Even though our brain is part of our body, sometimes it seems that they are two totally different entities. We Want and We Need, two different situations (except for shoes… but that is another topic). – I want to buy that amazing handbag, but I need to save money to fix the crappy plumbing in my bathroom – True story! We want things, we want situations, we want a healthy body, we want financial stability, we want to take that vacation, we want a bigger closet (well, that is actually a necessity). But we also need to take several steps in order to get to those things that we want; whether to save money, to make sacrifices, to plan ahead, to make changes, to get out of our comfort zone. In other words, we need to work for it!
The same thing happens with food, and here is when we have to differentiate what our body and brain are telling us. The thing is, they often speak two different languages, and we end up going with the emotion (WANT) and ignore, or misunderstand the physiological part of the monologue (NEED).
Think about it this way: Scenario A- it is 11:50 am. Hopefully you had your perfect breakfast that included a perfect amount of lean protein, carbohydrates and fats. Three hours later, you had your mid-morning snack (because we want to keep that metabolism busy) and you are running errands around town. You have been doing so great! You are in control! You feel that you got this! And then, all of a sudden, you find yourself drooling in front of the window of that cute, adorable, charming pastry shop located in Main street (They are always in Main Street). You feel helpless, you want that Eclair so badly, you want to touch it, smell it… and INHALE it! You want to devour it! You can almost feel the sweet, crunchiness, creaminess of that “little” piece of heaven inside your mouth. “It is not that big. I have been doing so well today, plus it is not even noon! I will burn it throughout the day…”. You have no idea how creative you will be, finding all the reasons to eat that thing. At the end, “Life Is Too Short! You Only Live Once!” etc, etc, etc. STOP right there! Stop! and ask yourself: “Do I want it? or do I need it?” “Am I hungry?” … In this case the answer is obvious, you want it. You are not even hungry! you already have had two feeding opportunities and lunch is waiting for you at home. Therefore you don’t need it. What to do? Walk away! Drink some water and go and buy those shoes instead! Not really, but I hope you get the idea.
Scenario B- It is now 12:49 pm and you are still running errands, and they just called you from your son’s school because he has a temperature and you need to pick him up. You know, and so does your body, that your next feeding should be happening pretty soon. Your stomach is starting to make some noises… Now they are so loud that you can’t even hear your own thoughts… The lady at the front desk at your son’s school, has a vendor and another parent in front of you. She is taking forever to sign that slip. (when we are hungry, Forever = 89 to 114 seconds) and you feel embarrassed about how loud and clear your stomach is telling you and the entire office that IT IS LUNCH TIME!!!! Stop again, and ask yourself, “Do I want that delicious, juicy, golden brown piece of grilled chicken breast that I made yesterday, with that gorgeous, colorful, fresh salad and that warm and earthy brown rice? Or do I want to steal that cupcake from Room 15 that is sitting right there in the school office since recess time?” I bet you any money that the answer will be clear to you. You will want to get home as soon as possible, put your sick kid on the couch, change the channel from BRAVO to Nickelodeon and RUN to the kitchen to fix yourself a healthy, delicious, and real lunch.
There are different lessons to learn in both scenarios. First of all, it is crucial that we, as human beings, develop and keep a balanced attitude towards food and towards eating.
Hunger is when you NEED to eat. Your body is sending you signals that it needs to be fed. It can not, and should not be ignored. It can not be controlled because it is simply instinctive.
Appetite in the other hand, is the desire to eat (Want). Is when your brain tells you to look at those pretty colorful cookies, or those spongy cupcakes or that crunchy, salty heavenly bag of chips. It is a little bit more complex in terms of senses, because they all talk to you at the same time: the smells, the colors, the taste! But this my friends, this can be ignored. It is a learned behavior and therefore you can learn how to control it and even change it.
And last but not least, it is crucial to always be prepared. To have cooked food in your fridge will save you not only time and money, but also unneeded calories. Go back to scenario B. You are hungry, your kids is sick and you know the rest of the afternoon is not looking sexy… would you go home and start cooking lunch? like, washing, chopping, grilling, chopping again, cleaning, etc ? (assuming that you have everything you need in your fridge and there is no need to stop at the supermarket) Or would you make a super-duper quick stop at that fast food place and order some food from your car? (now you can even do it from your phone through an app, but I rather eat glass before telling you about it). The answer is pretty obvious to me. That is why, THAT is the reason WHY, we want to have great, amazing, tasty, delicious, already cooked options in our fridge! You never know when life is going to throw you a curve!
And remember I WANT you to enjoy the ride… but you are the one who NEEDS to ride it!