On Monday I got a new phone and I decided to give a weight loss app called Noom a try. When I first signed on, it offered me a list of preference and behavior statements for me to check off so that "Noom coach" could better administer my program . One of the statements was, "I cook my own meals; I have control over what I eat." I read this and thought, That's an odd way to put it. Technically, doesn't everyone have control over what they eat? To eat: see food, pick up food, put food in mouth, chew and swallow, repeat as needed. To not eat: Stop at step 1. These are actions every person controls, right?
I'm learning that the answer to that question is: Yes and no.
Cut to my yoga class Wednesday evening. While kicking our behinds in that 85°F room, out of
nowhere our teacher started talking about cravings, which are connected to habits. He said that oftentimes what people crave isn't the habit itself, but what they get from the habit (how it makes them feel, etc.). Once you get to the root of the craving and figure out what it is that you're seeking, you can change the habit.
Cut then to Wednesday night, my first trip to the grocery store since returning to the States. Walking along the aisles and picking from amongst the foods that were on display, I was reminded of my time in Japan. I firmly believe that going to Japan was one of the best things I've ever done, one reason being that it changed my relationship with food. I already mentioned a few weeks ago how my eating habits changed: fewer starches, more fruits and vegetables, more protein, little dairy, little snacking, no junk food, a lot more water, fresher food and smaller portions overall. On top of that, I wasn't thinking about food all the time, and I learned that I didn't need certain foods like I'd thought I did before. During those two months I was eating better than I've ever eaten in my life.
Since coming back, I've realized that now I literally cannot eat the way I used to eat anymore. My body will not take it. I don't think the same thoughts or feel the same emotions when I try eating what I used to eat. I eat some foods and feel heavy and sad; I get nauseous or even gag a little. Things taste worse and look less appetizing than I remember. Portions are bigger than I remember. I can walk away from food a little easier than I remember. It's like I've become a different person.
Being in that grocery store also made me recall the foods I hated but grew to enjoy (or tolerate) in just the past year: tomatoes, sweet tea, cherries, ginger, avocados, hummus, (beans), (cilantro), (olives). When I was younger I reserved lifetime spots on my "Never gonna like it" list for these foods. Now I can eat them with little to no hesitation. My tastes changed, and I didn't even have to try that hard to make it happen. I let it happen.
I write all of this to say that I'm beginning to understand something really important about food: People have control over the basic action of eating, but not everyone has control over the practice of eating like they should. I think this is due to having limited options, and/or being stagnated by habits that don't serve them. Some folks have been divested of control over what they eat, and they don't even realize it. As people grow older, their tastes change along with them. And as people start examining their habits, the way they think and feel about food should change as well. So don't be afraid to try new foods and take a good discerning look at exactly how and what you're eating. That's how you regain control.
You might think as you read this, What does this fat chick know, trying to speak wisdom about food? And you'd be justified in thinking such a thing. Given the predicament that I'm in, I don't really have any right to lecture anyone on nutrition. But I can share what I'm learning, and I'm learning that everyone needs to ask themselves this question from time to time:
Do I have control over what I eat?