From skwigg's journal:
I had an interesting conversation this week about how to reconcile intuitive/happy eating with a desire for weight loss. I'd love to hear your thoughts and experiences. On the interwebz, some people will tell you that it's impossible, that any desire for weight loss is restriction and will cause problems. That has not been my own experience. Restriction is problematic, true, but it also doesn't result in weight loss, at least not of the permanent variety, so that's not what we're going for anyway.
I know I've said this before, but if you want to weigh X pounds less, you need to eat/think/live like someone who weighs X pounds less. If you continue eating and thinking the way you are now, you will continue to weigh what you do now. It sounds obvious, but it was like a cartoon light bulb over my head when I realized it. If I were leaner, how would I approach food differently than I do now? How would my inner dialog need to change? How about my consistency? Awareness while eating? My sleep? My stress management? My food environment? You can't change all of that instantly, but you can start moving toward where you want to be with every day, meal, and decision. What do you value? If you value food peace, energy, and health, you can't sacrifice those for leanness. They need to be key parts of the process. I realized that, for me, calorie counting (off-limits foods, rules, software) would solve nothing. I'd be the same heavier (thinking, acting) person with external restriction applied. How is that ever ever going to end well? My mind is what needed to shift, not control of my eating.
What was your natural body type like? Before you'd dieted or binged? As a child? How about members of your family? Maybe you've already achieved your natural, healthy, ideal body. If so, pushing it further than that may require an unacceptable level of restriction and sacrifice. My people are built like spider monkeys, tall and thin with long limbs. That was my body type before the madness, so it's not a stretch to come back to it. It's where my body ends up when I eat to appetite and treat it with respect. That said, the main difference between now and twenty pounds heavier for me is that I'm more satisfied with less food. I eat less now than what was necessary to maintain a body twenty pounds heavier, but I don't feel deprived and my body never went into crisis mode. I feel better than I ever have! That's because it was achieved so slowly and pleasantly. It was small tweaks adding up over time. I fiddled with little things like the size of plates and bowls I used. How much meat I put on a sandwich. For visual abundance, I ate cereal out of an overloaded small bowl instead of a giant half-empty bowl. I still eat pizza regularly, but I switched to thin crust veggie pizza most of the time instead of deep dish meat. I packed my work food instead of eating out. I parked far away and took the stairs. :-) Basically, I embraced all of those teeny changes that I'd deemed stupid anytime an expert suggested them. They seem so pointless and insignificant, but taken together and repeated hundreds of times over years, the collective difference is HUGE. It's like floaty little snowflakes getting together to become a roaring avalanche.
My appetite changed along with my habits. I never ignored hunger. Like Georgie says, people who ignore hunger tend to also ignore fullness. But I did (and do) feel hunger clearly now before meals, and I go to sleep feeling light and empty. At the higher weight, the signals were more muddled and I spent more time feeling full, especially at night. Even though I was more full on more food, I was less satisfied. I didn't enjoy my food as much as I do now. I tended to eat faster with more distractions. I served myself more autopilot portions at set times instead of tuning into what I really wanted and how I was actually feeling. So, basically it was a lot of small changes adding up over time. And also lining up my behaviors with my intentions. If I intend to get a little leaner, happier, and more in tune with what my body is telling me, I need to eat like that's my intention today. Baby steps though. Not just slashing a third of my food intake.
Any thoughts? Questions? Frustrations?
