The Absurdity of Food & The Journey of Reducing My Food Intake
Throughout the entire history of humanity, who would have thought the abundance of food could and would wreak so much havoc, be the cause of so much disease and create so many problems. On top of all the health and emotional problems that overeating creates, the largest co-morbidity of COVID-19 is obesity. While I’m not a doctor, reducing food intake and focusing on fueling my body with higher quality foods has proven to be significant for me and my body.
Food as Comfort, Not Fuel
What got me thinking about this was when I recently stopped into a trendy new gourmet health-conscious pizzeria that just opened on the main street of the town I live in. It was lunchtime and I was out with my five-year-old kid on a bike ride and he was hungry. The thick fresh doughy pizzas on display were a feast for my eyes and had me drooling. They also had fresh bakery items including an all-time favorite of mine, a big fat doughy German salted pretzel with other sumptuous baked goods beautifully displayed in a shelved glass case on the counter. It all looked so yummy I don’t know which I should choose. The Pretzel, or the doughnut looking thing with poppy seeds, or the twisted pastry with pink frosting? I think I will get one or maybe two slices of pizza for now and the pretzel for later and still I will need to come back to try the other stuff. This would have been my mentality a few years back. I didn’t purchase anything for me and unless I visit the restaurant in the early evening when I eat my only daily meal, I probably will not get to sample any of these. Not that there would be anything wrong with having a meal here, it's just that my fridge is stocked with food from my latest excursion to the farmers market and I need to prepare all that food soon while it is still fresh. Besides, I have grown to love cooking and preparing my own meals and those for my family. Even so, resisting the pizza and that bakery case full of mouthwatering items was quite challenging. It’s meant to be challenging because the restaurant wants me to buy something! How else will they pay their rent? This goes for all food purveyors and what’s done to get us to buy their food gets more and more alluring and considering eating is human’s most basic instinct most of us succumb. Thus, the obesity epidemic and most of us are overweight. People are not just using food for nourishment they are using it for comfort. They are using it to “feel good” and to temporarily distract them from their problems. Food is being used like a drug. This is another topic within this same vein.
Quality and Quantity
The quantity of food humans eat is a major health issue, possibly only 2nd to stress and just ahead of food quality (additives, GMOs, other manipulations, and the simple fact that some food isn’t even food, i.e., Twinkies and such). The combination of quantity of food available combined with the seeming desperate need for seed companies, farmers, food distributors, restaurants, bakeries, supermarkets, and other food purveyors to make money by getting us to purchase their product creates a sick food culture. Sick not only in the sense of “too much”, but sick in the sense of unethical and harmful and the psychological tactics used by the food industry to manipulate us into buying (and eating) their products. They use psychological tactics to manipulate us into desiring their product. All this makes things much more difficult to EAT LESS!
We need to change our consumption tendencies, habits, and rituals. We need to eat less. What we really need is to spend more time hungry. There is plenty of science on this and this is the idea behind intermittent fasting. I have read more than one study that shows the calorie restriction diets the subjects were put on lived 30% longer and had 80% less age-related disease. Those numbers really blew me away! There are some other cool and positive things I’d like to share with you about being hungry. I didn’t say starving or famished so don’t be afraid of this.
The quality of our life, which means the enjoyment of our health, relationships, careers, adventures, arts, hobbies, passions, pastimes, etc…do not involve eating. Okay. You may say cooking is your passion and the conversations around the dinner table are fulfilling. I get that yet we can still have these things! The only time eating is truly important to us is when we need to eat, and when you do need to eat you can have all that and you can eat whatever you want! So let us not confuse eating less with any type of detraction of the qualities that make our life meaningful.
Is Eating Less a Solution?
In other words, eating less will not lessen the qualities that enhance our lives so don’t be afraid of this concept. Believe it or not this is about enriching and enhancing our lives. This is not about torture, suffering, denial, and misery. As we get into this, you will see how eating less actually enhances life. You will have more time which is our most valuable asset, more energy, more health, and you will save loads of money. You will be happier, and you can eat whatever you want, and you will enjoy it more than you ever had. But like everything in life, there is a price to pay for all this. This price is a price everyone can afford yet it truly helps at least initially to have a support system. It’s kind of like the healthiest exercise is walking which only requires a little time and energy and is even enjoyable; yet, in order to walk, it helps to have a supporting team who carves and maintains the trails or builds and maintains the roads or how about a friend who encourages you to walk with them.
The biggest problem with eating less is we don’t have that supporting team! Our culture doesn’t support this concept, doesn’t want to acknowledge this concept, and makes almost every effort to promote the antithesis to this concept. Two reasons for this: Firstly, eating less involves initial discomfort as change usually does and we are not that good at discomfort even though everything in our lives meaningful requires discomfort and effort, i.e., marriage, children, education, work even yoga and meditation. Secondly, eating less will also cost the food industry a lot of money so they would not be supportive of that. Without support almost every endeavor is more difficult.
What is the advice you would give to a dear friend who drinks too much? Would it be: Drink less? Would that advice create some initial discomfort? That discomfort is called withdrawal symptoms which are temporary. This is a similar discomfort yet probably much less intense as we change our eating habits. During this time having that support system or team is very helpful. This initial discomfort is the price you pay for a lifetime of more health, energy, clarity, and strength!
My Journey with Food
I want to share with you a personal experience. Before I do, please know this: The caloric intake that’s working best for ME is not a prescription for YOU! You may want to go from 3 meals a day plus snacking to simply removing the snacking. You may want to go from 3 meals a day and snacking to 2 meals per day and snacking. You may want to go from 3 meals a day to 2 meals and no snacking, etc…Eating less can look endless in different ways. So don’t compare me as a male at the age of 56 expending the energy that I expend daily doing the work and activities I happen to do (right now) with the unique metabolism I have, I have found what works for ME. If I get older or expend more energy or maybe less energy my diet may shift somewhat. We all need to figure out what works best for us.
