Sunday, 3 November 2013

Fed up with eating

I've been trying out this remarkable way of eating. Well, trying it as often as I can manage over the last couple of weeks. It's quite radical; you might call it a diet, if you must, but it doesn't really have a catchy name. Maybe somebody should come up with one. At the moment I call it "eating when you're hungry and stopping when you've had enough."

David Gillespie writes a bit about this in his book Sweet Poison. The book is, of course, primarily about sugar, but appetite has a strong connection to our sugar intake. When we eat more fructose than we need (not much), our appetite control mechanism doesn't work properly. When we cut out fructose, or drastically reduce it, it does work. David lost 40kg when he stopped eating sugar (he needed to), and he made no other changes to his diet. He didn't cut out any other foods, and he didn't start any exercise regime. But, he did eat less. His appetite control mechanism kicked in (ie. the message was sent to his brain that he was full. This doesn't happen when we eat too much sugar), he heard the message that he'd had enough, and he listened to it. It is the cutting out of sugar and the being in tune with his appetite that made him lose weight so effectively.

It's the most amazing idea, and the most utterly obvious. Particularly if you want to lose weight. But aside from the whole sugar thing, and even aside from weight loss, I have been quite fascinated by it. We should eat what our body needs, and not overeat. The more I think about it the more I am astounded by how little this idea regulates my eating. I do eat when I'm hungry. I also eat when I want to. I also eat way more well after I'm hungry. I often go back for something else.

It has to be said that my eating habits have been pretty all over the show over the last 5 years. I had dreadful morning sickness with my two pregnancies where I lost weight in the early days, I ate huge portions when I was breastfeeding, I had a phase of not eating enough, and I'm pretty sure there has been some comfort eating and attempts to fill in the gaping hole over the last couple of years. There's also kids' snacks around in the afternoons especially, where it is easy to have just another cracker or pick up some fruit as I'm passing. It also has to be said that I have no need to lose weight, I'm in the healthy range. I do weigh 5 kg more than I did from the age of 16 until my first pregnancy, but that's not particularly important.

What is important is looking after my body. I remember one morning in a cafe, I was in the throes of all this new information about sugar, and I was horrified as I looked at all the sugar being consumed in the cafe around me at morning tea time. I felt like we were just swimming in it. I have a similar feeling when I think about how much unnecessary eating is going on. I don't think it's meant to be this way.

So I've started a new thing over the last couple of weeks. I've been trying to only eat when I need to. Trying. It hasn't happened at every moment. My fructose intake is extremely low so I'm pretty sure my appetite control system has kicked in. So I've been having a listen. I've had way fewer morning and afternoon snacks, and I've eaten a little less at all meals. Without wanting to make it too complicated, I've also chosen to particularly eat smaller portions of carbohydrates in the evenings, and to eat salads for lunch. Don't worry, the salads are awesome, and have plenty of gutsy, filling stuff in them. And when I finish them, I'm full. So I finish. Mostly.

I also have a little secret which I will share with you one day about how you can eat in a way that fills you up, and doesn't have you coming back for more an hour or two later, and that keeps you healthy. If you haven't heard of this idea before it will knock your socks off, but hold on to them for now, because we're leaving that for another day.

Soon after I made the decision to listen to my appetite, I realised just how often I had had an uncomfortable stomach over the last ages, so I have been really listening to that too. I was terrified the gluten-free-ers would tell me that gluten is my problem, I don't want to go down that line, but you know I really think I just needed to eat less. Consciously thinking about whether I feel full after eating, and whether I am actually hungry when the idea of eating comes to mind has been really good. I think I'm getting the hang of it. And when I don't get it right (birthday meals, a no-reason-chocolate-cake-bake) I have still had less than I might have.

Regarding salads for lunch, I just wanted to eat meals that got more good stuff in to me, and that wouldn't leave me feeling overfed. I made a list of all the salady items I could think of and bought a whole lot of them during my supermarket shop the next day. It was a crazy mix of stuff, but that's OK, I liked it all. They've morphed a bit over the two weeks and I haven't had them quite every day. I'd really love to get your ideas on good salad ingredients, I'm not feeling very well educated on this most obvious of subjects.

