Sunday, October 13, 2013

I'm listening...

I WILL learn how to feed this body.

I've mentioned several times on this blog how I don't understand what hunger feels like. I can eat a decent meal, then half an hour or an hour later feel things I define as "hungry." This is not empty belly, tummy grumbling hunger. It's an emptiness in my gut, which is also somehow discomfort in my head. I became so frustrated with this contradiction, I Googled "What does hunger feel like?"

Which led me almost directly to THIS post by the Fat Nutritionist. I'm not ready to sign on for 12 sessions at $75 each, but what she had to say in that one post made a lot of sense to me. I never thought about different types of hunger. Empty belly hunger. Have a taste for it hunger. Desperation hunger. Chemical hunger. 

She describes Chemical Hunger much as I describe this nebulous not-hunger-but-defined-as-hunger feeling. It never occurred to me I might actually have a dietary deficiency, causing that phantom not-empty-but-still-hungry feeling. I don't know what nutrient I'm missing, but apparently I've been missing it for a while. I'd stopped taking a multivitamin ages ago because they upset my stomach. I've now reassessed that decision and found a chewable that does not appear to cause the same issues. I don't know yet if it includes whatever it is I'm missing, but it's a step in the right direction.

Her post spoke to me enough that I read the comments. I don't usually read internet post comments, but I read every single one of these. I found there are a whole slew of people who understand chemical hunger, and who describe it much like the feelings I've described. I also found a community of like-minded people who don't want to obsess over food, don't want to count calories, feel deprived, or feel guilty for eating things they enjoy.

I also found information on Jean Antonello, RN, RD (How To Become Naturally Thin by Eating More, Breaking Out of the Food Jail, web site: naturally-thin.com). What I read there also made complete and utter sense to me. Eat when you're hungry. Stop when you're not. I've tried to do that off and on for quite a while. The chemical hunger thing always confused me though, so I didn't know when I was hungry. Turns out I was hungry the whole time.

The idea behind eat-when-you're-hungry is your body knows what it needs. Controversial, I know. This concept is coupled with the fact your body goes into starvation mode when you're hungry and don't eat. It starts packing away pounds like a squirrel hiding nuts to survive the lean winter months. Duh. Every dieter knows this. Jean Antonello's approach to address this instinctive behavior is to reassure your body it will be fed EVERY time it's hungry, as soon as it gets hungry. Once the body recognizes it is not in danger of starving, it will stop asking for extra calories and your weight will balance out to a healthy norm. 

These revelations have prompted a return to the eat-when-you're-hungry plan. I make sure to have healthy food with me at all times. Snack bags of various veggies in my lunch bag. A bag of trail mix in my purse. Small portions of zucchini lasagna, chicken marsala, or whatever meals I've planned for the week. When I think I'm hungry, I trust I am hungry and eat something, even if I just ate 15 minutes ago. I may only eat an oz. of green beans. I might eat 3 oz of carrots. I might eat a hard boiled egg or a portion of whatever meal I have with me. I don't eat a full MEAL because I'm never hungry enough that I need that much food. I just eat enough to satisfy the hunger I do feel. I don't find it necessary to clean my plate, and I believe I enjoy my food more now that I'm not stressing over what or how much I eat.

It's only been a couple days. I'm not tracking calories so I don't where I am on the "calories in, calories out" scale. I do know I haven't binged since I started this, and binging can be a nightly occurrence around these parts. I know the only desert I've wanted is pumpkin ice cream, because, well, PUMPKIN, and I've only had one large spoonful of that. I've gone out to eat twice since starting this, and do not feel I over-ate either time. I'm supposed to go out to eat with a friend today, and do not fear that I will eat too much, as was my norm until now.

I am still eating grain-free, because I do believe grains exacerbate my auto-immune issues. This is free reign to eat anything I want, any time I want, but it is not free reign to eat ALL. THE. FOOD. I eat when I'm hungry, I stop when I'm no longer hungry, and I eat foods that are nutritionally dense enough to convince my body it's getting fed. This requires that I listen to my body not only for hunger signals, but also for satiation signals. No mindless eating. I'm not eating long enough to go mindless, anyway. I have a few bites. I stop for a minute. Maybe I have a few more bites. Usually I put it away for later at that point. Later might be 15 minutes and it might be an hour.

 So far the only downside I've found is I wake up at 5am and want a hard boiled egg or chicken wing, then go back to bed for another hour or two. I did find myself eating more than a handful of trail mix last night, so maybe my body is trying to find a balance between feeding and sleeping.

I took a week off of exercise and running in the midst of all this. Everything I did hurt. Everything was more difficult than I thought it ought to be, and therefore not enjoyable at all. I don't know how much of that has to do with whatever deficiency it is I'm dealing with. I don't know if I was over-training. I do know I plan to start back up this week with only a little back-pedaling. Weekday runs of 4 miles instead of 6. I'd traded in pushups for weight training, and want to pick that back up 2x a week. I'll still do the pushups because I still have those goals, but I'll scale back to 50-70/day for now. I'm adding in a mid-week yoga class in lieu of the 3rd weight training day. The weekend runs will stay on track, because I can always walk when I need during those. Throughout all of this I'll have dates and nuts and snacks available to address any hunger/energy issues that arise.

I've abused and ignored and insisted I knew better than my body what it needed, for nigh on 25 years now. I've been willing to try supplements and fad diets, trying to force it to comply. Now I'm willing to love my body enough to trust it knows what it needs. I never tried that before.

Now, I'm listening.

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