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I've had the interesting experience of going hungry lately. Going to bed hungry, waking up hungry, and not getting enough to eat in between.

This isn't (yet) due to extreme financial reversals or climate change or the rather startling cost of groceries. It seems to be because I'm undergoing some kind of metabolic shift, resulting from massive dietary changes I've made over the past year. I could eat, but I just...don't. I have hardly any inclination. When I do eat, I enjoy it.

So, here's what I notice about a significantly reduced caloric intake:
  • I feel unusually clearheaded
  • I've lost a lot of weight (well, duh! I mention it only because of the degree of reduction that it took to make that kick in)
  • The food I do eat tastes really, really good
  • I have a lot more physical energy, and a more steady-state energy level all day long
  • I'm in a really good mood all the time--to kind of a manic degree, actually, the hungrier I get
  • I get very physically and emotionally uncomfortable the minute I cross some line of hunger that I haven't defined yet
  • I seem to need about an hour less sleep than ever before
  • Little annoying symptomy things like joint pain and candida and sinus blockage have vanished

I'm not advocating anorexia and I'm certainly not celebrating world hunger. But as a person who has never experienced any sort of calorie shortage--in fact, rarely less than a caloric excess--in more than fifty years of life, I'm bowled over by the simple equation of reduced caloric intake with overall improvement in health and well-being.

ETA because of concerns expressed (and pentimentoed back out again, but the internet is forever, so thank you!--you know who you are): I'm watching myself pretty closely, as eating disordered behavior is something I'm keenly aware of. I am definitely not starving--rather, living close to a caloric edge that is unknown to most Americans, and certainly unknown to me.

For now, I'm assuming that this is a good change, arising naturally from major life-detoxification. But I am watching.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 3rd, 2008 03:12 pm (UTC)
Well, since I have been on this path with you for a number of years now I can attest that it is not any kind of disorder going on. I am wondering how much the kombutcha has impacted the over-all metabolic healing that has obviously taken place. I have had to give up the kombutcha myself due to stomach issues that seemed to arise when I started drinking it and went away when I stopped. It makes no sense, but still the facts support it. I have seen you go from a high caloric intake to a extremely low one and I have to agree, you have been healthier since moving, without effort to the low. I would expect, as your body adjusts to the new natural weight for your body that the caloric intake will increase a bit to support the new perfect weight for you. What that level will be is anyones guess at this point though. I have been going through a much less extreme change too, as you know and have noticed some of the same effects. Certainly I have more energy on less calories. I absolutely feel better about myself and am more comfortable in my body right now than I have been in a very long time. My brain is clearer, noticed primarily by the level of Soduko I can complete in the mornings without having to wait for the answers in tomorrows paper. Since I don't have work to go off for a calibration of brain activity quality, that's the best I can use for measure. Mostly though, I agree, it's the over-all mood improvement. And once you ease into the lower calories you start to have an appreciation and desire for the slight hunger feelings. I love going to bed feeling slightly hungry. I know my body has plenty to fall back on to get through the night but mostly I sleep better that way.

I wonder how much of the two areas just mentioned are due to the elimination of MSG and other chemical additives. No corn sugar, no MSG, not fillers. Food in it's natural state, prepared with care and quality ingredients. But who cares what it's due to. I am just loving the weight loss, the health and overall great feeling!

Congratulations to us both!
Oct. 3rd, 2008 03:31 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the validation! I talked to my sister--who has had bouts with anorexia--about this issue last night, because I want to take it seriously. For people with my kind of history, there's a real danger of falling into the "less is better" trap to the point where "nothing" is "best of all."

I'm happy to say that I do eat when I get hungry enough, and I eat pretty well. I just stop a lot sooner, and don't start again nearly as often as I used to.

As to the cause of health improvements, I feel like I have some data to work with. I've been on the clean, whole food diet for a year now, and really strictly for six months. In that time, my sinuses have cleared up and instances of acid reflux have been reduced. Of course, the seizures have almost gone away.

But it's in the last four to six weeks of significant calorie reduction that I've noticed the freedom from joint pain, the reduced need for sleep, and mood elevation.

It seems pretty clear to me that neither a whole food diet nor a caloric reduction alone could have gotten me here. The magic lies in the combination: eat better AND eat less.

It will be so interesting to see how the coming year or so unfolds for both of us!
Oct. 4th, 2008 04:12 pm (UTC)
And for the rest of us too, inspired by everything from you and Michael Pollan and "Why French Women Don't Get Fat" (who eat less but love what they eat) to the great rise in the price of food. But there's also this: simply habit. So much of what people eat is determined by the way our parents ate. It's hard to learn to think differently about food. I wish I could remember where I saw an article (not more than a few months ago) about a naturalist who was described as eating two meals a day, usually one of a fiber-rich cereal, the other of a varied salad. He is apparently a very active and healthy individual; that's just how he does things. My mother would have been amazed at the very thought. Is this what is meant by the phrase "Eating like a bird"? (I'm not sure: birds are at it pretty much non-stop.)

Oct. 4th, 2008 05:31 pm (UTC)
Michael Pollan talks a lot about food traditions, and the lack thereof in American culture. French women eat as their parents ate and do well because their food traditions are long, rich, well-established and proven to maintain wellbeing.

French food traditions are encoded into meal customs, portion sizes, food-labeling practices, and law. The French, collectively, agree to protect their farmland, value local sourcing (look at wine and cheese appellation law--you can't call it champagne unless it comes from Champagne). Employees and schoolchildren get two hours for lunch--enough time to go home and eat a hot, homecooked meal. Dinner is little short of a sacred ritual. There is no such thing as artificial cheese-food (at least, I didn't see any on the grocery store shelves last time I was there in 2003).

So in France, eating as your parents ate is an excellent plan, and a fundamental basis of life. In our world, unless your parents were immigrants, eating as they ate is a total crapshoot. Americans have no traditional bread or cereal, no traditional oil or fat, no traditional fermented drink (okay, maybe bourbon whiskey), no traditional and very few food preserving traditions. We threw away what was native to the continent when we got here, then systematically adulterated and corrupted what we brought with us.

In my own case, my family on both sides came to this New World and forgot their English and Scottish and Norse traditions literally centuries ago. The most traditional thing I can remember eating in my life (not counting Thanksgiving dinner, which is arguably the exception) is...


*thinks some more...*

um...I'm drawing a big blank. Cookies, maybe? Pie? Baked potatoes with butter?

Donuts! Donuts! Donuts are, apparently, a great American food tradition. The French who visit here think rather highly of donuts. And a good donut is a fine thing.

Wow, I do go on! You always get me thinking.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )



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