“I went on a diet, swore off drinking and heavy eating, and in fourteen days I had lost exactly two weeks.” – Joe E. Louis
Want to eat whenever you’re hungry and stay fit?
We all want to eat the cake and keep it out, too. We want to enjoy our food full-heartedly, and we also want to be in shape, healthy and happy forever. We could have it both ways, too, if it wasn’t for these nasty hunger-imposters. These cunning delusions that make us eat too much, and eat the wrong food. These habits that unfairly make us accumulate overweight, deadly diseases, and worst of all – shame.
Knowing these disguised enemies can help us identify them when they sneak up on us, and skillfully paralyze them before they cause any damage.
We already kicked the imposters that make us start eating when we’re not hungry, so here we’ll trap the slier ones. The hunger-imposters that make us keep eating, for no justified reason whatsoever.
Let’s follow their footprints.
Our Wishful Expectations
We’re eating when we’re hungry, and stop eating when we’re not hungry anymore, right?
Often we’re not eating because we’re hungry.
And more often than not, we don’t stop when we’re not hungry.
As food psychologist Brian Wansink writes in Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think,
“It’s simply not in our nature to pause after every bite and contemplate whether we’re full. As we eat, we unknowingly—mindlessly—look for signals or cues that we’ve had enough… We overeat because there are signals and cues around us that tell us to eat.”
The most problematic signal is the size of the portion we believe we need in order to be full, which is usually much bigger than the actual size that satisfies us.
One reason for our wrong expectation is the feeling we’ve learned to expect. As Janet Thomson writes in Think More, Eat Less: Use Your Mind to Change Your Body,
“Be aware that a portion size isn’t designed to make you ‘full up’… When you are full up, the uncomfortable sensation you get is your stomach telling you it is over-distended (stretched). Unfortunately, people get used to this sensation and program themselves, or anchor it, to be the feeling they think they should get after every meal, and they don’t stop eating until they get it.”
When I, for instance, tried to stop eating when I was no longer hungry, I found that I ate about half of what I was used to.
It was a very valuable discovery, because ever since I leave most restaurants with enough leftovers for an entire additional meal.
And all I had to do was to pay attention to my belly’s feelings.
So, we better listen to our guts.
They know best.
The Deceiving Messages
We have other cheating cues and signals that keep us eating. Like Brian Wansink writes,
“As long as we believe it is food that causes us to overeat, we are lost. Television, friends, and weather seem pretty unrelated to what we eat. That’s why they have such a powerful effect on us.”
Eating in front of the TV is a particularly awful idea. Absorbing distractions like screens or reading cause us to “forget how much we eat, and extend how long we eat,” according to Brian Wansink. When munching in front of the television becomes a habit, therefore, we’re really doomed.
But distractions aren’t the only devils that sneakily signal us to eat more. There are plenty of such signs, like the sizes of our tableware. As our friend Brian Wansink states,
“Big dishes and big spoons are big trouble. As the size of our dishes increases, so does the amount we scoop onto them. They cause us to serve ourselves more because they make the food look so small.”
There are many other effects of our surroundings on our eating, which can conveniently be found in Brian Wansink’s Slim By Design: Mindless Eating Solutions For Everyday Life.
Yet, calculatingly rearranging our environment is not enough. As our other friend, Janet Thomson, writes,
“You must become more aware of just how much you eat – even ‘healthy’ calories will make you fat if you eat too many of them. You must use your own common sense and intelligence here.”
Paying attention to your belly feelings is ultimately the key to give your body (and soul) what you really need.
The Shame Of Wasting Good Food
Our waste resistance, however justified, is a major reason for our overeating.
We were brought up to be polite and finish our plate.
We also learned that there are hungry children in Africa, so it’s immoral to throw away food. (Our eating never helped any of those hungry children, apparently. As a matter of fact, the West’s gluttony only harms them.)
Then, as we grew up, we realized how much money food costs, and that we shouldn’t throw the money to the garbage.
When we cook, we also don’t want to throw our efforts away.
But the problem is even greater than our waste reluctance.
I, for one, find it really difficult to leave one piece of food on my plate. It’s incomplete. It hurts my eyes. (Any somewhat obsessive-compulsive person, as most of us are, will heartily agree with me.)
Consequently, we find ourselves putting our frugality, manners, habits, aesthetics, quirks, and so on and so forth, higher than our body’s needs.
We finish our plates, our kid’s plates, our bowls and pots and caldrons.
We leave no leftovers. We take no prisoners. We clean every dish to its very end.
And, alas, we get fat.
So, maybe we better stop eating it all.
Maybe we should stop when we’re not hungry anymore.
Maybe we better remember that it’s better in the waste than on your waist.
Or, better still, learn to use the food better, as much as possible.
Some awesome ways to avoid waste:
– Put smaller portions on your plate, and take more small ones as long as you’re hungry.
– Learn to cook the approximately right amounts, and to buy the rights amounts.
– When you eat in restaurants, take your leftovers in boxes-to-go.
– Give appropriate food to people in need.
– Give suitable leftovers to pets or to the birds.
– Compost your leftovers. (It’s possible even in city apartments.)
There are many good solutions to the waste problem.
Overeating, however, is not one of them.
The Starvation Horror
One of the pathetic reasons which made me eat (a lot) though I wasn’t hungry was the fear of being hungry later.
It made me eat meals whenever they were available, and keep eating at the end of every meal. Because what if I’ll be famished when there’ll be no food around, god forbid?
I had to fill my tank, just in case.
But I wasn’t a car, regrettably, and the excess food didn’t keep me longer. It only kept me chubbier.
The brilliant solution was to take snacks with me, in case of emergency. Okay, I know it’s not that innovative, it’s more like the most trivial answer I could find. But then again, I overate for years before I considered my mysterious motives for eating, and came up with this groundbreaking way out.
And it works wonderfully, which is everything that matters.
Generally, it’s better to keep the unnecessary food in your bag or in a store, than to keep it on your body.
Your body will thank you for that.
And so will your self-respect.
Respecting Our Knowing Body
Mindless eating constantly leads us to eat too much.
The belief that we can ignore our body’s requests, mindlessly dictate it when and how much to eat, and still have a healthy fit body is somewhat hilarious.
Yet, we typically ignore our body sensations in favor of our idiotic expectations, our addictive distractions, our irrelevant manners, and our exaggerated fears.
Not very wise of us. No wonder being disrespectful to our body lowers our self-respect as well.
The price for treating our body with no respect, though, is tremendous. Obesity, guilt, diseases, death. Are we really willing to pay this price only to save ourselves the effort of paying attention to our bodies?
We’d probably prefer to listen to our bellies.
It’s no big deal, really. We don’t have to continually meditate throughout our meals, be relentlessly mindful, and pay attention to every bite and every chew. This behavior can be fabulous, indeed, but it isn’t for most of us.
No. All we have to do is remind ourselves every now and then to check the feeling of our belly, and if it’s not hungry anymore, we stop eating.
Not much effort, and yet, it can create much of a change.
Listening to our guts will help our bodies.
Respecting them will help our souls, too.
It will also help our families, our friends, our neighborhoods, and, eventually, the entire world.
Checking on our hunger, one guts feeling at a time.
Soothing our anxieties, one concern at a time.
Stopping to eat, one happy belly at a time.
The post was first published on Wake Up World