Eating According to Your Body's Needs
If Only Your Body Could Talk
An essential part of losing weight and keeping it off is learning how to listen to your body. We all wish it could just say what it wants. Although your body doesn't have an oral language, it does communicate. Certainly, you know when your body hurts because you feel pain. You know when it needs rest because you get the unmistakable cues of nodding off, yawns, and sleepiness. But are you able to clearly hear your body communicate when it is time for you to eat and when it is time to stop eating?
Infants know these signals well. So do animals that live in the wilderness. Most adult humans don't remember the language of hunger and satiation. Infants cry to signal that they need a feeding. Infants know how they are doing by how they feel. If they feel good, everything is fine in their world. If they don't feel good, if something hurts or irritates them, they let mama know right away. By observing an infant cry for food, you can tell that hunger is an actual discomfort. It is felt in the stomach.
Infants also seem to know instinctively when to stop eating. You can tell when they have had enough milk because they simply stop feeding. Mid-bottle, mid-drop, it doesn't matter to an infant how much milk is left. Mama may want the infant to drink more milk so that the infant sleeps through the night, but the infant refuses. Why? Because he or she instinctively knows that even one more drop may produce feelings of discomfort—of being too full and even stuffed. That discomfort is so significant that an infant will not risk the irritation. Besides, he or she is already satisfied.
“Full” Is Not Your Friend
The feeling of a full stomach is a signal that you have eaten too much food. Typically, people who are overweight are accustomed to eating until they are full. Usually this means eating a quantity of food bigger than their own fist—give or take.
Changing your perception about being full is the critical first step toward reaching your ideal size. Notice that an infant does not keep feeding on milk until he or she is full. Full is actually an uncomfortable feeling. Wanting to get full from eating is an urge that develops later in life due to social pressure and outside messages from family and peers. Infants feed only until they have enough nourishment but not too much. They eat until the hunger urges abate or until their hunger is satisfied and the stomach is comfortable.
The good news is that you were once an infant and you knew how to listen to your body's hunger signals. You have since changed your eating habits to accommodate social norms and emotions, but at the beginning of your life, you ate based on your body's needs. Let's learn how to get closer to those original instincts about food. You may never need to feel full again … and you will be thrilled with the results. You'll be losing weight and attaining your ideal size.
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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Healthy Weight Loss © 2005 by Lucy Beale and Sandy G. Couvillon. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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