I may be weird, but I have been admiring (yes, truly admiring!) a healing burn on my inner forearm. Several days ago, while fussing with some roasted vegetables I had removed from the oven, I accidentally rested my arm on the edge of the pan – OUCH! I have been fascinated with my healing injury ever since. The complexity of what goes on in order to build the new skin cells, and how my “boo-boo” continues to look more and more like healthy skin, is better than any magic trick I have ever seen.
It is easy to take for granted all of the things our bodies do just to keep us breathing, and we don’t even have to think about it! There has to be some pretty complex programming in our DNA to mastermind all that goes on inside us.
I think my amazement with the human body is what led me to study fitness, nutrition and health, as well as brain chemistry. Food is essential for fueling all that the body does, and the quality of our choices has much to do with our quality of life and how long we live.
Sometimes I even picture what my food is doing for me on a microscopic level. Fruits and vegetables, for instance, will help to fight damage from free radicals that cause premature aging and disease. Think of the nutrients they contain as an army keeping order inside. It’s not too far from the truth. And what about the types of fats we eat? They will help determine the quality of the membranes that surround every cell in your body. If that isn’t important for health, what is?! I am convinced that visualizing the effect healthy foods have on your body will help to guide your food choices ever so slowly in a healthy direction.
I am also a believer in making a mental note of what works. Your body will usually let you know. If you listen, you will learn which foods cause you to have more energy, better skin, a better mood, and more creativity. Keep in mind that our bodies have evolved over millions of years to maximize our survival. There may be some confusing short-term messages – “Eat that ice cream. You will feel better.” – that are caused by our overly tempting and arguably addictive food supply, but the more lasting effects we feel will usually not steer us wrong. They will be reflected in our overall emotional and physical health.
Realize that tasty food without much nutritional benefit may give temporary messages of well-being, and a little bit now and then can be part of a healthy lifestyle, but be sure to listen with the knowledge that these messages are the result of a food culture that has far outpaced the human body’s ability to adapt. The sense of craving for “junk” is a reaction to overstimulating food that our bodies did not expect to be faced with. The messages will not be as appropriate as they once were, when berries were sweet treats and fats were usually only available after killing an animal.
How different things are now! Without burning many calories at all, it is possible to pay next to nothing for a high calorie, unnaturally tasty meal. If you do not realize that the desire to eat more is not natural body wisdom (because the food is far from natural), you may miss the more meaningful messages that follow. If you feel great right after a fast food super-sized meal, but in general you have no energy and steadily gain weight, realizing the connection can be an opportunity to avoid constant temptations.
After all, our intelligence evolved to allow us to think beyond the immediate gratification of what we are drawn to in the moment. We have the capacity to learn from experience and plan for the future. Getting to know ourselves makes it possible to set the stage for getting what we (and our bodies) truly want – health and well-being.
This is the real wisdom of your body, deep within your DNA, and listening to it will allow you to balance life in our modern times. Of course it is unrealistic to expect to eat like our ancestors did, but knowing what you are up against can help to know what your body REALLY wants. Then you can choose to take a healthier route, or not, but at least you will feel more in charge of your choices.