The other day I was taking a shower and I felt an emptiness or hollowness in my stomach. It wasn’t hunger pains, but my brain was interpreting it as such, and this is certainly when I would head to the kitchen and get me some food. I looked down at my belly and it was flat which felt good. Yet much more than that I felt physically and mentally great. I felt great because I felt energetic, alert, I felt a lightness and ease within my body I hadn’t felt for a long time, I even felt stronger. Mostly I felt empowered! This empowerment was also psychological as I was not being dominated and controlled anymore, I was making decisions instead of addictions and habit patterns making decisions for me. I was observing the emptiness, but I was not reacting to it. I don't know if I am articulating this correctly and I’m not sure if you all who are reading this understand what I'm saying because it’s hard for me to articulate this sense of well-being.
The skeletal issues I’ve been having in my lower back, hips, and knees which are a result of a lifetime of physical abuse have decreased tremendously. I’m in much less pain. When I decided to go from the two meals per day which I had been doing for years to one meal per day and no snacking I lost 26 lbs. I went from 180 lbs. to 154 lbs. (my high school weight) where I leveled off. Not sure when the last time you lifted a 25-30 pound dumbbell but it’s heavy! That’s a lot less weight my skeleton needs to support and my muscles need to drag around. I’m also spending much less time in the burdensome digestion process which takes lots of energy. All this is leaving me feeling much lighter and more energetic which with a 5-year-old kid at my age of 56 has been great.
What I’ve Learned From Reducing my Food Intake
I am about to write as if all our bodies are the same which they’re not, yet we are all similar in many ways and I’m assuming in these ways we are similar.
- Plain and simple: initially I felt hungry when reducing meals! Although it wasn’t that I needed food. Our bodies are creatures of habit. If you eat at a certain time every day the body becomes accustomed to eating at that time. It will expect food. The stomach may even growl a little letting you know it’s time to eat. This doesn’t mean you need food, it means your body wants food. The longer you ignore the growling the louder and more frequent the growls become. The feelings of hunger will grow stronger and initially they are hard to resist. These are the withdrawal symptoms I had mentioned earlier. I am in the toughest part of this process where support and fortitude will help. I am someone who doesn’t mind discomfort if it’s for a valid objective. This persisted for about one month at which point the intensity of the hunger sensations began to decrease and I was more comfortably able to make it until my chosen mealtime. I made it more difficult for myself as my chosen mealtime was dinner at about 6:00pm. Things would have been easier for me and more optimal if my chosen mealtime would’ve been midday. The length of my waking state broke up with a meal midway instead of waiting all the way until close to bedtime. I go to bed around 9:00pm and wake up around 5:00am. The reason I waited until dinner to eat was because I wanted to eat dinner with my family. This is the time we are all together and it’s usually a delicious and nutritious meal cooked by yours truly. Eventually as my body became accustomed to this schedule, I was able to make it to 6:00pm more easily.
- I noticed I was more irritable as I became hungrier. This is common as irritability and hunger go hand in hand, but this also dissipated after the first month or so as my body adjusted to my new schedule.
- Overeating. This would have not been such an issue if I would have taken my one meal midday. Yet by the time I got to dinner I was so hungry I overate. This issue was obvious to me, and it took about another month or so for me to stop eating so much and so fast. One thing that helped me here was either taking a sip of my drink in between each bite and/or putting my fork down in between each bite and not picking my fork up again until I had chewed and swallowed my food. This gave my body a chance to register how full I felt before I overate. When eating less, the stomach will shrink slightly and you will become full faster.
Nowadays I feel great throughout the day and although I am hungry by dinner, I can more easily and patiently wait for dinner, and I don’t feel the rush to stuff food down my throat. Throughout the day I am aware of the emptiness in my stomach, but I don’t react to it and as I said earlier, I feel light, strong, crystal clear, energized and empowered. I enjoy the one meal I eat more than I have ever enjoyed eating. I also enjoy cooking more than ever before. Because I am eating only one meal per day, I try to make that meal as nutritious as possible because obviously along with taking in less food I am taking in less nutrients. I also supplement my diet with blue-green algae tablets for an added kick of nourishment.
I mentioned earlier that there is a price to pay, and the above-mentioned issues was that price. Now that I’ve paid the price, I just enjoy the dividends of my investment in myself by feeling amazing and I spend 60% less money on food!
Nowadays when walking through the bakery section of the supermarket or maybe it’s the deli and I see all that beautiful looking food with my stomach so empty I still feel the desire to eat that stuff and my mind will try to convince me that I shouldn’t have to deny myself. I realize this is exactly what the supermarket and food purveyors want. They want me to buy and eat their food. Yet it has become much easier for me to not react to this desire. None of this would be an issue if we didn't see so much food, such beautiful food, food everywhere! Our relationship with food has become sick and unnatural.
Lastly, Since my only meal per day is dinner it would seem I cannot eat my favorite meal of the day which is breakfast. Breakfast is not my favorite meal because of the time that I eat it, it's my favorite meal because of what I eat. I love my bacon/sausage, eggs, and hash browns. So, now and then, that's what I eat for dinner and it's just as delicious as ever :-)
I wish for all of you the strength and support needed to care for yourself optimally! If you’d like us to support you, check out poweryoga.com's “Weight Loss and Wellness Program '', a 5 week kick start into the world of wellness.
Sincerely, Bryan Kest