Monday, October 06, 2008

The benefit of hunger

The maxim "eat to live, don't live to eat" is anathema to Italians. Living IS eating. Gravy = life's blood. So what's a young Italian-American (or a young Greek or German or Guatemalan or pretty much any culture on earth because, face it, we all love eating) to do when she lives in a developed country with easy access to food?

Eat it, of course. And then join Weight Watchers. Which I did last week.

Here's what I've learned so far:

1. Loving vegetables is coming in handy.
2. I was already eating around my point range.
3. Portion control is the devil.

This last point is hitting home the hardest. Only three days in to a three-month plan, I am already seeing how often I eat because I enjoy the act, feel, and ritual of it ... not because I'm hungry for the food.

Yet when forced to limit the amount of something I love so I can mete out my points (read: ice cream), I find I'm full at the end of the meal anyway. Ergo, my satiation revelation!

Ok, well, not my revelation, per se, but a personal manifestation of scientific study I've read about in some shape or form for years. Essentially, eat according to your body's needs. If you feel full, you overate, and if you feel stuffed, you REALLY hogged it down.

Easier said than done, of course, in our overconsumptive culture. And we're further tested by all our environmental triggers -- time of day, stress, boredom, sight, smell, etc. So I ask again, what's a girl (and guy) to do?

Simple -- bring on the hunger pangs. No, I'm not advocating masochism. I'm advocating getting back in touch with natural hunger cycles you lost track of somewhere around the time you graduated from Gerber to Cheerios.

I can already tell that's going to be the benefit of this weight loss plan for me. Even if I don't lose weight, I gain the following:

* empathy for people for whom hunger is not a choice.
* appreciation for the food choices I have.
* awareness of my body and its patterns.
* renewed emphasis on preparation and enjoyment of food.
* greater understanding of my food budget, both in dollars and energy.
* habits that will see me through a healthy adulthood.

And if all else fails, I'll always have Joel Stein's day of fasting to distract me!

Now off to bed .... before I convince myself I need ice cream.

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