Tuesday, December 02, 2003
posted by Julie |
Listening to your body to choose the right fuels
I have eaten for so many reasons. I have eaten to celebrate, commiserate, concentrate. I've eaten angrily, defensively, fearfully, crankily, happily, mindlessly.
But I've barely ever eaten to give my body the fuel it needs to operate, much less operate well, much less cure what ails me.
Oh, I hear that it's good for us to eat cruciferous veggies, and I add those to my diet, dutifully, but I don't really give it that much thought. All I manage to think is "I SHOULD eat my broccoli." I think SHOULD when I buy it, think SHOULD when I stare at the uncooked stalks in my fridge, think SHOULD when I finally grab it and cook it and eat it.
That's a lot of SHOULD.
Maybe it's a feeling of mortality. Maybe it's just being over forty. Certainly it's because too many friends and loved ones are battling difficult diseases, but lately I've been thinking about what food is for.
I know this sounds a little stupid. I have always known that food fuels me, that food breaks down during digestion, and the various nutrients are absorbed through my intestines to be used by different cells and tissues to fire, grease, build, restore, bolster, spackle, tweak, and refine my body.
But all my life I've given more thought and care to the gas and oil I put in my car than I do to the fuel I consume. I don't think, as I stare down dessert, how this fuel will make my body run. I don't really think about whether I need fuel now or not. I think only about the taste, then shovel sugar into my gas tank.
So I don't feel so good. I get rashes. I get fat. I break out. I suffer indigestion. I can take pills for all of these side effects. Or I could just quit giving my body the wrong fuel.
Yesterday I sat down with my food journal, around mid afternoon, and recorded the food I'd eaten all day. My diet for the day consisted mainly of whole-grain toast and sugar-free pumpkin pie. By writing it down, I could see what was missing. I hadn't had any raw veggies or protein all day. But if I had just closed my eyes and thought about what I needed, I think my body would have told me. I felt the jitteriness that comes from too little protein. The toxic itchiness I get when I eat too few greens and too much wheat.
My body is always trying to tell me what to eat, but I am almost always too busy, too absorbed, too noisy, too overwhelmed by the food in front of me to listen.
What I want is to tune in to my inner fuel gauge. I want to know what my body needs. I want to choose foods for their performance value. I want to want the food that will satisfy me, keep migraines at bay, keep my tummy happy. But I also want foods that will help fight cancer, retain my eyesight, promote circulation, preserve and build my bones, help my heart do its thing, keep my skin as pink as possible for as long as possible.
*Eating well helps. Eating not just any old highly processed fruits and veggies, but a variety of really fresh, interesting, varied fruits and veggies has helped me to develop a hankering for them. Preferring non-processed over processed foods, and foods whose labels list ingredients I can both pronounce and visualize, helps a lot.
*Eating more simply helps me a great deal. Eating fewer foods at a time almost always helps me curb my eating and choose what I really need more carefully.
*Removing non-nutritive foods from my food storage area altogether, or at least from my line of sight works wonders. We have placed the fruit and veggies and nuts and beans and low-fat cheeses and cold cuts where they will be the first thing we reach for when we're tired.
*I am trying to stop and listen, in addition to reviewing my diet log, before putting anything in my mouth. I want to answer one question: What food does my body need to run effectively for the rest of the day? If it needs anything at all.
* I'm trying to put a higher value on my body than I place on my car or house, so that it gets the attention and care it deserves.
Consider today, what do you need to do or think differently to fuel your body better? Spend some journal time this week thinking that through, will you?
How digestion works, Children's Memorial Hospital
Preventing Cancer with Food, Intellihealth
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