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Friday, November 12, 2010

"Normal" Eating

A while ago Blogland was abuzz with conversation about children and weight and the role our families have played in our struggles.  Someone (I think it was Tina from Losing It!) talked about how she has noticed that with her children, some of them just eat "normally" and some do not as if it were a part of their personality.  I have noticed this with my own kids too.  My oldest daughter is a little chubby and she has loved food since she was a toddler.  She nearly always cleans her plate and at times has been known to hide and even steal sweets.  My youngest, on the other hand, always eats a few bites of food, but has no issue stopping when she's full.  She'll throw away half a cookie or piece of cake if she can't finish it.  I don't think I've raised them differently from each other.  I think it is just a part of who they are.

One of the reasons I love blogging is that I often come across posts that challenge me or make me think or echo a thought I've been wrestling with.  The post from Tina is one example as is a post I read yesterday from Sherry at Two Sticks or a Lighter.  If you didn't catch it, go read it!  It is fabulous.  To summarize, Sherry talks about a good friend of hers who has always been very thin despite enjoying treats and regular soda, among other foods.  The realization Sherry came to is that for her friend, the idea of eating when she wasn't hungry was bizarre and something she wouldn't even consider doing.

I have been thinking about this point myself for awhile.  Naturally thin people DON'T eat when they aren't hungry!  What a concept!  That is the difference between us and them!  It isn't that naturally thin people always eat sugar-free and low-fat food (some do, most don't).  It isn't that they exercise all the time (again, some thin people do, many do not).  They don't eat nine servings of fruit and vegetables a day.  In fact, they probably eat the exact same foods as we do!  They just eat less food because they eat when they're hungry and stop when they're full. 

For the naturally thin person, stress, boredom, anger, frustration, and happiness ARE NOT reasons to eat.  And it seems that the deciding factor as to whether we fall into the naturally thin category is completely arbitrary.  It seems to be a personality trait or a behavior learned as a very young child.

So the big question is can we go from being a person who eats when we aren't hungry to a "normal" eater?  Can we, like our beloved Amy W., change teams mid-season or are we stuck with the eating behaviors we've always followed?

I think we might be able to become normal eaters or at least more normal eaters.  Just like a drug addict can stop using or a smoker can become a non-smoker, I believe it may be possible for us to adopt the behaviors of a naturally thin person.  I used to smoke cigarettes, but now that behavior isn't a part of who I am anymore.  Although it was difficult when I first quit the behavior, over time it has lost its appeal.  Occasionally over the years, the urge to smoke has reappeared from time-to-time, but most of the time the idea of cigarettes totally grosses me out.  To some extent, the same has happened with food.

When I had lap-band surgery, I was someone who obsessed about food.  When I was eating, I always wanted more.  Even before I had a weight-problem, I believed that if I didn't control myself with food, I weigh 500 lbs.  (226.8 kg.).  I was never satisfied with food.  I punished myself as I ate with messages of self-loathing in a twisted attempt to make myself STOP overeating.  But the shame and the hate only drove me to eat MORE.  Those messages fed my obsession.

But something happened after I had surgery.  I made a conscious effort to eat only when I was hungry.  It wasn't too hard in the beginning because I could only eat really small quantities which meant I was hungry about every two hours.  So pretty much I was able to eat whenever I wanted.  And since I had "done something" about my weight problem, I stopped berating myself about it.  I lost weight and the desire to overeat diminished.  As I got better restriction from the band, my quantities got smaller and I had a concrete "full" signal from my body that I really cannot ignore. 

Now I won't suggest that I never eat when I'm not hungry.  Sometimes I start shoving food in my face, just like before, in a frenzied effort to get as much in my body as I can before I finally make myself stop.  But those days are few and far between.  Just like my life as a former-smoker, it is harder and harder to imagine living that way again. 

