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Tolerating Hunger and Cravings: Beck Day 12

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

The essential lesson today is that hunger is not an emergency, and that is because hunger is not even very uncomfortable.

Beck asks us to think about past experiences of severe discomfort (for me, day after recovery from various surgeries); moderate discomfort (toe nail removal); and mild discomfort (achiness after cross country skiing).

She then suggests that we eat a normal breakfast, skip lunch, and not eat again until dinner time. The purpose of this exercise is to track on the hour how much "discomfort" (not "hunger") we experience (severe, moderate, mild) and also how long that discomfort actually lasts.

Those of us who struggle with weight tend to think of hunger as a hugely oppressive emergency which must be alleviated immediately. But in fact, she says even severe hunger constitutes only moderate discomfort and the sensation of hunger-discomfort doesn't last very long whether we eat or not.

Yesterday's monitoring of hunger, desire and cravings was very interesting. I was hungry only at one point, 11 a.m., and told myself that it was just an hour until lunch. I did not experience any desire to eat or any cravings all day (maybe because I'd organized my environment and hidden the peanut butter!! DH and son are being very very kind about putting it back out of sight after they use it!!).

Got to the gym this morning for full cardio and upper body weights workout: I'm feeling great. Had a high protein breakfast of omelette with 2 Omega eggs, arugula, lean turkey, salsa plus fat free sugar free yogourt and blackberries, blueberries, strawberries. A lot of satisfaction, I'm hoping, since it's going to last me until supper time. Not taking any lunch salads with me today !

Beck is providing an excellent training in learning how to think differently. Much like when I returned to school and had to learn to think "law", I'm finding my mind running in different grooves.

Hunger is not an emergency!! It's not even severe discomfort! I've experienced much more hunger than is likely to arise on missing one lunch: and I've experienced much more discomfort.

One thing that Beck does not fully consider here -- psychic discomfort. I believe this chapter could have been strengthened had she taken that into consideration. Because for most of us struggling with weight loss/weight loss maintenance, it's the "psychic discomfort" (not the physical discomfort) which does us in. However, having read ahead, I'm thinking she tackles this component with her cognitive strategies for dealing with sabotaging thoughts: one hurdle at a time!!

My other thought: a week of practising some of the key skills (sitting down while eating, tolerating hunger) before moving on might be even better. But of course I can do that, if I choose to: and depending on how things go today, I just may slow down and repeat. Sabotaging thoughts will also be a biggy for me!!

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

SLENDERELLA61 2/9/2011 9:07PM

    Your recognizing hunger day must have gone really well. Good for you!!

I can't wait to hear how your no-eating-day went. I found I learned so much during my day of no eating. I gained so much confidence in my ability to handle food and no food. Over a week later, I still feel changed!

I lost over 80 pounds by eating many small meals, the most satisfying foods I could find, drinking lots and lots of water and low calorie drinks, and avoiding hunger like the plague. Finding that actually I can tolerate hunger and that it does not cause me to binge was tremendously freeing.

Wishing you a continued journey of health, learning, and discovery!!

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CRYSTALJEM 2/9/2011 2:20PM

    Your breakfast sounded wonderful, and it's so nice that your family is so supportive. I've just been doing the same type of exercise I've realized. I've noticed that you are exactly right. I'm already feeling better, even though at times I feel a little hungry, I'm easily distracted. (I'm not sure exactly what that says about me on one hand!).

A friend gave me a great tip years ago when she lost an astounding amount of weight seemingly effortlessly (I know it wasn't effortless at all). She told me she kept a huge bowl of lettuce, nice crisp romaine, washed and ready in the fridge. Anytime hunger got the best of her she allowed herself to snack on the crisp leaves or stems as much as she wanted. But that was it, other than her regularly planned snacks and meals. She said it really helped, it took her mind off of the hunger and allowed herself to say "yes" to her hunger without feeling controlled by it. I've tried it and I've found it very helpful. I've noticed when I don't have a bowl prepped in the fridge, I tend to find something else to snack on.

This week I've eaten healthy meals so far and really curbed my snacking - what a difference on how I already feel (only day 3) and what my caloric intake is by comparison. If that doesn't motivate me for the rest of the week don't know what will!


