Saturday, May 7, 2011

More than one type of hunger

Last month, my eating was more inconsistent over a long period of time than it has been in quite some time. There were far more days closer to 2000 calories than 1500-1600 (my general goal) and definitely some days that may have been around 2500. Three days ago, I told my husband that I'd been more inconsistent than I would prefer to be and that I would like him to assist me by asking me one question about how well I did each day.

This isn't about accountability so much as putting one small action in place which places my eating habits back in the forefront of both of our minds. If I weren't trying to still actively lose weight, my habits in the last month wouldn't have been of concern for me as I don't think that they would have been conducive to weight gain. That was three days ago and I've been where I want to be for the last 2 days (this is the third day and is not yet over).

Like everyone who is working on weight issues, after a period of time when I haven't been doing what I prefer to do, I wasn't keen at the idea of weighing myself. Since I'm not big into weighing myself anyway (and only do it monthly), I put it off for about a week and finally decided to weigh myself today. Five weeks ago, I weighed 199. Today, after a month of spotty adherence to my calorie goal posts, I weigh about 187 lbs. Note that my scale is very poor quality. I got 4 readings - one was 189 lbs. and the next three were 186 lbs. The "consequence" of eating a little more was that I lost about 12 or 13 lbs. over 5 weeks, a more than satisfactory rate, particularly in my current weight range.

It's important to take something away from this experience and that is that calorie counting is not the end all and be all of weight loss, and particularly that high levels of deprivation and intense exercise are not required. I walked no more or less over the last 5 weeks, but I ate more. I didn't eat more because I was "slipping", though I frankly was worried that was the case. I ate more because I was so hungry, much hungrier than I'd been in a long time.

It's my feeling that this intense hunger was a message from my body telling me to fuel up a bit more. It was, in essence, a panic response and I wonder if I had bucked up and stuck to my guns if I might not be in some sort of metabolic slowdown at this point or dropping into a starvation mode-induced plateau. I can't know since I ate more for awhile and didn't stall. Maybe I was just really lucky compared to other people.

One thing I've realized is that not all hunger is the same. The hunger that I tolerate when I have a craving isn't the same as that which is brought on by an empty stomach or even trying to put off eating a bit longer so I can have a proper meal. The hunger I feel when my body is saying "enough is enough, I need to be fully fueled for awhile" isn't the same as everyday hunger. Learning the difference between these types of things is very helpful in knowing when to eat more and when to just put up with being hungry, but it's not an easy thing to learn, especially when you have a personal history which makes it hard for you to trust yourself with food.

Right now, I'm trying to build the perceptual tools to distinguish between these types of hunger and to build trust in myself. This is probably something that comes naturally to people who have not struggled with lifelong weight issues, but it is new to me. I've spent my whole life trampling all over my biological and psychological eating cues such that both my mind and my body operated in a state of confusion. I've worked out a lot of the mind parts, and now have to work on listening to the quiet voice of my body.

Since I've spent so much time not having that voice, it's speaking the equivalent of a new language to me and it's going to take time to learn it. The important thing is to recognize that it is there and can guide me if I can learn how to heed it. Nothing would delight me more than to be able to do that (listen to my body's cues) rather than rely are artificial constructs (like calorie counting) to control my food intake. To whatever extent I can leave rigidity behind and rely on nature, I'll be happy, but I'm not there yet.


It's worth noting, as a progress note, that I have now lost 50% of my body weight since around mid-June 2009. I am, literally, half of what I once was. Also, for the first time in a very long time, I weigh less than my husband.