Yesterday morning I awoke at 6 a.m. to the screams of a baby and had flashbacks to 14 years ago. I live in a home with 3 large young adults and given that summer is here they rarely stir before 10 am (and thankfully they hardly ever scream when they wake).
My sister has arrived for a visit with her 15 month old son from Ethiopia and our house is slowly morphing back into a ‘baby home’. There are diapers and formula, baby books and toys, sweet wee overalls and the CUTEST little blue crocs (my kids could float a puppy in their own shoes if they so desired).
When we play music for Mackay he slowly starts to move his arms and before you know it his feet are stomping away and his head is bobbing (at 15 months he is sadly already a better dancer than myself). Watching MacKay’s fascination and sheer happiness as my son played his guitar and then as my husband twirled maple keys in the air took me back all those years to when my own ‘little darlings’ were amazed by the smallest of wonders. It is absolutely beautiful and Mackay brings with him all the joy that a baby brings and even more cuz he ain’t mine :):).
One of the things that is glaringly apparent to both my sister (who is banded) and myself is how Mackay is a completely instinctive eater. Mackay eats only when he is hungry, so like an instinctive eater his desire for food is driven by his need for fuel. He eats until he is satisfied and then won’t touch another bite (in fact if you are successful in sneaking in ‘just one more little bite’ he opens his mouth and waits for you to take the offensive piece of whatever off his tongue). If he doesn’t like or want something he won’t eat it…no amount of coercing or cajoling will convince him to open his little yap. As my sister said, he has no emotional attachment to food. He can’t see foods as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ and he doesn’t eat for any reason other than being hungry. Food doesn’t fill any void aside from that of hunger.
What’s fascinating is that we ALL start out like this. We ALL start out as instinctive eaters. And somewhere along the way, for any number of widely varying reasons, many of us become over eaters or restrictive eaters or maybe a bit of both or maybe one or the other at various times in our lives. I know I’ve blogged about this before but to actually witness my little nephew demonstrate pure unadulterated instinctive eating is quite an eye opener.
So the question lies in how do we get back there? How do we become instinctive eaters again? Can we turn back time and become the instinctive eaters that we were when we were children…or at least close to that? I like to believe I am a ‘glass half-full’ kind of gal and I believe the answer is a resounding “ABSOLUTELY“!! I also am aware that this may take a lot of work and it is clearly not the sort of thing I feel qualified to fully counsel on, particularly in a blog.
I believe that being a mindful eater is the best place to start. How often do you sit down to a meal, maybe in front of the TV or computer, and all of a sudden look down at your empty plate and realize that you don’t remember eating the food let alone enjoying it? It’s kind of like that scary feeling of arriving at a destination and not remembering driving there.
I remember my sister telling me that when she made a point of setting her table and making her meal an occasion rather than just a function that she noticed three things happening:
- she was less likely to get food caught
- she took greater enjoyment from her food
- and she had greater satiety with smaller portions.
This I think can be a first step towards getting back to being that instinctive eater we were way back when. Always be mindful of WHAT we are putting in our mouths (is it healthy, at least most of the time?). Always be mindful of HOW MUCH we are consuming (do I need this much fuel?). Always be mindful of WHY we are eating (ask yourself those three very important words “AM I HUNGRY“?). If you are not hungry…then comes the hard part. Why are you eating? What emotion or need are you looking to fill? Recognizing triggers that make you eat is an essential part of becoming a mindful and instinctive eater.
This can all take time, effort, honesty with yourself, and sometimes the realization that maybe you need some outside help to assist you in getting to the root of a problem. I always say that the band, or whatever bariatric surgery an individual has chosen to have will only assist that person so far. If you don’t have your head ‘in the game’ eventually whatever weight loss/health strategy you have employed will backfire, and usually in the form of unpleasant symptoms such as heartburn, vomiting, or in weight regain and/or poor health.
Remember: you are SO worth the investment in yourself that you have made…the physical, emotional, financial investment in your health. We can have all the fancy ‘things’ in life but without our health we have nothing.
So here’s to getting back to our ‘inner child’ so to speak. Mackay is teaching me a thing or two about eating, I’m just praying that he can do the same for my dance moves 🙂
P.S. A book that many of you may have read, but if you haven’t I would highly recommend is Dr. Michelle May’s “Eat What You Love and Love What You Eat”. It is a self professed ‘diet neutral’ book and gets behind fixing the problems that drive us to eat when we don’t need to eat…an AWESOME read 🙂