Just Listen

Do you know anyone who…

obsessively counts every calorie they put into their mouth?

eats meager meals, filled with low fat, low calorie “blah” foods?

talks (or thinks) incessantly about diets…fixating on calories, carbs, and the evilness of fats?

jumps on the latest weight loss band wagon?

exercises to extremes or feels remorse about not working out “enough”?

Well, I do, and I find their situation frustrating. And sad. Sad and frustrating.

And to be honest, it breaks my heart.

But I understand; I’ve been there.

About 3 years ago, I relapsed. After years of freedom from an eating disorder, a stressful work situation prompted unintentional weight loss.(If you are extremely bored, you can read my whole story here.) I instantly fell into old patterns; the familiarity giving me a sense of control. Restricting food, and excessive exercise quickly became my entire world. And it was a pretty depressing place to reside.

Eventually, I reclaimed my health, working diligently to establish a healthy relationship with food and eating.

And now, after 2 1/2 years of trusting (hoping/praying) that the food I put into my body would allow me to maintain a healthy “Karen” weight, I can say that the trust factor has paid off. My body has proven to be a whole lot smarter than my mind. But it took me a long time to get there. 

I am grateful for the experience, however. As it has taught me a valuable lesson.

Listen to, and trust your body. (I guess that’s two lessons.)

Because, believe it or not, your body comes equipped with these wonderful little hormones that are designed to regulate your appetite and control your weight. When these hormones are in balance, your body operates efficiently and effectively.

Regrettably, there are times we believe we are smarter than our bodies natural ability to sustain homeostasis. We try to outwit the system by severely restricting food, or exercising to extremes, or ignoring our bodies need for sleep, or dealing with stress in  unhealthy ways.

One of the two wonderful hormones is leptin. Leptin is a chemical made by your adipose tissue, and secreted into your circulatory system. It then travels to the hypothalamus, where the hypothalamus responds by sending a signal to your brain telling you, “Hey! You’re full. Put down the fork.” Leptin signals satiety to the brain, suppresses appetite, and regulates weight loss.

The other hormone influencing appetite is ghrelin. Whereas leptin suppresses the appetite, ghrelin increases it. And while leptin is produced in fatty tissue, ghrelin is produced primarily in the stomach, when the stomach is empty. Normally, ghrelin levels are high before you eat, signaling hunger, and decrease after eating.

One factor affecting the amount of leptin in your body, is the amount of sleep you get. When you are sleeping, your brain receives the message that you have plenty of energy, so there is no need to feel hungry.  Lack of sleep results in a decrease of leptin, which can result in feelings of hunger. Studies show a relationship between short sleep time and and increased body mass index (BMI).

So what can one do to make sure their body is operating efficiently and effectively? This is what I have found works for me.

I get enough sleep each night. (7-8 hours)

I eat real food (not processed) most of the time.

I eat foods that make me feel good. (For me, this means vegan.)

I eat when I’m hungry. (And I trust my cravings.)

I deal with stress with exercise and prayer.

I listen to my body when I workout.

And I marvel at all the things my body can do, instead of judging myself on what my body looks like.

2 thoughts on “Just Listen

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