For most of us, from the day we are born we are trained to see food as not just a fuel source but also a means of satisfaction, indulgence, and comfort. Many of us rely on food for a source of short term gratification, and while this relationship can teach restraint in some cases, for the most part, it results in an emotional attachment to food that can accommodate unhealthy eating habits.
There are many external influences, aside from our upbringing, that affect the food choices we make every day. The most influential of all, however, is advertising. If you stop and think about how many advertisements about the food we are exposed to on a daily basis, it’s quite surprising; and have a think about what kind of foods are being advertised. Do you see any ads for cucumber, brown rice or blueberries? Not very often!
Majority of the time we are being fed images of crispy, golden chicken wings, perfect looking burgers, icy cold sodas, or glistening chocolate-drizzled donuts. We watch TV, listen to the radio, scroll through Facebook or Instagram and there is food advertising riddled throughout these platforms. As soon as we see an ad for food, we are given the subliminal message that we should eat - and of course, your mind goes straight to the food in that ad.
HOW TO LISTEN TO YOUR BODY
How are we supposed to stick to that diet when we are constantly being exposed to images of delicious, indulgent, unhealthy foods? Your body is providing you information on what it needs, the question is whether you listen to it or not. When you start to tune into what your body is telling you, it will not only give you hunger cues but also cues on what nutrients you need. Here are some simple tips for channeling your body’s internal message system:
Sit down and focus on what you are eating: If you’re having a meal, take a seat, grab a glass of water and put down your work or phone. This will allow you to focus and enjoy what you’re consuming and tune into the way your body is reacting.
Stop when you are full, not when you can’t eat anymore: when at a restaurant, eating at home or with friends, we have a tendency to feel obliged to consume everything on our plates. Instead, try to pay attention to how full you are feeling as the meal progresses, and when you feel satisfied stop for a few minutes and gauge if you are still hungry. If not then this is the time to stop; not when you have eaten so much you need to undo your top button!
Eat your greens first: try starting your meal with the vegetable component, this way you will ensure your body receives the maximum benefits from these nutrient-dense foods.
Learn the difference between cravings and appetite: Paying attention to the kinds of stimulation we are exposed to can help us work out if what we’re feeling is a craving or appetite. If you ‘feel like a burger’ could it be because you just drove past a bus that had a fast-food ad on its side? Paying attention to the food-related imagery around us can help us decipher whether our body is asking for something or the advertising is telling us to consume it.
Take time and control: there is no quick fix to leading a healthy life, so an important step in listening to your body is taking the time to prepare your food whenever possible. This way your body takes in the sights, the smells and the taste tests that go hand in hand with cooking. Being exposed to these stimuli prepares your body for the consumption and digestion of that meal. This also puts you in the driver seat when it comes to food choices; head to the supermarket with a particular goal in mind and try not to be influenced by what’s on special or the bright packaging - try to make your choices based on what you feel your body needs.
Eventually, you will fine-tune your body’s feedback mechanisms and tune out the external influences, this will allow your mind and body to work together towards perfect nutrition! Perfect nutrition means perfect results!