There is a great article written by Craig Harper, “How to Become a Conscious Eater.” In the article he says, “Many people eat unconsciously. They eat on autopilot. They eat what they don’t need. Every day. And then they (strangely) wonder why they’re fat. And unhealthy. They eat processed crap. They eat socially. They eat because it’s expected. Because it’s there. Because it’s free (wouldn’t want to waste anything). They eat emotionally. Re-actively. They reward themselves with food. And their children too. Sometimes they bribe (motivate, manipulate, control) their kids with food. ‘If you do… (insert task)… I’ll take you to McDonalds for dinner’. Awesome parenting. They fantasize about food. Lie about it. They eat to ease the pain. To give themselves instant physical pleasure. To numb out. To escape. To fit in. To forget.”
When I read this article the first time, I could relate to so much of what he wrote. There were some things that hit me hard as at one point in my life, I did bribe and cajole my kids….. I used M&M’s for potty training. O.K., I admit it, but my kids are no worse for the wear, but I get the point that he is making. We use food for all of the wrong reasons, and if I’m using food as a tool to bribe, it’s lost its true value.
What I love most about his article is that he hits the nail on the head when he says, “We eat on autopilot.” He’s right, I see it in my clients every day and during my dieting days, I too was guilty. I just put food in my mouth and ate it without even questioning it’s benefits. Sure, I counted calories here and there (when I was trying to lose weight) but quality of the food? Who cares? It was low in calories and I was taught that was all that mattered. So sad.
Fortunately, since that time, I have learned and read so much more. I have had the good fortune of knowing people who are every bit a conscious eater. I have also encountered those that are completely disconnected from the food they’re putting in their body. I have observed and learned from watching both practices and find 30 years after losing 50 pounds, being a conscious eater is vital. When I can “feel” how the foods I eat allow me to be stronger and more focused, I’m grateful. When I used to snarf down a candy bar, I never gave a second thought as to how it made me feel.
Let me give you an example. When I struggled with weight, every day I counted my calories. Sure, I knew that vegetables and fruit were good for me but I was more interested in what was good for the scale, so I rarely paid attention to quality only quantity. I was sucked in to the “diet food” that promised to help whittle my waist down. So, I lived on diet food and I continued to feel lousy and deprived. During that time, nothing ever really tasted good, but that was the price to pay for a svelte figure. Or so I thought. Even as a young Mom, I would live on Rice Cakes (because they were low in fat) and skip meals in order to pig out at a big event. Ugh! It was what I knew and at the time what magazines told me, so I believed it!
Fast forward 30 years. Whenever I prepare a meal, I never put anything in my mouth (O.K., almost never) without thinking about the benefits derived from my food choices. I have come to understand that the more I eat whole, nutrient dense foods, the better I feel, without question. I love learning about the benefits of fresh herbs and green leafy veggies. I love playing with new recipes and feeding it to my family and watching them enjoy every last bite. I love pulling that first leaf of lettuce out of my garden and tasting it completely. I love the first raspberries of summer, and popping them in my mouth right from the bush. Nothing tastes better.
I haven’t counted calories in 20 years. I haven’t counted calories because I realized I wasn’t learning anything about food other than which had the least amount of calories. Once I started learning about the quality of foods, and the benefits of eating “real” food, I was no longer worried about calories. You’ll find it’s very hard to overeat “real” food because it’s typically high in fiber and satiety.When’s the last time you ate 5 oranges in one sitting? But, I bet you’ve knocked off a whole bag of chips. Get my point?
Craig Harper defines conscious eating as follows,“Conscious eating is giving our body the nutrition it needs for optimal health, function and energy. Nothing more or less.”
I couldn’t agree more. Eating is about giving your body what is needs to operate optimally. Unfortunately, somewhere along the way, good-for-you foods were given a bad rap in that many believe healthy foods are typically bland. The truth is there is no better tasting food than that food that is fresh and nutrient rich. It’s just that so many people are used to the crazy amount of salt and fat often found in fast food. As a side note, you can season food with some unbelievable herbs and create far tastier meals than any fast food restaurant can offer.
If we continue to ignore the foods our bodies so desperately need and continue to buy packaged, processed foods, or jump onto the next crazy diet, we may never realize the benefits of eating really great foods. Once you are able to make the distinction between “diet” foods and really good-for-you foods, you will never diet again, yet you’ll be healthier than you’ve ever been. That’s my hope anyway.