As someone who lost over 50 pounds and kept it off and stayed thin for several years I feel compelled to try and help the untold number of Americans that are overweight or obese. Forget for the moment all the pills, foods and programs constantly being marketed to help people lose weight. There is something more powerful and totally within the control of individuals. It is both wisdom and very smart medical advice that a great physician once gave me.
Here it is: Only eat – repeat, ONLY EAT – when you feel real hunger pangs in your gut.
This sounds simple, because it is. Is it difficult to use and obey? Yes and absolutely necessary, if you truly want to lose weight.
It may sound too simple, as if people only eat when they are hungry. But that is exactly the problem. People universally eat for a host of reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with authentic hunger. Eating has become a form of entertainment, socializing, routine, self-therapy, diversion, ritual, reward, and so many other things.
Real, felt hunger is rarely the driver for most eating. There are many reasons for this, including all the incessant advertising bombarding people from just about everywhere that pushes people to eat, and usually all the wrong foods. When advertising is not impacting people, then many social forces are pushing food in front of you, including parties, family dinners, work celebrations and functions and, of course, vacations. To socialize, mingle and have fun has become equated with eating. Being hungry has little to do with all this eating. People feel compelled to eat to fit in, behave properly and seem friendly and normal. They are eating themselves to death.
Another inescapable fact is that most people are dealing or trying to deal with a host of emotional and psychological issues, even plain boredom, and eating has become a form of therapy. People eat to feel better. Just one big problem, all that feel-good eating makes people fat and unhealthy. Feel good now, only to suffer a host of medical problems later. Our bodies were designed to eat naturally when we actually became hungry.
The vast majority of eating for most people is fundamentally unnatural which is why it is unhealthy. Of course, especially now in these hard economic times for so many people, there are huge numbers of children and adults in America that are feeling hungry much of the time. While many are not getting enough food, many are eating all the wrong foods which is why they do not look like they are starving. They are eating foods with a great deal of sugar, corn syrup, fat and empty carbohydrates. In other words, foods with little nutritional value, because they are either cheap or available.
Just as bad, even the people who are eating regularly when they are NOT hungry are also eating all the wrong foods. These people are consuming very high levels of calories. This deadly combination of non-hunger eating, high calories and non-nutritional foods along with sedentary lifestyles produces the current epidemic of overweight and obesity plaguing the nation and contributing greatly to extremely high national health care spending.
The first, most critical step in losing substantial weight is becoming self-trained to habitually eat only when you are truly hungry. The second step is stopping eating as soon as your feelings of hunger are satiated. Third, sharply reduce consumption of sweets, fat laden foods, especially dairy and meat products, processed foods and foods in fast-food restaurants. Learn to listen to your body. A good tip is drinking water before eating and lots while eating a meal; it really does help cut down food consumption.
For many people who eat far too much most of the time, they may not even remember what true hunger feels like. Hunger feelings should not be seen negatively. They should be embraced and welcomed.
For a fine discussion of hunger as motivation for eating see the article at Wikipedia. Another good discussion is here.
Cravings, desires and compulsions to eat have little to do with healthy hunger responses. Think of over-eating as an addiction, as deadly as many other addictions.
When you know that you are going to be in work or social situations where plentiful food will be available it is necessary to purposefully cut food consumption prior to the event so that you build up hunger pangs. Bad habits are hard to break and good habits are hard to form. Learning only to eat when you feel genuinely hungry is a very good habit, worth working hard to adopt. Stop listening to rationalizations in your head and start listening to the physical rumblings in your stomach.