Saturday, December 09, 2006

Score 5 for Baby Bear

Last night I ate too much. I suppose it happens to a lot of middle-class Americans at this season of the year. This morning I awoke early, feeling uncomfortably full. Ugh. I couldn't sleep because I was too full.

I guess maybe I needed a wake-up call.

Back in February I blogged about the choice between (F)atigue or (E)uphoria. I still want euphoria more than fatigue, but I still seem to choose fatigue over euphoria a lot of the time.

This morning as I lay there some thoughts went through my head about how to further understand myself and move forward toward having the body weight I was meant to have.

What I've been trying to do since February (sporadically -- don't get the idea this has been some diligent 10 month daily thought process) is find my own natural cues for hunger and satiety.

I'm trying to learn my own natural cues; eating when I'm hungry, and then stopping when I am no longer hungry. Gwen Shamblin, in her book The Weigh Down Diet says (I'm paraphrasing here):
Hunger is polite. It whispers to you. Fullness whispers also. Learn to listen to your own body and you will begin to hear your own cues. This is difficult to do if you are drowning out those whispers with the yells of emotionally-, socially-, or clock-driven eating.
She is not the only author to write about this idea. In looking around the web this morning I found this easy-to-understand summation of the concept of "the hunger and fullness method"

Rather than focus on what the scale says, I want to focus on what the mirror shows and what my heart says when I listen to the still small voice of God whisper to me about hunger and satiety and fullness.

I've learned over the past few years I don't want to "diet" since this implies there are bad foods and good foods and that once I am "done dieting" I can go back to eating "the old way" -- which results in putting on all the weight I lost. I've done this too many times in my life.

I was skinny until 7th grade. Then I was pudgy until I graduated High School. It has gone up and down from tehre. My high weight was 250 (you don't want to see that picture!) and my low weight has been 165.

Now that I am in my 40s, I am trying to be realistic about what my "ideal weight" might be. The BMI and actuary tables say I should be around 158 Lbs. Whoa!

I've paid too much attention to the number on the scale (or the waist size) my whole life. Now I want to start paying attention to my body. But how do I gauge that? The idea of a fuel gauge showing (F)atigue vs (E)uphoria isn't as helpful as I thought it might be. I think I need a new measurement tool.

As an RN working with spine surgery patients, one of the most common questions I ask is this:
On a scale from 0 to 10, if 0 is no pain at all, and 10 is so much pain that if you had to endure it for more than 30 seconds you would simply pass out, how much pain are you in right now?
Pain is hard to quantify, though. For kids or non-English speakers, there is something a bit easier, called the Visual Analog Scale (VAS). It looks something like this:Sometimes it is a 0-10 scale, sometimes it is a 0-5 scale. Sometimes a high number is good, sometimes a low number is good. It varies a bit, since the scale is changed to best suit the environment in which it is used. What is always the same about the VAS is this: one extreme is good, but the other extreme is bad.

As I try to discern my own cues, I think I might do better with a scale that is different than simply "empty" (euphoric = good) and "full" (fatigued = bad). I'm thinking more about a continuum where both extremes are bad, and something in the middle is where I stay.

What if at one end of the spectrum I place the concept of real hunger, using the ubiquitous image of the "starving child in Africa":And at the other end of the spectrum I placed real gluttonous fullness, using the painful image of the guy from Monty Python's The Meaning of Life who eats something "wafer thin!" and literally explodes:And what if, right in the middle, is Baby Bear:
Papa Bear's porridge was too hot.
Mama Bear's porridge was too cold.
Baby Bear's porridge was just right!

Papa Bear's bed was too hard.
Mama Bear's bed was too soft.
Baby Bear's bed was just right!
What if I began asking myself this question throughout my day, especially at the various times when food is made available to me:
On a scale of 0 to 10, where 10 is feeling so full you would actually puke if you ate one more bite, and 0 is feeling so hungry you would pass out if you didn't eat something right away, and 5 is that euphoric satiated "Baby Bear" feeling of being "just right", how hungry or satiated or full do you feel right now?
Then, if I am at a 3 or less, I know my body needs to eat something, but if I am at a 4 I can wait. And if I am at above a 6, then putting food in my body would be like giving someone without any pain a bunch of narcotics!

I think that sounds more do-able. Another benefit of this scale is it has more than just two graduations. Most fuel gauges have 1/4, 1/2, and 3/4 marks, so I can think of satiety as 1/2 full.

Right now I think I'm around an 8. It will be hours before I am at a 4 or less, but that is OK. I live in a country where food is abundantly available. I am thankful, and mindful not to take that for granted. God provides food for me. He is my source in all things.

As a parting thought before I sign off and go for a ride, it strikes me that my motorcycle, like most, doesn't have a fuel gauge I can monitor. I have to go by the trip odometer and fill the tank when I've gone 80-90 miles. In between Full and Empty it is mainly guess work. But if I run out of gas my motorcycle, like most, has a reserve tank I can switch to in order to get home. It is not a lot of gas: my tank holds 2.7 gallons in the main, and 0.7 in the reserve. But that is enough to get me 30+ miles.

If I begin to run low on fuel before my next meal becomes available, I have about 30 Lbs of "reserve tank" around my waist and chest area to draw from.

Here's to using my new measurement tool to whittle down that reserve tank.

~ Keith

1 comment:

Nadine said...

Great article Keith. I'm with you. I've lost about 40 lbs in the last several months and the only thing I did was eat when I was hungry and stop when I was full. It really helped. I'm pulling for you to reach your goal.