Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Volume Eating Update

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.

Happy Eating!!

-Norm  aka John Smith

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