Reading Signals

"Hm, what shall I eat first?"

When I taught our young kids some Morse code years ago, they went around saying things like, “Di-dit, di-di-di-dit,” and “di-di-dit, dah-dah-dah, di-di-dit.” If you weren’t fluent in Morse, you were out of luck, but to someone who knew the code, the meaning was obvious: the first message meant “Hi” and the second meant “SOS.” It’s the same with reading the body’s signals, because first you have to learn the code.

Someone said that when you find yourself reaching for food when you’re already full, it may be that you didn’t eat what you really wanted. When I first heard this, it was in the context of snacking. For example, my desire for potato chips wouldn’t be satisfied by a handful of carrot sticks, and I’d end up eating a bunch of “diet foods” before I finally gave in to what I really wanted in the first place.

Recently, however, the idea came up in the context of the body’s craving for nutrients. For example, if my body wants citrus and I eat chocolate instead, my body may push me to keep eating until I finally get that citrus, whether or not I’m conscious of what’s going on. Now, why didn’t I think of that?

At any rate, the concept gives me more impetus to learn how to read my body’s signals; that is, to evaluate not only the prompts from my taste buds or stomach or imagination (seems I can always think of something that would taste good!) but also the indications from my body’s maintenance system.

But first I need to learn the code. I’ve already mastered a few bits of it. Sometimes when I reach for food out of habit, what I really want is a drink of water or a stroll around the block or a 20-minute time out, i.e., to be refreshed in mind and spirit. When I get leg cramps, I’ve learned that drinking milk and applying heat to my taut muscles helps to relax them.

So I guess the point is to take an inventory of all systems before deciding what to eat, or drink, or do next. You may be thinking, “Elementary, my dear Watson.” But for us former dieters who spent years ignoring our body’s signals, it’s like learning a whole new language. Fortunately, what once sounded like gibberish is beginning to make sense!

4 thoughts on “Reading Signals

  1. Very cute photo, and great post! I agree with you about our bodies craving certain nutrients and not wanting to stop eating until they get it. I have heard that many people are over-fed and under-nourished because while they are getting more than enough calories, they aren’t getting enough vitamins, minerals, phyto-chemicals, and trace elements in their diets – which makes their bodies keep asking for more food!

    I see what you are saying about eating treats that we are craving in order to get past the craving and move on…but what do you think of adjusting our palate to get a taste for healthier food? We can’t crave something that we’ve never had – for example, I hadn’t eaten kale until my adulthood, and I didn’t even like it the first time I cooked it. But knowing how healthy it was, I continued experimenting with different ways to prepare kale and continued to eat it, and now it actually is something that I crave and enjoy. On the flip side, I used to drink a lot of diet soda, but once I realized how unhealthy it was, I decided to give it up. At first I craved it all the time, but now I never crave it – and only drink it once in a blue moon if I’m at the movies. If I had indulged every time I craved it, I would probably still be drinking it every day.

    1. Good points, all. I know from experience that my palate has changed for certain foods. When I was a kid, I didn’t like the taste or texture of avocados, and mangoes tasted like rotten peaches, but now I love both. A few years ago I didn’t like whole wheat pasta because the taste overpowered me, but now I prefer its texture to regular pasta. Brown rice, however, is still not my favorite for all my rice dishes.

      I’m considering what you said about “adjusting our palate to get a taste for healthier food.” I never had kale, either, until recent years (except in soups, such as Olive Garden’s Zuppa Toscana), and now I love it sauteed, the way you make it. Thanks for reading and posting, Bekah!

    1. Nice to meet a fellow sojourner, Sharon. I just now read your story (on your blog) and want to read more. Giving up dieting is still so hard for me! Just when I think I’ve “normalized” my eating, I, too, get disgruntled about my weight and start raking myself over the coals. You know how it goes. Thanks for reading and commenting.

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