Monday, November 30, 2009

(Only Just) Full "Enough", But Not Full

In one of Stephen King’s series of “The Dark Tower” books, there is a section where a few of the characters are traveling through a cold, barren area with no means to create a fire or heat. Before they set off on the journey, one character warns another that they will be miserably and uncomfortably cold during the journey. The cold will not be enough to kill them, but it will fill them with despair and discomfort during every waking moment such that it will feel impossible to endure over the long duration of the trip.

Yesterday, I was having one of those days where hunger gnaws at me all day. It is one of those familiar situations for people trying to lose weight where you want to eat all of the time and never feel satisfied within the limits of your eating plan. By 4:30 of that day, I had eaten nearly 1300 calories of the 1500 I try to allot myself. In the end, I finished at around 1600 thanks to the good choice of hummus on whole wheat toast for dinner. The protein in the chickpeas, coupled with getting pretty busy and not being able to dwell on my hunger, saw me through.

The situation in the first paragraph came to mind yesterday when I was fighting off that desire to eat all of the time. Much of the time, I am not eating to a point of feeling full, but eating smallish amounts in an effort to keep my hunger at bay and to fool my body into thinking it’s not starving when it really would prefer more food. Just like the characters in the story are never cold enough to freeze to death, I’m never deprived enough of food to starve. And just as they are often miserable because they can’t get warm enough, I’m sometimes miserable because I never can quite eat “enough”. I’m often trying to balance myself on the point of being just full enough not to uncontrollably dive deeply into a pile of food and only come up for air when I’m uncomfortably full.

I think one of the reasons these days come around where I just want to eat and eat and eat is hormonal (possibly linked to ovulation), but another is that constantly eating below your body’s desired number of calories takes a bit of a toll and it will eventually rebel and try to bully a good solid meal (or two, or three) out of you.

Occasionally, I think it’s okay to give in to this urge with some limitation. Ideally for me, I’d like to do this about twice a month, but only up to the point of 2000 calories. I don’t want to overeat, but perhaps should just give my body a few more calories now and then. I have done this on occasion, but not in response to these days when I want to eat all of the time. Unfortunately, I have to admit that I’m more likely to eat more for emotional reasons than physical ones.

For now, I simply want to be aware of this pattern, and be prepared to manage it as best I can. I think that trying harder not to eat more calories on occasion for emotional reasons and to “save” those higher calorie days for when my body has a biological reason would be the first step.


Anonymous said...

I can't pretend to have any idea whether 1500 kcals is appropriate for you or not (I'd likely starve under 2000, not that I count), but I read a lot of really good scientific and/or training blogs, and they seem to recommend calorie cycling, or refeeds. Since I don't count, my eyes tend to glaze over here, so I don't know details, but mixing things up seems to help. My body gets used to nothing. I'd suggest fruit before chips, though, I satisfied my need to be eating "just to eat" that way, though I don't do much of it anymore.

screaming fatgirl said...

Fortunately, I don't have to pretend right now to know if it is appropriate since I'm generally doing fine at 1500-1600 calories per day. Some days it's a breeze and some days it's difficult. I can't say that I've chosen to consciously cycle calories, but only can say that what I've been doing so far has been effective for me. My main goal with calorie counting in general is to understand exactly how much food is involved in normal portions and to adapt to the right quantity of food.

I can understand why you find calorie counting a bit odious. The first time I lost weight, I didn't count either. I just altered my habits and exercised a lot. The problem was that it was not possible to pursue that path at 45 as I did at 19. I really never fixed the parts that caused me to be fat. Though I ate in an extremely healthy way back then, I still ate too much and had an out of control relationship with food. I'd eat my way through a big bowl of grapes. Grapes aren't bad for you, but too much of anything isn't good for you.

I eat a huge variety of food now, as compared to how I ate when I lost weight before. I eat fruit, but only with other foods or as part of a blended drink with water and some sort of milk product. Fruit is a very dangerous thing for me if eaten alone as it tends to greatly stimulate my appetite. Like you though, I rarely eat for the sake of eating anymore, though it still does happen on occasion.

Thanks for reading and for taking the time to comment! I've added your blog to my link list and will be subscribing via RSS to follow you.

dlamb said...

Ugh, my gushing must be positively off putting at this point but really, I cannot believe how you put into words my experiences of decades!
First I want to preface this comment by saying that NOT ONLY DO I NOT ENDORSE eating once a day for anyone, but I no longer do it either, for reasons having to do with the need to take certain supplements at different times of day, with food. It did, however, help me enormously when I was desperate and out of control in Sept. of 2011. As I said before, it felt like a miracle answer to my torture with 24/7 hunger and inability to stop bingeing at the end of the day because I was ravenous and suffering from hunger all day long, while eating "all the right things".
In any event, what I wanted to comment about is your description of how it feels to be eating just enough so you would not be hungry, be hungry ALL THE TIME (for me it felt more like holes in my stomach, to the extent that I often wondered about the possibility of having an ulcer), finish all my calories by 3-4 PM and then ....
The way I had been eating prior to my mid 20s when I was, generally speaking, eating once a day in the evening, I never felt such gnawing hunger pangs, ALL THE TIME.
The other thing that is really validating is hearing another human being say that fruit can be a problem. For me, fruit, the highly touted miracle food that I tried so hard to incorporate into my diet ALTHOUGH I DID NOT LIKE IT, made me almost more ravenous than anything else. My stomach would literally HURT after eating fruit. I do not know why. Whenever I mentioned this to anybody, I got "I'm sorry but I don't know what your problem is" looks. I cannot tell you the number of times that I was told how fruit should be eaten when one is hungry because THE FIBER will help to keep one full for a long time. Really? Not only did it not keep me full at all but it cause huger pangs like nothing else.
Having said all this, I do understand that everyone reacts differently to food, food groups, food tastes (mint burns my mouth and throat membrane, though it is recommended to "cool and soothe" one's throat), but it is so difficult when somebody has an experience that nobody else seems to share.
So...thank you for confirming that I am not the only person who's had these specific experiences, even if it was many years ago for you and hopefully your system is acclimated to whatever you have been doing to achieve your goal or at least approach it.

screaming fatgirl said...

