Written By Salina Jivani
We live in a society that’s fixated on calories, from food packaging crammed with nutritional facts
where calorie takes the lead to large light-up menus at fast food restaurants where calories counts compete for space among the smorgasbord of pictures and pricing.
And it’s this fixation that’s got us all going stir crazy over every morsel of anything we put in our mouth. I’ll say I’m equally, if not more, guilty than anyone out there.
But perhaps my story’s a little different than everyone else’s. Until my late teens, I never paid any attention to food and had a naturally slender figure of 125 pounds on my 5’ 7” frame. But my lack of interest in meals cost me to lose a lot of weight and people soon started asking me if I was anorexic—which to me was a huge insult that called for immediate action.
So I went to the local Walmart, bought several bags of fun size chocolates and started stuffing face.
The weigh scale didn’t budge. So I ate more and more and more until I felt absolutely sick. But alas, I’d gained five pounds—and the compliments began. I remember the feeling of elation. Of feeling like if a little bit of weight got me this much attention, more would make me feel and look even better.
So I ate more and more and more, until I’d gained 15 pounds. By then, my unhealthy eating habits were second nature. Chocolates took the place of meals and fast food options began to be the healthiest picks of my day.
Soon, I found that where I fit comfortably into my clothes before, I was now struggling. And then came the reality check: a picture of me and my boyfriend where I actually looked heavier and bigger than him! Being that he was no small guy, I found this utterly embarrassing. Even my dad, who never commented on my weight, mentioned in passing to my mom that I’d seemed to have stacked on a bit of meat.
And there I was back at square one again, listening to people, being hurt by their opinions and wanting to ignite immediate change in my body. So I went on a diet and started counting calories. And I did for the next 10 years.
Until 2016. That’s when I decided I needed to make a lifestyle change, and not stick to a process that made me feel like I was constantly ball-and-chained.
But with this decision to put an end to my religious counting habits came consequences. It didn’t take long for my weigh scale to begin an outrageously slow ascent, fooling me into thinking it wasn’t real “weight” that I was gaining. Perhaps just water retention or that extra salt I’d ingested through that family-size bag of potato chips I’d indulged in. But I was wrong. Soon, I’d put on 10 pounds.
But this time around (after more than a decade of calorie counting) I knew that I was under NO circumstances ever going to resort to calorie counting again. I was tired of being imprisoned to my calorie counting app. I was tired of feeling like a prisoner in my own kitchen. And I was tired of not relishing food just because some stupid number limited me from enjoying it.
So as the weight wheedled its way back up on my hips and thighs, a newfound resolve cemented itself into my brain. I wasn’t going to count calories anymore, but at the same time, I was not going to starve myself. Something about this thought sparked a realization in my mind. I’d become so focused on calories and stuffing my face during binges, I’d forgotten how to eat.
What do I mean?
Well, the secret to weight loss for a lot of us dieters is actually quite simple if we stop focusing on calorie counting. In fact, it’s as simple as…eating when we’re hungry.
Wait, don’t give up on me yet. Hang tight just a second.
I know you’ve heard it a million times, but in all reality, if you’re overweight or obese, it’s likely to do with your eating habits.
Remember when mommy used to sit you down on that dinner table and force you to eat every bite of your chicken before you were allowed to take your tush off that chair? Yeah, well, it’s likely her good intentions, no matter how noble they were, that taught you to suppress, at a young age, the hunger and fullness signals our bodies naturally emit.
And it’s a vicious habit that’s hard to beat.
In the past week, I’ve been listening—actually listening—to my tummy. Gauging it for signs of hunger, before actually taking a bite of food. And I’ll say it’s already helped me lose two pounds!
Simple tricks to determining hunger
If you’re not sure you’re eating when you’re hungry (or don’t even know what that means anymore) here are some simple :
1) Close your eyes and focus on your tummy. Does it feel empty or full?
2) If you think it’s empty, drink a glass of water and wait five minutes.
3) If you still feel a rumbling or emptiness—you’re ready to eat!
Other rules to keep in mind
Remember that just because you’re hungry doesn’t give you a free ticket to pigging out until you feel like puking! Keep reminding yourself that you’re no longer restricting calories or any types of food and that you can eat anytime you’re hungry. This really was key for me. Once I understood that restriction was off the table, it was easier to focus on my tummy and how much food I really needed to feel satiated.
If you feel you’ll go overboard, here are some things you can try:
1) Always start with a healthy meal. Don’t reach for the sweets when you hear the rumble!
2) Use a small plate and break your portions up with healthy helpings of veggies and leafy greens. Then leave enough space (about the size of your fist) for an entrée of your choice.
3) Eat slowly! Don’t engulf your food. Savor every bite.
4) Give yourself twenty minutes after you eat to determine if you need more. That’s about how long it takes for your tummy to know whether it’s full.
5) Reach for fruits first when the sweet tooth kicks in, but if that doesn’t cut it for you don’t stop yourself from enjoying dessert.
6) Remember to continue listening for signals from your tummy that say: That’s enough!
Like any new practice, this may take some time. Give yourself a week to a few weeks to get into the swing of things. Just trust in the tummy and you won’t go wrong!