Which of the curves on the graph best describes your eating lifestyle? The numbers are not as important as the shape of the curve. This example is based on 2 people who need 2000 calories to maintain their weight. Both of the people described in the graph above (plain line – person A; railroad track line – person B) will maintain their weight if they consume an average of 2000 calories per day over time, but the lifestyles of these two individuals vary dramatically.
Person A eats close to 2000 calories almost every day. In other words, while there are certainly some days that are much higher or lower, they are the exception. The spike in the center of the curve at about 2000 calories makes this visually clear. I would be willing to bet that this person does not make a habit of waiting too long to eat or completely avoiding whatever they consider “treats”.
Now let’s take a look at Person B. Oh, poor person B! The huge dip in the curve around the 2000 calorie point (the average number of calories needed) is surrounded by a hump on either side at the high and low extremes. Person B may be able to prevent weight gain by swinging back and forth from eating too little to eating too much, but neither extreme will probably feel good.
This is a visual illustration of what eating looks like when a person feels guilty about eating more than a little or eating something just for pleasure. Often this type of eating swings back and forth between high and low calorie, and the middle area (moderate eating) is almost non-existent. Lack of self control is how many people describe themselves when their eating falls into this pattern. Even though weight may remain stable, this is just not a good way to feel!
Your calorie needs may be different, but the shape of the curve that describes your eating can tell a lot about why you feel the way you do. If you wish you felt more control with food choices, or food worries take up too much of your time, you may want to ask yourself, “Is my eating fairly consistent from day to day and week to week, or do I feel like I am usually either too hungry or too full?”
Instead of trying to be “good” or “get back on track” after overeating, realize that under-eating usually only keeps the highs and lows in place. A move toward the middle ground, closer to your calorie needs, is the simple but powerful beginning of a solution to the problem. Scary territory for lots of people! That is understandable when the high-low flip flopping has gone on for years.
If your goal is weight loss, it may be a good idea to bring your calorie intake more toward the middle first, get a sense of better control, and then eat a MODERATELY lower calorie level for slow, steady weight loss. It won’t feel so painful – I promise!