Monday, April 19, 2010
When it comes to food, I think - the bigger the better! And for my whole life (which for me really starts at 4 years of age when my first real memories kick in), I have always thought that to think that way was dirty, wrong and shameful.
My mother's diets were always restriction, regimen and deprivation - and to a young child who was already suffering from a budding food addiction, having my food intake monitored and being told when to stop eating only lead to closet binging and sneaking food when my mom wasn't looking.
25 years later, I'm living on my own over 800 miles from where my parents live, and yet I still sneak food, I still closet binge, and I still feel dirty and shameful for wanting more. But who's really watching anyway? Who's really counting? Who's keeping track? And really, the biggest question - WHO CARES?
In one of the first meetings I had with my nutritionist, she brought to light this odd behaviour of mine and started asking me these questions. I couldn't answer them. For all anyone can tell from meeting me - I am completely in control of my life. I'm smart, have a good job, even have a couple of hidden talents here and there, but I freak out at the idea of feeding myself! I had a big break-though moment that day when she asked me if I felt "full" after I ate. She looked me in the eyes and asked "Have you had enough?" It's such a simple question...have you had enough? Have you had enough? I couldn't stop repeating it over and over in my head. In all my life I had never been asked those words. Tears started streaming down my face as I confessed that secret to her.
Fast forward a couple more meetings and I'm starting to develop a new language when it comes to talking to myself about food. I learned that I have to develop my internal appestat - something that I lost as a child, but something that everyone is born with. "Have you had enough?" is my new favorite question - and I find myself asking other people the same thing, validating their internal appestats as well.
The other thing that I have learned is that is is OK TO EAT! I am a self-confessed VOLUME eater. I love it when my plate is full. And I make sure I lick up every single crumb. But now, instead of feeling guilty about wanting a second helping, I have added a simple check-in with myself to determine whether I REALLY want a second helping. "Have you had enough?" If I honestly haven't, even after 2 glasses of water and waiting a few minutes, then I need to eat more.
The challenge is figuring out how to best balance your food intake to ensure that what you are eating IS enough and sustains you to the next meal. This is done by making sure that you are getting the proper balance of carbs, protein and fat. If you are always hungry, check to make sure that you're eating enough protein. Carbs are essential to your diet - they are what make you feel full, so it is natural to crave them. When you feel satisfied, it is because of your carb intake. But if your meals leave you too quickly - try eating more protein to sustain you throughout the day.
The appestat is a sensitive being. It's the part of us that wants to be loved, wants to be nurtured, gets upset or angry, or even embarrassed and needs to be fed. Mine is intrinsically linked to my emotional self and hides during times of stress. Since mine is so underdeveloped, it has taken me a long time to even know what it sounds like - and it will take more work still until its voice is louder than any of the others...but day by day I am learning how to listen to it.
And to answer those questions from earlier: I AM the only one that needs to count, care about or control anything. It's a hard thing to learn (and honestly something that I'm still working on every day).
Here are some simple food items that I have found really help to beef up a meal and keep the appestat happy and full:
- cheese strings or babybel cheese rounds (I throw a couple of strings or a round in with my lunches for an added boost of protein, milk and calcium)
- yogurt (I am NOT a yogurt person...some people love it, some people don't - I fall into the latter category. But Yoplait has the really yummy varieties and if I make myself eat one at lunch for a sweet was to finish off the meal, it keeps me satisfied a lot longer during the day)
- Trader Joes trail mix or almonds (these come pre-packaged in single serve portions, since if you're like me counting out anything from a large bag means "one for me, one for the bag." Eating nuts boosts good fat levels and protein and they hold me over for a long time)
- tall skinny latte (I work next door to a Starbucks. It is next to impossible to resist the urge all the time, so I use it to my advantage - if I'm crashing in the late afternoon and feeling hungry, a 90 calorie flavoured latte is the perfect solution - and get this - my nutritionist was the one that suggested it! A milk serving in the afternoon packs protein and calcium into your diet and since milk is a perfect balance of carbs and protein it makes you feel full (carbs) and sustains the fullness (protein) to get you through until dinner)