Saturday, January 17, 2009

Hunger and Real Food

By Diana Hsieh

Richard of Free the Animal nails the issue with this post on hunger and weight loss. I'm reproducing the whole thing here, with his permission:

The longer I go down this path of paleo-like eating, the more I am convinced that hunger is the key. I tell people, now: ultimately, this is not a battle of the bulge, fat, or weight. This is a battle over hunger and ultimately, your hunger is going to win in the long run unless you simply have the rare constitution to be miserable all the time -- like many of the calorie restriction folks do.

Fortunately, there is a solution, and that solution is to eat a natural diet of plenty of meats, fish, natural fats (animal, coconut, olive), vegetables, fruits (moderation), and nuts (moderation too). I think that the reason so many Atkins dieters ultimately plateau, stall, fail and put weight back on is that they have the wrong focus: low carb. Now, a natural diet is almost always going to be low carb unless you opt to have starchy tubers play a big role in your diet. But so often I see those who focus on low carbohydrate eat way too much processed junk (just like many vegetarians, now), much of it chock full of anti-food like unfermented soy protein, soy oil, and other heavily processed and refined "vegetable" oils. And, because it's low carb, people eat in unrestricted amounts, they tend to eat a lot of favorite junk (like diet sodas and protein bars), and they are not getting the proper nutrition.

What I and others have found is that over time on this sort of diet (paleo), keeping cheating to a minimum, your hunger alters radically. At this point in my progress, it's difficult to imagine failure and regression. Why? Because I simply have no hunger for crap, anymore. Yea, I might take in a slice of pizza, now and then (can't even remember the last time, however), or a burger, but I quickly realize that I'm satisfied after only a few bites. Moreover, it can have negatives effects that turn you back the other way. During the holidays, I partook of three cookies after an evening meal of real food. Where prior to that I felt wonderfully satisfied, the whatever in the cookies made me feel uncomfortably full (now an unfamiliar feeling) for a couple of hours. Yuk.

And as far as the daily paleo eating goes, I often have to motivate myself to eat, because I simply don't get hungry at "mealtimes," anymore. Some days I'm hungry by 9 am, and some, not until 1 in the afternoon. I might be hungry for dinner at 6, but sometimes not until 9 or 10, and sometimes not at all, which is a good time to take in a fast. When I say not hungry, what I mean is that I have no desire to eat anything at all. Food doesn't even occupy my thoughts in the slightest.

I also think that if you've been eating paleo for at least a few months and you haven't seen noticeable changes in appetite and hunger, then maybe you need to do some fasting, twice per week, 24-30 hours each. It seems counter-intuitive, and I don't know enough to say what sorts of hormonal changes might be taking place, but I think forcing hunger intermittently plays a big role in reseting your whole hunger mechanism to a more natural state.
All of that largely matches my own experience. I see only two points of contrast: (1) My fasts have tended to be around 20 hours. Lately, I've felt like I might be able to go longer, but other plans interfered. (2) I do eat raw dairy in various forms. However, I have to be careful about the amount of milk I drink, as that definitely slows down or even stops weight loss for me.

Certainly, eating whole, real foods has been an integral part of my deep satisfaction with my new way of eating. While I'm no longer eating many foods that I used to eat, that's not a sacrifice: they no longer appeal to me.

I cook dinner more often -- basically every night, rather than just a few times a week. That's because I can now whip up a fantastic meal of meat and veggies in 20 to 30 minutes without any trouble at all. Because my tastes have changed, I also eat a wider variety of vegetables than I used to, including brussel sprouts, celery (braised), broccoli, and cauliflower. Purely on taste, I'll take brussel spouts braised in a cup of cream any day over pasta.

Sure, Paul and I spend a bit more for our raw milk, local farm eggs, and high quality meats. However, we've also saved a huge amount of money by eating out less often. I can quickly cook a meal at home that tastes as good -- or rather, usually much better -- than the food in a high-quality restaurant. Plus, if I cook the food myself, then I know exactly what I'm eating. And I don't have to fight with kindly waiters attempting to serve me bread.

Of course, it's much cheaper to eat at home, so doing that saves money. Ultimately, I'd rather enjoy a quiet, cheap, and delicious meal of my own making than spend the week's grocery money in a single night. So now we save our eating out for special occasions at truly stellar restaurants. Plus, because my cooking has become more simple and regular, I find that I waste far less food due to spoilage. That's another savings.

One note before I sign off: If you're interested in my health and diet blogging, I definitely recommend reading Free the Animal regularly. He's producing clear, helpful posts on a daily basis. His advice on fasting and exercise even helped Monica start to lose weight again. Yeah!

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