Misunderstood Need

Dear Children,

Way back when humankind first came to be, be it through creation or evolution or something not yet understood or imagined.. The world was a very different place, and our bodies were made to survive and thrive in those times.

The ways that our body regulates itself are adapted to those times that no longer are, and a life that no longer is. It is important to understand what things we truly need and what things we simply misunderstand as our bodies tell us that we need to survive and thrive in a world that has changed much more quickly than we have adapted.

A long long time ago back when food was scarce and we had to work hard to hunt, to gather, to cultivate the fields. Our bodies allowed us to eat past the capacity of our stomach, and to store the energy of feasts for the times of famine. Our bodies were drawn to brightly colored foods for the nutrients that they contained, and which our bodies needed in order to survive, thrive, and be strong and healthy.

Today food is not scarce. There is no famine but our bodies still crave the feast. We settle into routines and meal plans that are easier to stick to and harder to abandon. Our bodies store.. store.. store.. store the extras for that famine that never comes, for the energy we no longer need to hunt or gather or harvest as we drive to the store where food is plentiful, and we fill our shopping carts to the excess. Not only the produce and the meat are colorful and bright, but also the tasteless nutritionally devoid bland food that has been dyed and sugared to call out to the instincts that used to help us pick the most nutritious apple or the healthiest carrot.

We subsist on make believe food dyed in technicolor that makes healthier foods look bland and unappealing in comparison. And we gorge ourselves on it.

We misunderstand the needs of our bodies, and we feed our outdated instincts rather than giving our bodies what they need to be healthy, in amounts that are healthy, in a variety that is healthy, and we do not exert ourselves, we do not build the muscle that we need to be strong, we do not move in the ways that our joints and bones need to be healthy.

And then one day we wake up and our bodies have packed away years of energy for a famine that will never come. We have gorged to the extent of our body’s ability to gorge. And we panic because our pants don’t fit and we don’t feel attractive. So we respond by starving ourselves. By counting calories and by trying to imitate a famine that is not. We buy a gym membership and we run on treadmills and we wonder why we are not losing weight.

Just as we have misunderstood our need for food, we misunderstand our need for health.

We do not need to starve ourselves. We do not need to run on treadmills. We do not need to gorge ourselves on dyed foods. We do not need to drive places in an expensive ergonomic car with customizable lumbar support.

We need to abandon the idea that plates of food are meant to be heaping and finished. We need to abandon the idea that transportation involves machines instead of our feet hitting the ground. We need to explore the world more, eat different things more often, and avoid patterns that could never be found in nature. We need to ignore the sizes of our clothes and we need to listen to our bodies.

Am I healthy now?

Am I strong enough to do the things that I need and want to do? Can I walk? Can I run? Can I jump? Can I climb a tree? Can I climb a hill? Can I dance around happily? Can I lift my children and throw them into the air? Do I have energy? Can I sleep? Can I breathe? Can I feel my muscles move my body? Can I hike? Can I explore? Can I carry? Is my appetite drawn to healthy foods or have I filled myself up with so many lies that I do not have the appetite to eat anything but certain foods?

Try to understand what your body needs in the context of healthy things, even if your attention is drawn to all of the things that are advertised around us.

Do I really need that rainbow-colored cereal? Or is my body trying to tell me that my diet is so limited that I’m missing something that would be found in a multi-colored salad or in fruits? Is it that I’m really so hungry I need to eat two plate-fulls of food, or is it that my body is so malnourished through my repetitive meal plan that it is trying to over-compensate by eating more of everything in the hopes that the trace vitamin will build up to the levels that it needs and that it would easily get through eating a variety of healthier foods?

Try new foods. Graze. Sample things here and there even if it’s just a tiny amount. Try different types of apples, different colors of sweet peppers. Different cheeses. Different brands of yogurt. Different produce at different stores.

Take new routes when you go for walks. Look for new things.

We don’t live in the world that our genes thrived in. But we can listen to our bodies with an understanding of what things used to be, and what they are now.

I’m thin because my genes dictate it. I do not need to eat a cheeseburger. I need to be healthy. Just as someone larger might need to be healthy. And the ways that we all need to be healthy are remarkably the same. We need to feed our bodies what our bodies need, we need to use our bodies to do strong things. When we have energy and are strong, we are doing the right things. When we are sluggish and weak we are not.

As for me.. I’m trying to abandon the idea of you cleaning your plates. I’m trying to see it as awesome when you try  bite of a new food even if you don’t eat more than one bite. I’m trying to understand that sometimes you’ll eat one thing so many times in one day for so many days and then you’ll not want to eat it again for weeks at a time because you want to eat so much of a different thing.. And that maybe your body is wise. (As long as it’s a healthy thing and not a Fruit Flavored Cereal with Wax + Fruit Juice formed into Berries.) When we go to a grocery store and you ask for a new vegetable that I don’t think you’ll ever eat in a million years, I’ll buy it and I’ll let you try it even if you spit it out. I don’t need to buy four pounds of it. Just enough for you to try.

Great things happen when you listen carefully to your body and when you understand the world around you.

Be wise.

<3 Mama

2 thoughts on “Misunderstood Need

  1. Love this! It’s what my little sister was taught when she was in an inpatient center for treating her Eating Disorders. Intuitive eating. Thankfully she is much-recovered now.

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