Thursday, December 01, 2005

Dietsurvivors, hara hachi bu, lifelong habits

To my Dietsurvivor friends:

I don't know if this helps, but, for the last month or so, I've been trying to incorporate hara hachi bu (80% full) into my life. At first, it was a little difficult because I have always been taught that any kind of hunger was "bad," even when I was on a diet. All the diet plans seem to have a list of "survival" foods on them--the whole idea, it seems, is to NEVER feel a pang of hunger. I'm slowly coming to realize that this belief is wrong, that REAL hunger is a signal to our bodies that it's time to be fed. How can we know and recognize this signal if we're always full?

Having said this, I still feel a little fear, when that hunger pang, even when legitimate, pops up. Just because I have had an epiphany about eating beliefs doesn't mean they're going to change my life overnight.

However, something interesting is beginning to happen: I'm not having to wait 20-30 minutes to feel satisfied on the same amount food that, a month ago, left me still wanting. Sometimes, maybe we have to endure a training period to achieve a specific goal and behavior change. I know, this might sound just like another diet, but, to me, this feels different because instead of focusing on weight loss as a final goal, I'm focusing on changing the way I eat and how I relate to food: for life. I never got that concept before. Thus, this is not just a physical change, but, also, a head change.

On a daily basis, I'm allowing myself to eat the foods I crave, with the intention of listening very carefully to my body. On Thanksgiving, I enjoyed the foods I love: mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, apple pie, etc. I even ate past hara hachi bu, perhaps stopping at 95% full. And the next day, at another family event, I ate more comfort food, again 95% full. I wrote everything down in my food journal (I have made a commitment to myself to record, for one year, what I eat, no matter how much). Eventually, I actually felt too full (though my calorie count was only slightly past "maintenance").

In the past, I would have punished myself by starving for the next two or three days to "make up" for the extra calories, but this time, I just picked up normal eating. I discovered that my own body, through its satiety signals, told me to eat a little less, an amazing experience for me. I never thought it possible to work with my appetite control--I had always assumed it was past saving.

I don't know if I gained weight over Thanksgiving, though I'm sure I had a temporary upward spike; I have made a commitment to reserve weigh-ins for the doctor's office. Instead, my clothes tell me how I'm doing, and they indicate that I'm losing weight, albeit very slowly. Should I ever sense that something is wrong--that my clothes become tight when I know I'm eating normally--then I will weigh and/or visit my doctor.

I made the decision not to weigh because I tend to obsess over the numbers on the scale. Besides, if I continue what I'm doing now, the weight will come off--eventually and naturally. That's another change: I'm not in any particular hurry to lose my extra pounds. I'm more interested in achieving lifelong habits, and the only way to do that is to embark on a program that is satisfying in the "now" and the "forever"--no more "this-is-temporary-and-as-soon-as-I-achieve-my-goal-weight-I'll-go-back-to-my-old-eating-habits."

Have I achieved perfection? Of course not, BUT I'm no longer going to beat myself up when I eat past 80% full, and I'm going to extol what's positive about my body, instead of focusing on the fat and other physical "faults."

Terri and Becky and everyone, if you seek, you'll find what you need; my way might not be yours.

Linda Moran, our administrator, is wise beyond her obviously young years when she says to take what you need and leave the rest.

(I posted this message on the Dietsurvivors' message board.)

Jennifer Semple Siegel

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