January 15, 2011


Painting by Robert Oliver Skemp
"Rules are mostly made to be broken"
"You are remembered for the rules you break."

Douglas MacArthur apparently had a lot to say about breaking rules. I am a big fan of rules. I make them for myself all the time. "No cookies!" "Drink a full quart of water every morning, before drinking anything else!" They are always based on the best intentions, and always have my best interest at heart. They are also always broken. For me, rules are not broken like a bone, which heals stronger than it was before the break. No, for me rules are broken like the tape at a finish line (not nearly as triumphantly, but sometimes every bit as defiantly). Once broken, my rules can never be put back together again. Any further attempt at following the rule is not as strong. The only hope is to move on and focus on another rule.

That's the thing about my rules. I break them, then move on to the next rule. In some cases, I revisit old rule months or years later. At that point, it may (sometimes, but not always) resemble an annual race, offering another strong run and another shot at the title.

I made myself another rule today. It's a rule I've made before. "Only eat when I'm hungry."

On the surface, this is a very simple rule. When I feel hunger, I can eat. When I don't feel hunger, I cannot eat. Simple, until you realize I have no idea what hunger feels like. For me, thirst = hunger. Sadness = hunger. Boredom = hunger. Fatigue = hunger. Acid reflux = hunger. I've had acid reflux so bad I curled up in a ball on the floor. I didn't know what it was. I only knew it happened when I didn't eat. For the last decade, I've put a lot of effort into making sure I never felt that again!

So this rule is a bit more complicated than one would think. When I think I'm hungry, I have to first figure out what I've had to drink lately, whether I'm tired or bored or sad, whether what I'm feeling is actual hunger or something else. I have to figure out what hungry feels like.

I (mostly) eat healthy foods. I just eat them too often. I eat too much of them. The flipside of my "Only eat when I'm hungry" rule is to stop when I'm no longer hungry. Most people apparently don't have a problem doing this. They eat a portion or two, know they are no longer hungry, may even feel a bit full, and walk away. Since I don't know when I'm hungry, it's really difficult to know when I'm no longer hungry. I also have no sense of full. My stomach doesn't send a message to my brain telling me stop eating, until I'm uncomfortable. At that point it's not my brain telling me to stop. It's not my stomach telling me to stop. It's the muscles around my stomach saying "She can't take much more of this, cap'in! She's gonna blow!"

At this point I'm afraid to eat. I'm afraid to not eat. I'm trying really hard to find some level of moderation, some happy medium between curling up in a ball and "she's gonna blow!" I'm currently not eating, until I feel something that might be hunger. This eliminates the tired/bored/sad eating. If I do think I'm hungry, I get something to drink. If I still feel whatever it is, I figure out when I last ate, and determine by that whether what I'm feeling is hunger. If I do believe I'm hungry, then I get a SMALL portion of whatever I want to eat. Then I walk away.

At least that's the theory. It's a more detailed plan than I've used in the past, on this particular rule. I wish it didn't have to be so complicated. I wish I didn't have to THINK about it so damn much. I've learned through experience that when I don't think about my eating, it's never good.

I'm hopeful for that "3 weeks to make a habit, 6 weeks to break one." I'm hopeful my issues are just habit based. If I can stop myself from stuffing my face for 3 weeks, I will get into the habit of stopping myself from stuffing my face. If I can stop myself from stuffing my face for 6 weeks, I can get out of the habit of stuffing my face.

I'm full of hope today.

How does food, hunger, and eating work for you? Is it something you have to think about?

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