In today’s dieting culture, the advice to “eat less” (combined with exercise more!) is probably one of the most common phrases we hear. But, as I tell my clients, I can’t imagine less useful advice. Eat less? Less than what? Less OF what?
Taking care of yourself involves learning to pay attention to what you need, and then providing it in adequate amounts, the key word being “enough”. We find balance in life when we get enough: Enough rest and enough activity; enough excitement and enough relaxation; and definitely enough food to provide the energy to live our lives well.
Eating enough can sound like a simple solution. After all, we are born with the innate ability to identify and communicate hunger. Children, if allowed to follow their own body signals, will eat what they need, when they need it. As adults, however, many people shift away from using physical signals for hunger and satiety, and instead use arbitrary measurements that may not have much to do with what constitutes “enough” for them. Some diets certainly fall well short of what a typical person needs, in both calories and nutrients.
Paying attention can be the first step in determining what is enough. Take a look at your typical food intake: Are you getting enough fruits and vegetables? Whole grains? How about calcium and iron sources, which are especially important for women? Is there enough color in your food—dark green, red, yellow and orange? These colors typically represent important nutrients and we certainly don’t want to “eat less” of these.
Slow down, learn to understand yourself and your needs, focus on what works for you and what doesn’t. Stay curious and nonjudgmental: “What is it that I need right now?” The good news is that self care is not a perfect science and doesn’t have to be. There will be days when we don’t get enough sleep, enough food, enough balance. “Enough” is more about the big picture, what you do for yourself most of the time. But the more you pay attention, and learn to know yourself, the better able you are to provide yourself with what you need.
So the next time you hear the advice to “eat less”, just say to yourself, “No thanks. I’m going to take care of myself and eat enough.”
Jennie Wade, MA, MEd, RD, LD, Body Truth Center for Wellness, LLC 9403 Kenwood Road Suite A120, Cincinnati, OH 45242 www.bodytruthcenter.com