Today we interview the very first nutrition expert I heard speak at my nutrition school, The Institute of Integrative Nutrition, Marc David.
While listening to him on stage back in 2005, a major light bulb went on for me that hasn’t turned off since.
Our relationship and approach to food is just as important as the actual food we eat.
I was on the edge of my seat as he went on to break down cravings….
Supportive cravings fulfill a biological deficiency or need and bring balance to the body. Destructive cravings deplete our energy, and associative cravings have a rich, deep association with our past and thus elicit a powerful emotional response.
Next came learning how to separate eating for emotional nourishment from eating for biological development with a practical action plan on how to do that.
Fascinating stuff. Things you’ve always thought about maybe somewhere in the back of your mind but never pulled together so completely in a way that led to lasting behavioral changes and a healing perspective.
We all have to dive into our relationship with food as a metaphor for something deeper.
If I asked you to remember one specific dinner you had as a child, could you drum up a memory to share?
Almost everyone can recall at least a handful of them, right?
It may have been a warm, memorable time of celebration, a time when you felt validated about something going on in your life, or a time when you felt totally connected to those around you.
Or it may have a negative association when something shocking was revealed, an argument occurred, or an underlying feeling of tension was palpable.
Today we talk further about that relationship with food as we discuss his new book, The Slow Down Diet.
Here are a few of my favorite tips Marc gives us that we can ALL incorporate:
- Make a “pleasure inventory” list and write down the things that give you pleasure and make you feel nourished
- There is both a mental-emotional and metabolic component to eating
- To avoid reverting to old habits, embrace the fact that you are imperfect if you do happen to slip up. It’s okay to visit your old habits, just don’t live there. My mantra for when this happens is “correct and continue”
- When we are present when we eat and take pleasure in the sensation, we are less likely to overeat. Ever check your email while eating and look down baffled to an empty bowl, bag, plate wondering, “who ate that?”
- Why lunch is our most metabolically active time of the day when the sun is highest in the sky, and when our “furnace” is the hottest
- If you are having trouble losing weight and you’re doing all the “right things” with your diet, it could be that your relationship with food is not where it should be (and there is likely something emotional lying underneath that)
I loved reading The Slow Down Diet because it’s so holistic. It focuses on our relationship with food, who we are as eaters, and how mind, emotions, thoughts, feelings, and beliefs impacts metabolism as well as how we digest and assimilate a meal.
Marc picks up where he left off in Nourishing Wisdom in his new book, as he talks in detail about cravings from an emotional perspective
He says we are psycho-physiologic beings. There is the mind-emotional component and the metabolic component. It’s easy to get addicted to certain foods these days because they can actually hijack your brain chemistry, such as sugar and highly engineered foods. We often get drawn to foods that help us relax; the foods that help regulate our emotions.
I love this line: “Pleasure catalyzes a relaxation response.” We should get pleasure from places other than food when our physiological need for food has already been met.
When Marc encourages us to make a “pleasure inventory” list, he’s talking about writing down the things that give you pleasure and make you feel nourished, such as certain healthy foods, exercise, people you spend time with, hobbies you get lost in, or music you listen to.
Psychologists use a term called “symbolic substitute,” meaning that when you can’t get the thing you want most, the mind is clever enough to go for the closest approximation thereof.
To avoid reverting to old habits, embrace the fact that you are imperfect (we all are!) if you do happen to slip up. Don’t take the all-or-nothing approach.
There is always some emotion present when we are eating because we are living, breathing, thinking, and feeling entities.
Allow this to resonate with you and take notice when you turn to food for a symbolic effect. Find alternative coping methods, such as a warm bath, journaling, a massage, or time with a caring friend.
When we are present when we eat and take pleasure in the sensation, we are less likely to overeat.
It takes the body approximately 20 minutes to determine if it’s full. The cephalic phase digestion response accounts for 30-40% of metabolic power at any meal. If your brain doesn’t get the pleasure it is seeking, it will continue to tell you that you’re hungry.
3 Steps for Mindful Eating
- Allot time for meals, create a commitment (you are worth it, we can all say we don’t have time, but that is an excuse not to take care of yourself)
- Focus on the nourishment of the food you’re eating
- Enjoy the time you spend eating
Marc says being overweight can result from food choices, eating too fast, or being in a stress-state while eating. I agree with that because when we eat in a stressful state, blood is shunted from the digestive system to the limbs for “fight or flight,” and when we eat too fast, we need more digestive enzymes than we otherwise would.
Metabolic individuality also plays a role of course.
Quality is everything.
If you’re trying to lose weight, look at macronutrient balance. When we consume excess poor-quality carbohydrates, weight gain is predictable. Move towards higher quality food, and make high-quality proteins and fats the bulk of your diet.
Marc also talks about how an elimination diet can help calibrate the body to a more natural state, and I am always a big proponent of finding the right formula for your unique body.
When we look at cultures around the world, particularly in France, they have lower instances of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. They eat more fat per person per year. According to America’s perspective on food, the French should be more overweight because they eat more fat, so we accounted their good health to their consumption of red wine. Really?
What we failed to observe was the whole picture. The French are mindful eaters; they take the time for meals. They eat high-quality fats and less processed foods. They spend over two hours a day eating and in that time, they eat about 30% less than the average American eats in the 30 minutes a day that they spend on meals.
They also eat lunch as their biggest meal of the day.
Lunch is our most metabolically active time of the day when the sun is highest in the sky, and when our “furnace” is the hottest.
If you are having trouble losing weight and you’re doing all the right things with your diet, I urge you just to have a look at your relationship with (and to) food and see if there is room for improvement.
Here are a few simple steps from Marc that can help.
3 Ways to Shift from Emotional Eating
- Make your pleasure inventory list, look at the non-food pleasures you can turn to
- Slow down and relax when you eat, take 5 long deep breaths while eating
- Don’t get down on yourself when you do “fall off the wagon” – remember, we are all imperfect, just “correct and continue”
You can learn more about Marc David at psychologyofeating.com
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