What do you feel like eating today?

Blake Baxter HHC

Let’s talk about your feelings.

No, really. And if that sounds like a strange proposition for an article on athletic nutrition, I will admit it seems a little… funny.

However, if you’re in decent shape and take care of yourself, your feelings are a great way of knowing what to eat.

When was the last time you sat down, paused for a few moments, took a deep breath and thought to yourself “What do I feel like eating right now”? As an experiment, try it now. Don’t look at any food while you do this, actual or in pictures, or smell any food. Just try to visualize what you would be eating if you were eating right now.

If you thought “Happy Meal” or “Candy Bar”, you may need to hold off on using this method until you’ve improved your diet. If you’re still eating those types of things (fast food, junk food) with any consistancy, then this may not work for you. This is because foods that rely heavily on flavorings, colorings, and “olfactory additives” (i.e. perfume in your food) confuse your digestive system and send strange signals to your brain. When you smell a specific aroma or taste a certain flavor, your body has a pretty good idea of what to expect is coming down the hatch. Tasting something sweet but digesting no calories is a cruel thing to do to your organs. Because they’re expecting calories. Smelling cooked meat and then getting no protein is a similar cruel trick. Where would this happen? Meat flavoring is injected into fast food french fries, giving a carbohydrate (potato) a protein taste – very silly. Confusing your system like this makes it tough to determine what your body wants.

However, if you are not a connoisseur of fast food and junk food, this method should work for you brilliantly. Sit down, close your eyes, and visualize what you would be eating if you were eating right now. Trust your instincts. Your body craves what it needs. Cravings, when not confused by the frequent consumption of artificial flavorings and aromas, can actually help you determine what you are lacking.

Here’s an example: Try this after fighting or sparring. What do you crave? I bet it’s not cupcakes. Are you thinking about meat? Fighting is an aggressive, primal act and millions of years of evolution tell you it’s time to eat the kill. This will provide the protein and other nutrients required to rebuild strained muscles. It only makes sense.

Another example: Try this when you are feeling down or just mentally strained. Now what are you thinking about? Chocolate? Ice cream? Sweet foods, and in particular sweet foods that contain dairy, are often craved during times of emotional stress. Sugar can cause temporary changes in brain chemistry that can offer some relief from stress. It’s important that you do not rely heavily on this however, because eating too much will certainly bring it’s own stress in the form of excess weight. Next time you’re craving sweets, try going for a run to boost your energy, then see if you still want ice cream. 

When it’s really cold outside, do you crave soup? Many people do. In addition to providing immediate warmth, it’s a natural way for your system, which tends to slow down when it’s cold outside, to get readily digestible nutrients. Heated food, and soup in particular, can contain vitamins and minerals in a liquid suspension, as opposed to being “locked” inside uncooked food (of course, your body “unlocks” nutrients when it needs to).

This method should work for you even when you are feeling uncertain or confused about what to eat. Let your system guide you. It’s important to eat a variety of foods and a well-balanced diet in general, so that your system will be familiar with many different types of foods, and the affects of those foods on your system. If you eat a very limited diet, this method becomes much less effective. For example, you may be deficient in leafy green vegetables, but if you never eat them, it will be tough, if not impossible, to know when you need them. So eating a balanced diet greatly enhances your ability to naturally know what to eat.

Your feelings can help you determine what to eat, in a way that’s responsive to your current nutritional needs. Avoid flavorings and artificial ingredients and eat a variety of foods including fruits and vegetables. Take a moment before preparing a meal or going out to eat and think about what you FEEL like eating. If you are eating well, you will know intuitively.

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