From skwigg's journal:
When I started eating to appetite and eating without so many distractions, I realized that downing a whole pizza and half a pint of ice cream in one shot, or having a big piece of cake with three meals a day, or eating a whole bowl of M&Ms didn't actually feel so hot digestively. Who knew?! With my previous reverse engineering approach, I would just eat the portions I always (autopilot) ate and then wait until I got hungry again, sometimes 7-10 hours later after a big weird meal, but I wasn't paying much attention to my fullness in the moment. Once I became sensitive to that, I realized that I was more satisfied and felt better physically with smaller portions. Save some of the pizza for later, have a few spoonfuls of the ice cream, a handful of M&Ms, half the brownie. Fully recognizing that I could eat more in five minutes if I wanted made it easier to stop eating. It knocked some portions way down from when I was absolutely going to go hours between meals and not snack. So, lately I eat tasty treats at more meals, but find that I'm happier with a few bites. I also snack more. If I get hungry, I'm eating. Like if it's a couple hours until lunch and my stomach growls, I'll go eat a peanut butter sandwich, or a piece of cheese, or some deli turkey right then instead of just noticing that I got hungry and making the previous meal bigger if I have it again in the future.
It's funny to me that I'm still making discoveries and changing things about my eating. Surely I should have had it all figured out about five years ago. I'm realizing that it really is an ongoing (like forever) process and there will always be discoveries and adjustments, especially as life, activities, and priorities change.
From skwigg's journal:
Formal exercise is sort of like lingering hunger. :-) Just the word "formal" gives it all these unhelpful connotations: intense, calorie burning, rigid, disciplined, scheduled, important, necessary, virtuous.
Might I suggest some informal, goofy, sporadic exercise? Only what you love, only when it feels good. If playtime makes you a little hungrier, you eat a bit sooner and more. If it makes you tired, you notice that it was too much and rest up until you feel bouncy again. If it makes you feel happy and energized, improves your sleep, and produces a gentle and clear appetite, you know you're onto something good.
I quit the gym ten years ago and never went back. I quit following x-week programs with diets and transformation contests. I quit even following a basic workout schedule. I really enjoy short 5-15 minute ZGYM workouts, but what I do on any given day depends on how I feel, how I slept, and what sounds fun that day. I consider my fitness activity play, which rules out any not-fun pursuits. It allows for doing one handstand or a couple of stretches and considering that my "workout." I also recognize that activities like grocery shopping, cleaning house, chasing the puppy, and yard work are no less real and beneficial. They may also cause me to feel tired or need more food. There's often no need to stack a "formal" workout on top of them.
That's all to say that I had to totally rethink exercise. My previous take on it was every bit as destructive as my diet thinking.
From skwigg's journal:
Eating less to lose weight and then at some point adding more food to maintain always caused me to regain all the weight. It looks good on paper, but in real life I never could get that to work.
I've described what did work for me as eating at maintenance for the new weight. So, you ease into eating in a way that makes you feel happy and proud, a way that's satisfying and sustainable, and you just keep doing it. Of course you're going to make minor adjustments as you figure things out, but once you experience all the positives, you want to keep eating that way.
I did play a little bit with the Lean Habits idea of adjusting how long you're experiencing hunger. If you experience gentle physical hunger in the 30-60 minutes before meals, that's likely a deficit. That was too big of a deficit for me. I had to knock it back to "get hungry, eat" or I would have lost too much weight. But playing with hunger timing is one way to discover what feels best and is sustainable, as is the intuitive eating hunger scale, which I'd raged against! LOL But with fresh, calm eyes on this last read of the IE workbook, it actually made a whole lot of sense, not as a weight loss tool, which it was never meant to be, but as an awareness tool. That's how I learned to feel levels of fullness while I was still eating, something I didn't even think was possible. It wasn't difficult though, just a skill that I'd never learned. It got a lot better with practice.
From skwigg's journal:
I guess where I struggle here, is I cant fathom how weight loss could happen without some hunger.
I couldn't. When I was never hungry, I was either gaining weight or maintaining a higher weight.
However, any amount of lingering hunger seems to equal wire-y/no sleep for me.
