By Cindy Kleh, Guest Blogger
It’s that time of year when you pledge to try to live a healthier lifestyle. Since much of your health is determined by the quality and quantity of food you eat, it might be a good New Year’s resolution to pay more attention to what, when, and where you tend to overeat or eat when you’re not truly hungry.
I went through most of my life without ever attempting to fast. Finally, at age 56, I had to undergo a surgical procedure that required fasting for almost two days, and what I discovered was eye-opening – what I had considered “hunger” wasn’t even close to the real thing!
Real hunger was a deep gnawing that came and went, and it didn’t feel much better as my stomach got used to having no food. It robbed me of concentration, and kept me up at night. I started to understand why some of my poorer school students had problems with their school work. Who really cares about math and reading when you’re hungry?
That’s a difficult question to analyze when you rarely feel full-blown hunger. Often we eat out of boredom and stress. Other times it is because it’s a certain time of day, and others want to eat right now. We can’t avoid it sometimes, but most of the time, we can. It’s a matter of awareness and making smart choices every moment of every day.
Open Your Eyes and Turn On Your Tastebuds
Be fully conscious when you eat! Turn off the TV and put away your phone and newspaper so you can focus on each morsel and the company of your friends and family around the table. Don’t combine eating with another task … it’s beautiful and entertaining enough just as it is!
Be aware of how your hunger feels. Is it just a pang that will go away if you get up and stretch or take a short walk, or is it a deep, raw hunger? When you become more aware of what scenes set off Stupid Eating (i.e. putting whatever is in front of you in your mouth when you’re not truly hungry), you can be more in charge of your weight maintenance regime.
Instead of listening to all the latest diet trends on the market, listen to your stomach! It so simple … and, unlike all those special diets, free will is free of charge. Weight loss will happen without all that effort and self-hatred, and less weight will make life easier on your knees, as well as improve your overall health. (Don’t do it to imitate fashion models or please your spouse, do it for your own good.)
Fasting with Awareness
We need regular food to keep us going strong, but an occasional one- or two-day fast allows the body to spend its energy eliminating toxins instead of continually digesting food. Toxins are stored in the fat, and when the body runs out of glucose from the liver, it starts to melt the fat (ketosis). Fasting isn’t the best weight-loss plan, as most overeat afterwards to make up for it. So decide before the actual day why you are fasting, because if you don’t have strong convictions, you probably won’t last the morning.
Choose a day that is less hectic to do your fast. You don’t want to have an important task at work be affected by a lack of brain power. Be active and engaged, but don’t overdo it. Don’t fast if you are sick or getting sick, and consult your doctor first if you have diabetes or other health problems.
Fast with a positive attitude. If you see this situation as one of lacking, you will despise it. If you embrace your hunger with a sense of curiosity, you will be able to learn from the experience. What does real hunger feel like? What does it do to you? Is it really that horrible? How do starving people around the world deal with this pain every day?
Water should never be rationed – drink as much as you like. I personally prefer to drink water, tea and clear liquids while I fast, and avoid sugary drinks because the sugar ignites my hunger. (Yes, juice is a sugary drink!) Adding spirulina or chlorella to your fast can help with the detoxification process by removing heavy metals and radiation from the body. These blue-green algae can also quell your hunger because they are high in protein and Omega-3’s.
It’s also important how you break the fast. You will be amazed at what a small amount of food can do to your stomach! You don’t need all that much to feel full after a fast, but food tastes so amazingly good that you feel compelled to overeat. Hold on to the awareness that you’ve gain! Long-term, lower-calorie diets can prolong your lifespan, and fight cancer, high cholesterol, diabetes, and brain aging. Check it out here.
Pause and Think …
Your ancient ancestors never had Cheerios and milk waiting for them when they woke up or butter and a loaf of banana bread waiting in the fridge. They had to hunt, fish, or gather their meals first, and that required working while hungry.
So when you’re heading for the refrigerator or opening that bag of Doritos, stop and ask yourself: Am I really hungry or am I eating out of habit or boredom? If I drink a glass of water or take a short, brisk walk right now, can I postpone snacking and make it to the next meal? If I have to choose between a snack OR TV, which would I choose? What situations prompt me to chew with my focus elsewhere? Driving? Computer work? Reading?
These questions don’t have hard and fast answers, because each of us are so different. We view food differently, we crave different foods, and our genetic makeup and culture also affects how and what we eat. The key is to be aware of what you eat without getting down on yourself. If you happen to down a bag of Belgium truffles for lunch one day, forgive yourself, and start anew. Healthy eating is not something you make yourself do each January – it’s a lifelong quest.
Start that journey right now.
Have you ever fasted?
What are some of the things that trigger Stupid Eating for you?
Tell us about your experiences with hunger.
About the author
Cindy Kleh is a freelance writer and photographer living in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. (Although Colorado has the thinnest population of any state in the U.S., it still has a 21% obesity rate!) She teaches school and snowboarding, and was the U.S. National Overall Snowboarding Champion for her age group for many consecutive years.
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