This is a follow-up post in response to “Being In Denial Of How You Eat, And How To Challenge It.”I admit that I initially was in denial of how I ate. I wanted to give myself an opportunity to showcase how capable I am at making dramatic changes to my eating habits. Taking inspiration from the Europeans ,whom I believe indulge mindfully and are satisfied with smaller serving sizes, I brainstormed two major ways to strengthen my resolve with the flaws in my eating habits.
- No exercise
Despite my love for regular exercise, I knew that I would make excuses to eat before / after work-outs because “I needed fuel,” or “I needed to eat protein 30 minutes after a work-out” etc. I wanted to give myself an opportunity to focus strictly on my eating habits throughout the challenge without any confounding factors.
- No lunch
Since lunch is my least favorite meal of the day, I decided to get rid of it altogether as a way to cut back on some of my calories. I shifted my attention to keeping my breakfast loaded with protein to give me stamina throughout the day, and serving dinner right away when I’d get home from work. I was hopeful Monday – Friday would keep my hunger at bay throughout the day by being distracted with work.
I gave myself 21 days to stick to these two rules to see how I’d do.
So without further ado…here’s how my 21 days played out.
I’m So Scared.
I woke up Day# 1 pretty anxious. Typically, I’m up at 5am and end up eating a little breakfast around 6am. By cutting out lunch, I was telling myself I’d be without food for almost 12 hours.
How was I going to get through 12 hours without eating?
I panicked… into an eating frenzy.
I basically ate two breakfasts: one at home, and then one at work. Immediately following the second, completely unnecessary, breakfast binge, I felt stuffed and guilty. I was embarrassed to admit how much food I had just consumed.
Not an optimistic start.
I immediately recognized my breakfast binge as my fear of hunger pangs. I revisited my thoughts on How To Survive The Excruciating Fear Of Hunger Pangs to mentally “re-group” for the rest of my day. It was pretty easy to re-focus after a few hours once my full stomach started to smooth out. I was satiated throughout the entire workday up until dinner that night.
My emotional brain would have high-fived me for making it through the day without eating or having hunger pangs.
However, the honest part of my brain was not even close to being impressed.
In exchange for evading hunger pangs, I ended up feeling anxious, uncomfortably full, and guilty from my breakfast over-indulgance. Not what I would call a healthy trade-off.
I chalked Day #1 up to revisiting some key take-away points about hunger pang fears, and moved on to a fresher start for the subsequent days.
Okay, I Can Do This…
…became my mantra for the follow week.
I kept my breakfast to one appropriate serving size, and gave myself a mental pep-talk immediately afterward. I was completely capable of handling hunger pangs at lunch.
In the beginning, pretty predictably, my hunger pangs came on strong when lunch was indeed, “not served.”
This was the first time my body was intentionally not fed in the middle of the day. My body made it well known that it did not approve and continued to remind me of its disapproval over the span of 4 hours (from 10:30 AM- 2:30 PM).
I’m an adult. There are harder things in life to handle than feeling hungry. I can do this.
Don’t go into the lunch area.
Don’t smell the juicy hamburger patties in the buffet line.
Don’t walk near the stack of monster cookies.
Don’t contemplate opening the mini fridge full of Oreo pudding cups.
When work was busy around lunch time…great! If I had a lull in my work-load, I found things to work on or mini projects to tackle in order to pass the time.
Distraction became key.
And it paid off! A few days into the challenge, the courage of my hunger pangs began to diminish. The loud roar became a moderate churning in my stomach. If I was able to distract myself for 20-30 minutes when the pangs first peaked, I knew they would slowly start diminishing for another hour or two.
I started to drink coffee throughout the day in an attempt to soften my hunger pangs. It actually worked great at suppressing 80% of my hunger pangs.
Unfortunately, I was becoming pretty dehydrated from drinking so many caffeinated coffees throughout the day. My skin was becoming more dry, my fine lines and wrinkles on my face were more pronounced, and my teeth were starting to stain from the additional black coffees I kept sipping on.
I’ve never been a big water drinker. If given the choice, I’d rather just brew a cup of black coffee over drinking 8 ounces of water.
