I have a sweet new friend on MyFitnessPal. In her notes to me, she actually calls me “kitten.”
I use MyFitnessPal to take a zoomed-in look at my food choices, my calories and nutrients and to record my weight. I don’t use it religiously. I don’t record every morsel that enters my mouth. But if I find myself getting sloppy, if I lose consciousness as I pick at keto chocolate chips, I log my food on MyFitnessPal for a few days.
Many of you count calories in and out more religiously.
My sweet kitten friend inquired whether, after assessing the day’s net calories, one should then consume the number of calories expended through exercise.
Predictably, there is no consensus among the pals.
So, my thoughts:
The answer to whether one should eat is always simple, but never easy.
I must ask “Am I hungry?”
Do I feel real physical hunger?
Do I even know what real physical hunger feels like?
I eat out of habit, or by looking at the clock, or because I’ve gathered with my girlfriends for sushi and chardonnay.
Isaac, my six-year-old, however, will eat a bite of donut and then put it down because he’s not hungry.
He has a keen, animal sense for when his body needs fuel and if it does not, he abstains from eating.
My goal is to be like Isaac.
I must disrupt my habits. And relearn what it feels like to be six and have an empty tummy.
There’s a tool for this.
It’s called the hunger scale.
I characterize hunger and fullness on a scale from negative ten to positive ten. Zero is no sensation of hunger. Negative ten is absolute physical suffering from starvation. Positive ten is fullness so extreme that it causes bodily pain.
One fascinating experiment is “eating between the twos.”
I eat when I feel a slight emptiness in my belly, when there is just a small sense of discomfort, when I begin to feel my mouth water slightly for food. My throat sometimes tingles a little. Weirdly, I may feel the physical sensation in my biceps. This is my physical sensation of being at a “negative two.”
I eat mindfully, noticing every bite, until I feel just the beginning of fullness. The sensation of emptiness is gone. I feel relief from hunger. But I stop well before my stomach is full to the point of discomfort. This is the physical sensation of being at a “positive two.”
Regardless of the time of day, the calories MyFitnessPal claims I may still eat and continue to weight or the volume of healthy greens in my overflowing salad bowl, I am choosing not to eat automatically.
I wait for the negative two. I stop at positive two.
I am waiting for the quiet whisper of hunger, the sense of emptiness in my belly, a thrumming in my throat.
When was the last time you felt real hunger?
© Liora Powers