Most of the time I am perfectly content to wait until I get hungry before I eat.  Even with the band creating a diminished sensation of hunger, I can still recognize my hunger at mealtimes.  But I do things like not eating snacks in the afternoon because I know it will make me not hungry for dinner.  Isn't that the kind of thing a "normal" eater would do?

I don't know if I'll ever solve all my problems with food.  My sense is that it will always be a struggle to some extent, but I believe the lap-band has given me the ability to at least imagine what it is like to live that life.  And THAT is pretty amazing! 

14 comments:

Sherry said...

Thanks for the shout out, sweetie. Your last paragraph summarizes the sentiments that keep me going every day. The head and the stomach are sometimes on different tracks but the lap-band helps get them to the same place, eventually.

tessierose said...

Great post Amanda. I have taken some cues from you, for instance I am no longer using artifical sweetners or diet margarine. I find that 1/2 teaspoon of sugar is just right and for 7 calories it's not a big deal. I get way more satisfaction from real foods, who'd have thunk it?

Mary H. said...

Thank you for writing this. I'm 3 months out and I've been feeling a bit like a failure since Halloween. I am sort of "stuck" and my brain is the most stuck thing. I can't get fun-size snickers out of my head and it's causing me to go back to old habits. Just reading about the culture of the lapband helps me keep my head straight.

And reading about the fact that it gets easier as you lose more and get more restriction, that is what I need to hear right now.

Tina said...

Great post Amanda. I do think the band is helping us trigger something in our brains that tells us we are full...I wonder sometimes if there aren't more than one trigger to tell us to stop--stomcah full, brain full and possibly even more things? I have lately found myself shoving food in again and I have not had that desire since before the band. I don't know if it is my body fighting back or if it is a lack of restriction or just some mental illness :)

You are doing great with your band and plan :) xxxooo

Miss Vickie "The Queen Bee" said...

I couldn't agree more! I too made a conscious decision after surgery, to make this work. I feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to have a lap band and I do not want to mess this up too. Thank you for sharing, Amanda!

Ginger aka Gidget said...

My two girls are that way. One is like me. She loves food. Will clean her plate, go for seconds, etc. She has my body type. The other, picks and eats like a bird. She could care less what she has, consumes crap sometimes, and there are times when I can't get her to eat anything. She's a stick. I haven't raised them any differently. It's just how they're wired. It's why I am SO glad I have the band - to make me step away and throw stuff out. To keep me full so that I don't want to keep filling up.

Camille said...

Very nice post. I agree that we all will have to work on this to some degree forever, but the band has evened the playing field a little.

CeeJay said...

Great post. Blogging is such a great way to work on these thoughts. Such a healthy part of our journey to be better than we ever were. Keep up the good work both physically and emotionally! :)

Amaris said...

Great post. I really enjoyed reading it, and will think of it often the next few days. I've just now reached the point where I can see that the band is really going to work for me, if I work for it. Happy feeling!

Barb said...

Wondeful post! I am now at my goal weight and still struggle with eating and emotions. Most of the time I eat healthy but sometimes I don't. I think what separates us from the "normal" eaters is we don't have a shut off switch and then we beat ourselves up about our choices. Thanks to the band I have a better shut off switch, both physically and emotionally, as it makes me more mindful of what I am putting in my mouth. As for the beating up on myself part...that is still a work in progress. As you said it does take time to change old habits into new habits. I am so grateful for my band and all the positive changes it has brought into my life. Thanks so much for your insight. It sure helps to know we are not alone in these thoughts.

Sarah said...

Very well said. Thanks for the great post.

Sam said...

I like this post. It has got me thinking about eating and hunger pangs ... in a good way :o)

Joia said...

You = Brilliant. And, I only hope I can kick both the food and cigarette addiction - still working on both!

Jaime said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog today. I've got you on follow so I can keep track of your wonderful and ongoing success. You are doing great! I am getting an unfill on December 16 so I can actually drink water in the morning again. My email address is sweethinkr@yahoo.com if you want to talk more :) Jaime