However, I knew my body needed counteract the effects of all of the coffee I was drinking, so I decided to alternate one cup of coffee with one cup of water.
This additional layer of discipline not only improved my hydration, but kept my stomach more full and overall less hungry throughout the day.
I’m Starving For Dinner.
The coffee and water trick definitely helped, but by 3-4 PM, nothing mattered more to me than dunking my face into a plate of food.
By the time I would come home from work at 5:30, I was ravenous.
Thankfully, dinner was usually always healthy- a main meal with lean protein and a fresh side salad.
Unfortunately, my hunger was at such a level that inhalation of food >>> patient mindfulness of how I was eating.
After no more than 10 minutes, my entree and side dishes were wiped clean. Without adequate time for my food to settle, I was up and about, serving myself an additional helping.
I’m In Pain.
My poor stomach.
First I would tell it to “just deal with it” for 10 hours without food, making it shrink down and keep quiet.
Then I would engorge it with two servings-worth of dinner and expect it to quickly accommodate the food and speak up when it was full.
I’ve come to learn that I’m an impatient eater. I lack the patience to wait for the “lag time” in satiety signals from my brain to kick in. Needless to say, I learned my lesson the hard way during this “challenge”. I was hit with significant stomach pain, and there was nothing I could do about it except wait it out.
Okay, Just A Snack.
After one week of the challenge, I learned a few lessons:
- I don’t need to be scared of hunger pangs
- Intentional avoidance and distraction from food helps soften the volume of hunger pangs
- Water and coffee are good appetite suppressants
- Careless overindulgence in food will quickly and painfully backfire
My biggest struggle was fighting the urge to face plant into my dinner plate. I battled with my stubbornness on staying committed to something I signed up for vs. making changes to the rules along the way.
I decided that this challenge was more of an exercise in improving my eating habits, and therefore allowed myself the liberty of making tweaks along the way.
The first modification I made was allowing myself a snack.
And only raw vegetables.
I was able to make it through most of the day until 1 -2 PM without snacking. By 2:30 PM I was ready for something to tide me over to dinner. I grabbed a cup’s worth of raw vegetables and munched on those until I left work. This definitely helped with my satiety for a bit. I was able to make it to dinner with better patience and mindfulness toward my eating.
When it came to dinner time, I modified my initial serving size to 50% of what I would traditionally serve myself. This way, when I would inevitably be tempted back for a second serving (my other 50%), I’d enjoy the sense of indulgence without the extra calorie load.
After the veggie cup, came the RxBar. I justified this transition by saying my exchange was protein loaded, had only a few natural ingredients, and wasn’t as caloric as a full lunch entree.
If I was being honest with myself, I would just admit I was over it. I wanted lunch back.
And I missed exercise.
My 3 week challenge had dwindled down to 2 weeks, and basically stopped altogether after that. I weighed myself the following morning, and was indifferent about my weigh-in. I had lost a few pounds, but was still pretty stagnant at my natural maintenance weight.
My Overall Take-Away.
What I liked about the challenge:
- I liked the feeling of successfully conquering my hunger pangs
- I learned that hunger pangs are transient and lessen over time the more you ignore and work around them
- I increased my water intake throughout the day
- I re-established patience waiting to eat, and during the act of eating
What I disliked
- The mental obsession with food
- The repetitive mantras needed to resist the constant urge to eat / snack (especially in the beginning)
My overall take-away points
- The challenge gave me the confidence to have control over my hunger signals
- Having an accountability buddy as a resource would have helped me last an extra 1-2 weeks
- More dramatic changes to my lifestyle habits would have taken root if I had kept going for an additional 1-2 weeks
- I felt healthier eating small, clean, light snacks throughout the day instead of a big sit-down meal
- By serving myself 50% of dinner, I’d eliminate my guilt going back for a second 50% serving
After all was said and done, it was a tough 2 weeks. However, I appreciate the greater insights on my current eating habits that I still need to work on. Eating well is a lifelong practice. Challenges like these offer an opportunity to check-in with your progress to see which areas still need the most tweaking. I’m happy I did the challenge, but equally happy I can now get back into my exercise routine!