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JOHAL52 2/9/2011 1:52PM

    emoticon - you are doing great!! And your breakfast sounded yummy, wish I could have joined you. Oh, yes, you are in winter. Maybe in the summer emoticon.

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PHEBESS 2/9/2011 11:24AM

    I'm glad it works for you. Really, I can't imagine it, because my body wouldn't be able to do that. Seriously.

I often wonder about people with normal metabolism and all. I have low blood sugar, and my body lets me know when it needs food, often before I'm hungry. So my indicators (cold sweat, dizzy, spacey, unable to think, even nausea) are nonexistent for most people - sort of a strange concept, when one becomes so used to those feelings.

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JHADZHIA 2/9/2011 8:50AM

    Awesome breakfast! I usually have a big breakfast, and don't even feel like eating at lunch quite often. My problem is rushing my meals and rarely sitting down to eat them slowly. Too long living alone as a bachelor. Eat and run is engraved in me lol.
I eat only out of boredom, rarely because I feel hungry..
Good luck with it.

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Hunger, Desire and Cravings: Beck Day 11

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Learning to distinguigh among hunger, desire and craving for food is going to be very important for me.

Hunger is a physical sensation in the stomach -- rumbling, emptiness -- when I have not eaten for 3 hours or more.

Desire is simply the inclination to continue eating, even though I've had a reasonable meal.

And craving is that tension and yearning for food, experienced in the mouth or throat or body, even though I might actually be "full": potato chips, I yearn for!!

OK: how do I learn how to differentiate among these sensations? Again, Beck provides a cognitive stragegy: monitor for a complete day (I should be doing this much more regularly) every hour on the hour by asking myself the question: Do I feel like eating now?

Identify the bodily sensation: is it hunger, desire or out-and-out craving? And label it accordingly.

Dieting (still not a word I like) will be easier when I learn to distinguish among hunger, desire and craving. I do not need to eat when I'm experiencing desire, or craving. And even hunger is not an emergency!! I can wait it out until it's time to eat.

I will be monitoring today. Right now, I've just had my breakfast of oatmeal, flax, raisins, 1% milk and I do not feel like eating now. I am pleasantly full! And have my salad with low fat feta cheese and my chopped fruit ready for my lunch, my pot of chili soup in the fridge ready for dinner (with yogourt and berries).

Here goes Day 11 -- together with sitting down while eating, this is right at the heart of the cognitive training for me.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

CMB2048 2/8/2011 5:18PM

    Yep, I'm a "desire" gal. Wish it weren't true but one of my problems is I love to eat and eat when I am not hungry. I do get cravings though at times, especially for peanut butter!

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JHADZHIA 2/8/2011 9:57AM

    Great summary! This is the biggest challenge most people face on a healthy lifestyle especially all the temptations out there. Craving is my problem, which is why I must make sure nothing tempting comes into my house..
Good luck with it!! Your meals sound great for the day :)

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SLENDERELLA61 2/8/2011 8:57AM

    You are doing great!! You have summarized the chapter perfectly and are on track to learn this important lesson. Good for you!!

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SERENE_ME 2/8/2011 8:25AM

    I knew you'd write about this! My issue is almost totally with desire - hunger I take care of regularly and cravings have pretty much disappeared over time but the DESIRE - that's the one I have to really watch out for!!

Thanks for this!

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AUNTB63 2/8/2011 7:59AM

    Best of luck to you on this journey of a healthier lifestyle. You seem to have a plan that with a little practice will put you on the right track. You've put thought into what your actions are going to be..........well done. Have a great day. emoticon

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Set Achievable Goals: Beck Day 10

Monday, February 07, 2011

This is relatively simple but important: rather than focusing on losing 50 pounds or the 80 pounds I once needed to lose, Beck recommends that we set a weight loss goal of not more than 5 pounds at a time. She advises that we reward ourselves for each 5 pounds lost, and then set a new goal. And with respect to pace of weight loss, she stresses that average weight loss of .5 pounds a week is realistic: expecting weight loss of 1-2 pounds per week sets us up for failure and discouragement. And quitting altogether.

