Thursday, 7 July 2011

Practice What I Preach

Last week I touched on the subject of portion sizes, and specifically, my portions sizes, and the fact that they were getting too big.

Way back at the beginning of 2009 when I started this whole challenge (oh my good God, was it really that long ago now???), I started out with Weightwatchers.  I joined up, girded my loins, and braced myself for the starvation and restriction that was bound to follow.

For the first couple of days it was weird, because I realised how much I'd been eating and how it all added up when you looked at it all together.  Yep, there was much cursing, and thinking and adding up and looking up over the first couple of days, but as started to adjust my thinking what surprised me the most wasn't how much I got to eat, but how little I actually needed to be satisfied.

When I could differentiate between my physical hunger and my emotional cravings, I discovered that I really didn't need that much at all to keep myself full and topped up with energy.  Of course, it helped when I ate good food too - proper well-though meals full of healthy, natural ingredients - but overall, I could eat relatively normally and still lose weight and stay content.

The problem I have now is not quite the same one I started with in 2009, but it's not totally different either.  Before I started WW's I ate too much in both volume and nutritional terms (fat, calories, etc).  After 2+ years on plan, I generally eat more-or-less within the perameters of my daily allowances nutritionally speaking, but I think I'm cheating myeslf on the volume of food I think I need.

It's been a gradual back-slide on this front.  Over the years, the types of food I normally eat has changed - I'm far more focused on healthy veg and lean proteins, and have toned down the accompanying carbs to portion-controlled sizes these days.  Because veg are free, I use these to fill my plate up, guilt-free.  But as discussed before on here, I have a major problem with my eyes being bigger than my stomach.  I pretty much always have had, apart from the period in 2009 when I was losing steadily.

I can eat super-clean, but I'm effectively still feeding myself too much and telling myself it's ok.  I suspect this is a large part of why my weightloss has largely stalled over the last 18 months or so, because I have effectively not addressed the root cause of my problem.  I'm eating too much.  On a physical level, I haven't tutored my body to know how much food it actually needs, so it continues to think it needs more than it does.  This means that when I am eating super-clean I can lose a bit of weight (but not as quickly as I used to back in '09), but the minute I fall off that super-clean-eating wagon it all goes awry, because I still want to eat too much food in volume, but now it's bad stuff.

I've been pondering for a while now, why it is that I used to manage to have a weekend away, eat the wrong things and still scrape a weight loss, and this is the answer:  I watched my portion sizes and got used to eating what I needed, so even when I ate the wrong stuff, I only ate what I needed.  BIG DIFFERNCE.  I also drank less, which is something I've already addressed in recent weeks.

So - time to practice what I preach.  To get this sorted, and improve myself, I need to listen to my hunger.  I wrote about this a couple of days ago, and I've actually been trying to do it too, with some success.  It's going to be a long battle because I'm so schooled to not doing it, but I reckon I can get back to the happy zone, now I've worked out where the problem lies.

Simple rules:

  • Eat when I'm hungry - if I'm not hungry, stop eating.  A tough one to master, but easy to start in small steps.  I might not be at the stage yet where I can stop before my plate is empty, but there are plenty of simple measures for instance - don't eat extra fruit with breakfast if I don't need it.  Don't eat my fruit salad mid-morning if I don't need it yet.
  • Eat when I'm hungry - if it's not a regular mealtime, or a time when I habitually eat, eat anyway.  There's no point beating myself up because I'm eating between meals if I'm actually hungry.  I was hungry when I got to work this morning so I had a bacon roll.  Then I wasn't hungry.  Simple.  So I didn't eat anything else.
  • Eat what I need - not what I think I need.  This is about my lunch and dinner portions.  I'm experimenting this week with slowly reducing them and seeing where the balance lies.  I've reduced my lunchtime sandwich which I have with soup, to a small lunchtime roll instead.  Last night, I decided to split my tea around running club, so I just had a small portion of stuffed pasta when I got home, thinking I could do some veg when I got hungry later.  I didn't get hungry.  I was completely satisfied.
  • Eat a small portion.  Stop.  Wait.  Have more if I need it.  Self-explanatory really - when I'm hungry, especially when I'm really hungry, I eat too much.  I need to take advantage of the knowledge that it takes 20 mins for your mind to register the signals from your stomach that it's full.  It's effectively what happened last night with the pasta.  I didn't feel completely full when I finished it.  But I did later.  Better to do something much smaller than I think I need, and say I can have more later if I need it.
  • Stop filling my entire plate with heaps of veg - yes, veg are lovely, and wonderful and free on WW's, but that's not an excuse to abuse it.
  • Keep treats as treats - a treat should be something I only have once in a while - that's why it's so decadently lovely.  Therefore delaying the gratification will make it taste sweeter. 

That's probably enough to be getting on with.   Any thoughts?  Anything to add?


Linz M said...

I'd say you've pretty much got it covered there! I am also guilty of piling my plate high with Veg because it's free, I think I can learn a lot from you!

I really struggle with the hunger thing, I really don't think I can tell the difference between my physical hunger and emotional cravings. I am saying I am famished today, but perhaps I am not at all... perhaps I just need to have a packet of crisps and be done with - because no amount of fruit will satisfy me, if it's the crisps I want.

Anyway, I am rambling now. I think you'll most definitely succeed, I mean you've done brilliantly already anyway x

claire said...

I must say i disagree about the veg. I do slimming world and one of their guiding principals is that you have a third of your plate at least of fruit or veg at every meal. It helps reduce portion size of the rest of the stuff and keeps you fuller for longer. There is nothing at all in veg or fruit that is going to harm your weight loss - in fact, it's just the sort of stuff you should having delicous large portions of. Large portions aren't the enemy of dieting success. Being hungry is. Slimming World also says 'never be hungry' - because if you get hungry by not eating enough of the right things then you fall of the wagon and eat the wrong things. You shouldn't feel deprived, and decent portions of things like fruit and veg are one way to achieve that. There's some logic to it I think.

starfish264 said...

Hi Claire,

Thanks for your comment, and as it happens I absolutely agree with you on most of it: veg is awesome (and fruit too, although higher in sugars), and is a fantastic way to bulk out meals and keep portion sizes of the other stuff down, as well as being a marvellous source of all the good stuff we need to stay healthy. It's absolutely my go-to food when I'm hungry, and to be honest, most of my meals are probably 50% - 70% veg. However, I think maybe I didn't explain myself well in my post - the point I was trying to get across was that I've been abusing the veg as a means of increasing my portion sizes *way* past what I need or should be trying to eat. To the point where I'm painfully full - almost to the point where I'm binge eating, even though it's veg.

I totally agree that we should never go hungry, or deny ourselves enough food to feel satisfied - the recipe of disaster and binging that way lies. What I am trying to do though is consciously consider whether I'm physically hungry, or looking at food, even healthy food, as a substitute or blanket for some emotion I'm feeling. And it's the physical hunger that surprised me in how little I needed - but that "little" basically constitutes a normal portion for anyone else - not some teeny-tiny dieters "portion".

Never fear - no danger of me starving to death :o)