He settles the childless woman in her home as a happy mother of children. —Psalm 113:9

January 12, 2009

Food & Body: Common Sense Eating

It's not online yet, but the February issue of Real Simple has a fantastic article on changing your approach to food. Of course the article breaks it down into psychology and physiology and other sciency facts, but what it all boils down to is pretty fundamental: eat anything you want, in moderation, when you're hungry, and stop eating when you're not hungry anymore.

It seems so common sense that it should earn a resounding "NO DUH!" And yet it's such a difficult concept to employ in real life. So much so that last year TLC squeezed an entire series out of the principle. My mom and aunt were fanatical about that series and preached its lessons to me constantly--and I do mean constantly. Like, every single time I spoke to either of them, and then again later in the conversation, because they're both a wee tad on the forgetful side and tend to repeat themselves. A lot. But I love them, and I digress. I listened politely and then went on my merry way ignoring every bit of it. Not because I thought the advice wouldn't work, but because I was myself (and still am, on principle if not in practice) slightly fanatical about the Zone, which has built in portion control if you do it right. It's also all about keeping your blood-sugar steady and advocates eating on a regular schedule whether you feel hungry or not. So this principle was useless to me, or so I believed.

But I'm not so much a Zone eater anymore, mainly because all that lean protein is hella expensive these days, while all those "unfavorable" grains and pastas are both affordable and delicious. And also, my husband has become quite the talented gourmet, and he doesn't want his culinary adventures to be hindered by rules about what we're allowed to eat. And also also, I'm perfectly happy to let him do all the cooking.

So suddenly, with even my fat pants feeling tight and the number on the scales creeping dangerously close to Oprah's Fail Weight, "eat when you're hungry, eat slowly, and stop eating when you're not hungry anymore" sounds like pretty good advice. And it turns out, this isn't about tricking your stomach into thinking it's not hungry anymore, as I previously suspected. It's about re-training your brain to identify and honor the signals your body gives it regarding food and hunger, an ability I'm pretty sure my brain lost before my age reached double-digits. The only thing I think these sensible eating gurus are off-base about is the idea that you keep eating to satisfy your stomach. I don't know about you, but it's my taste buds that I worry more about keeping happy. I know when I'm full. But I also know that my taste buds will be very sad if I stop putting the delicious flavor of the moment in my mouth. And my taste buds are bossy and have a lot of influence over my will to stop eating.

But I'm going to start eating this way. I already started, last night, with an incredibly tasty--and incredibly huge--enchilada de mi esposo. I ate slowly, taking the time to relish each bite, and stopping to enjoy my drink in between. When the time came to stop, my taste buds put up a mild tantrum, but the promise of getting to enjoy the rest of the enchilada later, when I felt hungry again, calmed them down pretty quickly. And today, when I ate the rest of the enchilada for lunch, they were very, very happy. I'll have to be sure to remind them about that tonight, when they start whining once the time comes to put the rest of my dinner away for later.


The Bumbles said...

I really like that magazine. And I agree with everything in their strategy except eating anything you want. I don't think it would be very effective eating nothing but fried and fatty foods every meal like I used to do. I have been following the Best Life Diet the last 2 years and lost 27 pounds in about 9 months. I do get to eat lots of treats but I also have learned to find things I like in other categories I used to avoid. Whatever you do, I have learned that diet and exercise go hand in hand - one or the other alone sadly isn't nearly as effective. That enchilada is making me hungry!

Valerie said...

It took me some time, but I have now trained myself to "save some for later". I could eat that entire Chipotle burrito or steak and baked potato at a restaurant, but it doesn't mean I have to. Letting myself fill up and saving the rest of my delicious treat for lunch the next day works for me too. Cost bonus: Every meal I order at a restaurant serves as the next day's lunch! Two meals for the price of one!

jeanjeanie said...

@The Bumbles - yeah, I definitely need to get myself back to the gym. My excuse for not going is that the lines are long in January and I'm waiting for some new running shoes I ordered to get here, but those excuses won't be valid much longer.

@Valerie - hey, gal! Haven't heard from you in a while! Man, I could EASILY keep eating something yummy long after I've reached full status, until I've cleaned my plate. Definitely not a healthy habit to have, and one I hope I can break. So far, so good...

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