Sunday, December 26, 2010

Running Off the Carrot Cake? There’s Gotta Be a Better Way.

Okay, Plain Jane, your question was a great one (in the comments section of Recovering from Holiday Slips: Practical Strategies for Moving On), and deserves more that a one line response.

Plain Jane said...

 But, if we do eat more than we would normally, is it okay to exercise more to compensate? Isn't this a sensible way of preventing weight gain at these times? I'm struggling to understand how to just sit calmly by when I feel full and think 'oh it's okay, I won't gain any weight' (you have talked before about how many extra calories are needed for weight gain, but that doesn't seem to hold true for me. It seems anything I eat without exercising causes weight gain).

I bet this thought has crossed many a reader’s minds. And having just had my comment be the focus of another blogger’s post (see ED Bites), I thought I’d do the same. So here goes.

No, I don't recommend increasing your activity to compensate. This can easily spiral into compulsive exercise habits. You know the pattern—overeat, over-exercise, get too hungry, overeat, over-exercise—with a bit of restrictive eating thrown in. With increased activity, you'll find yourself hungrier sometime after exercising (generally after 40 or 45 minutes after exercising). But you're likely to not trust your self, not believing that listening to that hunger is okay (because you're still focused on the fact that you already ate too much).

So how do you manage to regulate weight, then? By listening to your fullness. Okay, true personal insights, from today.

I baked a cake, a delectable carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, in honor of my husband’s birthday. Let’s be honest. I wanted some delicious cake to eat, too. The birthday was just a convenient excuse. But more about the cake later. I had a hefty slice, I might admit, certainly more than I needed. And it was good. But a mere 1 ½ hours later we were expected at our friends’ home for dinner. And so we went. And we ate the traditional Christmas meal of Jews around the world—Chinese food. And then they served desserts, to celebrate my husband’s birthday.

I was minimally hungry by the time dinner was served, so what happened? I ate less than I would have normally. It’s not that I was calculating my intake, but merely acknowledging the feeling of my jean’s waistband. (And these were my very comfortable jeans!) And when dessert was served, quite frankly, I had absolutely no interest. I was full, and I knew it. And I knew that ¾ of the carrot cake remained at home. And I knew that if I should get hungry later, and should choose to satisfy that hunger with cake, that was an option. See where I’m going with this? 
If you eat more than you need, and you are listening to your fullness, you’re likely to make up for the excess simply based on how you feel. You’ll find your self less hungry, and if you are listening to your body and it’s signals you’ll eat less later. Hard to believe, but it really works. That is, unless you allow destructive thinking and negative self-talk to take over, sabotaging your recovery.

No, I won’t double up on the spin classes tomorrow. But I won’t leave the cake wrapped in plastic wrap on the kitchen counter either! I’m still feeling a bit full, but the feeling is passing. As I knew it would. As you know it does.

One more thing to address is the weighing. If you’re weighing yourself regularly, frequently, compulsively, in all likelihood you are not measuring changes in body mass. Rather, you’re seeing fluctuations in hydration, or other influences such as bowel changes. Perhaps the worst thing to do when you are struggling with feeling uneasy about how much you’ve eaten is to weigh yourself.
Remember—reassure your self that the fullness passes, that a large meal or snack has an insignificant, not-even-measurable impact on your weight. Don’t let your thoughts mislead you! Try to trust this process. It really does work, if you allow it to!

Here’s an offer for official “Followers”

  • Send in a question or topic you’d like to have addressed. Once a month I will select one to blog about.
  • Email me for the cake recipe! It was modified (as is my norm) from 3 different versions to a delicious recipe, healthier, though still requiring attention to portions!
  • Not a Follower yet? Shy? Sign up with a made-up name/identity. Rather liberating! It’s a way of thanking me for free information, and letting me know you care!
  • By the way, for the past 7 months I have sent out email welcome notes, after followers joined. I just found out that none have been received. So welcome, followers, and thank you all for reading, commenting, and sharing the blog with others! I do hope to figure out this little glitch soon!


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  2. I hear this idea about listening to your body a lot and seeing how you feel, but it is frustrating because I am told I am not yet in that stage of recovery yet. I know my RD is correct (because she always seems to be), but it is pretty awful to eat when I am not at all hungry. I just started to get my hunger signals back (after 2 years), and it is hard for me to understand why I am told that I cannot always trust that yet.
    The one thing you did say that I immediately found myself tensing at - was the comment about the jeans. Unfortunately, I cannot trust that either. My mind can make my jeans incredibly tight in a matter of minutes without even eating anything. It is hard to try and convince myself that it is not true because it certainly feels like it is.

    Anyway - thanks for writing this blog. I read often, but haven't even started to follow you until today.
    Someday I hope to be able to trust my body in that ways that you talk about.

  3. Thanks for coming out, so to speak! I think you'll find you're not alone in your place in the recovery spectrum; similar comments were made on previous posts regarding hunger and fullness.
    You, and your RD, are correct, as you so wisely acknowledge. When you've gone through a period of denying your signals, it takes some time for normal signals to resume, and for you to learn to listen and trust them.
    In addition, there's lots of interference that may stand in your way, such as your thoughts (as you mentioned re the jeans fit), fluid loading, high volume foods, medications, stress and anxiety, to name a few.

    We need to try to appreciate the positive shifting that we are making, in terms of self awareness of our signals. It does take time. Good that you are reading to try to reinforce, what I suspect you know in your heart to be true.

    And thanks so much for following!!!

  4. Thanks for addressing this question so thoroughly. It has been something I have been thinking about for a while now, and was the result (this time) of a post-xmas lunch panic. I made a deal with myself that if I didn't weigh myself at all on xmas day and I ate the food, I could over-compensate as much as I needed to later (with compulsive weighing and exercise). But when it came to doing it I could see that it wasn't 'right'. It seemed to be no better than purging.
    I am trying to anticipate anxious moments so I can better plan for how to handle them - and I knew post-xmas day was going to be one of those moments, so thanks so much for being there :-)

  5. I find weighing myself every day (once a day at the same time each day) to be very helpful in training me to what's going on in my body. My scale shows percentage of water and body fat as well so I can easily see daily variations resulting from differences in hydration, for example.

    I've gotten used to the fact that my weight can vary by whole pounds day to day but more importantly I can see trends. I tend to gain a bit on weekends when we go out to eat and I am nearer the pantry, and I tend to lose a bit during the week when I am away from those temptations. If I end up the week at the same place I started, though, I know I am on track. If not over time, I need to make some adjustments.

    This works both with weight gain as well as loss. When I first reformed my diet a few years ago, I lost weight steadily and at a certain point I thought I really shouldn't lose any more. At that point I began adding additional healthy foods into my routine until I settled down.

    The scale is a tool and I feel like it's helped me by giving me objective feedback.

  6. I don't have a simple response as to whether people should weigh themselves or not; it depends on the individual, the impact of seeing their weight and the resulting impact on behaviors. It's greatif it works for you, assuming "works" means keeping you in a healthy weight range without messing with you sanity!I've made some references to self weighing in past posts perhaps worth reading.
    Thanks for your comment! Please consider becoming a Follower! Thanks