One thing I realized as time went by (somewhere within 8 months to a year of having lost weight) is that hunger operates very differently depending on your body size, eating habits, and the chemistry of your body. Now that I am smaller (haven't weighed myself for a long while now, but I'd guess still in the 170's as I think I'm on a plateau) and have conditioned myself to wait to eat when I'm hungry (mentally learned to set aside mild hunger and eat a bit later rather than treat it as something unbearable that must be sated the moment it pops up), I don't feel as hungry as often.

Smaller bodies suffer less when hungry. This is why I think the biochemical results of weight loss need to be followed for many years before studies proclaim that a fat body is a fat body is a fat body and that leptin responses are forever dampened or whatever. I would love to know what my bodies deeper state is biochemically, but, in the end, I know how my psychology has change my biology.

All of that being said, eating fruit alone still makes me hungrier. ;-) I can and do only eat it as part of a full meal or a pairing with protein and fat (like cheese). I usually have a small amount of fruit with breakfast (half a banana, a tangerine, a quarter of an apple). It never has a good result if I eat fruit alone.

dlamb said...

I hope you will not be shocked by a complete stranger sitting here with tears in her eyes reading of your accomplishment. I have to admit that I cannot even imagine how you must feel, to have done such incredible work and see the results I am finding out from your reply, that you have achieved.

I am also glad that you mention the difference between the way that the system reacts and responds differently at different sizes. I wish that those who lost successfully (what I consider) relatively low amounts of weight (I will not mention a figure because I do not wish to minimize anybody's achievement) could understand that.

My husband, who is a research scientist (neuropharm) and who has been begged by his wife for over 20 years to FOR GOD'S SAKE STOP DOING ALL THAT WORK THAT DOES ABSOLUTELY NOTHING FOR ME and come up with some substance that can help ME for a change. Since his research also deals with addiction, I cannot tell you how many times he has explained that weight loss, addiction, the body is so complex chemically, hormonally and neurologically that it is virtually impossible to come up with something that will be guaranteed to work, at least not without potential damage to some organs and ANYWAY, there is much compensatory activity going on when we try to "manipulate" certain factors in the way in which the body functions.

For the "JUST DO IT" proponents, I cannot disagree that the slogan is indeed, ultimately necessary. YOU did it that way, but "it's not rocket science" reflects some limit to the understanding and acceptance of the fact that it may not be rocket but it IS science and simple, it is NOT.
Anyway, what a longwinded way to say, CONGRATULATIONS!!! I am impressed beyond words and If anybody should have kept a blog of her experience, it was YOU! I am not referring so much to the "mechanics" of it, thought that too, but the absolute wealth of information you provide regarding the internal work, the emotional, intellectual, the correlations, the musings and the unvarnished truth, the social and psychological implications of all your experiences from childhood on...WOW, what a goldmine of information. Thank you, dear Girl for making it all available to the public. I cannot imagine that you have not been approached by publishers.
I am sorry that you are plateauing. I know that no matter what one weighs when stalling, it can be frustrating. Are you finding this "resting" spot that your body has chosen functional at all in any way? What I mean by that is, are there any aspects of it that you can turn into...lemonade? or is it just sort of irritating?

screaming fatgirl said...

I'm actually not frustrated by the plateau at all. Really, I don't worry about it. It's the behaviors I focus on and I know that my body will find balance based on my behaviors. The battle is not in lbs. for me but in "yes" and "no" and when and how often I can say them and in the most effective manner for me personally. I believe that saying "yes" is just as important as saying "no", especially doing so without judgment of my actions.

Right now, I'm fat, but not in a way which affects health, mobility, etc. I doubt that it would even affect employability at this point, though insurability remains a concern (and if I were looking into health insurance at this moment, I may feel frustrated by this plateau). If I never lose another lb., I'm okay with that as long as I remain in perfect health (which is what I have now). I'm much more focused on my psychological health than my body shape and weight. I want to keep a healthy relationship with food in which I do not binge or deprive, but eat modest amounts of things based on their nutritional and pleasurable aspects.

I would like to lose more weight, but not at the expense of creating a disordered relationship with food again. When I first starting losing, I hated thinking about food constantly and being obsessed with weight loss. Sure, I was happy to lose weight, and I think that early obsession was necessary to alter my path from what I was (which was totally destructive and thoughtless about food) to where I am now (thoughtful, but not obsessed). So, I'm okay with being on a plateau for as long as I'm on it, even if it's forever.

I'm reluctant to say that I "just did it". I did do it, but I did it with baby steps and often taking 3 steps forward and 2.5 steps back. Most people say, "just do it" as if they jumped on a bandwagon that zoomed straight onto their destination without ever taking a tumble and falling off. I fell off a lot. I didn't do it a lot. I just did it more and more, inch by inch, as time went by. I had the benefit of time and the virtue of patience. I still have the latter. I can't speak to the former, but I probably still have time as well. So, if "just do it" means, "just do what you can at a slow pace", then I guess I did. ;-)