Internal vs External Cues

Last week, I stopped at a rest stop on the Florida Turnpike driving back to Miami from a diabetes convention.    I learned so much about the love and heroic measures taken by parents with kids with Type 1 Diabetes to make sure their kids feel as normal and are as healthy as possible. I was hyper-focused on this remarkable aspect of parenting and love in general.  I was also encouraged that they often go above and beyond the recommendations of their doctors.   In fact one of the organizations slogans was, “We aren’t going to wait . . “  Love is a great fuel to break barriers, isn’t it?

The rest stop was packed to the gills.   And while I am still shocked when I see what types of poisons people eat on a regular basis, one particular parent / child combo stood out to me.   The dad was clinically morbidly obese as was his son eating food together watching something on his father’s cell phone.   Here were 2 with statistically significant risk for a shortened life with chronic illness, not just eating deadly food, but they were doing it unconsciously, as their minds were being consumed by what they were watching.

In the 1960’s Stanley Schachter and his team, studied college students in France and Chicago to determine what cues they had to when to stop eating.   Remember that this is before youtube and smartphones, so its probably worse now.   The French students were more likely to use internal cues, like stopping when they felt full (how novel :)), when they were leaving room for desert and the students from Chicago more likely to use external cues, such as stopping eating when the TV show was over (yes, really), when they run out of a beverage, or when they think what they’ve eaten is normal!!

I could be wrong but I see people more and more disconnected from the sensations of their bodies.  This general appreciation and connection with the body can occur on a more and more subtle level with time.  This in fact, is a never-ending process with these miraculous bodies we have.  There is a lot of value in yoga or qigong when it comes to gaining more and more awareness of our bodies.   But you don’t even need to do those if you don’t want to.  It just means that you pay attention more and more to how you feel by mentally checking in with your bodies and extending your awareness to around 3 days ongoing.    It can take up to 3 days post stress or subtle food sensitivity to feel its impact on your body.  I will likely write another post on this subject.

We have access to much more knowledge about our bodies than we think.  It is why you must become your own authority on your health, not just by learning knowledge but by feeling and understanding the sensations of your body.   You must extend your time horizon of observation as mentioned above, slow down, and start listening.  Your body actually does want you to know what’s best for it and remarkably, when you start listening beyond its superficial cries for pleasure and the avoidance of pain, it is also telling you how to discipline it for optimal use.   Pay attention!

Published by

Jonathan Carp, MD

Dermatologist, health food entrepreneur, beach addict, and health teacher.