“Just like cows know they should eat grass, underneath all the layers of intellectual information and confusion, you too know what to eat.” I’m paraphrasing my teacher Joshua Rosenthal from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition.
After years of self-observation, I’ve come to understand this is true. Underneath all the confusion and the doubts in my mind I do know what I should eat. This is what I help my clients figure out for themselves. I think that, slowly but surely, we are transcending our faith in diets — letting someone else tell us what we should eat — and are embracing the responsibility to figure it out ourselves, just like we did thousands, maybe even as close as hundreds of years ago.
I know what you’re thinking. If you’re saying that I’m supposed to figure out what to eat, then can you tell me how?
OK, here. It’s not that difficult, really:
1. Focus on the real food.
I don’t eat junk food very frequently, but on the rare occasion that I do, something really interesting happens. I immediately start craving soda! I eat food that’s deployed of nutrients and I want more of this nutrient-deficient food.
Things can go downhill from there, but fortunately the opposite is true as well. The more high-quality food I eat, the more nutrient-dense food I eat, the more of that I crave.
2. Slow down. And then slow down some more.
It is not possible for your body to have clear feedback about how food feels in there if you’re shoveling it down. If there’s something I know for sure is that no true healing around eating will be possible until you start paying attention to the act of eating and giving it enough time.
3. Focus on the trunk, not the branches.
I love to point this one out to clients whenever they start asking me which green powder they should buy, or if it’s true that acai has more antioxidants than blueberries, or if I like noni juice better than mangosteen juice.
Ladies… That’s not the point! These are distractions that keep you from focusing on the important stuff: the food that you eat every day. Morning, afternoon and evening. This is what’s going to bring real, long-lasting, sustainable changes.
4. Have an open mind
I love it when a client finally realizes that no, neither oatmeal nor fruit are good breakfast choices for them. In spite of all the cholesterol lowering, the high fiber and the other health benefits they’re supposed to get.
You’ve got to experiment with an open mind! As long as you’re set on the idea that fat is evil, or that you really can’t digest breakfast, or that there’s absolutely nothing that can replace your morning coffee, you will not be able to figure out what the best food options for you are.
5. Practice a mindfulness discipline
This is not a requirement, but it sure helps a lot. Meditation, yoga, bio-feedback, or simply closing your eyes and taking a deep, conscious breath a few times throughout the day, will help you bring your attention back to your own body. You’ll be amazed at what you discover! I’ve heard things like “I never realized before I’m always sleepy after I eat Chinese takeout,” “I think there is a connection between my anxiety and my sugar cravings” or “McDonald’s french fries really do taste like crap!”
6. Give it time
It takes about three years of conscious work to develop a strong connection to your gut. The kind of connection that says “Today is a chicken soup day,” or “I really need to eat a big salad” or “I don’t care for smoothies when I have my period.”
Does three years seem like a long time? Well, how long does it take you to master any other skill? Learning a new language, or developing a sustainable business model, or becoming a really good Scrabble player?
When you get that I-know-what-to-eat skill in your core, when it is truly a part of your life, then you are not confused by food options. This is the end of overeating and yo-yo dieting. You are free to enjoy food and, when you’re done eating, you’re free from food thoughts. You free up space in your mind and your soul for big and beautiful projects.
How much would that be worth to you?
This post is part of Real Food Wednesdays hosted by Cheeseslave.