Do you eat too fast?

All my life I have gulped my food and eaten fast, as if my life depended on it. That was the adaptive way I learned to eat, right out of the chute. I was given up for adoption at birth and spent the first six weeks of my life in limbo. I was waiting for my adoptive family to pick me up, but I didn’t know that. Most of the time I was in a hospital: I spent some time with a doctor’s family, too.  That means bottle feeding on a schedule, which was common practice then, anyway.

We know instinctively and research has now confirmed it.  Babies do best when they can eat when they are hungry; be held when they are cranky; and learn to respond to their own body’s signals safely.  I have traced my current eating habits to my infancy and can see how learning to eat to external cues caused a disconnect between mind and body that has affected the way I take in food my whole life.

Early programming

I imagine myself as a newborn in the hospital, getting fed on a schedule. The nurses are busy and have many babies to attend. A nurse may not have the leisure to be patient if I am fussy or take too long to finish my bottle.  Like all babies, I’m an adaptive genius. I quickly learn that drinking quickly and efficiently both gets the job done and pleases the nurses.

Maybe I’m relaxed and take my time drinking, or the nurse plays with me, or we both get distracted by something else going on. But then she looks at the time and says, “Oh, that’s all we have time for this time. You usually finish the whole bottle. I guess you weren’t that hungry.” And I become painfully hungry by the time the next feeding comes. Maybe I’m not all that hungry at the scheduled feeding time. But I’ve had experience getting hungry before the allotted time – which feels TERRIBLE – so I push myself to take in whatever’s there, regardless of my body’s signals about not being hungry, with the hope that it will carry me to the next feeding. I have adaptively learned to finish the bottle fast, regardless of distractions or lack of hunger. In other words, I learned to eat to external cues rather than internal ones.

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Eating to external cues

That’s just my scenario – maybe yours was similar. If your parents made you finish everything on your plate NO MATTER WHAT, you also learned to eat to external cues. If you had to compete with siblings or classmates to get the food before they did, you learned to eat to external cues. Advertisers spend $$ billions training you to eat to their cues. They show you a delicious-looking burger and a soda with condensed water droplets on the glass to get your stomach juices flowing like Pavlov’s dog. If you are told you’re fat or too thin and buy into those judgments, you probably have an ongoing internal dialog about how much to eat. Then there’s all the debate over what food is healthy for you to eat. It can be crazy-making.

Extend this deeply etched, adaptive habit out 30 or 40 or 60 years. That’s how you become a person who chews minimally, bolts down her/his food and doesn’t know how to hear physical signals for “hungry” or “had enough.” This is a recipe for digestive distress.

I’ve been trying to slow down and chew my food for 40 years! I have trained myself to chew more, but there’s still a frantic “gotta get it done” feel to my eating. I don’t like it and it can bother those I eat with.  Knowing this hasn’t fixed the problem.

So where does it end?

The pattern ends as we unhook from the external cues and tune in to the signals the body naturally gives you. I’m weaning myself off sugar and hearing my body louder than I’ve heard it. I’m surprised and delighted to be finding answers that have eluded me or decades. Several times in the past week I’ve suddenly stopped eating, sometimes even as the fork was on it’s way to my mouth. Maybe for the first time in my adult life, I’m hearing my body say, “We’ve had enough, don’t eat any more.” This is revolutionary to me.

The first step is to make your patterns conscious. Then you gradually make adjustments. Only then can you unplug from foods that unbalance you and listen to the cues from the balanced collective organism that is you.  I feel like the sugar-loving microorganisms (sugar bugs) I’ve fed so well for so long have been controlling my eating to some extent.  Research shows that we have more cells in our bodies with DNA that isn’t ours – in the microorganisms that populate our gut – than is ours.

If your gut flora is out of balance, it may out-shout hear your own body’s cues telling you what to eat. As I eat less sugar, I will have fewer “sugar bugs” telling me to eat more of it. I won’t even want the desserts I love. As I listen to my body, I’m learning portion control. If I chew slowly and listen, 3 chips is even better than half the bag.

Slowing down to listen within

Good eating begins with listening to your body and giving it what it’s calling for.  Good digestion begins with chewing food well.  I’m finding I can do both as I quiet the clamoring of the sugar bugs and begin to hear my own cells.

I still don’t have the social eating part worked out. But I’m learning to cook a variety of delicious meals without the addictive ingredients I’m so used to. For now, I am enjoying the changes in my body and palette and can hang in there while I figure out the rest. The one thing I feel sure of is that you can only get this by experiencing it for yourself. I’ve tried other eating protocols and diets but this more-comprehensive omission of wheat, dairy AND sugar is rebooting my mind (as opposed to blowing it;-)

I will always have to listen to my body to hear what it needs. Those needs will change over time. But now I have the experience of hearing and trusting my body and listening will get easier over time. I don’t have to rely on doctors, friends, or conflicting things I might read. My internal compass got set to the wrong magnets very early. But I’m pulling away from those unhealthy influences and I can finally feel the rightness of my own guidance system.  I can hear my internal cues and make healthy choices for myself from them. You can do this, too!

Stay tuned. We will be sending out these reports on Fridays. I encourage you to look for a health buddy so you can help keep each other on track and talk to someone when the addictive pull of sugar – or whatever has your internal ear – gets strong.  It’s a journey we are all equipped to take and the reward of health and clarity is worth it.

#weightloss  #MTHFR     #cuttingoutsugar   #healthyeating    #bottlefeeding