Eating is easy to talk about, so it’s no surprise that the subject comes up quite often in conversation. It’s fun to share recipes, or recommendations for a new restaurant, or the latest success or mishap in a friend’s garden. Too often I’m troubled by how MUCH judgement creeps into the most innocent of food stories…. the “should”, the shouldn’ts, the too much, the too manys…the pronouncement of no will power or self-control.
I think about animals that easily navigate through the food world with no other concern than scarcity and only if in the scarcity is in the moment they are hungry without food choices. A tiger doesn’t over think her tiger eating behavior. She trusts the prompts that cue her when to eat and what.
Humans are wired in a similar natural way. Toddlers, offered a balance of nutrient dense whole foods, and not influenced by the behaviors of others, will quite consistently choose and eat every nutrient they need. They may not pick every nutrient at every meal, and instead may focus intently on eating only one or two food choices. But, within a few days, they will self-select a healthy balanced complement of nutrients. This experiment has been repeated multiple times with the same results.
Ever notice after indulging in a tasty fun but nutrient poor fast food meal that even though you may have consumed an overabundance of calories and still feel quite full, it isn’t long at all till you find yourself looking for “something” to eat? Humans are “wired” to seek out the nutrients our bodies need to function effectively. Often our perceived lack of “self-control” is actually a finely tuned response to our need for vitamins, minerals, or other nutrients. You may be truly underappreciating how brilliant you are.
Of course, humans eat for a wonderful variety of non-nutrition reasons……like giving and sharing love, boredom, pleasure, pain control, and anxiety. I have spent considerable effort following my curiosity to discover more about me and others I work with as a nutrition educator. A midafternoon headache or a midnight foot cramp may signal I haven’t drunk enough water. I test the theory by being more conscious about drinking more water. And many days later after not being awakened by a foot cramp, I experience that foot cramp again and think about the day before. Sure enough. I was in a different situation on that particular day and sure enough I DIDN’T DRINK HARDLY ANYTHING!! I repeat the experiment. How interesting. Likewise, when I find myself devouring large quantities of food I’m not even tasting, it may signal that I’m not giving my body enough movement, or play, or I haven’t given enough attention to choices I have made at work or at home because they were convenient but not true to my values. Very interesting.
I was in a car accident that left me with multiple healed fracture sites. I live pain free most of the time on zero pain medications. For the most part, I eat lots of fruits and vegetables, legumes, some dairy and seafood, whole grains and avoid processed and animal fats. Why? I was so excited after attending a conference over a decade ago to learn about some of the work being done at that time at the Cleveland Clinic. They were investigating foods that turn on DAF 2 genes which then increase inflammation (think pain) in the body and foods that turn on DAF 16 genes which decrease inflammation in the body. Do I still eat fatty meats sometimes? Of course! With JOY! But when I start to hurt, it’s my signal to go back to what I know works better for me.
I encourage you to notice how your body feels before and after eating. Notice how a food really tastes. When do you stop being aware of that food’s taste and texture? How often do you eat out of obligation and not desire? I challenge you to lean into your curiosity about food and eating. Don’t be surprised to find it “very interesting”.
-By Beth Polo Beckel
This article is brought to you by my very good friend Beth Beckel (a Licensed Nutritionist and Educator). Beth Beckel provides nutrition services to the people of rural Arkansas.
I had the honor of developing a friendship with Beth during my work in of the rural towns of Arkansas. I must say it is very interesting how in the most peculiar places, you meet people who make significant impact to your live.
Here’s my short version about how I met Beth.
During my work as a hospital physician in Mena, Arkansas a small town with population of less than 6,000 people, Beth came into my life. Beth provided nutrition services at the hospital and was known for her free spirit.
I was both amazed and surprised to learn that after over 60 years of living in conventional houses, after owning a huge ranch with several horses, one day she decided to go on her personal journey to discover the meaning of “living a meaningful life”. So, a year ago, Beth shed off the burden of things and stuff which she had collected over the years. She sold her land, her horses and gave away her things and moved into an RV. She simplified her life to get more introspective. It was at this stage of her life that our paths crossed.
Within the first few minutes of our meeting, I could feel the energy of freedom that radiated from her. Beth exuded youth, agility, fun, life, energy and could have been mistaken for a gal her 20’s. She was caring, loving, and just wanted to learn about the beauties of life. The truth is that I envied her light heartedness.
The more we talked about our world views, the more I realized we shared very similar values of love and care of our communities. We both are constantly wanting to be the change in our communities to make the world a better place.
I learned about the people whose lives Beth helped change – including Jean Marie (the only openly transgender woman in Mena, Arkansas) – I hope to write a piece on in the near future. I also learned about the people of Madagascar who Beth supports through her art (jewelry making). I learned about the meaning of the spirals which she purposefully places on her beautiful art pieces.
“Spirals are very important for strength within my wrapped structure. I use this specific shape to celebrate spirals found in all living things. You can also easily find this shape in other’s work across cultures across the world… a reminder of our connectedness” Beth Beckel.
Yes, with Beth everything has a meaning and purpose. With Beth I am reminded to live my life purposefully with the intent of making the world a better place. I hope with more people like Beth in the world, we can make our homes, our friends lives and our communities a better place.