I feel fat and panicky: Part 3

You can develop your own plan. It takes a lot more work that reading one in a magazine or buying one from a blog. I work with my clients to develop a plan that works for each of them.

Believe it or not, you already know exactly what will work for you. It’s just been buried beneath all the ‘shoulds’ and rules and guilt. Below all those rules and restrictions, beneath all of the body hatred and lack of trust, is a quiet voice, a still small voice of calm. This voice, the one that we bury with food, the one we don’t listen to, knows things about us that we couldn’t imagine.

It’s this voice that can help develop a way out of the maze of diets and restrictions, of overeating, feeling out of control and then trying to put the lid back on our appetites.

Any way forward, if it is to be successful, needs to be three things:

  • Kind
  • Enjoyable
  • Sustainable.

It needs to feel kind to ourselves – not punitive or restrictive, but loving and compassionate. Unless it is based on this, it’s destined for failure.

Enjoyable: when we enjoy things we do them, we stick to them. Think about what you enjoy eating, the foods that you love. Write a list of all of them and try to make it as long and comprehensive as possible. Then go through the list and think of how you feel when you eat those foods. If you don’t know, or can’t remember, then try them. Have the bowl of pasta and find out whether you feel energised and great afterwards, or tired and sleepy. It might be different on different days.

Sustainable means something that we can do every day. Rather than a diet, which is short term, this needs to be a plan that can last forever.

So, work out when it suits you to eat. When do you get hungry? Is your appetite highest in the morning or later in the day?

As you focus on your preferences for food and what, when and how you like to eat, start developing a plan around that. My clients do this, so that they nourish themselves in a way that works for them. For some, that means they aren’t that fussed about breakfast, whereas others wake up starving.

Make sure you include foods that you enjoy. If you really love chocolate, then banishing it is likely to result in a binge later. Give yourself permission to enjoy it when you really want it, as part of your plan.

 

 

I feel fat and panicky: Part 2

When we feel fat and ashamed, it’s natural to want to punish ourselves. After all, we ate the food, so it must be our fault that we aren’t as slim as we’d like to be. And a diet is the perfect way to both punish ourselves (by depriving ourselves of what and how we’d like to eat) and to gain control (as we’re scared of how much we might eat if we allowed ourselves) and to lose the weight.

The reason we aren’t as slim as we’d like isn’t because we don’t have enough control. Its because we’ve been subjecting ourselves to TOO MUCH control. There are many many scientific studies that have shown that dietary restriction leads to excess eating, beyond the point of fullness, and beyond the body’s requirements.

The reason we aren’t as slim as we’d like is BECAUSE we’ve been punishing ourselves – depriving ourselves of what we’d like to eat.

We’ve stopped trusting ourselves, stopped trusting our bodies. And the media reinforces this. It tells us that we can’t know what to eat. We need diets, or nutritionists, or television programmes to tell us. No matter that for thousands of years before these existed we managed fine. These days, we’ve been told we can’t be relied on.

If we want to lose weight, we need to eat less than we have been. And if we’re eating less, I recommend that we enjoy every mouthful.

So the first thing to do is to wait until you’re hungry. This again might make you feel panicky. It isn’t about deprivation – this is about listening to when your body is ready for food.

And once those feelings of hunger start, then take some time to imagine what you might like to eat. Chicken salad? Or do you really want something hot? Ask yourself what would make you feel satisfied. Give yourself permission to choose.

Allow yourself food. Tell yourself that you can not only pick what you eat, but that you can take time to enjoy it too. And once you have decided what you’d like, ensure that you sit down, at a table, with a plate, and savour every mouthful. Stop occasionally and ask yourself whether you’ve had enough. It might be tempting to eat more than you want to, because part of you will be scared that a diet is about to start, and it won’t get any more food.

The problem with dieting (or clean eating plans, or whatever we call them), is that we cheat on them. We cheat on them because we don’t like the food, or we get hungry or bored. Or because something happens that means we can’t stick to them: a late meeting, a family dinner, or we’re too busy to do all the preparation required.

And when we cheat then the shame envelops us – it makes us feel as though we’ll never accomplish anything, if we can’t get through a day sticking to the plan.

So how about a new plan? We’ll talk about how to come up with a new plan next time.

How did the packet end up empty? Part 2

Not only is this embarrassing. It’s extraordinary. It seems that our left hand literally doesn’t know what the right hand is doing.

The first thing to do, is not to add to your woes with a large helping of guilt. These are well worn paths that you are travelling. Part of your being is just doing what it thinks you want.

David Kessler, the former head of the US government’s most powerful food agency, the FDA, talks of ‘priming’. Sometimes just one taste of a food, a single bite, is enough to trigger conditioned ‘hyper-eating’. Priming involves stimulating areas of your brain. The use of the word ‘conditioned’ means it’s already a habit. Your body recognises the primer, or taste, as the beginning of a conditioned or habituated pattern of behaviour.

