05-24-13 - Hunger Cues

I'm so exhausted that I've been eating from fatigue, which is terrible, so a note for myself. I very much believe in listening to your body, but you have to know what to listen to, and hunger cues can be confusing.

1. Tiredness is not a hunger cue. Yes, sure popping some sugar will give you a boost, but that is not the right solution. When you are tired you need sleep, not food. This is always a huge problem for me in work crunches, I start jamming candy down my throat to try to keep my energy up, and I'm tempted to do it now for baby, so hey self - no, sleepiness is not solved by eating. Go sleep.

2. Your belly is actually not a great cue. Sure extreme belly ache and rumbling means you need to eat, but a slight hollow empty feeling, which most people take as a "I must eat now" is not actually a good hunger cue. Humans are not meant to feel full in the belly all the time, but in our culture we get used to that feeling and so it feels strange when it's gone and you think something is wrong that you have to fix by putting more food in. It's really not; you need to try to detach the mental association of "belly empty" with "eat now".

3. The actual correct hunger cue is light headedness, dizzyness, or weakness. That means you really do need to eat something now, but perhaps not a lot. (getting quantities right for yourself takes some experimentation over time to figure out)

I believe that the primary goal of food consumption portioning and scheduling should be to eat as little as possible, without ever going into that red zone of critically low blood sugar. (of course I'm assuming that you want to be near your "ideal" body weight, with "ideal" being the modern standard of trim; if your ideal is to be as large as possible then you would do something different). Note that belly feelings show up nowhere in the "primary goal", you just ignore them. Perhaps even learn to enjoy that slight hollow feeling in your gut, which gives you a bit of a hungry wolf feeling, it's sort of energizing. (if I'm slightly hungry, slightly horny, and slightly angry, good god, get out of the way!)

I'm convinced that the right way to eat is something like 5 small meals throughout the day. Long ago when I was single and quite fit, I ate like that and was quite successful at meeting the "primary goal of food consumption portioning and scheduling" (minimal eating without going into the red zone). It's very hard to keep that up in a relationship, because eating a big meal is such a key part of our social conventions. When I was single I would very rarely eat a proper dinner; I would eat a sandwich at 4 PM or something so that I wouldn't really be too hungry at 8 when Fifth Meal came around, so I might just eat a salad and some canned tuna. It is possible to do in a relationship, and I'm sort of trying it now. You have to just make sure that you eat less at the standard meal times, or eat more low-cal food like cooked veg and salads, and then go ahead and eat the intermediate meals yourself. (it's particularly hard when someone else cooks and you feel compelled to eat a large amount to show that you like it; it's also hard at restaurants where the portions are always huge and you feel like you have to eat it to "get your money's worth"; eating around other men is also a problem, because of the stupid macho "let's stuff our faces" competition)


rossjudson said...

Would be very interesting to have a device that does some sort of measurement and tells you when it's actually time for you to eat, based on blood sugar or whatever.

cbloom said...

That probably is the future, if the trend continues with everyone loving data-everything and tracking graphs and so on. (which I hate, but whatevs)

We already have implantable blood sugar devices for severe diabetics; someday you'll have all your vitals being measured by some implanted device and tracking it on your smartphone so you know when to take your "go" and "no go" pills.

Hell with the way everyone wants to medicate everything we'll probably just have implantable drug-dosers that will automatically spit out various drugs to keep you operating at maximum efficiency as a happy productive drone.

old rants