How do you have your body trained? Is it trained to be overweight? Trained to want lots of bread, pasta and sweets? What about what most people call, “comfort food,” which is generally soft, sometimes gooey, and often sweet? Like Mac n’ Cheese, Pot Pie or Ice Cream?
There is a term I learned in fifth grade science — “homeostasis.” Dictionary.com defines it as “the tendency toward a relatively stable equilibrium between interdependent elements, especially as maintained by physiological processes.” That’s about right.
Did you ever go on some kind of diet, actually lose a lot of weight, and think you had it made only to find out that your body weight crept back up over time. My friend Kate reminded me of this just a few weeks ago.
It’s because of homeostasis.
Homeostasis is in play especially if you try to lose the weight fast and/or with dramatically different dietary choices. Your body is trained to be a certain way and is not going to easily be persuaded to make and maintain a sudden big change. So you get cravings and thoughts that you “need” to eat something you may have been trying to avoid.
It works the other way around, too, if you trained your body to do something good or healthy. For instance when I was younger, I worked out in a gym very regularly for many years. I was used to weight training and did it most of my adult life. Then along came a period of time (years) when I didn’t belong to a gym and didn’t work out at all. One day I got myself a new gym membership and signed up for a personal trainer to refresh my weight-training skills.
Almost from the beginning—once I got over being “sore” — it was as if my muscles remembered how it used to be. I got back into the workout routine incredibly fast and got very fast results. I was back to homeostasis.
I believe understanding the body’s need to maintain homeostasis is the key to making healthy changes. I do not support “fast” weight loss plans. I already know they will fail because they violate the survival drive of the body to maintain the status quo.
There are some times when someone needs to make very drastic and complete changes to their diet for health reasons, such as they are trying to save their life! This takes extraordinary, long-term determination.
It is possible to make drastic, complete changes and do well with them even if you aren’t trying to save your own life. I’ve done it. I made a complete, turn-around, change-everything, 180 on my dietary habits when I started macrobiotics in the late ’70’s. How did I make that kind of change so successfully? I moved into a house owned by two extremely experienced macrobiotic teachers, one of whom was a highly trained macrobiotic cook. She not only knew superb macrobiotic cooking—how to balance the diet, how to make the most delicious food in the world—she knew how to take one look at any one of us living there and understand what one ingredient or dish we needed if we were starting to crave our old ways or getting off balance in any way.
I ate her food/cooking every day for about two years while I learned to do it myself. By the time I was done and living in my own house, my body had achieved a new training in how to “be” and what foods now represented “homeostasis.”
There are places you can go to learn how to cook this way, meaning the cooking, the balance, the understanding at a glance what food would help at any given time. There are schools and individual cooking teachers around the world who teach this.
So what do the rest of us do who aren’t going to live in someone else’s house and be fed every day while studying how to completely makeover our lifestyle?
Do the Hokey Pokey and, (you know the words)!
- Consider finding a teacher who’s right for what you want to do and take a few cooking classes! I taught cooking for over 35 years and have gotten many people off to a great start in pursuing healthier cooking and eating. For some people, taking ANY kind of cooking class would be good because many people are way, way too dependent on the short order cook at the fast food restaurant, or the factory production manager at the frozen food plant, or the good folks at the pizza delivery outlet. Go on! Pick up a knife and a carrot and see what you can accomplish!
- Do read up. Books and blogs are full of all kinds of food and dietary advice. I know—this is difficult because there is so much out there. How do you know what’s right? (I’d love to say, “gut feelings.” Is that a funny joke?) A lot of the advice out there is pure nonsense but one thing I do know is that whatever route you take, YOU have to be interested. YOU have to decide it sounds good. YOU have to invest your time and attention in something that makes sense to you. If it doesn’t turn out to be so great, you can always change your direction!
- There are some really basic things that should be present no matter what kind of dietary advice you decide to try.
- Quality of food is extremely important. It should be organic and not have any genetically modified ingredients in it. (Non-GMO)
- Do not try to eliminate a whole major food group such as “carbohydrates.” That’s ridiculous because just about everything has carbohydrates just like nearly all food has protein to a greater or lesser degree. Worried about so-called “carbs?” Educate yourself to know the difference between a whole grain and a doughnut. All “carbs” are not the same and all are not bad.
- Until you learn how to balance your meals for optimum benefit, think “Variety.” Variety of colors, cooking styles, veggies, fruits, whatever it is. Variety will actually take you a long way toward your goal to eat healthier.
- Chew. Whatever it is you’ve decided to eat, whether right or wrong, it has got to be chewed very, very well. More info on that in my previous post.
Realize that unless you have an emergency health condition requiring immediate, drastic and extraordinary change, the healthy changes you decide to make amount to re-training your body so it becomes accustomed to a new state of homeostasis that can be maintained.