We may quite rightly ask ourselves if it makes sense to listen to our inner voice, when we observe that some people seem to be able to eat as much as they want without putting on weight, and other people (maybe like us) who are extremely cautious with how much we eat, increase our volume / weight, even when we eat a fraction of what we really would feel like eating. We might also feel cautious about listening to that voice when it keeps asking us for food we know isn’t good for us.
So, maybe, we shouldn’t listen to that inner voice at all!
This Manifesto for the Evolution of Food decided to explore what happened to our inner voice?
What creates our inner voice when it comes to food is the interchange between the brain and the gut, our second brain. Health promoting gut bacteria and other microorganisms are instrumental for us to digest food and make use of all the nutrients we ingest. Also interesting is the fact that our gut has as many nerve cells as our brain, and there is a constant flow of information between both brains.
This interchange includes information about whether we are getting the right nutrients for our needs and how much we need to eat.
The foods we eat promote the growth of different bacteria and other microorganisms in our gut. When we eat the right foods in the right amount for us (and this depends on our metabolism, on our genetic makeup, on how exposed we are to toxicity, on our level of activity and on our lifestyle) we are surprised by how friendly and clear our inner voice becomes – asking us for the right amount of the right foods. Similarly to our mental and physical health, if we care for our gut health, it will take care of us.
Relevant facts and figures:
Did you know that eating slowly results in better digestion, better hydration, easier weight maintenance, and greater satisfaction with our meals?
VOICE OF WISDOM
“Nuchi Gusui” translates roughly to “may your food (and lifestyle) heal” or “food is medicine”, and is a philosophy of life the people of Okinawa live by. The island of Okinawa is known for being a blue zone on the planet, one of the places famed for their longevity!
And just like nuchi gusui means that you’ll find out about all the health benefits of your food in Okinawa, combined with the Japanese teaching “hara hachi bu (eat until you’re eight parts full)”, a lot of Okinawan food culture and longevity is clear. These two principles influence food and culture, while eating they define the care Okinawans have towards their food applying the following habits:
- Use a small plate to serve yourself of food;
- Place just enough food on the plate, with a lot of colours represented;
- Walk as far away as you can, from where the food was prepared and eat this sitting down (ideally close to the floor);
- Eat slow, take your time to feel gratitude for the food you will eat, chewing well, with time and getting used to how much food you need, by this point you should have arrived at 80% full;
- Should you feel like eating more, you get up, walk to the kitchen and, checking in again and confirming if you really still need more, get your second helping, starting again from number 2.
The principles inherent in these habits include eating slowly, eating lots of variety, and eating with respect to your food and your body. The wisdom guides us to allow our food to heal us.
(The Okinawa Way – by Bradley Willcox, Craig Willcox, Makoto Suzuki ISBN 0-718-14494-5)
DANCING WITH TEMPTATION
Daniela is an Austrian single mother and designer, who works from home. After I shared with her the Okinawa principle of eating just enough, she incorporated it as a strategy by adapting it to her temptation treats ritual.
She shared with me the following story: “I live on the third floor in a traditional Viennese building (no lift and high ceilings) and the post boxes are in the ground floor hall (not heated)! As I am quite a chocolate addict, having it easily accessible makes it tough for me to resist having more than I should – I have incorporated the Okinawa strategy and adapted it to me! I store my chocolate in the postbox on the ground floor and every time I really need a treat, I walk down to my post box on the ground level, take a piece of chocolate and climb back up to enjoy it at home. I get to appreciate it more and I also get some exercise.”
Keeping our temptations at a distance may help us to manage our habits of reaching out to these foods that may be a quick emotional fix, but are not an answer when we connect to our physical needs. This distance allows us to be aware of why we’re having the treat, and as such be aware of what role that treat plays in our lives. The hormones released by sugar and chocolate have a calming effect on us emotionally, nonetheless they also bring illnesses like Diabetes with a heavy toll on our individual quality of life and a huge cost to society at large.
TAKING YOUR TIME WHEN EATING
André is a very peaceful person. Calm and quiet, he takes his time in each of his movements. He even has a slower heart rate than most people. He married Joana, who is always on the run, doing 12.436.295.374 things each day – she probably has a higher heart rate than most people. I say probably, because, case in point, she has been too busy to make the time to measure it.
Like most couples, when they started dating, they would go out for dinner. Often Joana found herself about to finish her desert, while André had just taken his first bite from the main course. When this happened it frustrated her to no end! So Joana shared it with her quantum therapist (whom she consulted to help her handle the stress in her life) and the therapist answered “Thank God! Now you have someone who will force you to eat slowly, to enjoy your food! How many times have I tried to say this to you: you needed to chew your food! The way you are eating now is the way you are living – too fast – and that is not going to support your mental, physical or emotional health. Take this opportunity to slow down.” And though it took her some time to digest and implement, she did.
Joana and André continue to be a couple to this day that enjoys their meals peacefully every day.
In 2018 the UN made public that 820 million people suffer from hunger around the world. These people mainly live in “developing” countries. Meanwhile, in “developed” countries, many other millions who have, what feels like, unlimited access to food, also have an inadequate relationship to nutrition but in the direction of excess, contributing to the crisis of food related illnesses such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, amongst others.
Let us imagine that we have been asked to solve this problem and that we have been empowered to put in place all the necessary measures to bring the adequate nutrition to every inhabitant on the planet in order to eradicate hunger and obesity.
What would our vision be? Sustainable rations.
A basket of food that will reach every family once a week with two components: the first are the packaged foods like rice, legumes and other dry nutrition which can be distributed safely nationwide and the second are the fresh goods, like fruits and vegetables, produced and distributed regionally.
Do we need more information? Probably we need to know more about local food habits so as to adapt the quality and quantity of food to the needs of every person.
How much will such a ration / basket cost? In Portugal it is perfectly possible to supply every person with a complete nutrition for less than 5€ per day, including the cost of preparation. This results in 150€ per person per month – which is less than a quarter of the minimum wage. This would assure the nutritional baseline of every human in the country, and start changing peoples’ relationship to food.
It is important to clarify what we mean with “food” – we mean something that nurtures and is a benefit for our body. We don’t consider “food” products that are edible and have no nutritional added value for our body, nor do we consider “food” products that transport pesticides into our body or that harm our health in any way.
With such a simple solution we are able to make accessible to every family nutrition which will contribute to their resilience – which is extremely needed in times of crisis as we are experiencing at present.