Saturday, July 10, 2010

Full of it.

Knowing when enough is enough.

You eat your meal and 10 or 15 minutes later you don’t feel full—but you expect to. Because you were told that you would know if you had had enough. Or maybe you were instructed by some diet plans to wait 20 minutes and then you would know. But that still doesn’t seem to do it. So how do you stop eating? Must you count calories to know when enough is enough? If you’ve read my previous posts you know calorie counting is not the answer. So how do you know?

Well it’s complicated. Fullness or feeling that you’ve truly eaten enough occurs on several levels. If you’ve had a large bottle of water, or diet soda or coffee providing zero calories, you’ve noticed that you might feel full. But that fullness is not sustained, it doesn’t last for long. You are not getting the fuel you need to get through to the next meal. Similarly, have a large bowl of lettuce or broth soup and you might feel quite full right after eating. That’s the short-term fullness that gets satisfied. But decreasing your appetite and feeling satiated involves many other processes in your body. It’s affected by the amount and the type of calories you eat and your blood sugar levels. And there are numerous chemical messengers in your digestive system and your brain that impact your sense of fullness and satisfaction with eating.

What’s the point of telling you this? To help you realize that your expectations are not realistic. If you expect to eat, feel comfortably full, and stop eating think again.  It’s not so natural.

Consider this. You get a headache, swallow two Tylenol, and your headache remains. Do you immediately pop two more Tylenol? No! Because you know there is a delay in its action, a need to wait for it to take effect, and that overdoing medication is dangerous. Now substitute food for Tylenol. Instead of expecting immediate gratification, expecting to feel satisfied immediately after putting your fork down you need to “think Tylenol”, and remind yourself that it is both ineffective and unhealthy to just keep popping more food.

So if you are trying to get better in touch with knowing your body’s fullness make the environment less tempting to prevent overeating. Don’t serve the pizza or the casserole from the table where it smells good and invites overeating. It may sound simple, but even having it served from the counter versus the table forces you to ask yourself if you really need the extra serving now. You might need it.  But it might be too soon to tell. And if you typically feel uncomfortably full after meals, try starting with 1/3 less on your plate. And be careful not to overdo the high volume, low calorie items that may be preventing you from truly feeling full.

You’ll be successful with this approach if you also give yourself permission to eat again later, let’s say an hour or so later, if you are hungry. 
But if you set rigid rules about what time or how often you’re allowed to eat you’ll be struggling.

And remember to be patient! It takes some time to relearn how to regulate your eating, to listen to your body’s signals if you’re used to simply following diet rules! 

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