I can do this. I'm within 5 pounds of maintenance range at any rate -- what I want to do is level out the maintenance. My goal is to learn to think like a thin person.

Not a good start this morning -- had set my alarm to go to the gym, turned it off and went back to sleep!! I'm going to go for a walk at lunch time instead: Beck stresses that even 5 minutes of exercise is worth doing. I'd probably overdone the cross-country skiing on the weekend and persuaded myself that my achy body needed more sleep.

Oh well. I'll still get my three gym trips in this week.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

TBANMAN 2/8/2011 6:24PM

    Funny that I read this today. I set a 5 pound goal for last month and made it, and another 5 pound goal for this month. But I know, as I get closer to my final goal weight, it will get harder and harder to squeeze weight off these bones. I absolutely must not think I can continue to lose 1-2 pounds per week when I have less than 10 overall to go.

Thanks for the reminder.

I also would like to think like a thin person - because I am one now. Mostly I believe I'm still a fat person in a thin person costume.

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SLENDERELLA61 2/7/2011 8:20PM

    How was your walk? Seems like a great back up plan to me. I'm sure you will make the gym three times this week. Taking 5 pounds at a time makes sense for everyone, and obviously for you!!

I know I'm anxious to get to my goal weight - I was there for a day and then fluctuated up. Or maybe getting there was fluctuating down. Anyway, I know it is hard to wait. I really want to get to that part of the journey where I learn exactly what to eat so that I STAY very close to my happy weight and give up "fluctuations" due to eating and learn to deal with the honest fluctuations due to biological processes. We'll get there!!

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FRACTALMYTH 2/7/2011 1:52PM

    lol... that 5 mins of exercise is good news :P yesterday was funny - in a way - first I went out hoping to run, but my knee didn't cooperate so I walked for 15 minutes... then I got on the cross trainer, planning to finish off fast... but after 15 minutes the cat who is currently caged on the verandah near the trainer needed to go potty and I couldn't ignore the smell lol... so I went inside and got out my dumbells and did some kickboxing moves for another 15 minutes, after which some yoga came on my mp3, so I did that too - another 40 minutes... woohoo for a great workout I thought... then Yeti spent the rest of the day furious with me for - among other things - indulging the luxury of what I wanted to do instead of getting my work done, which meant that he and the kids had to keep quiet and out of the way all day while I worked (well, I had expected them to be going out, but even so there was SOME justification to his complaint...) LOL still felt good about the exercise... bit I probably didn't need to spend that other few hours reading blogs... speaking of which... must go. Yay you - 0.5 a week is SO achievable :D

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JOHAL52 2/7/2011 12:31PM

    Wow, 5 pounds to go! That is fantastic! The cross country skiing burned mega calories so I wouldn't feel TOO guilty about missing the gym. But 30 minutes of light exercise, like walking, is a great alternative.

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JHADZHIA 2/7/2011 11:14AM

    When you are close to goal weight it is harder to lose weight. You actually have to work harder because you are in better shape from your journey so far and so burn fewer calories. I really like this 5 lb goal, I think its fabulous!
You probably did need a rest from your cross country skiing when you are not used to it, it is a great work out!
You are doing fine, keep up the momentum!!

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CRYSTALJEM 2/7/2011 11:11AM

    Don't look at this morning as a set back, but rather as an opportunity to mix up your routine. Hope you enjoy your noon time walk. I have such a hard time being motivated in the winter to go out and do things unless it's cross country skiing and I haven't even done that yet this year. -29C here this morning...
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Get Moving: Day 9

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Not much to say about this really: I know it's important to exercise, it's something I have done consistently my whole life (been a member at my gym since 1975!!, before that at univ gym, before that worked as lifeguard/swim instructor). Yes there have been periods when health issues made it impossible to work out, but I don't panic: I know I love to exercise, I know I will get back to it. At various points in my life depending upon other responsibilities I've scheduled exercise for before work (current time slot, preferred time slot, one that has worked best for me over the years); lunch time (when commuting); after work (put gym bag on the front seat in the car, go directly from work!!); after supper (least fave, hate going out again).

