How are you? How are you feeling? Hungry? Do you look at the clock for the answer to that question, as many of us have been trained to do since childhood? Because if so, it just might be the cause of a weight issue.
When I began this diet one of the things that attracted me to it was the promise of never feeling hungry. I’d heard this promise before. Other high-protein regimes made similar claims. “Try this diet” the features editor at my first paper entreated me. “You’re never hungry!” I can’t now remember which diet she referred to. Might’ve been the diet I think was called The Guy’s Hospital Diet which was basically eating a lot of hard-boiled eggs! No link here because I can’t find it online. Did I dream it up? Have you heard of it?
Anyway it sounds very Paleo/high protein and while it was, I seem to recall, based on some kind of chemical reaction if you stuck precisely to the diet, a pleasant side effect was that you stayed full for longer. Far too many of us eat when we are told to. Told to by the clock. But could you eat “off clock” and go on a much better trigger for eating, ie your appetite?
Beat the clock
As I write this it’s nearly midday, Wednesday. I haven’t had any breakfast. I got up and went straight onto my computer to work. I didn’t forget to have breakfast. I often do a bit of work the minute I get up and then go eat. But today, as on some previous days, I didn’t. My evening meal last night was eaten quite late for me at seven with a cheese snack taken at eight. As I write, the clock is moving towards noon and I’ve had nothing save a cup of coffee in nearly 16 hours. I do not feel hungry.
For years I was brought up to think you should eat at set times. Breakfast at about seven or eightish depending on what sort of day lay ahead – weekends would be a bit later. Then lunch at about 12.30 or 1pm. Tea or evening meal at 6ish if you could. Then perhaps a very light supper or snack at about 9pm if hungry.
Tyranny of clock eating
It’s quite tyrannical though isn’t it? Suppose you’re not hungry at any of those times or just as likely you’re hungry at a different time? Mine was a fairly regimented upbringing mealtimes wise because my Dad had Diabetes so he had to eat regularly. Was easier for my Mum if we all ate at the same time but I’m sure we were fairly typical of a family raised in the 50s and 60s in Britain, Diabetes or not. You ate to the clock! And there wasn’t a lot of eating between meals which was frowned upon and largely unnecessary.
Now we’re told we’re all grazers. We eat when we want to and this fits in more with our supposedly soooo busy lives and how ancient men and women ate. Rot. It fits in with what the supermarkets and food giants want us to do. They invented snacking. They invented snacks. A very lucrative market.
No need for snacks
But if you eat properly, there’s no need for snacks. Sure they’re nice treats to have occasionally and humans like treats. But it’s not a treat if it’s a daily occurrence! And much of modern British society is about turning what was once a treat, a luxury, into a daily necessity. A must-have.
Nor though is it necessary to eat regularly at regular set meal times. If you’re not Diabetic, it isn’t necessary to let the clock tell you when to eat. Eat when you feel hungry if your working life permits it – and I realise many don’t! Who hasn’t been in a boring soul-destroying job willing the clock on so they can have their lunch break? Might not be hungry but it’s lunch time. Better eat.
Eat when you’re hungry
It’s far better to eat when hunger pangs tell you it’s time to. And that will vary enormously form person to person and from day to day. Now that I’m almost entirely grain free, I find my blood sugar has stabilised. I no longer get raging hunger pangs and horrible dizzy low blood sugar head spins. I no longer fear hunger which is another reason why people gain weight. They eat when they’re not hungry in case they’re hungry later – nuts!
I realise I am fortunate in that working from home I can decide my own eating timetable. But having worked in offices and been forced to hear the slurping of people taking their breakfast at their desk, seems you can eat however you want even if you have a regular job. And managers can hardly complain about office workers turning a desk into a dining table if they expect their staff to be at said desks for eight, nine or even ten hours a day without leaving the building, as is now the norm too many workplaces. Builders and other manual workers often take their breakfast at 10ish having begun work at around eight. So a breakfast break isn’t that unusual as well as the lunch one.
By leaving long gaps between my evening meal and my breakfast or lunch the next day I am kind of doing an intermittent fast which is supposed to aid weight loss but that isn’t why I’m doing it. I’m doing this, leaving long gaps, if my appetite tells me to. I am listening to my body, not watching the clock. I’ve never felt like this before ever; well, bar falling in love and facing all the angst that goes with. If you don’t lose your appetite when Cupid’s Arrow bursts into your heart you’re not doing it right!
Love struck moments aside though, I’ve never before been able to go without a meal without over eating later to compensate or feeling weird and dizzy from hunger. I can only put this down to doing Paleo. Our ancestors didn’t eat to the clock – they couldn’t! They ate when food was available which wasn’t always. So their systems adapted and coped.
It’s a really lovely feeling to feel so liberated from the clock. Eating can be terribly inconvenient if you’re working on something you love and don’t want to break away from it in order to go cook something and eat. That’s a lovely feeling too and I do realise how lucky I am to be able to do work I love and get well paid for it.
Strikes me that children and men are the ones who most want to stick to an eating timetable. Children because chances are that’s how they’re being brought up or it’s enforced at nursery then school. And children like, even need, routine. Men because, well they also seem to like and need routine more than women do. Women tend to be the more flexible gender; we’ll fit in with the needs of those around us and yes, I do realise this is a gender stereotype but it’s based on years of observation and years of being a very adaptable woman.
Eating when not hungry
For years I ate when I wasn’t hungry to fit in with someone else’s eating timetable. It’s a horrible thing to do when you’re trying to lose weight as you feel it’s wasting calories but who can resist food when others around you are eating? And who can face the, “Why aren’t you eating!?” remonstrations.
I’m convinced, conbloodyvinced, that much of my weight problem is due to eating when I wasn’t really hungry, either because the clock or commitments told me to. I’m also a notorious stress eater which can also lead to weight gain.
Now I’m just trying to listen to my body and get back in touch with real hunger not imagined hunger, mouth hunger, social hunger, family hunger or clock hunger. Try it. It’s great!