How Food Makes You Feel
At a workshop I taught in Asheville, NC, a clinician raised an important question to ask yourself after eating: How does food make me feel? Here’s why.
Because the experience of eating extends beyond laying down your fork or spoon, a fifth rule of “normal” eating might be to ask yourself, “How did what, how much, and when I ate make me feel?” To process your answer fully, you’ll have to ask this three-part question more than once—immediately after your meal, a few hours later, then many hours later, maybe even the next day. Your answers can then be used to determine whether you want to repeat the eating experience again as is or not.
Part one of the question is about what you eat. How does your body respond to meat, vegetables, fruits, processed foods, fried foods, spicy dishes, sugar, fat, dairy or wheat products? Does it feel pleasant or unpleasant directly after eating these foods? Does that feeling last down the road? Pay attention to physical sensations and emotions in order to create an effective feedback loop. Part two is about how much you eat. When you stop eating, do you feel nicely full, hungry, bloated, uncomfortable, satisfied? Where in your body do you feel overeating or undereating discomfort? How does discomfort manifest itself hours after eating? Part three is about when you eat. Was your timing right in terms of hunger, going to sleep, activity or energy level? What timing would be better? Would it help to eat more or less frequently? Earlier or later in the day?
Along with examining how you feel physically after eating, it’s crucial to non-judgmentally explore your psychological/emotional response. Ask yourself if you’re proud or ashamed of how you ate and register the response with curiosity, not condemnation because you’re unhappy with the choices you made. Consider how you can use every eating experience to make wiser food decisions in the future.
In general, how strong is your mind/body connection when you’re done eating? Do you always/never/sometimes check in with yourself? What prevents you from doing so after each food experience? Will staying aware of food’s after-effects help you eat more “normally”? How will you remember the three aspects of what, when and how much you ate? How will you remind yourself to check in with yourself after eating? Increasing your awareness of post-eating effects will help you strengthen the mind/body connection we call appetite. Asking yourself how you feel after eating is as important as assessing hunger and food preference before it and awareness and enjoyment during it.