"Lingering" is the key word there. Lingering hunger is to be avoided. I can't walk around hungry for hours, or only somewhat satisfied after meals, or go to bed hungry at night, and have that somehow become a "lifestyle." So, lingering hunger is problematic, and never feeling hunger at all is problematic. Luckily, it's not a choice between those. In the middle, there's a sweet spot where I could feel some gentle physical hunger, eat a satisfying amount of food at that time, and then not get hungry or think about food again for hours. Repeat, repeat, repeat. This never caused me fatigue, anxiety, insomnia, all the fallout from getting too hungry. It actually caused me to enjoy my meals a lot more. Food is so delicious when you're hungry for it, and when you honor that hunger by eating.
How is it possible to comfortably, and accurately listen to one's body, and also be in a deficit. If it is because the deficit is so small, then how do we stay so on point all the time, to make it consistent enough to produce any kind of result?
For me, a deficit (and now maintaining a leaner body) was possible due to being clearly hungry for my meals. I knew I wasn't overshooting my needs because I was always beginning to get hungry again as the next meal rolled around. That doesn't happen when I'm overeating, and it doesn't happen when I'm chronically hungry and walking around underfed all day. It's a clear "get hungry, eat, totally satisfied" pattern that only happens when I'm pretty much nailing my "natural body type" energy needs. If I'm not there yet, it takes me there. If I am there, it maintains it.
Intuitive eating seems awesome for maintenance. In fact, I have been maintaining beautifully for the past year, eating lots of what I want with no exercise. It's just hard for me to imagine it leading to weight loss...
There's no difference between the way I ate to lose and the way I eat to maintain. I learned to eat in a way that feels great, and I just keep doing it. Restriction and overindulgence never felt great. That's how I recognize when I've veered into them. I notice it ('cause it happens) and come back to the middle path over and over again. Repeating that process for months and years took me to a very good place. It was also a learning process with plenty of adjustments. I wanted to feel better and enjoy my food more, so it's not static.
The sweet spot of eating enough to feel healthy- so I can sleep well, feel energized, and calm- but less than maintenance- seems so tricky. That's why sometimes I think numbers can be useful. You have a consistent barometer that keeps you at that place more consistently.
I never found input/output numbers to be the least bit helpful. Calorie math is flat wrong in every instance for me. It was a distraction that kept me from both happiness and results. When I lost the majority of my weight, I was weighing myself regularly though. That may be a spectacularly dumb and counterproductive idea for some people (just like calorie math was dumb and counterproductive for me), but I found it reassuring that I could eat so much and maintain my weight or see it creep down slightly over time. I got used to all the normal fluctuations and kept an eye on the general trend. That's how I knew that my feel-good way of eating was headed in a good direction.
It's an important to avoid both "from now on" and "the way it's always been" thinking. Things change. We change. Definitely our food, activity, and mindset change as life unfolds, and so will our weight. So, it's never a case of this is the way I eat, this is what I weigh, and I'm just stuck here forever. When you eat enough, you sleep better and have more energy, you move more, you find you can eat plenty and still lose or maintain. Your appetite shifts to meet your needs. That's maybe the most exciting part of it, and something that always hosed me with my own lame calorie math. It doesn't adjust for your needs as quickly and accurately as your own body can. Right now, I know that if I decide to train for a triathlon, or I break my leg and can't walk for weeks, my appetite will shift accordingly and I'll be totally satisfied with very different amounts of food. That's amazing to me!
It's hard to explain, but when I was heavier, it's because I was less in tune with what my body was telling me. I ignored it and second guessed it a lot. Letting it take the lead on appetite/sleep/activity yielded far better results than any of my own attempts to control and manage all the variables.
