Maybe I'm a little slow on the uptake, but let me fill you in on a recent revelation I've had:
If my gas gauge is on "F" and I try to fill my car's tank, it does me no good. It could, in fact, cause harm in certain conditions.
If I let the gauge go below "E" it does me no good, and also causes a number of problems for my car.
If, however, when it is on or near "E", and I put just enough gas in the car to make the gauge read "F" then my car has just the right amount of fuel it needs to get me where I want to go. And if I do this habitually, (along with regularly scheduled maintenance and car washes) using just enough fuel is one way of taking care of my car so it lasts a long time.
OK. That wasn't really a revelation for me. You probably guessed that. It is an analogy for the revelation I've had. You probably guessed that too.
Recently I wrote about the morning exercise class I attend at the local YMCA. I'm still in class, and looking forward to going tomorrow morning.
If I liken this exercise I'm doing to the regular maintenance my car needs (and if I liken taking a shower afterward to the regular washing my car needs!) then it naturally follows that my food intake is analagous to the fuel my car needs.
I've been overweight since 8th grade. My weight has fluctuated a lot over the years, and I'm currently in better shape than I have been in for a long time. I still have some weight to lose, but the number on the scale is less important to me right now than how I feel.
Here's the very simple fact I've noticed:
If I wait to eat until I am actually hungry...
(not when I feel like eating, or when food is available, or when I'm feeling bored or feeling sad or feeling...)
...and if I stop eating when I'm no longer hungry...
(not when the plate is empty, or the serving platter is empty, or the refrigerator is empty, or I am so full I feel gross)
...then I actually feel as if I have a lot more energy. It's not just that I do have more energy, which I do -- my point is I can feel that energy; without caffeine or sugar.
But it goes beyond that -- I'm more than just "not hungry" -- it is actually a feeling of general overall well-being. I actually feel really really...good.
It is pretty close to euphoria! Colors are sharper. Words and emotions of coworkers and friends seem more relevant and clear to me. Some moments I literally feel as if I am on the verge of tears, it feels so good. Maybe that sounds sappy, but that is what it feels like!
If, on the other hand, I pay attention to myriad signals other than my "fuel gauge" and eat whenever I want, whatever I want, and however much I want, then I feel fatigued. Worse; I feel depressed. I feel like laying down and napping, but not in an "I'm sleepy" way -- it is more of an "Emotionally and physically I feel like crap so I really wanna just go away and hide from life right now until this icky feeling passes" kind of feeling.
Now that I have begun to know and experience the differrence, it is like waking up from a weird dream. Eating less seems such a natural thing, but it is something I was never trained to do. I grew up in the "clean your plate" era and never learned to control my portion size to begin with.
I know I can't blame my current situation entirely on my past though; I know I bear responsibility for this.
I'm just saying: It is much easier to eat whatever I want whenever I want, and however much I want. It is much harder to "do the right thing" because it feels like I'm swimming upstream.
Despite seeming so natural to some people (this probably seems very natural to most thin people!) I'm just saying: It is hard for me to "do the right thing" in this because it is new, and because it makes me face difficult things about myself.
But now I've had enough euphoric "just the right amount of fuel in my body" experiences that I know the difference, so I am in a real quandry.
For me, now, overeating is a bit like like hitting my head against the wall so that, when I stop, I feel better.
I'd rather simply stop hitting my head against the wall.
But what I want to do and what I end up doing are still not matching up very well.