I don’t think I’m alone in this experience. Others have tried a similar diet, though perhaps for other reasons. Advocating for one particular weight-loss diet isn’t my point. My message is this: your weight is in large measure about your psychology. It’s about the hunger mood. Obesity is a crippling social problem, but to our detriment the research has almost uniformly ignored this aspect of the situation. Consider this to be a call to science to focus a great deal more on the psychology of the hunger mood.
In some ways, the hunger system is like the breathing system. The brain has an unconscious mechanism that regulates breathing. Suppose that system got shut down so that it was up to you to consciously control your own breath, adjusting its rate and depth depending on factors such as blood oxygen, carbon dioxide level, physical exertion, and so on. What would happen? You’d die in about 10 minutes.
I thought this was a fascinating article that Cory Doctorow pointed out on twitter.
I have some thoughts about it as I’m coming out of a long year of focusing on deadlines more than my health and trying to reverse a year of self neglect. By last October I’d gained twenty pounds free-basing skittles while sitting all day trying to make various deadlines. I wrote two novels, heavily revised a third, wrote two short stories in a year. I also doubled my freelance work in anticipation of Emily leaving her job.
I spent a lot of time in a chair last year.
And since I have a heart defect I couldn’t go run, or use high intensity interval training, or anything other than a mile or so of walking a day and diet. And I threw diet out the window as I ate my stress.
I’m a quantified self sort of person, and I’ve read a bunch about nutrition, so this was a cool article. One, I have some quibbles with it. But in general, I think it’s awesome because anyone who gives the advice ‘you shouldn’t be hungry all the time on a diet’ is giving fantastic advice.
I think the monkish self-hating of the body is super spread out in our modern world. Dieting becomes a form of self-scarification and exercise in self control in modern culture. I hate so many of its manifestations, as it leaves people who don’t succeed thinking of themselves as failures at a goal instead of on a particular journey.
I knew I was going to have to spend November and December restyling my life when I started down the path I did earlier this year.
And I have. I’ll blog about it some time. I’ve twittered a wee bit about it.
But, back to this article. You shouldn’t be hungry. Yes.
The author’s impression of ‘calorie counting’ is a bit off though:
But the most insidious attack on the hunger mechanism might be the chronic diet. The calorie-counting trap. The more you try to micromanage your automatic hunger control mechanism, the more you mess with its dynamics. Skip breakfast, cut calories at lunch, eat a small dinner, be constantly mindful of the calorie count, and you poke the hunger tiger.
This is where I’m like ‘no no no.’
Calorie tracking. Just track. Not after the day (where he says ‘most people don’t remember what they ate enough to track) but before it goes in my mouth.
But also, to manage hunger and eat the things I adore.
Because here’s the thing. Go on a low carb diet, it’s one of the coolest hacks for lost weight I’ve ever seen (and the article does link to something that dispels the whole ‘ketones’ and ‘chemistry’ and low-carb=magic chemistry woo woo bullshit I hate). I learned low carb first from a weightlifter who said to me ‘two weeks to supercharge weight loss at the start of a program and psyche yourself up and then the last two weeks before you’re on a stage, but the rest of the time, you need simple carbs.’
But the thing is, after that magic period…
Chocolate cake and Lil Debbie Nutty Bars still exist. And they’re manna. And you know it. Those are my favorites.
So you either have to become religious about it, cycle up and down and on and off low carb. Or you have to figure out how to eat the things you do love that aren’t protein and veggies.
Low carb works, as far as I can tell from years logging data, not because of magic chemistry, but because it takes a ton of protein to match the calories in bread. When tracking calories, when I eat mostly protein, I almost struggle to eat above my base metabolic rate. So when I see that I’m eating too much, I strip out the carbs for the next few meals to feel full and dispel hunger.
And I do this so that I can do things like eat donuts and Lil Debbie Nutty Bars every day (cheesecake with dinner).
But no matter what approach, starving one’s self is horrible. Everyone has a Base Metabolic Rate (BMR). I use the scale and a rough calculation. It means I make sure to never eat less than a certain amount. One of the things we talked about on a panel recently about apps is how they can push negative things, and most logging apps don’t set a minimum you should not go below, so I am hacking them to focus on tracking and positivity and mindfulness. But a lot of the apps need to refocus how they educate and encourage folks.
There’s such a simple correlation between my health and when I’m mindful through logging before I pick up the food that I am directly regretting the 9 month lapse last year. That was a bad decision on my part LOL.
But I agree starving one’s self is always a horrible proposition, and enjoyed the article.