What does your body love to eat? Your first reaction might be similar to my son’s: vanilla ice cream whipped cream sundaes and bacon sandwiches. (Not in the same bowl… separately.) Does your body love to eat like a middle-schooler? Really?
Have you ever asked your body what it likes to eat? When I ask my body, images of fresh veggies float through my imagination: warm curries, sautéed greens, asparagus roasted in olive oil, diced avocados. Then big mangoes wander by, followed by juicy peaches, tangy raspberries, and sweet blood oranges.
One of my body’s favorite treats, that it only gets to enjoy a couple times a year, is eating sun-warmed strawberries out of the field.
Nothing compares to the sweet juiciness of a perfectly ripe strawberry plucked right from its squat foliage, and popped into your mouth on the spot. At least nothing I’ve ever encountered.
Sometimes it’s hard to hear what your body wants because your mind gets into Cookie Monster mode: “I want chocolate now. Donuts now. Chocolate donuts. Now.”
Then the mind spends a lot of time strategizing about how to get its emotional fix, the oh-so-brief stress relief that a heavy dose of sugar and fat provides to the brain. But when I ask my body---my best friend---what it wants, it almost never says chocolate donuts.
In fact, it took me years to realize that my body hated donuts, and sugar in almost all its forms.
Every time I ate sugar, I would turn irritable and crabby, and need to go home to take a nap. For years I thought I hated birthday parties… halfway through the party I would think, “Party games are stupid. Birthdays are stupid. Look at all these wasteful decorations and don’t even get me started about the paper plates. Don’t my friends have anything better to do than pollute the earth with more trash?” I turned into a raving party-pooper bitch. Finally I realized if I skipped the cake or ate only one bite, I liked birthdays just fine: I could blow my party horn and enjoy stumbling through the three-legged race along with everyone else.
Your body may not react to sugar the way mine does; I certainly hope not. But how does your body respond to different foods? Do you pay attention to its reactions?
What foods help your body feel full and sated? What foods make it irritated and upset?
Check in with your body and ask it how it likes different foods. How does a vanilla milkshake feel? How does a colorful salad feel? How does a beautifully presented, lovingly prepared meal feel? How does it feel to eat fast food behind the wheel of your car?
Psychiatrist and intuition specialist Judith Orloff recommends going to the farmers market, closing your eyes, and asking your body what it needs, what it wants, what it craves. Go around to the different stands, take in the sights and smells of fresh vegetables and fruits, and invite your body to respond with a “No, thanks,” a “Yes, please,” and the occasional, “Oh yeah, baby, I need some of that!” You’re not shopping for what you think you should eat, but learning to listen to your body’s voice. Slowly you’ll develop an ear for your body’s own preferences and wisdom.
Different foods have different effects on your body. Notice what foods make you feel:
Fatigued, mentally or physically
Bloated or uncomfortable
Keeping a food journal in which you write briefly about how you feel before and after meals can help you tune in carefully to what your body loves and what it complains about.
Even knowing what our body enjoys most, we sometimes eat things that disagree with it. When I do this, the tendency is to give myself a hard time… “I knew better, what was I thinking? Now I’ve ruined my day with this stomachache. Again.” Unsurprisingly this tactic is as helpful and soothing as banging my head against a concrete piling. Instead of knocking myself around, I’ve learned to apologize to my body: “Oh poor body. I’m so sorry about ignoring what you needed. I’ll remember for next time that you really hate it when I don’t stop eating when I’m full. My bad. I’ll listen more carefully from now on. We’re in this together.”
Would you purposefully give your best friend a stomachache? Never. Feed your best friend body what nourishes it, feeds it, and honors it. Learn to listen to your body’s intuition and you’ll find your body returns love and radiance to you a thousand-fold.