I certainly have learned this week! I banked ten and a half shadowing hours in community and healthcare nutrition, and I showed up for class everyday all week! I always do that. Topics covered include nutrient needs, obesity, client goal setting, practice counseling sessions, eating disorders, eating healthy on a budget and the trauma and ICU floors of Metro Hospital in Cleveland. Phew! After all that, what I am left thinking most about is the title of this post. Genetics loads the gun and the environment pulls the trigger. I have heard this twice this week, talking about two different conditions. In my Intro to Medical Nutrition Therapy (MNT) class, we had a guest speaker come from an eating disorder treatment center and she was the first to say this talking about the conditions in which one develops an eating disorder. Just today, my professor in the same class said the same thing about overweight and obesity.
I can’t stop thinking about how the conditions of eating disorders and overweight/obesity are so obviously different and similar too. I think of both conditions and the words that come to mind are cycle, excessive, and low self-esteem. They can be a vicious cycle fueled by, and then creating more low self-esteem. They are also both an energy balance disorder that require the long process of behavior change to manage.
My question is if genetics, something that we cannot change, is a major factor, why aren’t we doing everything we can as a society to make sure that the environment isn’t able to pull the trigger? What is that trigger that tips the scale and some end up with full blown eating disorders or being morbidly obese? There are a lot of complicated, often backwards thoughts about what we should eat, how we should look, how we should feel about how we look all told to us from society.
It is easier to learn than to unlearn. The struggle with these conditions is relearning to listen to your body. Those with eating disorders can have such strict rules with eating that they don’t receive signals of hunger anymore or they are very set to ignore them. If overweight individuals are eating in excess to cope with something, they may continue to eat that much on a normal basis out of habit. There is obviously SO much more going on with both conditions, but I want to point out that an element of the recovery process for eating disorders or overweight/obesity is keying in and listening to your body through intuitive eating.
Intuitive eating is all about accepting what is. It’s honoring your hunger, respecting fullness, and recognizing satisfaction. If you are hungry and chocolate cake is in the break room after an office birthday, have a piece of cake. Have a good lunch first, enjoy the cake, and get on with your day. Eat it slowly and enjoy the taste. Eating food at a slower pace gives out bodies time to recognize that we’re eating and signal the appropriate hormones to do with that nourishment what they will, and then signal to our brain that we’ve had enough. Have a reasonable size piece that does not let it cause any unnecessary guilt and shame. Plan on eating a healthy balanced dinner later, and call it quits on the sweets for the day. Just because you ate that piece of cake does not mean that the whole day is shot and you should give up until tomorrow.
If you’re not sure if you’re hungry, but you think you might want some cake, I challenge you to really focus on what eating will do for you. And this is every time the question comes up, not just in the face of cake. Will it satisfy you? Then you are probably hungry. If not, what other feelings is hunger maybe covering up? Or maybe it’s not that complicated and you’re just not hungry. Figure out what your true needs are and come back and eat when you are, and then you will not be confusing your body.
I think everyone can benefit from intuitive eating. It’s great to challenge why we do the things we do. I just finished eating lunch and I’m rethinking that! I’m a creature of habit and convenience and I do eat similar things day to day and over the next couple of days I’m going to pay attention to what I’m eating and why. Is it enough or is this why I’m usually hungry in an hour? Or is it too much today and I’m eating it because it’s what I ate for lunch yesterday and maybe needed more food yesterday?
I hope to post more about intuitive eating when after the semester is over because I have this really great book on the topic that I want to read and tell you my opinions of 🙂
Could intuitive eating practice prevent that pulled trigger? I think so. I think a ton of things could prevent pulling that trigger and throwing so many individuals down a hard road of self loathing, discontent, and low self esteem. Loving our bodies is hard. After years of being a female in America I honestly can’t say I love my body, but I’ll never stop trying. And I’ll always tell others to love theirs because I truly believe we should. Accepting each other will also help. We’re not all meant to look the same and appearance should not speak at all to our qualifications in life.
Practice respecting your body and genetics and everything they do for you and over time practice will lead to a good habit. And then will pass those good habits on to the young and stop the cycle.