I had no idea you could actually sit down and have an argument with your body, but it’s something I find myself doing a lot of the time. The reason for this is the external diet rules that continue to float around in my head – the “shoulds” and the “shouldn’ts” that can dictate my food choices, even though my body is screaming for something else.
Pushing through these external diet rules is something I’ve been working hard on lately and so I want to share how the process of food matching is helping me to progress. Food matching is when we give our body what it’s asking for in terms of nourishment, which means you really tune in to your body’s internal wisdom and eat what your body is telling you it needs. Our bodies know exactly what we need to balance our nutrition but the trick is learning how to listen to them.
Our bodies know best
Our bodies know what we need, even if our brain cognitively doesn’t want to accept or trust what the body is trying to say. And there are so many examples within our own species of how this plays out:
- Mothers who give birth to preterm babies produce very different breast milk versus mothers who have term babies. The milk produced from moms that have preterm babies contains much more protein, fat, salt, and iron – all the things that a premature infant needs to stay healthy and avoid infection in the earliest days of its life. A human mother’s body has enough wisdom to know exactly what content of milk to produce to keep her premature infant alive and healthy, which is simply amazing.
- Craving chocolate when you are premenstrual is very common for lots of women, including myself! But there is a biological reason for why this happens. Chocolate creates more serotonin and endorphins in your brain, giving us this beautiful sense of happiness and wellbeing, which is exactly what we need when our other hormones during the premenstrual period are doing everything they can to make us miserable and uncomfortable.
- Children are the best example of the wisdom our body holds when it comes to food. When babies are young, they’ll cry when they’re hungry, and push away food when they’ve had enough – and they’re very clear about that. And even in the toddler age, when researchers put a bunch of toddlers in a room with a wide variety of food over the course of a few days, they naturally fed themselves in a nutritionally balanced way, without having any cognitive understanding of what those foods mean.
So there is plenty of evidence that our bodies have this innate wisdom to keep us healthy, strong, thriving, and energetic in our bodies.
Diet culture distortion
As we grow into adults, the problem is that we hear messages from diet culture, from doctors, and from society in general, that we have to eat in a very specific way to be healthy, maintain a certain weight, or to lose weight. We develop this cognitive idea of how we should be eating, which then starts to override that wisdom of our body.
As time goes on, you’re gradually muting the signals from your own body. Learning how to make a food match is super important in reestablishing that connection with yourself and building trust with your body’s wisdom again.
The process of food matching
The first step is to identify when you’re physiologically hungry.
This process only really works when you have biological hunger. If you are eating for emotional reasons, then food matching won’t work because in those instances, you are not making decisions about what to eat based on your body’s intuitive needs, but what the circumstance calls for.
The next question is to ask yourself what you truly want, what the desire is for, and what you want to eat now that you’re hungry.
This can be hard to determine because your brain will want to jump automatically to the diet rules you’ve been following so long. Ask those thoughts to gently take a back seat while you take a moment to tune in and see what your body is really asking for in that moment. It’s also a good idea to ask yourself this question in a very specific way, and remove all barriers of what’s actually logistically possible.
For example, you could ask yourself if you want something hot or cold, or if you’d prefer something crunchy or mushy. Would I like something smooth or crunchy? You don’t necessarily have to come to the conclusion of a specific food item, but just have a general idea of what your body is asking for, and then trust that if that’s what you want, there’s a good biological reason why your body is sending you those particular desires.
If you want to take this one step further, instead of just focusing on how the food is going to taste or feel when you eat it, think about how the food will make you feel in your body once you have eaten it.
Is it going to make me feel heavy and bloated or is it going to make me feel nicely satisfied? I find that question is really helpful for me because there are definitely times when my body wants something light and easy to digest, and there are other times when it wants something a little denser. To take this to an even more advanced level, the third thing you can ask is which macros your body is requesting: carbohydrates, protein or fat?
Most importantly, we need to remember to ask ourselves these questions with complete non-judgment and make sure that all of those food rules and preconceived ideas we have about carbs and fat in particular, step aside so we can really listen to what our body is asking for. It’s also important to ask yourself these questions before you go and look in your kitchen or pantry and before you look at the menu in the restaurant, because you’re going to limit yourself by not considering the things that aren’t available to you.
Realistically, we are not going to be able to make a perfect food match every time we eat. But the skill is in practicing this question and really identifying what it is that you want when you’re hungry. Over time that will allow you to understand what your body is wanting at different times of the day, month, and year, which means you can better stock your fridge and pantry to meet your body’s needs.
This whole process of food matching really just comes down to learning how to listen to your body, experimenting with food matching, and then learning what you can from the results of all of those little experiments. It can sound scary to give it a try because it can feel like you’re giving yourself permission to eat all of the things. But what I can tell you with utmost certainty is that when I do give my body what it is asking for, I feel fantastic, even if I’m giving myself all of the carbs that I’ve always told myself I can’t have! There is tremendous learning, growth and health to come out of experimenting with food matching, so I really do recommend giving it a try.
I would love to hear how experimenting with food matching goes for you, so if you do try this at home, please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org to let me know how this has been going for you, what you learn, and what challenges come up as you go through this process. I want to hear it all!
Are you ready to escape diet culture and find the health, joy and confidence you deserve? Watch my FREE online masterclass now: The Food Freedom Formula