The problem is that it’s hard to shut those habits off. Once primed, they stay activated and you may continue to eat until all the food is gone. That’s what the food industry knows when it tells us “Bet you can’t eat just one.”

The good news is that priming only holds power for a short time. If you eat one piece of candy and there’s a bowl of them in front of you, chances are you will keep eating more. But if no more are available or you have to search for them, the priming response may be undermined.

If you travel these paths less, or stop doing the behaviour, the priming will fade and it will stop being automatic, and you will not feel so compelled. But how to get there?

It’s easiest to stop the habit in the earliest stages. If you know there are times when you eat unconsciously, and they are usually in a certain place, or preceded by a certain thing, then try to address the first step.

What do you need to do to arrest the behaviour? To wake yourself up before your subconscious takes over?

Struggling to eat healthily on a budget?

This article in The Guardian describes a weekly shop for £20 (US$26 or AU$36) together with recipes that look delicious. In a bid to reduce food waste, and therefore help our environment, the inventive meals mean that nothing is thrown away.

There are pancakes and porridge for breakfast followed an enticing pasta dish with pesto and vegetables for lunch.

Dinner is a spectacular vegetable dish.

I love the way this looks after the planet, our wallets and our waistlines. Very few ways of eating balance all three. The Paleo and low carb diets are very hard on the environment, as eating meat is the single most detrimental thing any of us do. If you’re interested you can read more here. Supplements and shakes and pre-prepared foods are expensive.

And here is a simple way to look after all three.

Need inspiration? Check out the article.

Should I avoid carbs in the evening?

Some of us try to avoid carbohydrates in the evening, in the hope that it will help us lose weight. We’re told that we’re going to sleep soon, so anything we eat later in the day will just be stored as fat. If we want to eat carbohydrates, then we should eat them earlier, for breakfast, when we are going to burn them off.

Is this true?

The body doesn’t really work like that. If you eat more than you need on any given day, it will be stored as fat, whether it’s carbs you’ve eaten, or fat or even protein. Consume more calories than you’re burning and your body will store it. And it will store it as fat, even if you eat it all at breakfast.

Basically, your body works on physics. It’s a ‘closed system’ and the energy that goes in (food and drink) will be either stored as mass (fat or muscle) or burned as energy (either metabolic processes or exercise).

If you are training hard, are eating a set number of calories and have all of your ‘macros’ down pat (ie the proportions of fat, protein and carbs), then the timing of the carbs might make a small difference. But lets face it, very few of us are doing that.

What matters most to our bodies is calories. Clearly, a more nutrient-dense option is going to be better for our health (brown bread over white). However, if you really want carbs in the evening, then going without is probably going to lead to overeating later.

I really enjoy carbs in the evening. They help the brain release Serotonin, which is a relaxant and anti-depressant. They help me sleep. And I like a bigger meal then. It suits me and if it’s your preference too, then there is no reason not to have it.

What does suit you? Do you like carbs at night?

Should I eat breakfast? Intermittent fasting versus metabolism kick start…

I was asked this week ‘Should I eat breakfast?’

For a long while, the received wisdom has been: Breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dine like a pauper. Or as the Russian saying goes: Eat your breakfast alone, lunch with a friend but give your dinner to your enemy…

Breakfast was promised to get your metabolism going and keep you focused for the morning.

Then along came intermittent fasting, and we’re being advised to wait as long as possible before eating, ideally 16 hours after our meal the night before. By doing this, we benefit from some of the processes that kick in once our bodies haven’t eaten for a while: these processes clean out suspect cells which keeps cancer, Alzheimers and other diseases at bay.

So which is true? Are either of them?

Firstly, your metabolism will get going whether you have breakfast or not – your body needs to function, and function it will. If you’re used to having breakfast, you might need to get used to eat later, but it’ll be hunger pangs that strike you, not a metabolic catastrophe.

As to whether breakfast is a good idea or not, it seems that nothing is true for everyone. Even the most compelling studies show a distribution of results. Some things work for some people, and not for others. Our genetics, our microbiome and our environments are all so different that how these things affect us is entirely individual.

If you are ravenous when you wake up, then it would be advisable to have breakfast. Otherwise, you’ll end up in the cookie jar before the day has even started. If, on the other hand, you’re not hungry, then why would you eat? Why not wait until hunger pangs start, and if that’s not until late in the morning, and you can wait until lunch, perhaps you’re one of the people for whom intermittent fasting will work.

If you’ve had a large breakfast, you might be the type of person who isn’t so bothered about dinner, and if you will want to try fasting for 16 hours, then it might suit you better to do it at the end of the day.

There are no rules – have a try and see what suits you.

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