Tag Archives: satiety

Loving Your Body by Listening to Your Body

listening

I’ve been married for nearly 20 years, and that’s quite a while.  If I’ve learned anything over this past 20 years about relationships, it’s this–if you love somebody you have to take time to listen to them.  Sure, it’s important to buy each other presents, and show affection.  And yeah, sex is pretty important too.  But few things are as important as taking time to really hear what your partner has to say.

Today is Love Your Body Day, and I think that’s wonderful.  It’s a day which encourages us to celebrate the bodies we have as they are.  It’s a day which encourages us to put diets aside and to spend at least 24 hours not comparing ourselves to unrealistic media ideals of bodies and not beating ourselves up for failing to “measure up”.

But I think we can take this relationship with our bodies a little further than failing to beat ourselves up.  And I think one of the most important things we can do to show our bodies love is to learn to listen to them.

Our bodies are mysterious and magical and wondrous.  So much of it works without our having to think consciously about it at all.  Our hearts beat, and breathing happens.  Our stomachs digest food and our bodies break it into nutrients that fuel movements both conscious and unconscious.  But for things that we need to do consciously like find food and move our limbs, and lay down to sleep our bodies have a very sophisticated built-in wiring system intricately connected with our brains.  And if we become attuned to that wiring system, we can learn so much about what our bodies need.

So many of us have learned to be frustrated by the fact that our bodies get hungry.  But I for one, am deeply grateful for it.  I am a busy person who is easily distracted.  Were it not for hunger, I think I might find myself stranded on the side of the road somewhere completely out of fuel and without roadside assistance.  Luckily, I get hungry often and in no uncertain terms.  So even if I find it really annoying, I find that I have to take the time to find food on the regular.  What’s more, I find that if I take the time to listen, my body is pretty specific about what food it wants.  The more carefully I listen to my body, the more attuned I am to what nutrients I am lacking and what foods might best top off my nutritional tank.  Sometimes my body craves carrots and sometimes (well most of the time) it craves chocolate.  And it seems the more carefully that I follow my body’s menu choices (rather than my brain’s dictates about what I should eat) the better I feel.  And when I really listen to what my body wants to eat, and give in by eating precisely as much of those things as my body wants, I am rewarded.  My body feels warm, wonderful and satisfied.

Another area where I’m learning to finally listen to my loud-talking body is in movement.  Our bodies are capable of amazing abilities to move through space.  Not only can we walk across a room or catch a ball without thinking about it, but we can also hike and swim in the ocean and dance.  And this is another place where the highly sophisticated wiring in our bodies has a lot to tell us.  If I sit too long, my body protests.  My back and knees stiffen.  I feel pain in my head and neck.  On the other hand, if I move too much or too long or in a way that is too intense for my current fitness level, my body sends me messages of pain and fatigue.  Now just like hunger, pain and fatigue can be deeply annoying.  My schedule may convince my conscious mind that it does not want to get up and move or it may not want to stop moving or it may find it extremely inconvenient to sleep.  Thankfully, my body sends signals that are difficult to ignore and I try to find ways to meet my body’s demands by moving or resting or sleeping.  And when I get this right, my body rewards me.  I feel a lightness in my limbs and a glowing sense of energy when I am well-exercised and well rested.

Our bodies strive for something that is so difficult for us to achieve in modern life–balance.  Our bodies tell us when we are eating more food than we need or not enough.  Our bodies tell us when we need more broccoli, and when we need buns.  Our bodies tell us when to leap and when to laugh and when to rest and when to run.  And when I listen, truly listen, to my body, it sings.  The energy flows through me and I feel a hum that runs from my toes to the top of my head.  That’s what it feels like to be in a loving relationship with my body.  It feels wonderful. It’s enough to make me strive to make every day love my body day.

Love,

Jeanette (AKA The Fat Chick)

The Body’s Battle with Weight Loss

slide33.033I recently ran across this little gem on Cracked.com entitled “Fat is Officially Incurable (According to Science)” which offers a surprisingly accurate portrayal about just how likely those “before” and “after” shots in advertisements are to reflect the long-term experience of real, live people.  While proceeding with tongue firmly inserted in cheek, the author offers a nice summary of some of the scientific evidence offered regarding long-term weight loss:

  • Probability of long-term maintenance of very modest weight loss (10-15 pounds)–Very low
  • Probability of a fat person becoming (and staying) a thin person–Practically Non-existant.