Currently I'm hitting 30 minutes x 3 cardio plus ST plus abs plus stretches every month: mixing up the gym trips with golf in summer, cross country skiing (newly discovered passon) this winter. We did 6 km yesterday on the skis (2 hours) and will be out again today: glorious!!

And I do seek out "spontaneous" exercise opportunities: parking at the far end of the lot, running up and down the stairs at home and at work, zooming around to pick up stuff off the printer, shovelling the walk midworning at work at our office building . . . . nice change of pace, actually.

So I'm giving myself credit on this one pretty much.

Here are Beck's reasons for exercising, and a couple comments:

1. helps you stick with your diet -- yup, when I see on the cross trainer just how hard it is to burn 100 calories, I am sooo much less likely to stuff 100 extra calories into my mouth (all it takes to gain 10 pounds a year)
2. might help control appetite -- for me not so much: I just have to tolerate being hungry if I want to be slim
3. boosts mood and soothes stress -- BIG time, more important for me than any other reason for exercising
4. burns calories -- sure does, just not enough: I can never exercise enough to eat as much as I want
5. preserves muscle tissue -- especially strength training, keeping those arms and shoulders still worthy of sleeveless!!
6. builds confidence -- another big factor: hard to sustain that posture of being "in control" (key for my profession) if not "in control" of my own self physically
7. makes you feel better physically-- love that feeling of moving around gracefully, conscious that I have hip bones!!
8. improves health and helps prevent disease -- so important in managing my concerns about breast cancer recurrence

So there it is: about exercise I am a true believer!! And it's been deeply embedded in my life for decades . . . a fundamental part of who I am through good times and bad times. Even when I weighed 80 pounds more, most of the time I was getting to the gym.

So the cautionary tale for me is: exercise is necessary but it's never been sufficient to achieve either weight loss or weight maintenance.

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  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

CMB2048 2/6/2011 4:35PM

    So glad to hear someone else is hungry after exercising or that it doesn't control the appetite. That never happened for me either. I remember feeling so good when I was fit. I really need to focus on this especially if I want to get the weight loss moving faster.

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JHADZHIA 2/6/2011 1:59PM

    I second this :) I have always loved exercise since my 20's, but am proof it doesn't stop weight gain. Only eating properly does that.
Keep up the great work!!

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FRACTALMYTH 2/6/2011 1:45PM

    I was so pleased to pull my sleeveless dresses out of the "do not fit" box and discover that 1 in 3 fits and the others are SO close - close enough to hang in the closet as "goal inspiration"... when I packed them away, I was pregnant for the first time, and I thought I was saving them for a daughter lol... now, thanks to exercise, I am going to wear them again - including the dress I wore to my highschool graduation, and the dress I wore while shopping for my wedding dress fabric... it's like stepping back into my favourite 'me's :P and now I must get off my backside and get outside... the sun is nearly up and Yeti is taking the boys out today so I can work. I may not be able to have it all, but I am definitely going to squeeze in as much as motherly possible! (we all know that's more than "humanly" lol)

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SLENDERELLA61 2/6/2011 10:00AM

    Fantastic blog, Ellen! Fantastic history and devotion to exercise. Keep up the great work! That cross country skiing sounds wonderful. You are so right that exercise is necessary, but not sufficient. This one you've got nailed!!

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Make Time, Put Dieting First: Beck Day 8

Saturday, February 05, 2011

To lose weight and to maintain weight loss, I have to plan my life around exercise and dieting activities. Which means I have to permit myself to put myself first.

This is huge. When I was raising young children (both of whom had early health problems) I could not do that very well. I did continue to go to the gym, but I also stress-ate.

When my son was relatively well, however, and before I returned to the work force I was running 10 km most days and volunteering as a YMCA fitness leader. I definitely regained my fitness levels and improved them significantly.

Once I went back to school and was commuting 3+ hours a day, reading on the commuter bus, rushing home to be with my two still-small children, doing more homework every night after they went to bed, often till after 12: there was no way that I could put myself first or second or third. Although during those years I did still get to the gym before class almost every day, I also went back to stress-eating. It was probably only 100 extra calories a day but that was enough to put on 10 pounds a year, for some seven years. And a little more!

