Sunday, June 12, 2011

The End of Overeating

"You and I, we're like four year olds.  We want to know why and how come about everything."
                                                                                                       Alanis Morrissette




When I was six or seven years old, I first became aware that I don't eat like other people.  Up until that point, I remember being very proud of being a member of the "clean plate club."  I have a sister who is two years older than me, and she was something of a picky eater.  I remember that she even had to take iron pills for a time.  They were triangle shaped and their greenish black sheen was strange to me, and a little bit frightening.  I looked up to my sister, as she was more skilled at everything I wanted to do, and I know that I enjoyed being able to please my parents more than she did in just this one thing- my very healthy appetite.


There  is a brief period in our culture when it is highly desirable for a little girl to grow rapidly and well,  when putting on weight is a sign of good health and a mother's admirable skills in the kitchen.  That brief period was rapidly coming to an end for me.  I became aware that I wanted to start eating before dinnertime, and keep eating after it was over.  I remember sneaking bites of roast beef before grace was said, sometimes so many that Dad would look at my plate in shock when it was time to start eating.  Then there were certain foods that I loved so much that I just had to creep into the kitchen to eat more, even when everyone else was thoroughly satisfied.  What was it about Kentucky Fried Chicken that drove me to eat even more of it than my teenaged brothers?  I can literally see myself right now, standing by the kitchen counter, reaching up into that bucket.  The image is as powerful today as the taste and aroma were back then.


The list of foods that have a strange power over me is long enough to be a bit depressing, and sadly it seems to grow longer as the years go by.  Right now I am in the middle of an internal debate over bananas, grapes, and natural nut butters.  One thing I have learned on my transformation journey is that the foods that call to me and seem to control me have less power when I eliminate them completely.  At the same time, I deeply appreciate the genuine pleasure that fine foods, even those that contain sugar, white flour, fat, or lots of salt, can add to a happy life.

Now I want to know why these foods have such a hold on me, not only for my own benefit but for the people I will coach as a newly certified personal trainer.  I know very well that there are many people like myself who want to do more than build muscle and improve physical health and performance.  We want to learn to eat in a way that allows our fitness to show!  There are plenty of highly trained professionals like doctors and nutritionists and dietitians who can tell us what to eat for health and weight management.  I want to know how to stick to what's healthy and effective, and I want to share that knowledge wherever I can.  Why?  Because healthy happy people who are content with themselves are free to go out and share their best qualities with the world.

Last night, I finished reading, "The End of Overeating"  by David Kessler MD.  Doctor Kessler has personal experience with finding it impossible to resist certain foods, even when eating them stands in the way of health and self esteem.  The book looks at how processed foods are manipulated to excite all of our eating senses through taste, texture, palatability, and portions.  There is a multi billion dollar industry whose purpose is to discover what we crave and deliver it to us in ever increasing amounts.  There are certain combinations of stimulating ingredients, especially sugar, fat, and salt- I would add white flour- that override normal signals of fulness, especially in vulnerable populations, of which I am definitely a member.  The book goes deep into what is going on in the food industry, and then Dr. Kessler explores ways of dealing with eating in this very tricky environment.  He suggests structure through advanced planning along with at least temporary abstinence from trigger foods.  For a long time I have said that I never had a good idea that somebody else didn't think of first, and this is further confirmation.  Over the last three years I have been on a daily search for the foods that I can eat for nourishment, satisfaction, and pleasure that don't send me off on a feeding frenzy.  That quest continues to this very day.

One bit of very good news is that Dr. Kessler confirms what I've believed for several years now.  Even though exercise can't overcome a poor diet on it's own, regular enjoyable exercise can provide some of the same pleasures and create the same positive feelings we get from stimulating foods.  Hooray!  What that means for me is that we can fill that empty place we sometimes feel with movement instead of munchies.  What we have to do is become convinced that a walk in nature, a Zumba class, or a date with weights really can be fun, satisfying, and even extremely pleasurable when we access the feel good brain chemicals that are released by exercise.

So finally the great question you have to answer for yourself is, how will I eat and how will I move in a way that enhances my health and happiness?  What is your fit philosophy?  Yes, there may be deeper more noble pursuits that we can spend our free time on, but for me these are the questions that inspire my passionate curiosity.  So now I am literally going straight to the Fitbit website to log my food for the day before I eat it, and then breakfast!