The Food Month Experiment - Introduction
(A Month-Long Exploration of How States of Mind Affect Food and Weight)
I conducted this experiment close to twenty years ago. I wanted to see if people's states of mind could change how their bodies process food. Now many years later, I've discovered the body has two states. In one state, it is natural to lose weight. I call this state, being "naturally fat." In the other, it is natural to gain weight. I call this state, being "naturally fat." Most of us spend our lives in the naturally fat state. No matter what we do, it is simply natural for us to gain weight. The good news. There is a way to tip yourself into the naturally thin state. The weight loss chapter in the Science of Discovery book describes how.
Introducing Food Month
For those who have never met me, my name is Steven. And I welcome you to the "food month" experiment. What is "food month?" Before telling you the practical details, let me first tell you how I came to be doing this.
On September 7th, a little less than two months ago, after having spent the whole morning writing, I realized I was hungry. I'd been having one of those mornings writers dream about. Ideas just flowed magically onto the screen. This meant I did not really want to stop for anything, including to eat. But hunger is hunger. I stopped and got myself something.
Moments later, as I sat down to resume my writing, I noticed something odd. I noticed I was in a hurry to eat my food. In fact, I realized I was actually eating this food as quickly as I could. I made a mental note to explore this experience later, then resumed my writing.
The thing is, the topic I'd been writing about was the experience of hurry. Specifically, I'd been writing about using hurry to identify wounds. Could I have a would about eating? I began to feel curious. And when I took the next bite, I noticed I was in a hurry to swallow. I also noticed I felt anxious right before I put the food in my mouth.
What's the big deal? I'd spent my whole morning writing. I was in fact having one the best days of writing I had had in months. I was also feeling safe and secure, and was doing one of my favorite things, in my own home, by myself, with no one to bother me. To be honest, my life had been going better than ever before.
What could have possibly been causing me to hurry? This question so peaked my interest that I couldn't let them go. For the next twenty minutes then, I stopped writing and consciously explored my internal life while I ate. And by "consciously," I don't mean I explored what or how I was eating. I mean I paid attention to my inner life; what I thought and felt as I ate.
What did I discover?
To begin with, I noticed how putting food into my mouth was triggering a reaction in me. Anxiety. Nervousness. Hurry. I also had no idea where these feelings were coming from. Nor did they make sense. I was having an exceptionally good day. Yet my work as a therapist told me I was reliving an injury.
Now without going into all of the details of what happened in the eight weeks which followed, let me just say that this. This single moment; the one in which I became consciously aware that eating caused me to experience an internal sense of urgency, has left me curious as to the mind's affect on the body. For one thing, I've lost fourteen pounds and have not been dieting. I have in fact been eating basically what I want and as much as I want. So how did I lose this weight?
I also feel better and healthier than I've felt in years. Previously, I'd felt like I was at war with food and eating. I'd worry before, during, and after meals as to how this meal would affect me. Would I gain weight? Would I die sooner? Would I lose control again?
How did these changes happen? To be honest, I'm not sure. What I can say is, I feel overwhelmed by the implications. This is where the food month experiment comes in. I need help in gathering data about how eating consciously, or unconsciously, changes the way the body responds food. Can the mind affect our bodies in ways we've yet to notice?
How did this happen to me? My guess is it's built into human nature. When we arrive on the planet, we all eat consciously, what we want, when we want. Know I'm not saying we, as infants, were conscious as to what constituted healthy food and what we needed to do to maintain a healthy body weight. We didn't even have the words to think this way, let alone the ability to carry it out.
Even without this knowledge though, in the first few years, we managed to eat sanely. How? We remained in a conscious state while we ate. What effect did this have on us? Our bodies knew exactly what to do with food. They extracted the nutrients we needed, got rid of the toxins, and nothing more.
What happened then, and how have most of us, me included, gotten so far off track? My best guess is, we each have incurred injuries during times when we were either hungry, were eating, or were digesting food. No surprise really. We all spend a good deal of time in and around the great American injury stage; the dinner table. The result? Our bodies have been programmed in such a way as to cause us to relive these moments of injury each and every time we eat.
This means the act of eating has, for many of us, become charged. We each, in our own ways, go blank for moments before, during, and and after eating. This means we each have lost access to some of our body's originally excellent programming, instructions which tell our bodies exactly how to deal with food.
How exactly does this programming work? It largely depends on your state of mind. In a conscious state of mind, when you eat, your body extracts the nutrients you need, stores what you need, and eliminates the toxins. But in an unconscious state of mind, your body sometimes eliminates nutrients you need, stores too much, and mistakes toxins for nutrients. And to be honest, I'm sure, there is so much more happening.
For now, let me just say this. I am but one person. Thus my observations may generalize to others. Or not. Perhaps these effects are happening to me more because of who I am rather than because of what I have discovered. Then again, perhaps not.
If not, then would this mean that the diets which health experts have been encouraging us to follow have been based largely on false ideas and premises. Obviously, they involve a good deal of accurate information and love. And is it possible the foods which many people designate as "bad" may not be bad at all? Could it be our state of mind that causes the problems?
Finally, know that a recent Pennsylvania State University study found that three year olds eat the same amount of food no matter how much you put on their plates. Essentially, they eat only what they want to eat. But by age five, the more food you put on their plates, the more they eat. The implications? By age five, the average American child has lost the ability to self regulate with regard to food and eating. And this description; losing the ability to self regulate, is their description, not mine.
So, where do we begin.
Over the course of the next 30 days, I will sending you each five sets of questions and instructions, one for each of the next four weeks, and one for the last two days of the month. None of these assignments will require you to do anything other than to be watchful. Thus you need not alter, in any way, what you eat, how you eat, what you weight, or how much you exercise. You only need be a conscious observer of your own internal experiences before, during, and after eating.
Know that each of the five assignments will have a theme.
- This first week's theme will be to be mindful of hurry in and around eating.
- The second will be to be mindful of the four flavors (taste).
- The third will be to be mindful of the temperature, texture, and color of what you eat.
- The fourth will be to be mindful of the texture and smell of what you eat.
- And the fifth will be to jot down a few sentences about what this experience has been like for you.
Afterwards, during the month of December, I will post a summary of what we've discovered. Can we reclaim any of our natural ability to eat in healthy ways. I, for one, hope to see some of you experience literal miracles with regard to your eating. Even more though, I hope to hear that each of you have learned to love looking at this part of yourselves.
As for the actual first week's instructions, I will send them to you in a separate e-mail. Why separate? Because I need you to reply to this e-mail with your personal observations. And as far as what you write, please don't be concerned with your writing skills or the accuracy of what you observe. No one will be judged or examined, nor will anyone's replies be revealed in such a way as to reveal their identity.
Finally, thank you so much for having the courage to do this with me, and for being willing to share what you see.
Steven Paglierani is an author, teacher, social worker, and scientist whose writings describe the world through the lens of Asperger's. As a licensed therapist, he teaches others—including those with Asperger's—to stop imitating normal and to be themselves. He's created the first natural description of human personality, a theory wherein everything derives from a single fractal pattern. He's also built and raced Shelby Mustangs, been a singer / song writer mentioned in Rolling Stone, and designed his best friend's home as a wedding gift.