But beginning in 2001 I could and (for the most part) I did put dieting further up my list of priorities, if not first. My kids were older, healthy, more self-sufficient, and the stress levels of the work I do made health care essential. That's when I peeled off the 80 pounds I'd accumulated during the school/commuting/licensing years. And maintained that 80 pound loss more or less successfully, until 2009, when I retained 20 under stress of cancer dx; but then took the 20 off again with SP within a few months. And have maintained ( but with more fluctuation than I want) since September 2009; maintained, but without learning to think like a thin person. Which is what I'm doing now!.

Today's Beck cognitive strategies require me to think about making time for:

1. At least 30 minutes exercise 3 times a week, plus daily "spontaneous" exercise.

About this I'm pretty reliable and have been for a long time. When my weeks are too busy to get to the gym at 5:30 am every day, I still do get there a couple times and then make up with more exercise (gym, cross country, skiing, golf) on the weekends). I'm good about daily spontaneous exercise too: moving around my office, going to the printer to pick up materials, running upstairs to confer in person with my assistant or partners and associates: and so on. Relatively full credit on this one!! Although I'd like to get to the gym reliably the three times a week. And have scheduled this now.

2. Continuing to work in the Beck work book.

Doing it!! Yup!! And happy about how it's going!!

3. Continuing to sit down and eat every meal and snack slowly and mindfully.

Doing it!! Yesterday I did have to attend a reception after my conference which was a "stand up": so yes, I did have a few raw veggies and 1 grilled chicken skewer standing up, and one glass of red wine. No place to sit down: important net working time; had had a very very light lunch (of the only healthful food available: namely, salad and fruit); so I made a conscious decision in advance that this was OK. Did not eat (from morning break) ANY of the muffins, croissants, danish etc. on offer: did not even look at them. Waited till I got home ("hunger is not an emergency") and at 7 pm prepared a healthful omelette with feta, arugula, tomato plus fresh fruit. Ate breakfast,, lunch and dinner sitting down, slowly, mindfully. All healthy. Tracked it all. No peanut butter, no chips, no cheddar cheese!!

So today, as Beck directs, I've filled out my "daily schedule" chart.

That means scheduling times for formal exercise (5:30 a.m. at gym); my light box, work, lunch (salad and fruit) work, supper (soup, yogourt, berries); preparing next day's lunch, Spark, Beck, reading, early to bed by 9 pm. This is in fact pretty much the schedule I do follow -- with laundry, grocery shopping, extra exercise, soup making on the weekends.

Then I filled out my priority chart -- sleep, exercise, eating, food prep, work, time with DH and son, daughter (by email) and Charlie, Beck, Spark, reading. These are all "essential" activities -- for me.

Next task was to identify "highly desirable" activities: friend time; more time with DH and kid contact; Scrabble (with my son: a fierce competitor!!), high priority personal appointments; daily house tidying of the wipe counters/check bathrooms/put stuff away type. I am lucky to have help weekly with the major cleaning.

And then I set out a few "desirable" activities: shopping, library, various appointments and errands for things like hair cuts, taking stuff for repairs and such like; cultural activities such as movies (loved "King's Speech" recently) concerts, galleries; and more major decluttering/attention to the house.

There is no TV on my schedule-- I don't watch even 3 hours a year. Don't watch videos at home ever either. But this is no particular virtue on my part. TV was simply not something introduced to me as a young child. Instead, I'm constantly reading all kinds of stuff, professional/newspapers/"literature", chick lit/junk -- yeah!! That's my addiction and chief time waster.

Doing all of this scheduling and prioritizing and then blogging about it also took time. And for me time spent complying with Beck Day 8 tasks also reinforced that dieting itself takes time.

Carrying out the Beck Day 8 tasks confirms for me that most of this scheduling and prioritizing I have in fact been doing. I am highly organized (except for household clutter: diastrous!!). So this is not a big change for me. But it helps to set out that these are my values, these are my priorities. It helps to give myself credit for doing what I need to do to diet. It's probably the reason I've been as successful with weight loss and maintaining weight loss as I have been.

