Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Body Wise

A couple of years ago I gave up dieting after reading Dr. Linda Bacon's book, Health at Every Size.  I began listening to my body and eating when I was hungry and stopping when I was full.  I'm now healthier than ever.  It not only suits my body chemistry well since I have low blood pressure, low cholesterol, and average blood sugar, but it also suits my personality.  I'm terrible with schedules and routine.  I prefer to live in the moment and do as I please.

The moments I live for and what pleases me most is writing.  I've discovered I don't like to eat when I write. I feel lighter and free-thinking, more clear-headed and energetic when my stomach is not full.  Occasionally I've begun to worry I might be sliding back into my old anorexic habits when I'd be on an all-day writing binge and forget to eat anything.  But I listen to my stomach and I pay attention to my energy level, and I feel great.  So what gives?  How can a former anorexic get by without eating for eight hours and actually be healthy?

Turns out, Dr. Weil recommends what I unwittingly have been doing: occasional fasting.  Turns out, the less-food, more-mental-energy thing might not all be in my head:

Occasional fasting also seems to boost activity and growth of certain types of cells, especially neurons. This may seem odd, but consider it from an evolutionary perspective -- when food is scarce, natural selection would favor those whose memories ("Where have we found food before?") and cognition ("How can we get it again?") became sharper.

Not that occasional fasting is right for everyone.  As Dr. Weil writes:

I don't recommend IF for everyone. Children under 18 should not fast, nor should diabetics, nor pregnant or lactating women. Some health conditions -- such as severe gastrointestinal reflux disease, or GERD -- are easier to manage when food intake is more regular.

What I take away from my experiences and Dr. Weil's article is not that most people should follow a particular restrictive diet, but that we should follow our body's natural cues for hunger and satiety.  Eat when you feel hungry and work when you feel energetic and relax when you feel stressed and rest when you feel tired.  Our bodies are wiser than we think.