“There is more wisdom in your body than in your deepest philosophy.” Friedrich Nietzsche
In my relationship with food, there has always been some unfinished business. Like most of us, I’ve always wanted to come back to it and enjoy it freely, but I’ve always thought I shouldn’t. Disappointingly, we were all taught that our wish to eat whatever and how much we desire, and our wish to stay healthy and in shape, can’t go together.
Growing in a perplexing dichotomist culture doesn’t help, either. Fundamental truths we grew upon, like the scary saying of Saint Paul,
“The desires of the flesh are against the Spirit,”
don’t make our lives any easier. We grew up learning that fulfilling our physical wishes is wrong, while also learning that we only live once so not fulfilling our physical wishes is also wrong.
No wonder we are freaking out.
Consequently, we find ourselves living on fast food and TV meals on the one hand, and beginning various diets every other day on the other hand. We spend our time not only feeling fat and failing, but also feeling guilty for about every action or inaction we make.
Not much fun, really.
But, as I found out, it doesn’t have to be that way.
My Fullness Revelation
Most of my life I felt hungry. The minute I finished a meal, no matter how big, I felt the craving for something sweet. A minute later, I already wanted something to bite my teeth into.
So I did eat a lot. And then remained hungry. Thanks to mild workaholism that glued me to my chair for hours at a time, I didn’t blow up entirely, but I did feel fat. And failing. And guilty.
It took me many years to find a way out, and when it happened, it was by accident.
For my studies, I had to take a course in Ayurvedic medicine, which didn’t interest me at all. At least, not until the professor, M.D. Eran Magon, made the most ridiculous statement ever: that we should eat when we are hungry, and not eat when we are full.
I knew nothing good can come out of it, because I knew I shouldn’t eat whenever I am hungry or I could never stop eating. Yet, I had homework to do, eating for a week according to my hunger. I wasn’t going to try it for a week, I wanted to get out of the door at the end of that week, but I was willing to try it for a day or two.
And I did.
And discovered that I am not hungry anymore.
Which was absolutely shocking.
The Belly Method, In A Nutshell
The method is based on the revolutionary idea of listening to the body’s needs instead of listening to other people’s opinions and telling the body what it needs. (Actually, adopting the notion of not telling others what they need may be a great idea in general.)
The way to do it is to assess our belly’s feeling of hunger, in order to decide whether to eat or not.
We grade our hunger from one to ten. One is extreme hunger, two is deep hunger, three is genuine hunger, four is minor hunger, five is feeling almost satisfied, six is feeling just about satisfied, seven is pleasantly satisfied, eight is really full, nine is too full, and ten is on the edge of throwing up.
The trick is not to eat when you are not truly hungry. If you are not on three or less, you are not really hungry, and there is no real reason for you to eat. Even if it is mealtime. Even if the people around you eat. Even if an aunt’s feelings depend on your immediate eating. You are not hungry yet, and you don’t need this food.
As you can see, when you realize you are actually full, you also realize that there are plenty of other convincing reasons to start eating nevertheless. Reasons I’ve previously mistaken for hunger.
When you do eat, you stop when you are not hungry anymore, around number six or seven. You don’t devour that tempting dessert. You don’t stuff yourself for a case of emergency. You don’t finish the kids’ leftovers. You don’t submit to any of the many reasons to overeat. You just stop eating.
Resisting all of these reasons to eat can be tough, indeed. Our minds play all kinds of tricks on us.
Yet, our full guts always know better.
We can count on them.
The Miracles Our Body Can Work
Eating according to my hunger turned my life upside down.
For one thing, for the first time in my life, I wasn’t hungry anymore. I felt full.
It was strange, but in a really good way.
Paying attention to my body and treating it with respect made me eat healthier food. Now that I stopped fighting my body, and it wasn’t my enemy but a wise part of me, I wanted it to have the best. When I listened to it, I realized it wanted the best for me, too. Always.
So, ever since, I don’t eat too much, and not too little. Largely.
I try to eat tasty food of good quality.
I am also enjoying my eating.
Weird, isn’t it?
Not unexpectedly, I also lost some weight, and my body has stabilized at a new shape. I wasn’t alone, apparently. As food psychologist Brian Wansink wrote in Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think,
“The heavier a person was… the more they relied on external cues to tell them when to stop eating, and the less they relied on whether they felt full.”
But my weight wasn’t the only thing I didn’t have a problem losing. I happily departed from my feelings of guilt and shame, as well. For once, I know I take good care of my body, and I am proud of myself.
Still, I believe that the best result of my eating change was the way I raised my kids.
Being A Humble Parent
Most of the families I know were always fussing about their kids’ food. Their children have always seemed to eat too much, or not eat enough, or eat too much junk, or too few vegetables. Most of these kids grew up feeling fat and failing.
Yet, while other parents were relentlessly worried about eating, my partner and I had a blissful peace. We didn’t have to make our kids eat or stop eating anything. We didn’t have to know what they ate. We just put on the table a variety of healthy foods, and counted on their bodies to know what and how much they should eat.
Therefore, not only did our kids always enjoy their food, but they also turned out to be healthy, confident people. Despite having problematic genes in our families, our children are fit and gorgeous.
You can take my word for that, obviously.
You Only Know You Love Your Body When You Let Go
We are living in a control freaked culture. We are used to controlling our environment, our time, our children (and other unlucky loved ones), and our bodies.
When we think about it, our presumption of knowing better than our bodies what is good for them is ridiculous. We rely on ever-changing researches as well as mare prejudices, and try to make our bodies fit into our theories.
It never works, but we keep doing it anyway, because we are frightened of letting go. But when we try to loosen our control, miracles happen.
Our bodies, for example, suddenly work wonderfully. They give us everything we wanted, and much more.
And we don’t have to worry about anything, or make any effort. All we have to do is listen to our bodies, respect them, and enjoy them.
So we better try letting go.
It will help our bodies, our souls, our families, our surroundings, and, eventually, the entire world.
We better start listening to our guts.
One hunger at a time.
One gut feeling at a time.