Sunday, May 22, 2011

Hunger: The Gold Standard (and the only one that will never fail!)

Human beings like things to be standardized.  Iron-clad rules eliminate the necessity to constantly re-evaluate situations.  I like a guarantee that if I just do what I'm told, then everything will be predictable and fine.

As it relates to weight and food intake, rules don't really apply.  Go figure...we are multi-dimensional beings with a ton of variables.  We aren't neat and tidy and linear and we don't fit well into linear charts.

First, there is BMI, Body Mass Index.  I have always despised this.  Doctors use this to determine if you are "overweight".  It doesn't take body composition into account whatsoever; it is merely a chart of height and weight.  I am, by trade, a sports and rehab therapist.  I have had my hands on literally thousands of bodies.  I am here to tell you...there is an incredible range in tissue-density in human beings.  If you take two people of equal height and weight, I submit that they could have a range of about 4 pant sizes.  I have a very muscular build.  The only time in my life that I wasn't deemed overweight by the BMI, I barely squeaked into the normal catagory in size 4 pants.  I was going through a divorce and working out obsessively (like 2 hours/day at a minimum). The BMI is, for lack of a better word, CRAP.

Then, there is calories in/calories out.  We know the caloric value of foods.  We know approximately how many calories should be expended by different types of exercise.  Keep it in balance and you are good.  Not really.  That wasn't working for people either, even when getting exact and scientific with Resting Metabolic Rate, etc.  Why can't I lose this stubborn belly fat?  So, carbs became evil.  All calories are clearly not created equal.  They affect the body differently.  Of course they will:  fat is hormone-secreting organ.  Is total abstinance from "the wrong foods" the answer.  Heck no!  Read my first blog entry: .  Puritanical eating is really, REALLY not the answer.  It creates this emotional deprivation, punishment cycle.  Humans don't like to feel punished.

Serving Sizes: Seriously?  Every person is different, with a different RMR, and different hormonal sensitivities.  How can "how much to eat" possibly be standardized across multi-dimensional humans?

The answer.  It doesn't need to come from an outside source.  I've finally understood by starting this process that humans have the amazing ability to self-regulate.  It's called eating when I'm hungry and stopping when I'm satisfied.  This does not include eating when I'm bored, sad, celebrating, depressed, stressed, or  seeking stimulation.  If any of these other elements enter in, then the all-important hunger signal is interfered with. 

This sounds pretty.  The reality is that I am going to need some serious re-training on this.  And, this protocol is the perfect environment to learn.  In the coming weeks it will be imperative to maintain the correct hunger/satisfaction level: 3.5-5.5.  This will be awareness training for me as much as anything!  However, building this awareness of my hunger signal and my reasons for eating (the only good one is hunger, btw) is what will keep me from ever having a problem again.  I can eat foods that I enjoy.  I just need to not push past satisfied into the "full" or "really full" camp.  Once my hormones are ironed out, the gold standard of hunger awareness, not deprivation of any kind will be my maintenance.

Lab mice don't get fat.  They only eat when they are hungry, and they stop eating when they are satisfied. 

Hunger signals.  Simple and beautiful, and we all have them.  We just never listen.

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