As a population we spend a lot of time deciding the best thing to eat, examining what other people eat, feeling badly about what we already ate and deciding what we'll eat next.
This preoccupation with evaluating our food choices is partly because there's a lot of confusion about what the "good" and the "bad" foods are. Here are a few examples - whole wheat bread, good or bad? Nuts, good or bad? Milk, good or bad?
We can blame our confusion on food marketing for their outrageous health claims (like sugary cereals that contain "whole grain" labels), or the publishing industry for promoting fad diets (Grapefruit diet, anyone?), but in this case I think the cause is even deeper.
Our confusion stems from the assumption that everyone responds the same way to foods, and therefore all we need to do is crack the code and follow a set of universal rules to achieve better health. Unfortunately, that's just not the case. Think of your friend who can literally eat anything and never gain weight but if you even look at that leftover pumpkin pie you may as well toss your skinny jeans into the, "Maybe One Day," box at the top of your closet.
We celebrate that our bodies look different on the outside, right? And we accept that certain people have food allergies, right? So let's get rid of the assumption that our digestive systems are all identical, and start paying attention to how real foods make our bodies feel.
Next time you pick up your fork, here are a few questions to ask yourself before, during, and after the meal to start eating more mindfully and eventually figure out what your good and bad foods are.
- Am I hungry?
- Am I stressed, bored, lonely, tired, anxious, or socializing?
- Am I chewing my food?
- Does the last bite taste as good as the first or am I just eating what's left on my plate?
- After the meal, do I feel energized or like I wish siestas were the norm in this country?
- After an hour, do I feel satisfied or hungry again?
- Does this particular food make me want other foods?
- After about 2 hours, do I feel happy or irritable?
How does my stomach feel (unnoticeable, or gassy and bloated)?
After some practice, the next time you're at a restaurant you won't ask your waiter what you should have for dinner, you'll ask yourself.