Guest Post: Marsha Hudnall

I’m thrilled to have Marsha guest posting today.

I admire her as a person, a professional and am honored to have met her & call her a friend.

Fueling Our Bodies, Ourselves with Food

A while ago when trying to come up with some good topics for our blog, I tweeted asking what folks would like to read about healthy eating.  Got back this answer from Miz:  “YOUR definition of food as fuel.”  So thought that’d be a perfect topic for me to write about for a guest post for MizFitOnline!

When people think of ‘food as fuel,’ they usually focus on the physiological aspects of what food does for us.  Providing nutrients to help us feel well and have enough energy to do what we want to do.

But I also think food as fuel has to do with eating in a way that satisfies us psychologically.  In other words, simply thinking of food as “fuel” in the typical way doesn’t do it justice, because it needs to nourish our body and our mind.

Food as Physical Fuel

As our attention at Green Mountain is generally on helping folks achieve and maintain healthy weights, when it comes to the physiological aspect of food, I tend to focus on getting enough calories to run our bodies (although it is important that it contains enough nutrients, too).

That sounds a little counterintuitive as the issue for those looking to lose weight often seems to revolve around eating too many calories.

The difficulty lies in the fact that most folks undertake diets to help them stop eating too much.  Yet diets can set us up for overeating.

We encourage folks to trust their internal cues to guide them in effectively eating enough.  ‘Cuz sometimes we need to eat more, and if we don’t trust what our bodies tell us and we’re worried about our weight, we will undereat.

If we do that too often, we end up overeating to compensate.  Overeating is a natural response to consistent undereating.

Further, if we get emotional about the under- or overeating, that is, we feel deprived when we don’t eat what or as much as we want, or if we feel guilty when we do, we set ourselves up for emotional overeating.

Food as Mental Fuel

That brings me to the other part of my definition of food as fuel: how what we eat supports us from a psychological perspective.

Our minds are inextricably linked to our bodies.  Unless a person is truly not interested in food — and there do seem to be some people like that, though I haven’t met any I can remember — we must satisfy our senses as well as our physiological needs when we eat.

That adds up to being happy with our eating experiences.  If we aren’t, many of us find ourselves circling food — thinking about it constantly, being overly affected when we see ads for foods or just passing a bowl of candy sitting on an office mate’s desk.  This gets in the way of getting on with the rest of our lives.  We’re continually distracted by thoughts of food.

But when we enjoy what we eat, our satisfaction fuels us to accomplish what we want just as much as the nutrients and energy in the foods we choose.

As someone who has personally struggled with achieving and maintaining a healthy weight, and who works with those who are battling that right now, I know this approach offers a way to end the struggle and move on.

We each may find different ways of getting to this point. Some of us need more structure initially (which can seem like a typical diet on the face of it –  read more about that in our article “It May Look Like a Diet but…”) and some of us don’t.

In the end, however, a relaxed, easy approach to eating that provides us physical and mental nourishment may be all of our best bet for choosing food that truly fuels us.

Marsha Hudnall, MS, RD, CD is director and co-owner of Green Mountain at Fox Run, a healthy weight loss retreat for women only.

Green Mountain offers a proven healthy lifestyle program that teaches how to eat instead of starve, move our bodies for pleasure and physical well-being, and manage stress and negative self-image for health and healthy weights.  In operation for 37 years, Green Mountain pioneered the non-diet approach to achieving and maintaining healthy weights. You can learn more about us on our blog.


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  1. says

    THANK you!
    I seem to continually need to be reminded about this whole connection. It is so easy to go back to that “diet” mentality, way too easy. But I know it works listening to our bodies, just need to stop thinking about it(obsessing here) LISTEN AND ENJOY THE PROCESS.

  2. Bea says

    I think I am finally close to listening to my body and I haven’t felt this great in so so long.

    It is really freeing!!

  3. says

    This: “In the end, however, a relaxed, easy approach to eating that provides us physical and mental nourishment may be all of our best bet for choosing food that truly fuels us.” is what I hope to accomplish some day!!

  4. says

    The message is a great one. I think too often that we try to be healthier and lose the idea that we can still like food!

    The weight loss retreat web site was very interesting. Vermont though! lol. Couldn’t be in TX, huh? 😉

  5. says

    Watching the Tour de France currently, I’m sure seeing some well fueled athletes burning up the road! They have really advanced the science of nutrition.

  6. says

    Thanks for this…I constantly need to be reminded that it’s okay to be hungry and that sometimes I need to eat more. I also need to be reminded that it’s about being relaxed and trusting myself :-)

  7. says

    So true! Food is supposed to be enjoyed and nourish our bodies. If we don’t listen to all the “food noise” (diet talk, etc.), I think we can listen to what we really want to eat to feel great and to get enjoyment. And we end up healthier and happier! :)

  8. says

    Good stuff! I liked the idea that our minds need to be fueled by food being enjoyable. It’s just a journey finding healthy food that is also enjoyable.

  9. Ann says

    LOVE it. This is how I would describe intuitive eating – it’s not eating whatever you feel, but eating healthy food while keeping a mind on enjoyment and satisfaction. Great post!

  10. says

    Great point! Food has a HUGE psychological component that often gets neglected. If you don’t satisfy this component, you will never be satisfied on any diet. Dissatisfaction makes any diet hard to stick to.

  11. says

    Really enjoyed this post! I like to say, find what works for you & go with that. What works for me might not be right for another AND it has changed along the way for me too! I love your last statement as well!

  12. says

    So often in a diet mentality we punish ourselves for thinking of food as anything but fuel. I refuse to choke down food I don’t like or what doesn’t feel good just to get results. I’ll try new things (even a few times, just finally kicked regular bread to the curb and am doing sprouted grain, I used to hate the stuff), but if it doesn’t make me happy, it doesn’t work.

    Still trying to work out the “how much” part, but I won’t give up!

  13. says

    I love your balance. I have a hard time when I hear people say that you just need to eat to live and not live to eat. There is a fine balance between this statement and I feel that you described it perfectly!

  14. says

    I never saw it this way! It’s our emotions about food & eating that need to be monitored. Not Food itself! I can now see how improper dieting can set us up for wrong eating habits based on our ideas about food. Great post!

  15. says

    Love this post! If I hadn’t relaxed and opted for the good fuel options *most* of the time and my beloved splurgettes every now and then, I honestly don’t think I would have been so successful. And I *know* I couldn’t have maintained it.

  16. says

    Great post! I love the idea of food as mental fuel. I think about how much we are trying to avoid using food for comfort, and then I see my baby trying to nurse when he is upset and I realize that erasing this food=comfort mindset is probably impossible to let go of.
    I guess again we need to seek balance and moderation in how we indulge ourselves.

  17. says

    Thanks, everyone, for your great comments! So glad to see that so many folks are already on board with this approach to fueling ourselves.

    And, Diana — I’m from Texas so I am so on board with having something down there. Except this time of year — my still-in-Texas siblings are all wishing they were up here to escape the heat. Although our summer hasn’t exactly been stellar so far (too much rain and coolness). Uh oh, I promised I was going to stop complaining about that!

    Thanks to Miz for the opportunity to speak to her Bumbling Band!