I thought I had a true and accurate relationship with the fullness and hunger cues of my body until a recent consultation with my favorite Chinese doctor.
My visit was prompted by the upheaval I had been experiencing from my raging hormones; interrupted sleep, headaches, cold and hot flashes to name just a few. His recommendations included an eating prescription. When it comes to my eating I am quite protective. My relationship with food is sacred and I like to eat what I want when I want. Given my love and trust of my doc I listened and decided to experiment with his direction.
Always eat breakfast. For me this sounded crazy because I am never hungry in the morning and only ingest my cherished lemon water (which I started many years ago at my Chinese doc’s suggestion). Why eat when I am not hungry? I, of course, shared my reaction with him and in a calm and relaxed manner he suggested I start slow, with some fruit. That sounded manageable and my children reminded me of a time when I started each morning with a sliced fresh crunchy apple which I thoroughly enjoyed.
While the breakfast challenge felt sensible enough his next prescription seemed outlandish at best. He wanted me to eat each meal in a calculated manner; that is, to eat to 80% full for breakfast, 70% full for lunch and 50% full for dinner.
I learned that I had been eating more like 120% full for dinner and that scaling back to 50% felt like a huge emotional loss for me. But what about my body’s reaction? What I noticed was that my physical body felt much more comfortable when I ate less for dinner and that the change in my belly had a noticeably positive impact on finding ease to sleep at night. The other side effect was that I began feeling hungry in the morning (not rocket science) and have actually started looking forward to eating breakfast (which I have eaten closer to 50% fullness rather than 100-120% — I never promised perfection!)
This exercise caused me some reflection on childhood patterns as well. In my original family, dinner was our dominant and preferred meal. My parents went most days without eating breakfast or lunch and they and consequently, I, had a ravenous appetite for dinner and ate a lot. So, I am changing a strongly imprinted habit while still maintaining flexibility and reaping the benefits.
I challenge you to examine your relationship with your hunger and fullness cues as well as your daily habits. You don’t need full blown symptoms or a Chinese doctor to construct an experiment and explore how your patterns support your health and wellness – or need to be tweaked to achieve an even greater quality of life.
Robin Okun, LMSW, is a certified Nia Instructor, Movement Therapist, Center for Eating Disorders, Director of Mindful Movement Studio, Ann Arbor, MI, 734-395-2624, firstname.lastname@example.org