My senior year of high school, my older brother came home on leave and we went to lunch at Schlotzsky’s. He ordered one of those sandwiches so big that they cut it in quarters and washed it down with a large soda and chips. During our lunch I remember Matt telling me that it’s really a struggle for him because sometimes he forgets to eat for a few days, loses 3 pounds, and then it’s a struggle to put the weight back on.
There I sat, staring at him in disbelief. Before me was the smallest option on the menu and water. My whole life (since 4th grade) had been a battle to lose weight and yet here was this bean pole eating like a horse and complaining that he couldn’t stop losing weight.
The struggle I am going to talk about today, I know full well that some of you will feel like I did on that day. What Matt felt was a burden was my dream… to just accidently lose weight? I had tried every diet in the books and on the new fangled thing called the internet all to no avail.
I promise that if you hang with me, even if you can’t relate with my struggle you can learn from my process.
See I haven’t been hungry in nearly two weeks. Like at all. And it’s made eating quite a chore.
Every month or so I will have a few days where I don’t have an appetite. It’s just part of being a woman. Usually I just eat protein bars or other semi-healthy options to keep myself going until my appetite kicks back in and off we go.
But tonight I am wrapping up day 18 of a Whole30. So when this started back on day 7, it needed a different approach. I know how much I should eat (I thought) and so I just kept eating as best I could to what was historically a day’s food and waited for hunger to return.
For the last eight months I have been learning to eat by physical signals instead of counting calories or timing meals. (For more on this, check out ThinWithin.) So when the 5th day of this came and no hunger in sight, I started to be concerned. I am wondering if I’m eating too little or too much with no way to gauge the answer. Donovan wasn’t worried.
On day 6, I ate breakfast and it made me sick to my stomach. Lunch had the same reaction. My concern started to dissolve into panic. Donovan remained unconcerned.
I started to eat a bit less. Maybe I had lost enough weight without changing my consumption that I was just consuming too much to reach a state of hunger. My consumption decreased to about 2/3rds of what I had been eating but hunger did not return. My energy levels dropped slightly and I became vigilant about making sure to eat fruit (last time I started running into walls… learned sugar is vital).
I learned that if I cook a meal it’s easier to eat. Something about the process of preparing the food helped me stomach it better. When I pull out my prepped meals from the freezer and warm them up then it’s an hour of making myself eat before it’s gone. But my schedule isn’t really built around cooking meals… like typically 90% of my meals are from what I pre-prepped.
When it became a week Donovan still wouldn’t give me an answer, I started talking to others seeking an advice. (This is a dangerous habit of mine. If Donovan doesn’t answer me, it means I know and need to trust myself.) I shared my lack of hunger with two coworkers, ironically both named Daniel, who are big into fitness. Both agreed that I needed to eat more. One offered me food every time I came to his desk. The other sent me a schedule he recommended I eat by.
I ran their concerns by Donovan… he said “if you notice you haven’t eaten for 4 hours, eat something.” He also reminded me that if my energy is low then I probably need sugar. I told him I had upped my fruit and was affirmed. “See, you know what to do. Trust yourself.”
I didn’t. I wanted a solution to this problem; trust is way too uncomfortable.
I went back to the Daniels the next day. I wrote out everything I had eaten and was told by both that it was not enough. I emailed it to Donovan. He didn’t respond, which means “you are fine / you know what to do.” (This was confirmed when I asked him about it at my next session.)
Friday both Daniels lectured me about the importance of food as fuel and the need to eat on a schedule. At my Friday night session, I asked, again, for Donovan to tell me his thoughts. I sent him my meal log for that day. “It’s fine,” he replied via email.
Today I’ve eaten three meals and only one snack and that’s taken a lot of emotional energy because every meal is something that I am dreading; I just don’t want to eat. Without hunger, eating is a drudgery and a chore.
“So, what? There are worse struggles than not being hungry.”
The problem is that my goal of building muscle requires that I feed my body. And with hunger absent it’s easy to just stop eating. Not eating is a shortcut that seems to lead to weight loss but will really hamstring everything I am trying to accomplish.
In parallel with this struggle (which Donovan is right, I am unnecessarily overconcerned about) a different hunger has needed revival. I stopped eating months ago a sustenance that keeps my heart alive.
Those of you who know me well may be surprised by this: I have not been reading or listening to motivational messages… like hardly at all. Both were once daily habits, an unending hunger for self-development and growth, but both began to feel like a drudgery and obligation. YouTube or Facebook seemed so much more alluring. These daily disciplines slid into occasional behaviors and then just stopped almost completely.
On January 6th, I had a priceless conversation with an old friend. He reminded me why those had been so important to me. He encouraged me to commit to them for just a week. Recognizing that I can do anything daily for a week, out of respect for him, and with a small glimmer of hope that it could solve the mental funk I was in, I agreed.
Not going to lie, those first few days were hard. My routine no longer included time for these activities… and reading books or listening to motivational messages can be kinda painful when you don’t want to be that introspective. I had a few days that I barely managed to do it before bed and once I almost quit on the whole idea.
But something started to change in me… at some point it shifted and I couldn’t get enough. Today is only day 9 since that conversation and yet I have read 3.5 books. Granted, the books he recommended were easy reads like The Dream Giver and The Greatest Miracle in the World, but they started to get to me.
Just like food is fuel for my body, books and audios are fuel for my soul. From them come talks and writings that are meaningful and impact people. When I consistently don’t put in good content, my writing becomes much more negative, it doesn’t flow like it should, and it starts to land flat. Now I am exploding with ideas for posts, limited only because I can’t decide between writing and reading another chapter.
I don’t know when my physical hunger signals will return. But I do know that if I never crave food again it will be ok. Because I don’t have to want to eat in order to eat. Just like I don’t have to want to read in order to read.
Choosing to do it anyway, because it’s the fuel I need to tackle the goals I have for my life is far more important than how I feel about doing anything.