Food is fuel for your body. Your body knows what it needs in order to keep running efficiently – it needs the fuel of vitamin and nutrient rich foods from a variety of food groups. That’s why it’s important to listen to your body and respond to its natural hunger. It will tell you what it needs, and if you don’t listen, it will find ways to keep reminding you – like headaches, a growling stomach, and obsessing about food.
- The first key to listening to your body is being able to detect when you are getting hungry. If you are indeed truly hungry, and not just looking for food to cure your boredom, stress, or loneliness, then it is time to refuel.
- The second key is being able to know when you have had enough. Listen to your body. When you begin to feel full, you will know that you have had enough to eat. The goal is to feel content–not uncomfortably stuffed but not starving either. Sometimes this means eating 5 or 6 smaller meals a day instead of 3 large meals. And, remember it takes about 20 minutes for your body to realize it’s full. Also, be aware of what you are eating–sit, chew slowly, enjoy the tastes, smells, and textures of your food.
- The third key is moderation, nothing to extremes. Often people hear this advice and think it means they can eat whatever they crave, all the time. Obviously we cannot survive on potato chips or peanut butter cookies alone. And if you tried, chances are you’d probably start to crave some pasta or fresh fruit after awhile. These cravings are your body’s way of helping you get the nutrients it knows you need.
While this is great advice, it still doesn’t tell you exactly what to eat for optimal health. For further help we have MyPyramid from the USDA as well as professional dietitians and nutritionists. Nearly 65,000 of these professionals belong to the American Dietetic Association (ADA), which is the nation’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals. When this organization was founded in 1917 in Cleveland, Ohio by a group of women, it was dedicated to helping the government conserve food and improve the public’s health and nutrition during World War I. Today, forty-four states currently have laws concerning professional regulation of dietitians and nutritionists, according to the ADA’s website. Their laws include preventing anyone from giving advice on nutrition except members of the ADA, and in Ohio, asserts that only dietitians have permission to use the term “nutritionist” in their job title. These laws would seem to be in the public interest by restricting unqualified people from giving nutritional advice; however, it was mainly to protect its own dietitians from competition because there are other professionals with master’s degrees or Ph.D.s in nutrition, who are not members of the ADA.
Food companies and trade groups fund 15% of the ADA’s budget – more than $3 million so it’s safe to assume that the ADA looks favorably on these companies. In essence, the ADA’s positions on many health and nutrition subjects are, literally, bought and paid for. This organization controls the educational programming and registration of the thousands of dietitians in the U.S., which is why nutrition in institutions such as hospitals, schools and nursing homes is not as nutritional as it should be. This is not to say that all dietitians and nutritionists who belong to the ADA give bad nutritional advice, but like medical students, they are taught a certain way so this is what they know. The point of all of this is to get you to think, research and act on your own behalf about your health and nutrition. Don’t take just anybody’s word for what is healthy or unhealthy. Take control and responsibility for You!