Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Hunger & Fatigue Zone

I grew up super-hungry. As a child, I remember being criticized for always eating. Yes, I was truly hungry, both physiologically & emotionally. My body & mind thought about eating most of the time. As the years passed, other physical changes became evident, such as a tendency to store belly fat & to feel "drunk" after eating. However, no matter how much I ate, the insatiable hunger continued & my life evolved around it. While being athletic probably saved me from becoming obese, no one seemed to know that my hunger levels were announcing a problem, nor that my eating behaviors were setting the stage for some serious medical & emotional problems down the road.

It took decades for me to fully understand what my body & mind were trying to tell me. Despite being an RN, the kind of information I needed was simply not readily available. Yes, there was plenty of "diet" jargon around & I kept believing that very soon I'd find the secret. Instead, these diets turned me into a yo-yo compulsive eater & diet junkie. I was blind to the fact that I was making myself even more seriously ill.

My "I could eat the wallpaper off the walls" hunger & fatigue were early indicators of pre-diabetes & closely related to other killer diseases including heart & circulatory disease, a medical syndrome known as hyperinsulinemia. In simple terms, my pancreas was over-producing insulin while building what's called insulin resistance on my cell borders. As my pancreas tired, I was on the fast road to adult onset diabetes. The new-found knowledge told me that this was no longer about wanting to lose weight, but about choosing whether to live & or die. Simple & scary as that.

Through the years I had literally dug myself into a hole & the only way out was to change my lifestyle behaviors least for me. I had come to understand that I was a very disorderly & undisciplined eater. I ate what I wanted, when I wanted. There was little rhyme or reason to what I did. I paid little attention to the messages from my body or mind. I never considered my body organs when choosing what or when to eat. It was only about personal satisfaction. I lied & made excuses, so I could keep doing whatever I wanted. I ate secretly. I binged in the car on the way home from work. I binged in the middle of the night. If I finished off a pint of ice cream, the next day a new one would magically appear. If it felt good, or if I believed it would release my stress, I did it, secretly knowing that one day it would catch up with me, but....not today. I was wrong.

One day I realized that I would have to change everything regarding my eating & exercise behaviors. I was so happy to find out what was wrong with me, but this was also the day I met up with the destructive, addictive child-part of my personality; the part that ranted & raved to keep things the same as they were, diabetes threat or not. It was very chilling to experience my own potential to destroy myself by choice. I never want to forget that, as it's only by knowing that part that I can stay in good health.

Well, this is a blog & not a book. Let me give you some nutshells of knowledge that I hope will help you to awaken & move off of the killer path & onto the path of recovery & health:

ABOUT HUNGER & FATIGUE: Moderate hunger means it is time to eat. Excessive hunger means that your body hasn't received sufficient food, or the wrong kinds of food or that you've skipped meals. In other words, you are not taking care of your body & mind & this is your responsibility. As for fatigue, if your physician has examined you & finds no other cause, your fatigue is most likely related to your poor eating habits & should correct itself as soon as you settle in.

WHAT TO EAT: The body needs a balance of protein, carbohydrates & healthy fats. While there are formulas for this, quite honestly I think it's easier to just think in food groups. Protein should be lean. Fish is friendly. Cut back on red meat. As for fats, develop a relationship with olive oil. A little goes a long way. Dairy is both protein & carbohydrate. It may like you or it may not. Treat it with a level of caution because it is lactose or sugar. Sugar is not friendly. Carbohydrates should be low-glycemic, legumes or whole grains. If you don't like vegetables, learn to like them. They can save your life. Fruits are carbohydrates, but need to be monitored depending on your family & personal medical history & the level of hyperinsulinemia you are experiencing. All fruits are not created equal. Bananas are not blueberries & the body responds differently to them. Get smart here. Refined carbohydrates are not your friends & will keep you on the path of hunger, fatigue & moving towards illness. As your body recovers, you may be able to re-introduce some of these, but this will take time. Soda or pop is bad for you. If you must sparkle, try seltzer. Juice or juice-like drinks need to leave. Alcohol will probably have to leave for awhile. Once again, all of this is your responsibility. Learn to accept so you may learn to live.

WHEN TO EAT & HOW MUCH: It's important to have a food discipline. Eating every 3.5 to 4 hours is necessary to provide what the body needs. The body is like a car & needs proper fuel. If you don't feed it, it will break down, both now & later. The body isn't interested that you are too busy or don't like to cook or believe that you can't cook. The body will do what it needs to do. The amount of food you need is determined by your lean body mass & your level of activity. When the scale weight is too high, this usually means that the lean body mass is too small & the body fat percentage is too high. This is backwards. The lean body mass needs to be bigger that the body fat percentage. You reverse this by eating properly & exercising. If you don't eat sufficiently or in a timely manner, the body will store fat. That's the way it works. If you need help figuring this out, there are websites that will help you. If you think this is too much trouble, then you are in trouble.

WHAT ABOUT CAKES, COOKIES, ICE CREAM, ETC. They live somewhere else, but not where you live. In the future, you may be able to entertain them, but for now, they are not part of the recovery. If you think this is not possible, then you are going to pay the piper dearly. Stop fighting so much. This only makes things worse. Pretend they are poison, which they are for you. Utilize whatever image works best. Practice quiet, focused assertiveness.

WHAT ABOUT CRAVINGS & COMPULSIVE/EMOTIONAL EATING FRENZIES: This needs to be addressed in the next blog, but let's get clear about this. If you have not been following the above, you really don't know how much is physiological & how much is emotional. The physiology changes quite quickly & then you can truly meet up with your emotional Self. I told you a bit about mine & I promise that you will not be disappointed when you meet your very own. These are "special" parts of us & while appearing to be negative in nature, that's only from the first glance. You may come to find out that this part of you is the most inventive, creative & helpful in helping yourself to recover.


Copyrighted 2009 Elizabeth Bohorquez, RN, C.HtMay not be reprinted or copied without permission of author.

Elizabeth Bohorquez, RN, C.Ht is the author of Sugar...the Hidden Eating Disorder & How to Lick It