This week with the Diet Shrink, I was discussing getting back in touch with my hunger cues. What does hungry feel like, and is it necessarily bad to feel hunger? Do we need to feed the beast every time or can we just tell it to chill out and wait an hour 'til dinner? Do we have to eat within an hour of waking up? Because I can go most of the morning on a giant mug of coffee. I eat breakfast early because I've been told to by myriad diet gurus.
I mentioned that long before America's obesity crisis, we ate breakfast, lunch and dinner. No mid-morning snack, no afternoon fro-yo, no post-dinner bowl of cereal. Just three squares and everyone seemed to be doing fine.
When did we start to feel the need to eat every two to three hours? What the heck are we doing all day, plowing the back 40 or sitting on our cans typing?
My one and only task this week is to wait until I feel real physical hunger -- I don't even know what that feels like. (I'd say anymore but I don't know if I ever have.)
The more I thought about it, the more I kept coming back to a cell phone battery. When you get a new phone, the sales person always says to let the battery run down a few times to "condition" it. It's supposed to make the battery last longer. Plug it in every night and it becomes an energy hog, slurping up the juice faster than it should.
Are our bodies like that, too?
Have we kept plugging in our chargers so often that our stomachs begin to rumble too quickly? Should we let the battery drain down a few times to condition ourselves to eat less food?
Can I relearn those ancient hunger cues of youth that I muted with sugar-free gelatin and granola bars?
Lately, there's been some buzz about trying to lengthen the time between meals and snacks. Not crazy long but more like 4 hours between meals and snacks instead of 2-3 hours. Jillian Michaels wrote this on her Facebook page some months back:
Eat 4 times a day every 4 hours to maintain your energy level, stabilize blood sugar & optimize health. This should look as follows: Breakfast, Lunch, Snack, Dinner. Do NOT eat every two hours, snack often or graze throughout the day. Contrary to to popular belief, eating often does NOT "rev metabolism." It actually inhibits fat metabolism & elevates insulin levels.
Gut hormones are tricky little suckers. The mere act of cutting calories raises your ghrelin levels, which control hunger. Yes, dieting makes you hungrier all the time.
So do you learn to embrace the grumblies? As long as you're eating no less than 1,200 calories a day you're getting plenty of nutrients and calories and you cannot be starving.
There's hunger and then there's appetite. Appetite is what makes you want to eat; hunger is why you need to eat. Discovering the difference between the two is my latest experiment.
So I'll let my "battery" drain between meals and see if I can condition myself to get used to less food.