Friday, June 26, 2009

Belated post, My reply to the question "why do people eat too much?" on another blog.

I'm late, I try to get my post up by Wednesday every week but things got out of hand. I was reading blogs today and came across this one. It was a good question and one that I've thought about a lot recently as I've worked towards overcoming this tendency in myself. Here's what I answered:

You know, this is something on my mind a lot lately as I am under strict orders from the doc to loose at least 50 pounds, and perhaps even 100 or so, for health reasons including high blood pressure and potential diabetes.

I think you are right- people over think food sometimes, get obsessed with what they can and can't have. I also think that most people have forgotten how to listen to their bodies. If you listen it will tell you when it's had enough and you can learn what the rest of your body wants- not just your taste buds. They've confused appetite for hunger, fullness for satisfaction and comfort for energy and well being. At least that's what was happening with me for the past 18 years. I was a healthy weight until around the time I turned 12 or 13, and then the weight gain slowly began. It was probably partially hormonal, but I know for a fact that I had skewed ideas and attitudes about food and exercise. By the time I graduated High School I was a size 22, and I've gotten as high as a 26 in recent years.

So, when the doc said loose weight or I'd continue slowly killing myself I sat down and thought about what my usual pitfalls had been, and how to fix them. Here's what I came up with:

Any time I've tried to "diet" it's involved avoiding certain foods all together and it just made me wildly crave them and binge on them when I couldn't take it any more. And you're right- it did make me over think my food. I was obsessed with what I could and couldn't have. I didn't really enjoy my food any more and I felt guilty if I ate something I "shouldn't" which lead to more eating to soothe the guilt. Plus I couldn't maintain it for more than a few months at a time. At which point I would relapse and gain it all back and then some. More guilt, more food, more weight. Basically I thought of certain foods as "bad" and that was a big mistake.

I've never really added a decent amount of physical activity to my routine either. I've just been too lazy or tired or whatever. I thought if I "wasted" all my energy doing exercise I would get worn out and run down and not have the energy to do anything else. I thought of exercise as hard, and no fun and too much work.

I also set my goals either unrealistically high, or ridiculously low. So I would either fall short and feel defeated or not get anywhere at all.

The reality is- the only way to loose weight is to take in fewer calories than you burn. This is accomplished by eating less and/or exercising more. I'm doing both. To keep from having to think about food too much in the future I am relearning some things, like how to listen to my body, what portions really look like, and about how many calories that most foods have. I'm also relearning the difference between appetite and hunger and satisfied and full. I read somewhere that you should only ever eat to about 80% of your capacity. Basically, you should feel satisfied but like you could eat more if you wanted to. Once these are ingrained in me I won't have to think so much about it, eating prudently will become a habit.

Here's my plan- since the forbidden fruit is always more attractive nothing is forbidden. If I want chocolate I have some. Chips? Chili cheese fries? Hot wings? No problem. I've just learned that I can enjoy a small square of chocolate, a couple of chips, a bite or two of fries, or a couple of wings just as much as the large portions I used to eat. I choose to fill up on fruits, veggies, whole grains and lean protein and keep my treats as simply small little morsels to enjoy. No guilt as I loosely monitor my calories and try to keep them between 1200 and 1400 (for now) and I get as much physical activity in as I can. If I have 90 calories of chocolate (about 2 dove squares) then I just eat 90 fewer calories somewhere else. And I often decide that the chocolate isn't worth it. If I'm hungry I'm more likely to go for the 90 calories worth of salad or protein with dinner instead of a tiny treat.

The second part of the plan involved finding a physical activity that I LOVED. Something I would keep doing even if it got physically uncomfortable just because it was so much fun, and I remembered hula hooping. So now I hoop a half hour 4 to 5 times a week or more and I walk every where that I go in town since my town is small, I like the outdoors, and I don't have a car. (Thank goodness for the small town part!) The best part? Not only does it NOT sap my energy- it gives me MORE! Not to mention the effect it has had on my mood. I am remarkably happy as opposed to mildly depressed for the first time in years. I love my life and that's been a wonderful thing.

Knowledge is power and knowing more about food allows me to make informed decisions. Is it working? You betcha! My weight has gone down by about 25 pounds in 5 weeks and my blood pressure is normal for the first time in my adult life. And I'm doing it the right way and for keeps. I'm not on a "diet" I am changing my attitudes and habits towards food and exercise to create a life long pattern of health. At the moment I do have to think about food quite a bit, but it's getting less and less all the time as I relearn how to eat. Eventually I will be to the point where I can trust my body enough to not have to think about it at all. I'll automatically make better decisions, have smaller portions, not eat simply out of appetite (as in, boy that slice of pie looks good instead of man my stomach is rumbling) and stop when I am satisfied instead of so full I am uncomfortable.

I look forward to a longer happier healthier life :D

I know that some of this repeats some things that I have already said, but it's all stuff that bears repeating, and besides, I think better on screen or paper or out loud than I do in my head, so this helps me solidify things that I am thinking about and learning and realizing.

Good health and god bless to all!

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