The changes in your eating patterns will promote the biochemical changes in your body for the gradual change in your weight. The landmarks below may not occur in order, and will overlap with each other and with the five adaptive reversals above. Sometimes, a step forward will be followed by a step back temporarily. Just look for the momentum aimed generally toward your goals.
You’ve probably started eating by these recovery principles and you may have already experienced some changes in your hunger, fullness and your eating patterns. You will experience definite shifts in hunger during the first weeks of body-controlled eating, even if you aren’t doing it perfectly.
First of all, your body signals are becoming quite definite. You may find that you don’t tolerate your hunger as well as you used to. Your body may not be as tolerant about waiting for food once you get hungry. And, you may start realizing that you are hungry for specific foods at times. You should also know when you are full and want to stop. These changes are the hallmark of your body getting the message that the famines have stopped. Even if you don’t experience these changes at first, be persistent in eating well, demonstrating to your body that there will be no famines in the future.
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Food Preference Shift to High Quality
This interesting change coincides with the decrease in cravings for fat-producers that recovering dieters experience. As people in recovery become well fed, they become more interested in higher quality foods. This doesn’t mean they always want the best food and never yearn for a dessert. But, once the feast or famine cycle is broken, people just tend to want better food. Those in recovery find this very interesting and sometimes shocking. They’ve been trying to stick with decent food on diets for years and couldn’t because they were too hungry. And now they want the food they know they need. Finally, they are fighting on the same side as their bodies and this amazing cooperation begins to take place.
Mary had been so hooked into dieting and trying to avoid eating for so long that the idea of being able to eat whenever she felt the urge seemed like heaven. She dove into her recovery with complete abandon and wrote in her journal about her experience from day to day. The biggest changes for her were emotional. She hadn’t realized how pervasive the diet lifestyle had been in her life, and shortly after starting she said she honestly felt like a new person. Even though she’d only been in recovery for a few weeks, her fear of food was gone, her self-esteem improved considerably, she finally felt comfortable eating in front of other people and just felt so much better physically, without the almost chronic hunger she’d suffered for years. She even felt better about her body, although nothing had actually changed—yet. Seven months into her recovery, her clothes were getting a bit looser. Mary considered this weight loss just a bonus to being freed from dieting.
Eating Shifts to Earlier in the Day
As we’ve discussed, dieters, and many others, typically eat less food earlier in the day and more in the evening. We know the reasons: they tolerate hunger earlier in the day, their resolve is stronger, and their hunger is not as overpowering. But late in the afternoon and toward suppertime, many dieters struggle to stay in control. This is the time many people “go off” their diets. We understand this too.
But those in recovery, free to eat whenever they get the signal, learn to eat more food early in the day. Because they avoid eating in the evening, they naturally experience greater morning hunger. As a consequence, these ex-dieters develop new eating patterns: breakfast, brunch, lunch, mid-afternoon, and evening. I’ve talked about this before because it’s very important. This shift in eating is an essential part of the end of the feast or famine cycle and the beginning of a body’s recovery from intermittent famines and the need to store emergency fat. I’ve noticed that the mid-morning and midafternoon snacks or mini-meals are crucial to keeping lunch and dinner high quality and moderate.
Skill in Navigating the Real Food/Engine Fuel Lists
At first, the Real Food category can be overwhelming—so much food, so few limitations. But those in recovery gradually learn to use this list better as their interest in quality foods grows and their cravings for poor quality food diminish. Most have to learn about what great food, and variety and balance look like. In the diet days, rules about foods on the diet and forbidden foods may have made the choices easier. But the downside of this is that it is not realistic; dieters don’t have to make the choices for themselves. Plus, rebound dieters may find forbidden foods particularly irresistible once off the diet. But those in recovery can own their diets, and choosing from the Real Foods list becomes easier to do as they become more experienced and more knowledgeable. They know you can butter your toast, put mayonnaise on a sandwich, and use regular salad dressings, as long as you stay well fed all day long and use your head. Recovery is not a license to eat irresponsibly. It’s a plan to eat in a sane and responsible way for your health and your life.