I am an American, so when I say your body is ‘brilliant’, I don’t mean the British version, where it’s wonderful or even awesome. I mean it’s ‘smart’ as in highest IQ ever. Your body understands microbiology functions that PhD level microbiologists don’t understand. It functions to keep you alive in ways that scientists are still trying to figure out.
Your body understands how to function down to the atomic level. It does this everyday; breathing, digesting, keeping your heart beating, healing. It tells you to cover up when you are cold and fan yourself when you are hot. In other words, your body does a lot of stuff automatically to keep you alive, stuff you don’t even know how to explain. So why do we feel we have to tell it what and how eat? Isn’t hunger one of the basic functions of our body?
Do I need to know how many calories I should consume each day?
You think you know how many calories, fats and carbs you need, but on any given day, it could be different than the day before. Your body knows exactly what it needs to function optimally. It knows every fraction of a calorie you consume. It knows, to the microgram, how many calories and how much protein is in that piece of chicken, and it knows exactly how to break it down and use it for your benefit. It knows how to break down donuts and use them for your benefit too. It is adept at using any food you put in it to keep you functioning. Why? Because that’s it’s job.
I used to think I had to keep track of every gram of food that went into my mouth. Counting calories and carbs was a way of life. But if my body knows how to process every scrap of food it eats, I thought, “it probably knows exactly how many calories are in that box of donuts I polished off this morning.” I keep thinking I can tell my body what it needs to eat, but in reality, it tells me what it needs, I just don’t listen.
Its kind of like an emergency room, it doesn’t care what you look like or how you feel emotionally, it’s only job is to keep you alive and out of pain. That’s what the body does all the time; whatever is required to keep you alive at a cellular level. So, if it thinks food will be restricted, it will go into emergency mode and compel you to eat now to keep you alive a little longer.
When you are in this mode and eating furiously, your anxiety may be high, but your body doesn’t fret. It uses what it needs and stores the rest for later. How smart is that? To know that it needs to store some for later because there may be a famine in the future is not just smart, it’s survival. It evolved that way. Its coded to eat when the food is fresh, the harvest is in, the pig has been slaughtered. The trouble is, in our society, the harvest is always in, the meat is always freshly available, the garden is never brown.
My version of why we get cravings
When we tell ourselves we will diet tomorrow, skip a meal, work food off, or in some other way restrict food to make up for eating now, we give our body a message. The message is, ‘Hey, I’m eating now, but I won’t be eating in the future.’ So, the body does what it does best, it keeps you alive by compelling you to eat more now. It gets your dieting message loud and clear- “You are feeding me now, but you are thinking of restricting the amount of food I can have, there must not be a next meal coming, I better make you eat as much as you can right now so we can store some up for later when food will be restricted.”
This is what we anxiously call a craving. And when you feel that craving, you panic because you think you will eat too much. When you do eat too much, you feel guilty. Then you assuage that guilt with promises of being ‘good’ and staying on your diet the next day. You have just fallen into the whirlpool of ‘binge-diet’ eating, trying to control your food intake until your body takes over, then feeling guilty for losing control, and trying to take control again. Your mantra becomes, “I will go back on my diet and stop eating sugar and junk food tomorrow.”
Then, the next day after you have been ‘good’ all day, you may come home and tell yourself you deserve a treat or a special meal. You probably eat with entitlement, but not without guilt. You only feel justified in eating because you did not eat enough earlier. You’ve already paid the price for being able to eat now, as if you can only eat after you restricted food for a time, or eat when you promise to limit food in the future.
This is where I was for years. After seeking much help, going to treatments and counseling, reading books and blogs, it became clear to me that my body does not distinguish between my desire to eat less to lose weight and a scarcity of food. It treats them both the same. Whether I am thinking of restricting food or there is a real food shortage, my body reacts the same way. Why? Because it’s job is to keep me alive. And it does that job very well. So I knew I had to start trusting my body and letting it tell me what and when to eat. It was not easy, but it was much easier than trying to control the uncontrollable urge of a craving.
How can you start trusting your body and stop cravings?
Tell yourself you can eat anytime you want, that you will never restrict food again. You will not skip meals, you will not eat low calorie versions of real food. You will not try to burn off calories just for the sake of burning off calories. Tell your body you will eat whatever it wants.
You will be surprised that it doesn’t want chocolate cake all the time. It doesn’t always want high fat, high sugar food. It only makes you crave that food when you try to restrict it. At least this is how its works for me.
In my experience, cravings cannot exist when I allow myself to eat with no guilt, no remorse, no shame, and no thoughts of restriction in the future. Its not that I will never overeat again, but overeating does not have a hold over me like it once did.
For tips and advice on how to take action to stop bingeing now. Click here.
“Everything is Okay. This includes the appearance of my body and the appearance of everyone else’s body” MD