As an aside, I haven't tried to get the kids to eat salad for lunch, but on the first day Reuben was very interested and really ripped in to it. I was amazed! He gave it a very good go but eventually faded out, and requested some bread soon after. Which is fine. Now when I get all the salad ingredients out they often find one or two things they want to pick at, and they're having some pretty good stuff in their sandwiches anyway. They change their minds each day about what they fancy. I lost all my beetroot to Esther yesterday who sat on my knee and picked it out with her fingers while I ate (I was both delighted and sorry).

Crazy supermarket salad

So where to from here? I'll just keep going I guess. I don't have any particular aims, not very quantifiable ones anyway. I just want to take a little care of myself, and gosh it feels good to be having a go at that. I will check in on my weight at some point and let you know about it, in case you are interested in the weight loss side. I am convinced that if you need to lose weight this is the place to start. If you are still eating sugar that is going to slow it down a lot, and will make it harder for you to listen to your appetite and feel satisfied, but if you think you can just reduce your meal sizes, go for it.

How do you feel about this? Are you aware of what controls your decision to eat or not eat? Do you go by your appetite, or by your head, or by your environment (ie. there are biscuits in the room so I'll eat them) or by the clock (actually not a bad idea)? Do you think you eat about the right amount? Are you, like me, a total food lover and do you wonder how you could make changes to what is essentially your favourite hobby?!

I've left a couple of lists below for those who might find them helpful. The heading of the first list really does need the word trying in there somewhere. The fifth point, "stopping and thinking," is probably the biggest one. I'd love you to add your ideas for the lists in the comments below.

There's nothing like a sophisticated salad on a digger plate

What I'm doing at the moment, food-wise, to look after myself. 
Eating less food in between meals.
Eating less carbohydrates for dinner, and therefore a smaller portion size.
Eating healthier lunches.
Choosing foods that will keep me full for longer.
Stopping and thinking about whether I really am hungry before reaching for a snack or more food post-meal.
Finishing lunch with an apple (having done this every day throughout my childhood it signals to me that lunch is over and eating has stopped. Try brushing your teeth if that works better for you).
Eating very little sugar (you know!).
Salad ingredient ideas
Lettuce (I love iceberg at the moment)
Diced kumara
Cherry tomatoes
Finely chopped bacon
Feta (any cheese)
Cottage cheese
Nuts and seeds


  1. I PARTICULARLY love the digger plate picture! So much colour!

  2. Oh goodie! It's great to have a fellow "salad eater". I decided about a month ago that I was sick of eating bread for lunch and concluded I was eating too many carbs in general so I began having salad for lunch every and surprisingly I'm still not sick of it. In fact I really look forward to sitting down with a huge big bowl of fresh deliciousness. I feel full at the end of lunch and most days don't need to add any extras afterwards and have found myself snacking less in the afternoon. Like you I mix it up each day and pack it full of all kinds of yummy things. A few of my favorite things at the moment are mesculin from the garden, beetroot, sliced gherkin, cherry toms, feta, cashews and toasted seeds, lot's of fresh herbs, thickly sliced cucumber, sweet corn... the list could go on. I used to find I would have a slump in energy around about 3pm and would end up snacking needlessly to try and boost my energy levels. I don't get this so much now and often it's fixed with a big glass of water.

    Another thing I have noticed is chewing my food properly helps me eat slower and recognise that "full" feeling. I have had to re-train myself to not eat everything on my plate if I am full. Especially if it's something particularly yummy!!

    1. Yum! Sounds lovely. We really ought to be eating lunch together don't you think?
      Yes knowing when you're full is such a key, though the trouble is I do like food!

  3. Yeah, really nice-looking salad. A few things come to mind:

    1. I read a thing on the gym wall the other day that was about hydration. It said that we often confuse dehydration with hunger, and to try drinking a glass of water and waiting a half hour to see if that works.
    2. As Hannah said, eat slowly. I hear it takes something like twenty minutes for our stomach's full switch to flick.
    3. I often eat when I'm idle - well, procrastinating. Like right now, I'm eating tamari almonds, because they're delicious and because I should be doing my assignment.
    4. Exercise is a great hunger-moderator.
    5. I imagine the size of my stomach when looking at the plate of food in front of me. Will it fit? I think this kind of idea is behind the diet that has people eating five smaller meals rather than three big ones.

    1. Lots of good tips thank you. I've been trying to work on the water too, but often forget.