Your Ideal Weight: It’s Between Your Body and Its Fuel

Being ravenously hungry all the time can be wearing. You’ve got to spend so much time eating. A two-hour trip away from home means packing all kinds of snacks. When bed time rolls around and you’re drowsily brushing your teeth, BAM! Hunger pangs again.

But my insatiable, all-consuming hunger – the one for food – has been on leave. I noticed this by looking down at my 500-calorie breakfast and realizing (with amazement) that I couldn’t finish it as usual. And after what most would consider an active day – a hard training session in the gym and then lots of walking downtown – I didn’t need to eat constantly, as I typically would.

It makes perfect sense, however. I left my personal training job two weeks ago where I continuously demonstrated exercises (usually without weights), squatted up and down to watch clients, and walked up and down stairs. Hell, talked. And stood. And moved.

In the last two weeks I’ve been doing more computer work. Sure, I’m still training hard four times a week and I’m not nearly as sedentary as some. But my body notices this difference in activity level and just doesn’t need as much fuel.

For me, food is simply fuel.

But wait – food is integral in celebrating our humanness. It’s a huge part of special occasions and holidays and brings families, friends, and strangers together. We learn how to relate to each other over food. We tell stories over food, we gather over food. Plus come on – we love tasting, experimenting with, and cooking food. Food is much more than fuel and we know it.

How we get tangled up in a “relationship” with food is a different matter. You know, that “I-need-to-eat-because-I’m-bored” relationship. Or the one in which food is your steadfast friend during TV watching, computing, or reading. Or when it comforts you during those times when you’d rather not feel.

Lifestyle Changes Mean Eating Changes

Our bodies are amazing self-regulating machines – they don’t need to be “detoxed” or given specific times to eat. When you eat when you’re hungry and don’t eat when you’re not, you’re helping your body do what it does – regulate itself. There are two situations when you want to get methodical about tracking your calories: when you want to lose weight or gain weight for muscle. Otherwise, your body is the manager – it tells you exactly when to eat and balks when you don’t give it fuel that makes it run well.

When you realize that on a biochemical level, food is simply fuel, the whole weight-maintenance thing is pretty darn easy. But since we’re creatures of habit, we need to re-evaluate our eating patterns when we have a lifestyle change, like these:

  • Bad weather
  • An injury or illness
  • Working more
  • Working less
  • Less income
  • More income
  • Vacation
  • Sick relative
  • Pregnancy or new baby
  • Divorce or breakup
  • New relationship or marriage
  • Insert life event here…

How often do we have lifestyle changes without changing our eating habits? If you’ve become more sedentary recently, have you also started eating less?

This is an important question to ask yourself because mindless eating – and using food as a relationship – is one of the most popular American past times. For myself, I’m putting less yogurt and cereal in my bowls at breakfast time now. And during day, I’m listening to my hunger to determine when to eat.

Your body is the boss… let it do its job.

This article originally appeared on www.workoutnirvana.com.

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Comments

  1. YES!!!! I have written about this many times.. listen to the bod – life changes, the bod changes & we need to adjust accordingly! Food is fuel but unfortunately it gets caught up with all kinds of emotional stuff for many. It is hard work to bring it back to fuel but that is what is necessary… I still love food but I know I have to change with situations. If I can’t work out for a week, the food consumption changes..

    Great post Suzanne!
    Jody – Fit at 54 recently posted..Gratitude Monday & YOU, the Readers – I Will be Blogging Less!My Profile

  2. Suzanne, i think you read my mind when writing this post. (Of course you left breathing and PMS off the list of the lifestyle change items that prompt more eating in my case ::)). Food is fuel and when I remember that, I always make such smarter decisions. It’s only when I give it extra meaning as comfort or a “friend” – maybe I should make that frenemy, actually, that it becomes a problem. Great post!
    Shira recently posted..Lance Armstrong: Bemoaning the Fall of a Fitness LegendMy Profile

  3. Great post!! It’s so important to take the time to listen to your body, too.

  4. Hey Suzanne! Fabulous post! I experienced the same thing last month when I was sidelined from workouts due to injury. Unfortunately, I didn’t pay attention to my body’s changing hunger signals (I tend to eat quickly and while I’m doing other things, naughty, naughty) and almost immediately put on 5 pounds. Not the kind you want either!
    Made me think a lot about the talks we heard at FHBC; when you energy balance is bang on, dropping exercise from the equation will immediately shift your towards weight gain, if you continue fuelling the same way…
    Working on getting back to full intensity at the gym AND mindful (sloooowwwwer) eating!
    Tamara recently posted..Trigger foods: identify, remove and resist them to jump start weight lossMy Profile

    • That five pounds comes so easily, doesn’t it?? I can really relate about the injury thing. Dang it is really slow getting back to full intensity, and although I hurt my elbow in early April, I am still not back to 100% on that side. Ah well, part of our awesomeness is being patient… I think 🙂

  5. SUCH a great post! And it’s so true about not always needing as much as we think we do – a lot of it’s in our minds! I’ve been reading a lot about intermittent fasting and used to scoff at the idea of skipping a meal, but now realize I’ve more forced myself to eat “just beacuse” or since “5-6 small meals a day” is the thing to do. Not necessarily! As I’m reading more I’m relaxing more and allowing myslef to let go of rules & listen to my body. Thanks for this simple yet insightful post!
    Bonnie recently posted..#Eat (Stop, Eat?) & #MOVE: reflections from the weekendMy Profile

    • Thanks Bonnie for your insight. Honestly, everyone is so different. I could never do intermittent fasting, I get godzilla-like when I don’t eat regularly. I DO think relaxing is a GOOD plan. Let me know how it pans out!

  6. I learned this the hard way, before I became a trainer, when I changed jobs in my banking career. I was a branch manager, constantly on my feet and moving all day long. Then I went to manage an operations center where I sat all day on conference calls and doing paper work. Slowly my weight started to creep up. I didn’t want to eat less, so I bought a bike that I started riding to work and moving more through out the day by doing receiving and distribution work. I am willing to work for my afternoon snack!

    • That’s a good example of what happens, and it’s so tough to gauge exactly how much you CAN eat. Like you said, adding in the exercise is KEY!

  7. This is a perfect example of what happens when we have a well-established healthy lifestyle: we actually *can* trust our bodies to let us know when we need more (or less) rest, food, etc.
    Mary C. Weaver, CSCS recently posted..Common workout mistakes, part oneMy Profile

  8. absolutely true! Learning to tune in to hunger signals often gets warped based on all of the information we receive over the years. I am actually working with someone now who is cracking open all my issues (one’s I wasn’t even aware of!) and teaching me to return to that more intuitive place of eating.
    Amanda @RunToTheFinish recently posted..6 White Foods You Should Be EatingMy Profile

    • That you’re actually looking at your issues deserves kudos Amanda. And you don’t even have a weight problem! All of us some kind of relationship with food… taking an honest look at it is smart for us all to do.

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