From skwigg's journal:
Any approach that damages your health and wellbeing, it's not the way to go. In my case, eating and thinking more in line with my values, improved my health, wellbeing, and body comp. At the higher weight, I was not prioritizing sleep and workout recovery. I was using food for stress management. I was not generally hungry when I ate and was frequently too full when I stopped. I ate quickly. I ate with distractions. I ate whatever I'd served myself or been served, even if the portion was going to leave me semi-stuffed, especially if it was "allowed" food like veggies, brown rice, lean protein, or weird sugar-free dessert. I exercised until I was exhausted. I frequently allowed myself to get WAY too hungry. I scheduled my "treats" only for certain days or times unless I'd gone off the rails completely, which happened regularly. I hadn't yet learned that if your way of eating is enjoyable, you won't feel like you need a break from it. I lived for reasons to take a break. If I was on vacation, sick, injured, had company, work was crazy, the weather was bad...break time! Better eat it all now before getting back on the track/horse/wagon.
Let's just say that there was a lot to work on foodwise, and the issues were clingy. I spent years gradually unraveling those ways of thinking. I still am to a degree, because diet mentality is sneaky as well as clingy. I would not say that the "leaner, happier me" mindset was just more diet thinking, reducing my food intake regardless of what it did to me. My intention was to feel better mentally and physically, more at peace, more fully myself. Starving all day and eating thirty-thousand M&Ms at night wasn't feeling so good. Then as I got further along with my happy eating, I discovered other things didn't feel good, like too much veggie volume, unnecessary protein, too little fat, not being hungry for my meals, or getting too hungry before meals. Like the Lean Habit of waiting 30-60 minutes to eat after the first signs of hunger. That was not meant for me. If I'm that hungry I'm not eating enough. I get hungry and then eat as soon as it's convenient to do so, but that habit may be perfect for someone else. We're all so different.
Satisfaction comes first. Satisfaction is everything. Less food happens as a result of greater satisfaction. You don't just reduce your food intake and wander around hungry, hoping you'll get used to it. That's a repeat of everything that's wrong with dieting. You want each adjustment you make to be more rewarding and satisfying than whatever you were doing before. If you try something and it's not, don't keep doing it. Try something else. One example for me was eating desserts and chocolate more often, deliberately "messing things up" on a regular basis. Because when I eat a perfectly Paleo meal plus potato chips, or a nice salad with cookies, I'm not going to experience any weird urges to overeat potato chips or cookies when they're available, to "indulge" in "off-limits" foods. Everything is an option every time I eat. I really focused on an abundance mindset above all else. Paying attention to what I was eating, appreciating it, savoring it, serving it in an appealing way, reminding myself that I could have more any time. This makes what you already eat really register. I could eat a whole lot more food, absentmindedly while watching television, but register less fullness and satisfaction than with a smaller meal that was savored and exactly what I wanted. That kind of thing.
It's emphasizing behaviors that feel better, improve health, and are intrinsically rewarding, not in the conquer and control way that restriction makes you feel all-powerful, but in ways that make you feel better right away. You sleep better tonight. You enjoy your breakfast more. You have more energy. In my case, those also resulted in weight loss. Slooooooow weight loss. That "feel good" aspect might not be the case for everyone! It's so important to acknowledge that, like sunshine says. If a reduction in food intake makes you feel worse, or if even entertaining the idea of weight loss makes you feel anxious or resistant, respect that. Your body and mind are telling you. Not everyone has weight to lose. Some people need to increase their food intake and consistently eat enough for a long time, and THAT is what feels better, improves health, and is intrinsically rewarding. We're all very different.
I had another thought about abundance. I still love pizza and ice cream for breakfast. I may get two trays of food for myself when I eat out, or eat my food and then finish my husbands, or have cake for lunch, or nachos for dinner. More food now means I'm less hungry later, but it doesn't mean that I overeat in general. A casual observer might see me ordering the lumberjack breakfast and assume I'm a freak of nature, but they don't see my overall food intake, the consistency, the generally nutritious choices. I can do anything occasionally, and I love that! That's how I envision "leaner me," with pie. :-) My idea of a "naturally thin" person is someone who can eat whatever they want. So, I don't walk around looking for ways to eradicate treats, or to progressively reduce all portions of everything. I really key into my appetite and do what I want most of the time. I love nutritious whole foods, and I love cheese fries, so I make room for both.