Back in February of this year (2012) I posted an article titled A License To Eat. In it I discussed that I am what Dr. McDougall describes as a volume eater. He wrote an excellent article on the subject titled How To Help The Volume Eater. I recommend reading both of those links if you want a good background on where I'm coming from.
The McDougall way of eating is not about counting calories or limiting portions. This is true for most people. Most people simply need to change what they eat, not how much. But there are some people who compulsively eat way too much food. I am one of them. Even so, I've managed to lose over 200 pounds on the McDougall Diet, while eating as much food as I want! Anyone who knows the actual volume of food I have put away in the process knows what a remarkable feat that truly is, and is a testament to Dr. McDougall's assertion that "It's The Food!"
During this time I've known I would eventually have to address this issue if I were going to get down to a normal weight. Back in February I took the first step in that process. I followed Dr. McDougall's advice to the volume eater and I broke up my large meals into smaller portions. I still ate to full satisfaction, but instead of doing it all at once I'd eat a portion, wait 20 or 30 minutes, eat some more, etc, etc. This resulted in me eating less food overall, and allowed me to continue losing weight. But the volume of food I was eating was still very large.
What brings all of this to the forefront is that recently my weight loss has noticeably decreased, to the point of being on an imminent plateau. My "official" weigh-in's are every two weeks, and I've had less and less of a weight loss to show in those two week periods, and have had two periods where I'd lost no weight at all halfway through and managed to get some in by weigh-in day by increasing my exercise. Then, a week ago Sunday, halfway between my last two weigh-in's, I found myself having gained two pounds from the prior week.
This would not do. I knew what the problem was, and I've had over a year to prepare mentally for this day. It was time to confront the volume of food that I eat. It was time to start learning to eat like a normal person. I started that very day. I started eating less food. It was not comfortable. I didn't expect it to be. But it wasn't nearly as painful as I expected. I've been at it for over a week now and I have some observations to make.
First, I have no idea what it means to be hungry. All I know is when I'm not stuffed, and I'm so used to being stuffed that every sensation associated with not being stuffed confuses me into thinking I'm hungry. For instance, even though I'm eating much less food, I feel no different in the morning. No maddening urge to eat. No sensation of starving. And when I make up my breakfast, half of what I used to eat, I eat it just fine and enjoy it just the same and when I'm finished with it all is well with the world. For about 3 minutes. Then I get this gnawing sensation that I NEED TO EAT MORE FOOD. So I go for a walk and by the time I've walked 2 miles the sensation is no longer gnawing at me. I still feel like I need to eat, but it's no longer unbearable. I graze as normal between breakfast and dinner, taking good care to limit how much I eat, and by dinner time I've worked back up to that gnawing sensation that I'm starving. Dinner is about two-thirds of what I'd normally eat, and it is uncomfortable to stop eating at that point so I again go walking, and by the time I've walked 2 miles the sensation is bearable.
I simply do not know what hunger is. I'm perfectly fine in the morning when I normally do not eat. Eating so much less food you'd think I'd wake up starving, yet I don't. I eventually feel that I should eat, just like usual, and you'd think after eating I'd no longer feel the need to eat, or at least feel less of a need. Instead, I get that gnawing urge to eat more food, and I know from decades of experience that the gnawing goes away only after I've stuffed myself full. So far the only thing that makes it go away enough to be tolerable is to go walking. Sitting around waiting for the same amount of time doesn't do it. Not sure about the why's, but I can live with it. I just go walking.
I know I can't do this forever. This is what every diet I've ever been on feels like, and we all know how unsustainable that is. But I am not on every other diet I've ever been on. I'm not eating less food to force myself to lose weight, knowing that I'll resume eating normally at some point. This time I'm doing it for a much better reason... to learn how to eat more normally. To learn what it means to be hungry. And to give my stomach a chance to shrink to a more normal size, which it already is doing. I'm feeling my stomach being full by the time I've finished my dinner, I just still have that gnawing sensation to eat more food. I believe that at some point I'll adjust and come to learn when I'm hungry and lose this compulsion to continue eating until I'm stuffed. I realize this might take considerable time, as I've been eating the way I have been for decades. I literally have to re-learn how to eat. I am taking a big step of faith in believing that I will re-learn how to eat if I stick with this, and that is enough to keep me going at it for the foreseeable future.
Results? After ten days of reduced food intake I'm down 9.5 pounds. If I continue losing weight at this rate I will have to add more food into my diet as this is faster than I want to lose weight. However, for the time being, I'm sticking with what I seem to be capable of and will see if the weight loss tapers off.
I will keep you all posted as to my progress!
-Norm aka John Smith