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!