Eating Like Goldilocks (Just Right)

closePlease note: This post was published over a year ago, so please be aware that its content may not be quite so accurate anymore. Also, the format of the site has changed since it was published, so please excuse any formatting issues.

This started out as a comment on Kris’ recent blog post about dieting, but grew to be so long that I decided to post it here.

In his entry, Kris talks about eating until you’re “not hungry” instead of eating until you “feel full”.

That’s a real key to eating less. We’re conditioned to think that we’re supposed feel full at the end of a meal (such as those Taco Bell ads where the guy triumphantly shouts, “I’m full!”), but really, we’re just supposed to feel =not hungry=.

When I first started counting calories, I was surprised at how little food it took to feel “not full”. Instead of eating a whole big bunch of food, I only had to eat a little bit. Instead of feeling either hungry or full, I found that, by changing how much I ate and when I ate it, I reached a point where I never felt full, but also never felt hungry.

Another change was when to eat (and how frequently). Different diets will tell you different things about the exact times (for example, The Zone says you should eat within an hour before going to bed, whereas other diets tell you not to eat within three hours of going to bed), but one thing they all agree on is the frequency. You should eat about five times a day, three meals and two snacks. It’s usually a good idea to start with carbs and move toward proteins as the day goes along. A high-carb breakfast will kick-start your metabolism and a high-protein dinner will end up with less of your food being stored as fat (depending on how lean/sugary your meat is).

My pattern is pretty well established, but if I eat a particularly large meal (say, lunch), I’m not afraid to skip my next snack. The really hard part was eating when I wasn’t hungry. If it’s snack time and I’ve had a normal meal (that is, one that I wouldn’t consider to be big, or that wasn’t high in calories), then I know I’m supposed to eat. Again, the idea is not to feel hungry or full. If you’re hungry, it’s a sign that you need to eat; if you’re full, it’s a sign that you’ve eaten too much.

I just said that, when you feel hungry, you need to eat. Be careful with this one. When I first started eating less, I found that, from time to time, I would think that I was hungry when I really wasn’t. I quickly learned to drink some water and wait. If I thought about it and I was still hungry, then okay, perhaps I really was. But most of the time, after a few minutes, the feeling went away.

Another thing to be careful with is eating too few calories. If you do, bad things can (and probably will) happen. For example, you can pass out like I did once when I didn’t eat enough (luckily Morah was home to help me. Believe me, it was scary as hell). Also, your body will start to panic and go into starvation mode. This means that you’ll actually store more of your calories as fat. Your body thinks it won’t be getting enough to eat, so it stores everything it can as quickly as it can. People who are obese are often shocked (and sometimes angry) when they’re told that, in order for them to lose weight, they need to eat more.

Anyway, that’s plenty for now. I hadn’t planned to write a whole diatribe about dieting. Geez, I’m blogging like Phoenix does (except that Phoenix hasn’t updated his blog in almost half a year).

The thing to take away from all of this is that dieting is different for everyone and you need to find what works for you. Do the research, talk to a doctor or nutritionist, and be smart. Everyone needs to eat a different number of calories, so what works for me (or Kris), may not work for you. And before everyone starts flaming me for what I’ve said, this are things that I believe to be true based on what I’ve read or learned over the years. If you’re going to correct me, please be polite about it.

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  1. Tom

    Saw this in the paper today and on the Today Show:

    Diets won’t keep weight off, study says

    Habits that help

    People who have been able to keep their weight off share common habits, according to the National Weight Control Registry. Here are some of their strategies:

    •Eat breakfast daily.

    •Eat a moderately low-fat, high- carbohydrate diet.

    •Keep track of progress through weigh-ins, food diaries.

    •Get 60 to 90 minutes of exercise daily.

    Alicia Chang

    Associated Press

    April 23, 2007

    LOS ANGELES – Roberta Perry has tried it all to lose the pounds – organized diet programs, prescription pills, psychotherapy, even hypnosis.

    Those efforts worked for a while for the Pennsylvania woman, but the weight inevitably crept back up. After years of yo-yo dieting, Perry realized it would take more than gimmicks to slim down.

    “As much as I would like to have a magic bullet, I knew the only way to lose weight was eat less and exercise more,” said the 39-year-old public relations consultant.

    Her experience is a common one. Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, examining 31 weight-loss studies found long-term dieting doesn’t keep the pounds off. While people can lose weight initially, many relapse and regain the weight.

    The findings confirm what many scientists have been saying all along: Losing weight is easy. Keeping it off is another story.

    “If dieting worked, there would be a bunch of skinny people walking around,” said obesity researcher Dr. David Katz, head of Yale University’s Prevention Research Center, who did not participate in the study.

    Since the 1970s, the ranks of overweight and obese Americans have risen, with two-thirds of adults in that category. Obesity raises the risk of heart disease, diabetes and some cancers.

    Many factors can conspire against successful weight reduction, health experts say. Diets can be boring, and there’s always a temptation to return to old habits. Serial dieters may also become discouraged and give up when their weight plateaus. People who lose too much too soon don’t learn to make the overall lifestyle changes – eating healthier foods and exercising regularly – that are necessary to keep their weight stable.

    “It’s just plain difficult to modify your diet and turn away from the pleasures of eating,” said Michael Goran, an obesity researcher at the University of Southern California. “We’re driven to eat.”

    The UCLA researchers analyzed 31 diet studies that followed people two to five years after they went on diets. Between one-third and two-thirds gained back the weight they lost. A small number were able to successfully maintain their weight loss.

    The UCLA study did not compare individual fad diets or organized weight-loss programs.

    “We’re not saying don’t make some kind of effort,” said Traci Mann, the UCLA psychologist who led the study. “It means that people should be quite clear that a diet is a temporary fix.”

    Dr. Samuel Klein, an obesity expert at Washington University in St. Louis, said a diet’s success shouldn’t just be measured in pounds. If a person becomes healthier even if the weight loss is temporary, that should be deemed a success.

    “There might be benefits in losing weight for a period of time even if you regain it than not having lost the weight at all,” Klein said.

    The study appeared in the April issue of American Psychologist, a publication of the American Psychological Association.

  2. Phoenix

    Geez, I’m blogging like Phoenix does (except that Phoenix hasn’t updated his blog in almost half a year).

    Ouch. Message received. 🙁

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