Healthy Explorations: Secrets of the Naturally Slim
Are you ever curious about the people who are able to stay naturally slim?
40-something-woman 50-something-woman who spent the greater part of her youth battling the bulge, I've had more than a passing interest in understanding what separates those who struggle with their weight from those who don't.
Through the years, I've watched, read, questioned, studied and made it my business to solve what to me seemed like an eternal mystery - How do naturally slender women eat?
Remember, I'm talking about women who are naturally slim without dieting.
I have no interest in skinny women who spend their lives obsessing, dieting, talking about dieting and working out. As far as I'm concerned they're no better off than those of us prone to pudginess.No, I'm talking about naturally slender people who enjoy a healthy relationship with food and their bodies. Naturally slender people do exist, although they seem to be getting more and more rare in our obesity prone society. And chances are they are not super thin, just healthy looking individuals who seem to enjoy eating without worrying about their weight.
I have known several instinctively slim people in my life including my grandmother, and a colleague with whom I had the pleasure of sharing an office (and the same name) several decades ago.
Both taught me a lot about how healthy slim people think and act. They were able to maintain their normal weight with relative ease; enjoying food, but not letting it rule their lives.
Their relaxed comfortable relationship with food and eating was completely foreign to me; however, I found that by acting like them and adopting some of their behaviors I could actually start to look and feel like a naturally slim person too. (When you act "as if" long enough, you eventually become "as if." For years I repeated the affirmation, "I'm easily and happily maintaining my ideal weight.")
It's been an amazing journey that didn't happen overnight. But, through the years, the more I adopted their behaviors, the more like them I've become. It almost seems to good to be true and I'm sometimes afraid of jinxing myself, since menopause still looms ahead, but these days I have a healthy relationship with food and with my body, just like those women I admired.
When I gain a few pounds, I just cut back a little without a lot of drama or stress and before I know it, I'm comfortable in my clothes again and more importantly, in my own skin. I've found my rhythm, my healthy balance.
As I watched and learned and sought guidance from healthy normal eaters, I found that there were many commonalities in their food related attitudes, beliefs and behaviors, that I call the Top Ten Secrets of the Instinctively Slim.
10 Secrets of the Instinctively Slim
1. They Eat To Live, Not Live To Eat. Instinctively slender people have lots of interests beyond food and their next meal. They just don't give that much power or thought to food and eating. They fill themselves with things other than food. Have you ever noticed that when your life is going well, you are engaged in work you love, and your relationships are running smoothly, your food issues are much more manageable? Work to fill your life with people and activities that fulfill your body, mind and spirit, leaving less time and space to focus and worry about food.
2. They Have a Healthy Body Image. The naturally slim don't seem overly focused on their weight and appearance. They have a realistic, relaxed relationship with their body. Try it out for yourself. Change your focus away from what you hate about your body and move it to what you like. I have learned to focus less on my thighs and more on my collarbones! (Find a mind-body exercise like yoga, to help cultivate healthy body awareness.)
3. They Listen to Their Bodies and Trust Their Intuition. They instinctively know what they need at any given time to really nourish themselves, whether a small handful of nuts in the middle of the afternoon, or a warm bowl of veggie soup and salad for dinner.
You can develop this ability too. Listen to your body and learn to trust it. Just because you have ignored the signals up till now, doesn't mean they are not there. Your body will tell you exactly what you need to be nourished.
Pay attention to how you feel after eating certain foods. You will learn a lot. Some things I have discovered since tuning into my body’s messages include:
- More than one cup of coffee will make me jittery
- Highly refined carbohydrates like white toast, bagels, pancakes or sugary cereal will leave me feeling ravenous, shaky and emotionally out of control in 2 hours or less.
- Wine before dinner makes me sleepy.
- Lean protein and a big green salad is perfect lunch that leaves me feeling satiated and energized for a productive afternoon.
- Too much cheese and dairy food leaves me feeling heavy
- If I don’t get enough green veggies I will soon be craving broccoli or spinach for dinner.
4. They Understand Hunger Isn't An Emergency. Hunger pangs come and go. There is no cause for panic or need to grab whatever is available to avoid feeling hungry. Have you ever experienced a very busy day and suddenly looked at your watch to realize your last meal was more than six hours ago? You were able to function just fine! The next time your stomach starts to grumble, hold off and notice what happens. Allow yourself to be with your hunger for a while. Have a glass of water and wait for a bit. It's healthy to be a little hungry at meal time and will make all the more enjoyable.
5. They Eat Only When Physically Hungry. The instinctively thin don't chronically use food for emotional comfort or eat when they are not hungry, even if it is mealtime. It doesn't even make sense to them. And, if they occasionally want something, even when they are not particularly hungry, they enjoy it without an ounce of guilt.
6. They Choose Foods Instinctively. They tend to eat whatever they desire and seem to know exactly what they want, be it a butterscotch lifesaver or turkey sandwich. They figure out exactly what they want before they begin eating. When they want a soda, they drink the real thing. They don't eat food that they don't find tasty and enjoyable. They are less likely to label foods as “good” or “bad” and instead focus on feeding their bodies what they desire, trusting in what their bodies are telling them.
7. They Eat Mindfully and Savor their Food. When eating, the intuitively slender focus on enjoying the food. They don't eat while driving, watching TV, or checking email. They don't eat mindlessly while standing in front of the fridge or pantry. They chew their food slowly, savoring every bite. They naturally eat less because they savor more. They stop eating when it is no longer serving them–if it no longer tastes good. Try this behavior out the next time you eat. Sit down, pause, take a few deep breaths and really pay attention to what you are eating.
8. They Leave Food On Their Plate. When they are full they are finished. They are not members of the clean plate club. They don't understand why anyone would ever want to stuff him or herself to the point of discomfort. They use the magic words, "I am full" when someone offers them more. Try to model this behavior of the naturally slim the next time you get to the point where you are full and are tempted to eat more; find an enjoyable distraction or other way to nourish yourself–a warm cup of herb tea, a walk, a book, a bubble bath.
9. They Use Non-Food Comforts And Rewards. They treat themselves to massages or manicures instead of cookies and ice cream while also finding solace in bubble baths, walks, or herb tea not nachos and cheesecake. The next time you are feeling sad or lonely, instead of reaching for the Ben & Jerry’s, get out of the house and take a walk or call a supportive friend. You may learn that you can find nourishment in things other than food.
10. They Take Care Of Themselves. Another characteristic of the naturally slim is the ability to tune into their needs. They will rest when their body tells them it's time and are much more apt to get enough sleep. They also possess the ability to indulge in guiltless self-care, demonstrating the ability to love themselves even though they aren’t perfect.
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