This last Sunday marked 4 weeks of intentionally eating less food. I continue to learn exciting and scary new things. I have not yet found the balance I seek, which is the correct volume of food to maintain my weight loss at 1% per week. I can lose weight faster than I want, or I can gain weight. I haven't found that happy balance in the middle.
The scary part is this... I can gain weight even if I eat a LOT less
food than I'm used to. I believe that a month ago, when I feared a
plateau was imminent, that it wasn't just right in front of me but I was
already there, and the set-point for my former volume of food was
280-285 pounds. Last night I weighed 265 and this morning I weighed
262, so I'm about 20 pounds under that set-point, so it makes a good bit
of sense that there'd be a difference in the amount of calories my body
needs to maintain it's current weight. But I gotta tell you... for
whatever reason, the jump in the reduction of calories I need now versus
then is a big one. My body is much more efficient even being 20 pounds
lighter. The volume of food required for me to lose weight versus the
volume of food I could lose weight on just 30 pounds ago is HUGE. I eat
about one third the volume of food I did just 30 pounds ago in order to
lose weight. If I increase that to about one half of what I used to
eat... I start gaining weight.
Yet I am not starving. Yes, my
mind tells me that I want to eat more food. It even tricks me into
thinking my body is craving more food. But I have enough evidence to
convince me that my mind is lying to me.
Right after dinner when I
know I will eat nothing else for the day my brain is screaming at me
that I'm starving to death and that I must eat food. Yet if I get up,
occupy my body and mind for a couple of hours by walking two miles then
playing with my dog, magic happens. My mind tires of it's temper
tantrum and allows me to actually hear and feel what my stomach is
telling me. Listening to my stomach is new to me so I naturally am
clumsy about interpreting what it's trying to tell me. But so far when I
reach that point in the evening, even if I've eaten enough less food to
lose weight faster than I want, my stomach is telling me that I am not
starving, that I do not need to eat more food. And at that point I am
fine for the rest of the evening! I do not obsess about food or
eating. I do not go to bed early to escape the hunger pangs (any
chronic dieters remember that futile trick? ) Nor do I wake up in the morning starving to death and terrified at the prospect of yet another day of denial.
Those two things were the hallmarks of insanity dieting throughout my
entire life. Going to bed hungry, and getting up hungry and anxious
about whether I could do it another day. As I've said before, I believe
the reason I do not have these symptoms even though I'm eating so much
less food than I'm used to is because this time, the food I am eating is
the food nature intended for me to eat and even though my mind doesn't
realize it yet, my body is in fact happy with what it's getting.
All of this, my experience over the past 2 years compared to my
experience of the past 4 weeks, has me questioning some things taken
for granted on the McDougall Forums. Namely, the whole "We tend to eat the same volume/weight
of food every day." Yes, on it's most basic level it is true. Day in
and day out we do tend to eat the same amount of food. But some of us
have so abused food over the years that the volume of food we eat is no
longer natural. Switching to a whole-foods plant-based
starch-centered diet caused me to lose over 200 pounds while eating that
same volume of food I always have, but I still reached an unnatural set point of over
280 pounds. I had hoped that as I dropped weight I would slowly
reduce my volume of food naturally. But that didn't happen. Why? I
don't know. Perhaps because it's not a natural process. That is, the
process by which I increased my volume of food over the years was not a
natural one, so why would my body be equipped with a natural process to
reverse it? No, I had to confront my volume eating head on. I had
to force myself to eat less food. I did so with faith that I could pull
it off where I've never been able to in the past. And here I am, 4
weeks into it, and I'm learning new things and experiencing new things
and am even more convinced of my ultimate success than when I started.
My case isn't normal, I admit it. Most of you haven't ballooned up to
almost 500 pounds. I think everyone can agree that the volume of food I
ate was not natural and had to be addressed.
But what about others
among you? People who never ate the volume of food I did. I see many
of you struggling with losing weight. I see many of you sticking to
the McDougall Program yet reaching a point where you're no longer losing weight.
Is it possible that like me, over the years you've increased your
natural volume of food to something a bit more than natural? Is the
solution to your problem as simple as resetting the volume of food you
eat to it's original and natural level? I believe it might be.
Could you benefit from an intentional reduction in food volume in order
to allow your body to adjust to a more natural volume of food? It is a
concept that appears to be contrary to the whole "eat until satisfied"
which is a cornerstone of the McDougall way of eating. But it doesn't take into
consideration that many of us are no longer satisfied with "natural"
amounts of food. I have been one of them, but I am in the process of
changing that. I am convinced that eventually I will find that natural
and healthy volume of food nature intended for me to eat, and that when I
do I'll be able to "eat till satisfied" like every normal human being
who eats what nature intended.
-Norm aka John Smith