Food and nutrition are enormously popular subjects today. Food companies are climbing on the bandwagon, offering products that are vitamin enriched, low in salt, high in fiber, or caffeine or cholesterol free. People are preoccupied with cutting down on fat and cholesterol. They are also inclined, because of their high-speed lifestyles, to eat more fast foods, which are notoriously high in both fat and cholesterol. The numerous popular diets and the growing body of nutritional information confuse many people. Since even the experts often disagree among themselves, it’s no wonder that nutrition has become almost as controversial as religion or politics.
In the 1960s, the pioneering work of Roger J. Williams, Ph.D, introduced the concept of biochemical individuality, which said that each person has unique biochemical needs that can only be met by a personalized balance of nutrients. His work ushered in the era of individual nutritional analyses, metabolic profiles, personalized health plans, and specially designed diets (such as eating for your blood type or your ayurvedic type). While such workups may be valuable, unless they rest on a foundation of self-understanding, they become one more way of relinquishing your wellbeing to the control of others. You need to develop an awareness of your own nutritional needs and to understand your own relationship to foods. You can become a partner with the experts, using the information they supply to supplement what you know about yourself. Then you can decide what makes nutritional sense for you.
In Column 2: Inhabit Your Body and Love It (12/3/02) we spoke generally of tuning in to your body’s feedback system, of listening to and inhabiting your body. What follows builds on these concepts, applying this awareness specifically to food and eating habits. We suggest that you review Column 2 before proceeding.
Developing awareness of your body and its nutritional needs means that you observe—with honesty, sensitivity, and thoroughness—what types and quantities of food and what eating environments support your overall wellbeing, and which don’t. When you eat so quickly that you don’t have time to savor your food, when you use food to soothe emotional pain, or when you get in the habit of overeating, you soon lose awareness of what food is doing for you. As you sharpen your ability to understand what your body is telling you about its relationship to food, you reinforce the conscious lifestyle that you have chosen. This type of awareness is an effective way of breaking the dieting habit forever. Instead of waging war with your body, you form an alliance with it, feeding it what it really wants and needs in order to support you.
A Nutrition Journal
A nutrition journal can be used as a:
- personal record of your body’s responses to the foods you eat
- balance sheet to observe the kinds of raw materials and fuels with which you supply your body
- place to keep special recipes
- diet notebook for weight gain and/or loss
- record of your feelings and resolutions
These exercises that follow will help you sharpen your self-awareness, and may point out some areas that need more attention to support your overall health.