When I taught our young kids some Morse code years ago, they went around saying things like, “Di-dit, di-di-di-dit,” and “di-di-dit, dah-dah-dah, di-di-dit.” If you weren’t fluent in Morse, you were out of luck, but to someone who knew the code, the meaning was obvious: the first message meant “Hi” and the second meant “SOS.” It’s the same with reading the body’s signals, because first you have to learn the code.
Someone said that when you find yourself reaching for food when you’re already full, it may be that you didn’t eat what you really wanted. When I first heard this, it was in the context of snacking. For example, my desire for potato chips wouldn’t be satisfied by a handful of carrot sticks, and I’d end up eating a bunch of “diet foods” before I finally gave in to what I really wanted in the first place.
Recently, however, the idea came up in the context of the body’s craving for nutrients. For example, if my body wants citrus and I eat chocolate instead, my body may push me to keep eating until I finally get that citrus, whether or not I’m conscious of what’s going on. Now, why didn’t I think of that?
At any rate, the concept gives me more impetus to learn how to read my body’s signals; that is, to evaluate not only the prompts from my taste buds or stomach or imagination (seems I can always think of something that would taste good!) but also the indications from my body’s maintenance system.
But first I need to learn the code. I’ve already mastered a few bits of it. Sometimes when I reach for food out of habit, what I really want is a drink of water or a stroll around the block or a 20-minute time out, i.e., to be refreshed in mind and spirit. When I get leg cramps, I’ve learned that drinking milk and applying heat to my taut muscles helps to relax them.
So I guess the point is to take an inventory of all systems before deciding what to eat, or drink, or do next. You may be thinking, “Elementary, my dear Watson.” But for us former dieters who spent years ignoring our body’s signals, it’s like learning a whole new language. Fortunately, what once sounded like gibberish is beginning to make sense!