For many years now my cue to quit eating has been feeling full in my stomach. I find it very difficult to quit eating unless I experience that fullness. Should I use some other restraint, say portion control , it is only a matter of minutes before I find myself looking for something to eat. And eat I will until my stomach is full.
As a child and young adult I never had a weight problem and never gave a thought as to how much I was eating or should eat or shouldn’t for that matter. I just ate---not until my stomach felt full, but until some internal cue let me know I’d had enough. If I didn’t like something I didn’t eat it. I often left food or skipped food. I assumed my control was instinctive. Somewhere along the way , that all changed.
I think my unhealthy relationship with food began with my first diet in my twenties. I embarked on said diet because I thought I was fat. I wasn’t. In hindsight I realize my weight was perfect. But Twiggy had come on the scene. And the bosomy and bottomy ladies of Hollywood were fading away.
On that diet, for the first time in my life, food, the sustainer of life, became the forbidden fruit and I was limiting it and placing restrictions on it. Sugar in any form was not permitted.
In that dynamic food became an evil to be avoided, and my downfall…. because I desired it, craved it, wanted it…..and I needed it. It could not be banished from my life because I’d starve without it. But it became the bane of my existence.
That diet was the beginning of a downward spiral and a lifelong problem with food intake. Thinking losing weight was just a matter of mechanics and a thing to be achieved and then forgotten kept me spinning my wheels for all these years.
Not until I realized that my relationship with food had to change before I could progress in that area of my life did I start moving forward.
Depending on my fullness level to regulate my food intake has proven problematic, to the tune of 50 excess pounds at my highest weight.
Realizing that I could never rely on that method if I wanted to get to and maintain a healthy weight, I determined that the best control method for me was to regulate my food intake through calorie monitoring.
Determining a daily calorie allowance that would maintain my desired weight and eating that amount routinely, on average, has led to me a recent discovery.
I actually have an internal cue that tells me when I’ve had enough food to eat, and it “clicks” before the stomach feeling full point. I call it a “click” for lack of a better description. But it is like something “clicks” indicating I’m full, minus the stomach fullness feeling, and I don’t want anymore food….even though there is “room”. In fact, I’d have to force myself to eat more….something I haven’t experienced since childhood .
The “click” is similar to the clicking sound at the fuel pump that indicates your gas tank is full. You hear the gasoline rushing through the nozzle into your fuel tank filling it . The distinctive “click” alerts you that the tank is full and actually shuts the pumping action down.
Only noticing my internal “click” recently, I pondered as to why I’ve never noticed it before and why I’m noticing it now.
This is what I came up with.
Previously, when I ate to the point of feeling full in my stomach, that point where if I ate another bite I’d be too full or even possibly miserable, I was eating right past the “click” because I was eating fast and passing the “click” before it had a chance to register, and I wasn’t paying attention. Mentally I was scarfing my food down, loading it in with gusto and relish, entirely out of touch with my body and any internal mechanism that might cue me.
The act of eating was a comfort to me. It filled an emotional need. I was living to eat. Contrast that with the practical reason to eat: for fuel, for health, for survival….eating in order to live.
I was living to eat, not eating to live, and the click went unnoticed.
But what about the times when I was on a diet and eating slowly and not overeating in terms of calories….when I was eating to live? Why then didn’t I notice the “click”?
I have a theory.
I didn’t experience the “click” because when I was on a diet I was under eating, as in too little food….hence I never got to the point of “enough” food for my bodily needs .
You see, on all my previous diets I went from a daily food intake of 2000+ calories a day way down to 1200 calories a day…an amount so low that I was going to be hungry even after consuming all 1200 of my calories. I’d go to bed hungry. The “click” would never happen in that circumstance. My body was cuing me that I hadn’t eaten enough. I was hungry because, duh, I was hungry. And therefore I could never experience the “click” nor discover it.
I went from one extreme to the other. I went from being over filled to under filled.
When I started eating the amount of food that was right for my body, the amount I’d need to maintain a healthy weight, and an amount that would allow me to loose excess weight because I was above the healthy weight, I finally was getting enough food for the “click” to happen, for it to be triggered.
And because my calories were high enough that I didn’t feel deprived, yet in a range where I could lose weight, the emotional burden that accompanied my eating was lifted, and my relationship with food changed, and the power that food had over me was displaced and I was finally in the drivers seat instead of my appetite . So when the “click” came I was paying attention.
Finally, things are in balance for me.
I was quite surprised the first time I noticed the “click”. I thought it strange. I still had lots of yummy food on my plate, but I didn’t want any more of it. The idea of eating more wasn’t appealing. I was full, but my stomach didn’t feel full. What a strange phenomenon for me.
When it happened the second time I realized I’d achieved something I hadn’t experienced for years, not since I was 20.
I’d been around other adults who skipped food or left food on their plate simply because they weren’t hungry even though they hadn’t eaten much from my point of view. I’d think “who are you”….”how can you resist that divine food?”.
Now I have a better idea. It’s been so long since I’ve experienced this feeling that I‘d forgotten about it. It was a distant memory…one I thought perhaps I‘d only imagined and never experienced. But it is a nice feeling and one I do believe that I have a handle on after all these years.
Overeating is not good, but neither is under eating. And I think the majority of weight loss diets put us on the under eating turf. As long as we are in either territory we will not experience the natural internal bodily cues that let us know when we’ve eaten what our body needs.
Also, I do believe the “right “ amount of food is not only dependent upon calorie intake, but the macronutrient make up. By that I mean if I eat 1600 calories of chocolate in a day my body will not be nourished and I will likely not experience the “click” because I think volume/weight of food as well as calories figures into triggering the “click“.
Foods like chocolate are very calorie dense, meaning you’ll rack up a lot of calories fast, but not many nutrients and not much volume/weight…so while you may have consumed enough calories, you aren’t nourished and your body will, I believe, “drive” you to seek more food.
I’ve read that research shows that almost everyone eats the same volume/weight of food daily. The Volumetrics diets was based on this information, the assumption being, if you replaced calorie dense foods with those that were not calorie dense, you would lose weight without feeling like you were on a diet.
But my problem with that diet is, if I’m consuming large amounts of food, I need to learn to eat less food, Or else restrict calorie dense foods for life. Because if I did attain my weight goal eating huge amounts of food, what happens in the maintenance phase when I resume “normal” eating?
The key to any successful weight management plan is the maintenance. If you can’t maintain your weight what’s the point?