Once upon a time there was a popular nutritional principle called “the wisdom of the body,” which meant that our bodies would tell us which foods we need – as long as we learn to listen. According to the wisdom of the body principle, if your body is deficient in a particular nutrient, your desire to eat food containing that nutrient increases.
In the 1920s pediatrician Clara Davis did a famous study to validate the concept of the wisdom of the body. In this study, infants who had been exclusively breastfed, but were newly weaned, were offered a dozen different foods at each meal. It’s noteworthy that all these foods were in their natural state — unprocessed, unseasoned, and unsweetened. Over time and without coercion, these babies, making their own food choices, established eating patterns that provided them with the balanced nutrition they needed.
For most people, the body has become less wise because of unwise things done to it. The body can make wise choices only when programmed with the language of good nutrition. Otherwise, it’s garbage in, garbage out. If all your body knows is high-fat junk food, that’s all it will ask for.
The problem for many of us is that we have confused our bodies with years of poor eating, so much so that the body no longer knows what is good and what is bad. Even food cravings – the revered biological signal, the inner voice of a wise body saying what it needs – can’t be trusted in a body that’s biochemically out of tune. As you improve your nutrition, the wisdom of your body will return, though this may take several months. Eventually, you will crave foods that help you and shun those that harm you. When you go against your body’s signals (and everyone does this occasionally), your body will remind you of why you normally choose to skip a particular food.
The signals of the body is related to the “gut feeling” that you have after eating. Certain foods, certain volumes, and certain combinations leave you feeling pleasantly satisfied; others leave you uncomfortably full and bloated. Excessive gas, bloating, burping, headaches, lethargy, and sweats are all signals that you are not eating wisely.