When my daughter Becky was little – say, 2 or 3 – she was already quite precise. As an adult, she still likes things to be orderly and predictable. We used to laugh about how she would object to something that was not going according to “Becky Rules”. “That’s NOT how it goes!” became a family classic line we still occasionally bring out as an affectionate memory.
I heard myself saying this – to myself – a few days ago. The circumstances had to do with eating, specifically how much was the “right amount”. As those of you who follow my running posts know, I have revved up the exercise lately, and of course I am burning more calories. As a nutrition expert, you would think it would be obvious that I need to eat more, at least some days.
This post is dedicated to all of you who feel like you must completely figure things out, have total predictability, and never feel at all out of control with your eating. I am here to tell you no one feels in control of their eating 100% of the time, including people of normal weight like myself. The fact that I have made a profession out of guiding others to a healthier lifestyle does not mean that I am no longer human.
So, here’s what happened. I prepared my normal size lunch of leftovers, the same sort of lunch I usually eat – a little bit of whatever we ate last night with added vegetables, followed by what my husband jokingly calls my “dessert”, a few rice cakes with hummus and cucumber slices and a piece of fruit.
Then I waited. And I was still hungry! So I waited a little bit longer. I heard myself at first asking the questions I encourage others to ask: “Did I eat too fast to feel satisfied yet?” After waiting a short while, I ruled this out. “Am I procrastinating with a project I need to do but don’t really want to?” Again, this did not appear to be the cause. “Is this hunger physical?” YES was the voice I kept hearing in response to this one.
So I decided to have a handful of walnuts and a small carton of plain Greek yogurt with a little fruit. “Surely this will do it.”
NOT. To make a long story short(er), I was not truly satisfied until I had devoured several handfuls more of walnuts and pumpkin seeds. As I was continuing to go back for more, I had that uncomfortable feeling of losing a bit of control. “This is not how it goes!!” kept playing in my head.
For a brief moment, I started to mindlessly catastrophize the future. “Something has happened to me! I no longer have a predictable hunger. I no longer can stop when I want. Is it my shifting hormones? If I feel like this now, I could feel like this tomorrow. Maybe I will never be able to fill up again – EVER!”
Ridiculous, right? Of course it is, but it is also incredibly human. We really like to know “how it goes”. We also like to control how it goes. This is not possible all of the time. It is also not necessary all of the time. It is still a good idea to check in, to ask the questions and hear the internal answers, but we have to be at least comfortable enough with the unpredictability that comes with the whole human package.
We simply cannot always get it to go how we think it should go. Take a deep breath – it’s OK. We can get it to go our way much of the time, enough of the time to be successful and healthy.
After I took my deep breath and noticed how I was jumping ahead and trying to predict my future based on a temporary anomaly, I put the thoughts aside, went on with my day, and took a curious outlook toward what tomorrow would bring.
Of course, the next day was a typical day, and my usual eating habits worked perfectly. The unusual day was just that – unusual. It has happened before, and it will happen again. Decades ago, I would have worried more about this, but I now see the patterns, accept them more, and try to trust the incredible intelligence of human biology. The human brain can sometimes get in the way of common sense, don’t you think?