I haven't been inside an IHOP (International House of Pancakes) restaurant in over 10 years. Just the thought of going inside makes my stomach turn because it was my favorite place to go when I want to eat my feelings or suppress my stress back in pharmacy school. During each visit, day or night, here's what I had: 4 pigs in blankets, a side of 4 sausage links (if you're counting, yes, that's 8 pieces of sausage), a side of hash browns, and I washed it all down with a big ol' glass of chocolate milk. My weekly trips to IHOP marked the birth of what I like to call "my second stomach", an imaginary organ that allowed me to justify continued eating long after my real stomach was overflowing.
The memories of gorging on a day's worth of calories in one sitting is why I can't even walk inside of an IHOP restaurant.
Like most Americans, hunger wasn't the only reason I chose to shove food (and lots of it) down my throat back in the day. Boredom, stress, anxiety, sadness, happiness, loneliness were all reasons for me to chow down even if my body was telling me it didn't need any food. Actual hunger was rarely a reason for me to eat. Crazy, right?
One of the reasons I ate when I wasn't hungry was because food is so damn convenient…it is EVERYWHERE. You have to work really hard to avoid food in America. Combine that with the fact that many people (especially women) eat their feelings instead of dealing with them directly.
The result: we override our natural, human instincts around hunger and fullness.
Years of unsuccessful weight loss attempts made me feel like my body had betrayed me over and over again, so of course I didn't trust it to tell me when I was hungry or full.
You know what? When you don't trust your God-given, built-in portion control system, you find yourself handcuffed to the dieting struggle...and you can't find the key. How did I ignore what my body was telling me? Keep reading:
1. Oral distractions: Thankfully, I NEVER bought any of those over-the-counter drugs or "supplements" to control my appetite, but I did brush my teeth, chew gum, or drinks lots of water when any little sign of hunger showed up in hopes that my appetite for food would just go away so I could be SKINNY! So silly. Here's a question for you: Would you do anything to suppress your libido? If your answer is no, then you shouldn't suppress your appetite either.
2. Eating inside your head: I was so fixated with rigidly obeying a list of "can and can't have" foods that I couldn't hear what my body really wanted. Closely regulating and monitoring my food sent me into obsessive behavior...I felt like I was imprisoned by something that should have been pleasurable. Misery.
3. Food for feelings: Sadness, anxiety, and boredom was always code for "I need to eat something"...at least that's what I thought. My unwillingness or inability to deal with emotions in a productive way led me to the cookie jar on several hundred occasions. It turns out that I WAS hungry for something...it just wasn't food.
Stay tuned next week for the steps I took to start listening to my body and finally ending the weight loss/weight gain drama that followed me for decades.
I told my story, now it's your turn. How have YOU ignored your hunger and fullness? Let's hear it in the comments section below.