I’m not hungry but I want food

I recall an afternoon more than fifteen years ago when I found myself foraging through the kitchen cabinets looking for something to eat. As I searched it dawned on me “I’m not hungry but I want food!”

In my last blog post I emphasized that if you’re hungry for a particular food – like licorice or chocolate – then you’re not hungry.

My quest to find something in the kitchen cabinets was a perfect example. I didn’t reach for broccoli and tofu to satiate physical hunger. I was looking for “something” to satisfy me. What was going on?

I teach this stuff and had lots of practice so gratefully it was a split-second discovery of the fact that I was tired. And food was not going to help that.

What is your equivalent of foraging through the kitchen, being “hungry for licorice,” or needing chocolate to feel satisfied? I realize you may have more than one of these, but let’s start somewhere. Once you know what that is for you, ask these questions:

  • What is producing this feeling? (In my situation, being tired made me feel I needed something to eat – and something “tasty,” not broccoli.)
  • How can I meet my need without food? (I needed a nap, but was in the middle of a workday. So, I went outside, took several deep breaths and stretched my muscles before getting back to work.)
  • How can I prevent this “need” in the future? (I realized I had over-commit and that I needed to make specific adjustments to my schedule going forward.)

This last question is an advanced one. Until you can identify and address the long-term need, you will perpetually be fighting on the short-term front, and that takes a lot of energy.

Sometimes the answer is nebulous. Like with my chocolate example. I just “felt” unsatisfied. What does that even mean? My thinking brain (the responsive parent) didn’t really know. But my toddler brain was throwing a life-or-death tantrum in order to get what she wanted. When I identified the tantrum, I could let the toddler rant without giving in. I could be the responsive parent (using my prefrontal cortex) to let her know she wasn’t going to die and it would be okay.

I recall an afternoon over 15 years ago, foraging through the kitchen cabinets looking for something to eat. I realized, “I’m not hungry but I want food."
Photo by Pete Wright on Unsplash

After a while, her tantrums stopped and I no longer needed chocolate to be satisfied.

Do I still eat chocolate? You bet. Now I eat it when I decide I want it (I mean really decide) not because I feel a compulsion or unexplained desire for it. Now I care about it far less than I ever did before.

This is the work of reaching and maintaining your ideal weight. And you cannot wait to feel like it. Ask the questions. Do the work. It’s hard, but only because it’s new. It’s also simple and rewarding.

Do you like the consequences of procrastination?

Have you experienced the consequences of procrastination? For example, did you ever procrastinate in school? Like, rather than read and study the class materials throughout the semester, it came down to a 48-hour cram fest to see how much you could retain and regurgitate once you had a No. 2 pencil in hand? Yeah, I did that once or twice…

Think about the focus of cramming. It’s to pass the test. Then, consider what likely does NOT happen? The purpose of school to begin with: life-long learning, increasing intellect and skills for a particular purpose.

So, the consequence of procrastination, and then cramming, might have been a decent, maybe even good, grade on a test, but we also short-change ourselves. We take the quick win over the long-term gain.

What happens if someone approaches weight loss like a test? She does a cleanse, fast, diet…anything to lose weight quickly. And because “cramming” for weight loss is unsustainable, she reverts back to old habits and the weight comes back.

Did you procrastinate in school? Like, a 48-hour cram fest for a test? What happens when you approach weight loss like that test?
Photo by Ben Mullins on Unsplash

Lasting weight loss is a side effect of day-in-and-day-out healthy habits: of mindful, healthy eating, of moving and strengthening your body, of getting proper rest, of managing stress… a lifestyle of wellness. It’s like consistently studying and applying the knowledge learned in a class to grow intellectually.

But expecting weight loss to be the first thing that happens when you implement a new exercise program or change your eating habits. That’s short-term thinking that ends – usually – in disappointment. (There IS one kind of short-term thinking I recommend! I talk about it here.)

Instead, what if you made the decision that you’re “in” no matter what? Then NOT losing a pound on day one, or any other day, isn’t a reason to quit or to beat yourself up. What if you focused on what you’re doing to get the result? And what if you worked on your mindset to produce the actions that will ultimately get you the results that you want? That’s where the magic happens, right?

Are the consequences of procrastination worth it? Ultimately, you need to decide. Be clear on which side effects you want: quick weight loss that comes back as fast as it went, or a lifetime of feeling free and being in control, able to maintain your ideal weight.

It is that simple.

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