Picture this: You woke up late (darn daylight savings!), and didn’t have time to eat breakfast before dropping the kids off and getting to work. The day drags on, and you feel hungrier and hungrier. Finally lunchtime arrives (but now it is already around 2 p.m.), and you are so hungry you could eat a horse!
You go for the cheeseburger you know will fill you up, and forget to order salad on the side. Suddenly those French fries are looking super good—and since you are treating yourself today, you may as well finish it off with a chocolate milkshake to sip at your desk, because you certainly don’t want to get this hungry again, and you know it will be a long day at work before you will have time to get dinner.
It is now 3 p.m., and you are so happy you don’t have another meeting scheduled, because now you can unbutton your pants and hide behind your computer. 5 pm rolls around, and you are crashing hard. You run out to get a cup of coffee so you can be alert for the next two hours of work facing you.
But coffee at 5 p.m. isn’t such a great idea for you. Guilt over the gluttonous lunch choices you made settled in at the end of the day, so you skipped dinner. Night time time rolls round: 11 pm, then midnight, then 1 a.m., and you’re still awake and starving once more. You go for a handful of chips. Five minutes later, you reach for another handful and turn on the TV. Before you know it, you are halfway through “Die Hard 4,” and you have finished the bag.
Feeling disgusted, guilty, and disappointed in yourself, you finally go to bed, vowing to fast the next day to make up for it. Problem is, now your blood sugar levels are completely off, you are not in sync with your body’s natural circadian rhythms, and the guilt and fear of gaining more weight have raised your stress levels, making your metabolism sluggish.
So the problem cycles on.
Heeding Our Body’s Signals
Many people who struggle with their weight have a similar story. They wait too long before eating, and then overeat, or bounce between under-eating and overeating. The easiest way stop this insanity is to simply honor hunger and fullness.
At one point, we all knew what it felt like to be hungry, and what it felt like to have had enough. We didn’t ignore our hunger signals, nor did we choose to eat to the point of discomfort. Instead, we instinctively honored what our body’s messages about hunger and fullness.
I used to struggle with my weight. One time, it was suggested to me that I exercise more and simply eat normally.
Eat normally? I realized that all those years of dieting made me forget what “eating normally” meant. But surely at some point in my life, I knew exactly how to do that.
I started my journey back to being able to eat as my body dictated, which I have understood as a “normal” ability. By simply eating when I felt hungry and physically ready to eat, and stopping when I was satisfied—but not full—I slowly stopped wanting to overindulge in harmful foods, or harmful amounts of food.
I refused to let my prior meal, indulgences, or lack of body confidence be the deciding factor in whether I would eat a food or not. Even if I had overeaten during a prior meal, I would still eat again when hungry.
This is a significant piece in many people’s successful weight loss journeys. If we don’t eat before reaching the point of feeling so hungry we could eat a horse, it becomes very difficult to make healthy choices and control our meal portions.
Overeating is not “normal” behavior either. Fullness is not fun. It doesn’t feel good. It makes us tired. It is often painful, and can create gas, indigestion, and fluctuations in our blood sugar levels. We were not designed to overeat. In the last century and up till today, overeating has wreaked havoc on a global scale like never before.
But because so many of us have stopped paying attention to our body’s many signals, it is easy to be in the habit of getting too full after a meal. Eating while reading, or watching TV, or at the movies distracts us just enough to not notice the discomfort of fullness. It is easy to be full if we can comfortably lie down on the couch in front of the TV after eating. It is easy to be full if we can slump into comfy furniture after eating.
But if you were to sit tall, go for a walk, or stay present, you would in fact notice how being full is simply not our friend.
To honor your body’s fullness, slow down as you eat. Chew more, and pay attention to how you are feeling during the eating process. You want to eat until you are just satisfied, but not full.
If you are not clear if you have eaten enough, but you know you are no longer feeling hungry in the moment, put down your fork and stop eating. Put your food away. You can always eat again if you get hungry. Even if you feel hungry just one hour later, you can eat again.
Once you practice this for a while, you will get to know how much is too much, and how much is just right. You will get know what a “normal” amount is for you to feel satisfied, not full.
As a result, you will lose weight (if needed) and feel much more in sync with your own body’s wisdom.
Tysan Lerner is a certified health coach and personal trainer. She helps women attain their body and beauty goals without starving themselves or spending hours at the gym. Her website is www.lavendermamas.com