Tuesday, October 19, 2010

How to Stop Eating

How to stop eating? That's an ambitious topic. I could write a PhD dissertation on that, but I'll try to keep this brief.

A while back, a bandster buddy asked me a good question: how do you stop eating? How do you stop eating when you haven't yet had a fill? And after you've had some fills, exactly how do you know to stop eating? Does the band make you stop, or do you have to make yourself stop? The answer is simple and complex at the same time: at some point in your journey on the bandwagon (I wish I could predict when), the band will start doing a lot of the work for you. Some of the work will always be up to you. You will have to make good food choices, control your portion sizes, resist emotional eating, eat carefully, and so on. Your band will never do those things for you. All your band will do is provide early and prolonged satiety.

Satiety is the sensation of having eaten enough food for now. It is NOT the same as feeling "full." If you eat until you feel full, you have overeaten. Overeating, or pouch packing, will eventually lead to problems. The pressure of the extra food in the upper pouch can displace the band (a band slip) and/or enlarge the pouch or esophagus (dilation).You can start your band work even before you have a fill. If you master good eating habits and learn to pay close attention to how you feel as you eat now, it will be a lot easier to deal with conflicting signals from your brain and your band later on. You will learn the soft stop signals (runny nose, hiccup, burp, sneeze, sigh, etc.) and heed them before that one-bite-too-many triggers a hard stop (pain, PB, stuck, sliming). Don't expect any of this to feel comfortable, natural or automatic at first. Changing your behavior (whether it involves eating, exercising, interpersonal relationships, etc.) takes practice.

Here is a list of things that have helped me learn to control my portions and avoid overeating.

1. Don't prepare more food than you plan to eat at one meal. I'm responsible for feeding dinner to two adults, but I used to cook as if I was feeding the 101st Field Artlllery. All that extra food is just too hard to resist. If you do end up with extra food, immediately put it in a sealed storage container and stick it in the fridge or freezer.

2. Don't put serving dishes of food on the dining table. Again, it's just too hard to resist.

3. Weigh and/or measure your planned food, then put HALF of it on your plate. Take the plate to the dining table, sit down, eat it while following good band eating skills. If you don't get a "soft stop" sooner, eat until the food is gone. Then ask yourself: Am I still physically hungry? Is my stomach growling? Do I feel faint with hunger? If the answer to any of those is yes, go back and serve yourself the rest of the food, take it to the table, sit down again, start eating, and go through the whole process again. If the answer is "No, I'm not hungry, but the food is delicious and I'm going to eat the rest of it because it's in my meal plan for today," you'll have to remind yourself about the consequences of overeating (described above).

3. If you don't eat the entire planned, measured meal, throw away the extra food or put it in the fridge. It's OK to eat it later if you get hungry again in an hour or so. Just don't eat it now.

4. When the planned, measured food is gone, the meal is over. Immediately excuse yourself, get up from the table, take the plate to the sink, and wash it (or rinse it and put in the dishwasher). You can go sit back down and enjoy the companionship of your friends or family, or you can move on to something else. When I'm done eating, I clean up the kitchen and then as quickly as possible, remove myself from the scene and get involved in something else. Whatever you do, don't hang around food any longer than you have to.

5. Another technique to try: just before you sit down to eat, set a timer for 15 minutes. When the timer buzzes, go through your Am I Still Hungry routine. If your food is gone before the timer buzzes, you have eaten too fast!

6. When eating in a social situation (like at someone else's home), you can still do the plate removal. Get up, say something like, "Let me help you clear the table" or "Can I get anything from the kitchen while I'm up?" and get rid of that plate.

7. When eating in a restaurant, ask the server to bring you a to-go box with your meal. Eyeball the amount of food you're going to eat at that meal and put the rest of the food in the box. Seal the box and put it in a tote bag (I don't leave home without my tote bag!). If it's still too tempting, take it out to your car and lock it in there. Don't worry about it spoiling in the heat or freezing in the cold out there. You are NOT obliged to eat that food later. If you just can't bear the thought of wasting food, keep a small cooler in your car.

8. When eating in a restaurant, the instant you get a "soft stop", put your napkin over your plate. This sounds gruesome, like you're putting a shroud over a dead body. But the meal is OVER - say goodbye. If you can catch the attention of the waitperson, ask them to remove the plate. If you're really bold (like me), carry the plate to the nearest busperson's station (you'll know you've found it when you see a tray covered with dirty dishes).

Now, I completely understand that you may try all of these tricks and still WANT to go on eating no matter what your band or your body has to say about it. But dealing with the emotional or mental issues that might be going on is beyond the scope of this particular article.

When you've had a chance to monitor your eating and your stop signals, please share them with us!

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