Monday, January 11, 2010

...and it was completely satisfying

This post, combined with something that Sean Anderson says frequently really gave me a sucker punch as I reflected on their collective meaning over lunch last Friday.

The post I'm referring to is entitled "I'm not hungry, so why am I still eating?". I bet that question speaks to many of you out there. In essence, the writer reflects on emotional eating, something which affects many people.

I have always thought I wasn't really an emotional eater. Like "MissLori", the writer of the post, I don't sit down and eat a pint of ice cream when I'm feeling down or gorge myself on candy, bread, whatever...

However, I have always seen myself as someone looking for just the right "taste": that magic "something" that will act as a period on the end of the sentence (aka the meal), the last food that will tell me that now, finally, I'm satisfied.

And that's where Sean Anderson's little phrase jumped into my mind. Often, when describing what he has eaten, Sean will say, "...and it was completely satisfying." Whether he's talking about one of his gigantic egg-white omelets, or a nice little piece of broiled chicken with a serving of green beans or a McDonald's ice cream, that's the way he describes it.

Honestly, he makes me green with envy.


Because although I find everything he describes pretty yummy--yes, even a nice little piece of broiled chicken with green beans--I rarely feel completely satisfied. The fact is, satisfaction is mostly in the mind. And here's what my mind likes:

-a lovely piece of broiled chicken, with green beans, maybe a salad on the side...all those wonderful healthy foods that satisfy my true hunger completely
AND THEN: a couple of cookies, or better yet a scrumptious piece of cheesecake, or how about an extraordinary slice of chocolate cake? No, not all together. I only want one, but what a "one" I want, though I know that my hunger was satisfied after eating the healthy stuff.

I know there are readers out there who will tell me that I only crave sweets because I eat sweets. I don't buy that. First, I don't eat a lot of sweets. Really. Those cookies, the cheesecake and the chocolate cake don't cross my path very often. No lie. And yes, I have tried eliminating all refined sugars from my diet. I did it for several months and gained weight. I felt so deprived that I just ate more of everything else. And yes, I've tried eliminating wheat but no, it never made me feel any better or eliminated any cravings.

I think deprivation is the fastest way to gain back the weight. A leopard can't change its spots: human beings are genetically programmed to like sweet foods because food was so scarce back in the hunter-gatherer days and sugar gives you a boost of energy. Digging into that honey comb was the right thing to do if you wanted to survive 10,000 years ago.

[Big digression: Yes, I know that some people have no sweet tooth at all, others are moderate in their love of sugar and yet others are like my late mother-in-law who lived to be 82 on a diet rich in the main "food" groups: sugar (4-5 teaspoons in her coffee every morning), fat (don't forget the cream in the coffee!), and nicotine (no better way to start your day then with a few cigarettes!)].

But as a race, our bodies really haven't evolved all that much. The desire is still there, though food is now plentiful (at least for us here in the western world) and we really don't need to jump on the first honey comb, or chocolate bar that passes by.

I refuse to jump head-first into deprivation. Been there, done that, gained the weight back. So how does one find satisfaction? How does one distinguish between real hunger and what I call taste-hunger, that perfect, perhaps elusive taste that wraps up a meal so well?

What does satisfaction mean to me? There are certainly many things that satisfy me that have nothing to do with jelly beans or a huge steak (I'm perfectly happy with a small one, thank you very much): having a good relationship, seeing my children grow up happy, doing a good day's work, wearing a killer outfit...But if I want to be perfectly honest, when I'm at the table, a nice, healthy meal that's just the right size always leaves my mind asking for more...

I doubt that I am alone in this.


  1. Great post my friend. One of the things I've tried to do is change the pace of my meals. I try to eat slower and really enjoy what I'm eating. I get that occasional sweet craving after a meal too, don't we all? When it happens I'll make a low fat soft serve run for 150 calories---or better, I'll grab a banana---or a mini-candy bar---only 45 calories and a taste of heaven. The thing that really keeps me "completely satisfied" is the idea that nothing is completely off limits. There's no deprivation to make me feel left out or cheated. I have to decide if I can "afford" something, but I'm in control of my choices. And occasionally and eventually, that cheesecake or those cookies are mine! Like you, it doesn't happen very often like it did way back in my 500 pound days. You're a thinker like me huh? It's this kind of honest self-analysis that helps us understand why we do what we do. I can see how it's helping you---and I can't imagine my success thus far without this element.
    My best always,

  2. I guess I'd say that this falls under the category of "different strokes for different folks". For me, eating a little bit of my trigger foods just primes the pump and makes me want 10X more of it. I'm better off, both mentally and physically, by just pushing it aside and finding new foods that suit my newfound attitude and changing tastebuds better. For example, I've actually developed a taste for green tea, something that I would have wagered would have been out of the question a year ago.

    As for the point you made in your comment to me, I'm not shooting for an absurdly low weight, and I've actually got a doc appt this week for a physical and plan on getting some input there. I'd like to drop 8 more pounds just to say I've slain the 100-lb dragon and then hit the brakes.

    I had some kind of mental roadblock that pushed me into a manic panic mode whenever I got near 300 pounds. I'd like to redraw that line at the 200 lb mark. To me, that would feel like a brand new day.

  3. I don't know that there's anything magical about any of this, dessert tastes good, and many of us are used to ending meals with it. I don't know if I developed the habit, or maybe already broke it, but I'm usually indifferent, unless I've been drinking. Oddly enough, I don't like eating cookies without milk, it feels very unnatural, and I imagine that's a similar conditioning.

    I see no reason to make a situation all or nothing, if I wanted dessert after every meal but it was interfering with my weight goals, I would either learn to enjoy one cookie rather than a few, or 1/2 slice of cheesecake, or learn to appreciate fruit. I definitely wouldn't go with deprivation, but as Jack says, different strokes...

  4. I'm late on reading / commenting on this one (sorry)....
    I usually feel at the end of a savoury meal (the main course) that I am satisfied - but quite often I want a very small piece of something sweet.
    My way round this (sometimes !) is to eat a dark-chocolate-covered coffee bean. (I get them from my local health food shop). This gives the tiny hit of sugar that I want and I don't want more after that.

  5. Hi Wendy. I think a lot of wanting a dessert after a meal is just habit. I grew up with that habit. Every meal had a sweet finish. Except breakfast which was quite sweet anyway.

    I think the answer is just in moderation - which you are lucky enough to be able to do. I cannot do any kind of cake, pudding or biscuit in moderation. But am able to have chocolate every day in a reasonable quantity. So that is my sweet treat.

    Bearfriend xx

  6. People always scoff when I say I am on Low Carb..I ask them what they don't like about it, and they don't know enough about it to even answer.
    It's not for everyone...that is true....If weight loss were that straight-forward none of us would have ever gained!
    I guess it's like anything else. When you finally want it, you want to find a way. Or at least tolerate the means for the end.
    I think it IS the mind, (like you said) that wants more.
    Not always the body.