Listen to Your Body

One of the easiest ways to boost your health and nutrition is to listen to your body's signals.
Body Language
listen to your body

Tune in to your natural hunger and fullness signals. Many people are used to having portion sizes determined for them, either by the diet they've been on or by what's served to them in a restaurant. It takes some time, and with patience and gentle persistence, you can get in touch with your inner signals. Generally, your body needs food about every five hours. Check in with yourself throughout the day to detect hunger. Eventually, listening and responding to your inner signals will become natural.

Eat breakfast. You might be used to skipping breakfast to cut calories, but that ploy backfires because you most likely feel famished -- and probably overeat -- later in the day. Skipping breakfast deprives your of the energy kickstart you need each morning. Your body spends the rest of the day playing catch-up to regain its energy equilibrium. If you're not hungry first thing in the morning, that's OK. Eat when you get to work or tote something healthful with you to eat on the run. Some foods to take along include yogurt and fresh fruit.

Explore emotional eating. If you use food, diets, and weight obsession to mask your feelings and distract yourself from the real issues in your life, look inside yourself to discover your true needs. Keep a food and mood journal to uncover patterns of eating when you're not hungry. Write down when, what, and how much you eat, how hungry you are when you start and stop eating, and what you feel.

If you want to eat even though you're not hungry or you keep eating when you're full, figure out what you really need. For instance, if you're tired, take a short nap or break; if you're lonely, call a friend; if you feel stressed, take a five-minute walk. Put yourself and your needs first.

Cultivate an appreciative and adventurous palate. When you savor well-prepared foods, you may be satisfied with less, especially when you're free to eat any food you like. Eating low-calorie or fat-free "diet" foods temporarily fools your hunger but rates low on taste and satisfaction. So you eat more of these substitutes and maybe more calories than if you enjoyed the real thing. Cultivate a selective palate that demands only the best-tasting, highest-quality foods. Before you eat, pause to ask yourself what you really want. Making that match is enjoyable and means you're taking care of yourself.

Expand your food horizons. Experiment with the recipes in this book for exciting meals to look forward to. Enroll in cooking classes and learn the adventures of using new spices, herbs, and seasonings in cooking. It will teach you the art and pleasure of food, giving you a new appreciation for foods you choose to put into your body.

Keep a gratitude journal. Each day, record five blessings in your life. You have plenty to be thankful for -- a home, a loving family, good friends, a job, a sunny day, the knowledge you've acquired, even having a warm coat. Many people don't have these things. Remember to express gratitude for your body and all the remarkable things it does for you. A mind that counts blessings has no room for self-pity.

Talk yourself into higher self-esteem. Positive self talk can urge you to greater heights. If you have trouble thinking positively, and are often plagued by negative thoughts, look into your past for sources of low self-esteem. Retrieve critical comments that were made to you, especially as a child. If necessary, talk to a counselor to help you through what you're feeling, or check out some books on positive thinking. You'll probably discover that your body image was shaped by other people and outside influence. As an adult, you can refute those messages and use positive thoughts to shape your own body image.

Continued on page 2:  More Body Signals