One of my favorite things about this article (besides David Wong’s deliciously snarky attitude) is the plethora of links to some other wonderful content that I’ve read, but probably forgotten about.

For example, a lot of the math about Weight Watchers “success stories” (including why you may be 20 times more likely to survive being shot in the head than you are to reach and maintain your WW “goal weight”) is derived from this wonderful blog post by fat fu.

And David also references this comprehensive NY Times Article in which Tara Parker-Pope breaks down a lot of the recent research about why permanent weight loss can be so difficult.  She talks about a lot of the physiological changes that can happen with weight loss including:

  • Increased hunger hormones like ghrelin that make us feel more hungry.
  • Decreased leptin and peptide yy in the body which help to signal when our bodies are full.
  • Lowered metabolism.
  • Increased percentages of slow-twitch muscle fibers that make our bodies use calories more efficiently and burn fewer calories during physical activities.
  • Increased “reward response” to food in the brain leading to more intense cravings for and obsession about food.

Tara also reminds us that these changes in the body are often long-term–lasting months or even years after the dieting has stopped.  And while both she and David Wong admit that there are some “rare creatures” found in the National Weight Control Registry who have maintained significant weight loss, the vast majority of us are unlikely to experience the same results.

I don’t say this to depress you.  But I do feel very strongly that those of us who work in the health and fitness industries have a responsibility to help our clients to build realistic expectations.  Very, very few of us will lose a lot of weight and keep it off.  A very slightly larger number of us will lose a little bit of weight and keep it off.  But most of us will neither lose a significant amount of weight nor will we keep it off. Does that mean we need to give up on either wellness or well-being?  Nope!  As it turns out, bodies respond very well to healthy behaviors regardless of whether or not they are accompanied by any weight loss.  We can choose to de-couple wellness from weight loss and focus on simply doing the things that make us feel well.  So in my mind, it really makes more sense to take this Health At Every Size(R) or HAES approach and let the body’s weight settle where it will.

And even though telling the truth has seriously blunted my book sales and ruined my chances of ever starring in my own late-night, cheesy infomercial, I still must tell it.  Oh well, I’m more of a morning person anyway.

Love,

The Fat Chick

 

 

Hollow Leg Days–FEED Me Seymour!

I think one of the realities of intuitive eating is understanding that some days you are hungrier than others.  Some days I hardly think about food at all.  I go for hours and hours not feeling particularly hungry and eat a little bit and that is that.  But some days are what my dear husband calls “hollow leg days”.  These are days where you feel like you must have a hollow leg because it seems like you’ve eaten plenty to fill your stomach but still feel hungry.  My husband says, “It must have gone somewhere.  Maybe I have a hollow leg.”

I’m not talking about stress eating here or eating because you are bored.  Although these are both potential pitfalls of intuitive eating.  I’m talking about genuine, tummy grumbling, there’s gotta be a few more crackers in this box hunger.  Sometimes it seems a tame thing that is kept at bay.  And sometimes I find myself like Audrey II in Little Shop of Horrors demanding, “Feed me Seymour!”

This intuitive eating thing can be really challenging.  It’s easy to eat intuitively when you are craving spinach.  It’s a little more challenging to eat intuitively when you are craving spumoni or sausage.  It can be a struggle to quiet the guilt and keep the old diet thoughts at bay.  Luckily, I get to observe a real, native, free range, lifelong intuitive eater in my own house.  My husband has always been naturally thin, so people have encouraged him throughout his life to eat exactly what he wants.  So he’s an intuitive eater.  He always has been.  And I’ve seen “hollow leg days” happen to him.  (It’s his terminology after all.)

Since dieting was such a disaster and the HAES (R) approach has been such a force for happiness in my life, I plan to stay the course.  Part of intuitive eating is pushing away from the table when I’m full.  Part of intuitive eating is looking for something to eat again 2 hours after lunch because I am still hungry or I feel hungry again.  These are two sides of the same coin.  Part of pushing away when full, eating just one cookie or eating two bites of pie is the implicit understanding that I can have another cookie or another bite of pie or another 1/2 hamburger whenever I am truly hungry for them.  Even if logic seems to dictate I “shouldn’t be”.

So when I’m having a hollow leg day, I’ll shout (or sing), “Feed me Seymour!  Feed me all night long!”

Love,

The Fat Chick

 

Dieting: How Never to Feel Full Again

 

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.

Love,

The Fat Chick