There is no doubt in my mind that there are few things as expressly designed to make you lose the gift of sufficiency as going on a diet. You may not lose weight, but you will lose perspective in a New York minute. And that makes me sad.
I have found few pleasures in life as wonderful as being sated from a wonderful meal. Not over full. Not stuffed. Not “I need the stretchy pants and a lie down”. But it’s so wonderful to have eaten just enough of something delicious.
In order to achieve this balance of “just enough” (by any means other than dumb luck) you have to be in touch with your body’s satiety signals. You have to know what your body wants to eat. You have to know when your body has had enough. And then you need to stop eating. Seems simple, right?
In some ways it is simple. Babies only a few hours old can manage it. Baby wants to eat. Baby cries. Baby gets fed. Baby lets you know he’s had enough. Baby stops eating. We are born knowing when we are full. It’s a miracle of nature.
And then we start messing with it by going on diets.
Diets aren’t about listening to when your body is hungry or full. Diets are about eating what’s on the diet when the diet tells you to eat it. Diets tell you to have a piece of wheat toast and a boiled egg for breakfast. It doesn’t matter if this is what you want to eat. It doesn’t matter if you really only want the egg or if you want two pieces of toast. It doesn’t matter if you eat the toast and the egg and are still hungry. It doesn’t matter whether or not you really want to eat leftover salad from last night’s dinner. Youwill eat a boiled egg and a piece of wheat toast. So you tell your tummy and the rest of your body to shut up and simply refer to the chart in your brain that says, “boiled egg and piece of wheat toast.”
You know what happens next. You get hungry. You ignore it. Your body gets mad. You ignore it. You want a cookie. You ignore it. You decide not to think about cookies. Which makes you think about cookies a lot more. You finally break down and eat a cookie. Except it’s not one cookie, it’s two dozen. And you go to bed feeling overstuffed, nauseated, guilty and angry. Then you get up the next day and eat a boiled egg and a piece of wheat toast.
I’m not just saying this. There is research to back this up. In the famous Minnesota Starvation Experiment, men were observed eating normally, then intentionally underwent severe calorie restriction causing them to lose 25 percent of their body weight and then started eating again. The results were astonishing. Subjects suffered prolonged significant increases in depression, hysteria and hypochondriasis. The majority of subjects experienced periods of severe emotional distress and depression (even self-mutilation). And during and long after the starvation period, the subjects were obsessed with food. And many of the subjects found that they no longer, ever again, felt they had enough to eat.
A successful relationship with our bodies is like any other successful relationship. It relies on communication, honesty and trust. When your body gets hungry and you ignore it, your body stops trusting that you will feed it. Your body makes you think about food all the time just to make sure it will get some. And your body stops sending you the signals that you are happily and pleasantly full.
Which again, robs us of the gift of sufficiency and the joy of satiety. Which kind of sucks.
So my little chicklettes, if you are on a diet or thinking about going on a diet or are recovering from a diet, take a moment and listen to your body talking to you. It is asking you to listen. It is telling you what it wants. It is begging for your trust. And it is saying it has had just about enough of this dieting business.
The Fat Chick