But I don't want to be smug about this. Because although "maintaining" I haven't been thinking like a thin person. This planning helped me zero in on the new key cognitive strategies I require to think like a thin person: eating sitting down, focusing on my reasons for losing/maintaining weight .

And in addition, I'm vividly aware that at various times in my life when I have been heavy, I would have been seriously neglecting other responsibilities to spend more time on self care.

I am not making excuses for my younger self: but still, I didn't need to be stress eating! The time I spent at the gym wasn't very helpful when I ate more calories than I burned.

But -- having been there -- my heart goes out to the younger mums on this site. Young mums who are often so highly self-critical because they can't care for their kids in the highly attentive manner currently decreed by all the parenting "authorities" and hold down full time significant jobs and spend quality time with their spouses so they don't end up expanding the divorce statistics and keep in touch with family and friends and provide elder care as required and entertain frequently with gourmet meals and keep a house and garden beaufiful and dress fashionably (but not too expensively) and have lovely skin/hair/nails and in general look like a model. They can't do it all, have it all, be it all. Not all at once.

Neither could I or did I when in the throes of babies and career building.

Sequentially. We can do it all, have it all, be it all, maybe. But not all at once. Maybe only sequentially.

Here's to a long, healthy life: and time to experience all of the great challenges and deeply human experiences life has on offer. Sequentially.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

GOOSIEMOON 2/14/2011 8:39AM

    Ellen - Your blog entries speak directly to me, and I want to commend you on putting yourself first in regards to your health. I too, have been an emotional eater all of my life, and your blog reminded me that I'm not alone.

Best of luck to you!

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FRACTALMYTH 2/6/2011 1:38PM

    HUGS you! I have definitely been seeing the stress eating creeping back into my life - not at the time - I tend to react to stress by not eating AT ALL - that's how I managed to weigh 53 kgs - dangerously underweight for my frame - for a large percentage of my 20s... but when things back off, when the pressure releases... that vacuum seems to just suck food in lol

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JOHAL52 2/5/2011 11:46PM

    NO way do you need to make excuses for your younger self! You set yourself an enormous task and if you had to eat to get through it all then that is completely understandable. And losing weight and then the cancer.... You are a hero!!!!

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JHADZHIA 2/5/2011 7:44PM

    Ellen, you rock! way to put your priorities in order!! No wonder you are such a success!! Keep up the great work!!

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SLENDERELLA61 2/5/2011 5:19PM

    Ellen, Absolutely profound blog. Now is the time to put yourself first. You know your values. You are well organized. It has helped you tremendously and you can tap into those skills and resources to overcome the last of your food issues.

You know I keep my child's kids while she works as a massage therapist. Her baby is 4 1/2 months. She's just 4 pounds from her pre-pregnancy weight, around BMI 23.5. However, she still looks pregnant. She had her second C section and is probably still healing. I have tried to keep the kids for her to work out but sometimes she just doesn't have the energy or desire. And this last month all three of them have been sick. Anyway, thanks for your sensitivity to young mothers and to yourself as a young mother. It is so hard to have it all, do it all.

Great job on the reception! Knowing when to bend the rules is part of the formula for success. You know.

I wondered in your description of your food if you are getting enough protein. Do you use the SP nutrition tracker?

You are doing a great and thoughtful job following this Beck book. Keep up the good work!!

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KALIGIRL 2/5/2011 4:06PM

    Love the thoughtful prioritizing.
Prefer 'healthy eating' to 'dieting', but whatever works for you!

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DREMARGRL 2/5/2011 1:47PM

    EXCELLENT!!! Ellen I enjoyed this blog more than you know. You are definitely a sparkie I would hang out with.....You RAWWWWKED THIS ONE!

"When you climb to the top of the obstacle that is blocking your view, you are able to look at your situation from a different perspective."

You do and you did!!!!!!!!
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SLENDERELLA61 2/5/2011 11:31AM

    Ellen, this looks like a great blog. I don't have time right now to read it all, but I probably will tonight. My granddaughter is on her way, so I'll be tied up for a few hours. I know you understand. -Marsha

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