LauraLynn Jansen

From Hand to Mouth

“I don’t have an eating disorder. But like many women I know, somewhere along the way, eating – what, when, how much, in front of whom, how fast – got complicated. The sensation of hunger went from a physical signal with a simple response (“eat”) to a mixed emotion that has no clear solution.”

When I read this in a hand-me-down issue of Body+Soul it set off a ringing resonance in my head. My own voice, the voice of women (& men) who I coach in nutrition and studies over the years regarding the cultural and societal implications of eating flooded my being.

As I work with folks in balancing what they put intotheir body I have seen this simple process become something dreaded,even feared at times. Knowing how and when to eat seems like such a natural ability, however modern times have complicated it. Imagery of what we “should” look like body-wise and/or savvy food advertising has impacted this ability immensely. An overwhelming number of diet plans and products continue to add to our overwhelm.

Some professionals such as professor Kristeller of Indiana State say, “…it has to do with a complexity of psychological cravings that may have very little to do with your physical need for food.” It seems straightforward just curve the cravings of the mind and you are good to go, right? Well… my clients have showed me this is not so easy. The answer is entangled within a web of emotion, physiological stress, mental confusion and down right hunger.

Physiological research is showing another link to hunger through hormones.The hormone, leptin, increases in proportion to the amount of adipose (fat) tissue around the abdominal region. “The more abdominal fat,” Dr. Wolever explains, “the more likely you are to have a deregulated hunger hormone system.” Hence decoding hunger signs becomes a bit trickier.

My guess is we have all pretty much grabbed for food to soothe a wide range of emotions – loneliness, anxiety, depression, or to fill the void of even a vague sense of missing something. We’ve stuffed our face when really we probably needed to fill our hearts.

The challenge ultimately lies in understanding ourselves within and without.Being able to discern when our brain is running us versus a true hunger is the key often. Where this can become slightly gray is somewhere between being totally full and really hungry. The main work here is in gauging the pangs you feel. When you experience them ask yourself when did I eat last? If it wasn’t long ago there may be something else going on. When individuals start with me I have them record all eating; what they are doing at the same time they eat; and how do they feel afterwards. This creates an awareness in how they relate through their whole being to food.

Many times individuals I work with see patterns emerge out of their log and/or our talking.It is from these identified places the process of dissection and shining the spotlight on certain moments begins the journey of understanding themselves better.

The solution is as individual as each person. For some it may be finding something they love doing like knitting to occupy their mind and for another it may be eating by a clock until they understand their own internal clock. Each person must determine a starting place along the spiral of their life and strengthen from there.

The ultimate goal is healing that which wreaks havoc and fortifying the positive changes, to create a more empowered approach to feeding one’s whole self.


Here is a recipe you’ll never have to think twice about because it is all around good for you. Perfectfor those end of summer gatherings and BBQs.

Black Bean, Rice, and Veggie Salad

Prep Time: 25 minutes

Makes: 5 C. 4-5 servings

¼ C . extra virgin olive oil

¼ C . lime juice

1 t. ground cumin

1 ½ C. cooked basmati rice, cooled

1 can (15oz.) black beans, rinsed and drained

1 C. finely diced carrots (aprox. 3 medium sized carrots)

3.4 C. raw corn kernels

¾ C. finely chopped tomato

¼ C. minced Italian parsley

¼ C. minced fresh cilantro

2 T finely chopped red onion

salt & pepper

In a serving bowl, stir olive oil, lime juice and cumin to blend.

Add rice, beans, carrots, corn tomato, parsley, cilantro, and onion.

Stir gently to coat.

Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Per Serving: 247 calories, 44% (108 cal.) from fat; 6.5 g. protein, 12g. (1.7 g. sat.); 32 g. carbohydrates (4.5 g. fiber); 164 mg. sodium, 0 mg. cholesterol

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