My Relationship With Food

I always thought I had a poorly functioning appestat.  It’s a hypothetical region of the brain that keeps you in touch with your body’s need for food.  Basically, it tells you when to stop eating.  Now, don’t feel sorry for me.  I’ve never been overweight.  Generally, I just never really would feel full.  I learned to stop eating based on social etiquette (others would stop eating, the food on my plate was gone, etc.)  People would comment, “Oh, I’m so full.”  But I would silently want more.  The few times I decided to just play into this odd feeling of not being satiated, I would start to gain weight.  And, people would comment about how I seemed to be able to eat so much!  Over time, I learned how to stop eating; not because I felt full, but rather it seemed the smart thing to do.

I got my appestat back a year ago.  I did a ten day Master Cleanse.  That means for ten days, I survived on only water with some lemon juice and maple syrup in it (and a tiny bit of cayenne pepper.)  It was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done.  Even though I rapidly lost weight, I found that I became too disconnected from the world.  Now, when you’re working on people, you don’t want to be disconnected.  By day ten (and ten pounds lighter), I had friends imploring me to stop. As I started to eat food, it tasted SO good!  I remember that first bowl of substance.  It was miso broth.  After a whole bowl, I actually started to feel full!  I couldn’t believe it!  Now, after a year of eating, I can still say that I frequently get full during or at the end of a meal.  Granted, I could easily eat just as much if not more than my husband, but I get full!

When my patient told me about a new fasting program he was doing, I didn’t even listen at first.  “I’m not fasting!  Not for me!  My body doesn’t like it!” I told myself.  After a few months of hearing him mention it, I became intrigued.  It wasn’t ten days of fasting; it was just 24 hours.  Intermittent Periodic Fasting, he called it.  I researched the concept and found out that it is promoted by Brad Pilon, author of Eat Stop Eat.  He states that fasting one to two days a week, for twenty four hours, will NOT hurt metabolism and has a host of benefits.

I now start fasting every Monday morning after breakfast.  Twenty four hours later, I eat again.  I look at it as really just two meals that I’m giving up.  I drink non-caloric beverages during fasting, which for me is just iced tea (or the occasional cup of plain Teeccino, a healthy coffee substitute.)  Sure, I get hungry during the afternoon, but I just keep myself busy. I’ve done this almost five months straight and I really like it. Weight never creeps up anymore and I have the best workouts on fasting days!

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The next level of understanding and balancing my relationship with food came this past week. In preparation for a workshop I’m about to give, I’ve been researching metabolism for about a month.  I wanted to do some “self-experiments” to understand some concepts about metabolism.  My personal trainer, Eric, suggested I write down everything I eat, as well as the calories, carbohydrates and protein content.  “Sure,” I said, “I’ll add that to my long list of things to have to do!”  But, like the good student I am, I did it!

Eric gave me some target numbers and I couldn’t believe the subtle differences in my appetite when I strayed from the numbers!  For example, I noticed the day after a lower-calorie day (especially if the total calories fell below my Resting Metabolic Rate), I had more ravenous hunger!  Days that I ate less refined carbohydrates and more vegetables, I felt more balanced.  Also, when I ate some tortilla chips (because they were there!), and some bread rolls (couldn’t resist at the restaurant!), my calories were higher and yet I felt like I needed more food.

What I learned is this: I do best when I eat consistent meals.  When I skip meals, I tend to have swings in my appetite and overall feel less satiated.  I learned that when I eat breakfast with protein (like eggs), I eat less overall that day.  I learned that eating vegetables is the easiest way for me to feel good (emotionally and physically.)

What have you learned lately about your relationship with food?  Have you been paying attention to the subtle (or not so subtle) clues your body gives you?  By listening, testing, and learning about how food affects you, you can help keep your body happy!

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