Keeping It Real Series – Natural Eating
I have to admit it, I’m struggling with this – eating naturally. The concept is simple, common sense and one that can be adopted for a lifetime, which can only benefit me long term – so why is it so hard?
Catrina Bengree runs her own company called Nourish ‘N Nurture. Unlike nearly every other food related service, Catrina is not focused on weight loss, rather on having a healthy relationship with food. I was intrigued by this idea – as so many people and companies are focused in body image and weight loss, whereas this is focused on listening to your body and eating naturally.
The definition of Natural Eating is: “Listening to your body so you can feel when it is hungry. Eating exactly what it wants at the time. Stopping when you are satisfied but not overly full. Moving onto another activity after eating.”
So Natural Eating has four simple parts…
1. Eat when you are hungry
2. Eat what you want.
3. Stop when you are satisfied
4. Move on to something else
Simple, elegant and plain common sense – until I tried it…
This process has revealed some of my deepest darkest secrets, patterns and fears and set me back on a path of mindfulness. Here are some of my lessons so far…
1. Old habits need breaking. I have two vivid memories of food as a child. The first is my mother continually telling my sister and me; “If you eat that you will end up like Gloria” (an extremely overweight cousin). I have endeavoured to prove my Mum wrong my whole life. The second was when we were out at a function, dinner, BBQ and the sweets were being handed around on a plate, we were taught we could have two. Mum was teaching us to be polite and not greedy – I get that. Reflecting on this was really revealing as I always have two biscuits, pieces of cake, lollies etc, even if I am not hungry. It is interesting the pre programming that is set from our childhood. The messages we get; “Don’t waste it.” ” Eat everything on your plate.” “Think of the starving children in [insert country of your childhood].” “You can’t have dessert until you have eaten all your vegetables.” What were yours?
2. I’m not actually aware of being hungry, most of the time. I eat for a myriad of reasons; time of day, emotions (all of them), celebration, politeness, finishing up the small serving on a plate, seeing the food in glass jars in my pantry, nibbling on ingredients when cooking dinner etc. – just not when I’m hungry. I was discussing this with a colleague today and she said, “I’m never hungry.” And that is the point I guess – food is for nourishment, to give us energy, the fuel that makes us go, as well as the building blocks to maintain health and wellbeing.
3. Food is food. Eating what you want is a common sense choice, although maybe the one that has freaked many of my friends out. Catrina suggests to look at it this way; if you have a choice between the apple and the chocolate and you choose the apple, because it is the healthy option, and you really want the chocolate, most people end up eating the chocolate as well. However if you just have the chocolate you are satisfied and carry on. This does not mean I eat chocolate, biscuits and junk all day – the interesting reflection is when I allow myself to have what satisfies me – most of the time I don’t want the unhealthy option. (Now I have written that – I see my thinking is still flawed.) It works for me – when I tell myself I can have 12 (instead of having to have 2) I only want one! Catrina is focused on the relationship with food and by labelling something healthy and unhealthy changes the outlook. It is just food.
4. Mindfulness. I have been working on asking myself the question, “Am I hungry?” Most times the answer is no – which worries me and also sets up a mini panic – what if I don’t eat now and can’t eat when I am? What if I miss the signal of hunger? What if I miss the hunger signal? Being mindful requires practising being present when eating. As a type A personalty – I often eat, during work hours, on the job. However stopping and being mindful means you do not eat the entire packet of biscuits before you realise they have all gone. It means slowing down, noticing the flavours, colours, textures of the food and knowing that you have eaten it.
Catrina advised me that for her, it took approximately 2 years to be confident with eating naturally. And because you are changing your mindset around food it doesn’t matter how long it takes because you are no longer restricting or depriving yourself and the results are permanent. I get that. Changing habits takes time and constant mindful practice. I am determined to persist and do this. Next time you see me at a social function, conference or in your school and I’m reaching for food, please whisper “Are you hungry?” Thanks 🙂
Published on Monday, November 24th, 2014, under Personal