need magnesium, and if you are reaching for the salty foods you could be mineral deficient. However there are many healthy choices that can be made rather than reaching for the sweets and potato chips.
It can take a while for us to adjust our palates to some some of the options, but over time you can grow to love the taste of the healthier choice. I know because I've been there. I never thought I could grow to love gluten free grains over pasta, or dark chocolate over the sweeter sugary milk variety, but now I wouldn't have it any other way. I think what is important here though is to find some healthier options and replace, rather than denying yourself food. (If anyone is interested in this for themselves personally please do contact me and we can explore them in more depth).
While I am a great believer in how nutrition is incredibly important in our lives, I also think there are times when we need to let go from routines and enjoy life. Having streamlined dietary patterns can be beneficial for our wellbeing, but it is also important for these not be come so restrictive that we lose the joy. Back when I studied macrobiotics that I found incredibly rigid, it actually felt more like food prison than actually doing something good for myself.
And please I am not encouraging people with serious illnesses like Celiac's to start eating gluten, or people with health issues to take risky decisions with their wellbeing. Possibly there are times when you need to be strict with yourself if you are trying to change some habits that are not in your best interest, or have some health concerns. However I also believe there can be moments if your body is saying 'eat the burger'.... eat the burger! Sometimes there may be great joy in sitting down to your favourite treat, and if you are eating well at other times it could be just what the doctor ordered. Just don't punish yourself for it afterwards!
The key point is to consciously be choosing these decisions on how you are going to feel and what your body wants, rather than an automatic reaction just because your craving says it's a great idea at the time.
There is also an emotional element to eating that I think most of us do at some point. Food can be a wonderful comfort in times of stress or upset, even times of happiness and celebration, however our cravings may be trying to tell us something that is going on emotionally rather than what your body actually needs. I would encourage you in these moments to just try and pull yourself up if you can, and assess why you are doing it. Be kind to yourself most importantly, if you are consistently making food choices that don't make you feel good, it can be a sign that other parts of your life are out of balance which is important to recognise and address. This is a much bigger topic, so I wont focus too much on it right now, however I think awareness is a key here in order to look after ourselves.
I heard of a great technique recently used by a woman who just could not give up her desserts, even though they did not make her feel good when she ate them and was causing her significant excess weight.
At every dessert time before she started eating, she asked herself whether her body really wanted this? Sometimes she chose yes, and sometimes she chose no. But it was a much more conscious decision, and slowly over time she chose to eat the dessert less and less, the weight started to drop off naturally, and she kept it off because it wasn't on some crazy diet. It was actually her body choosing what was and wasn't good for her. This can pretty much be applied to every meal choice you sit down to.
The thing is I think we all must experiment with what makes us feel good. What is going to make someone feel great and happy will not apply to someone else, the principle of bio-individuality.
So I really encourage you to consider more when you eat about what makes you feel alive, energetic and centred in your body?
It can be our biggest gift to ourselves to feed it with what it loves.
PS. I would love to hear from you in the comments below if you experiment with this - it would be great to know how it works for you.