Friday, July 13, 2007

Establishing Good Eating Habits: Rule One

Odds are, overweight or not, by the time a girl reaches adulthood, she's tried one or more diets to lose weight or not gain weight; with boys, the incidence of dieting in the teenage years is less prevalent. In early adulthood this often continues, with many women and men developing what is termed "disordered" eating habits; skipping breakfast or other meals, relying on meal replacement products, like ready-to-drink shakes, rather than eat food for all meals, eating lots of small things on the run, or going long hours without eating anything, then taking one large meal at the end of the day, in the belief that will keep thier calorie intake lower over the day.

These types of habits aren't necessarily "eating disorders," though they may be part of one; more often than not, they are habits that one develops over time that are counter-productive to developing and maintaining a healthy relationship with food, and can stand in the way of long-term success when one loses weight and tries to maintain that loss over the long-term.

Food, while an easy target of blame in the weight loss game, is not an enemy to be avoided or held in disdain; it is essential to our health and well-being and, in the long-term, it's not simply learning what to eat that helps one maintain weight, but how to eat that sets the stage for long-term success.

With this understanding, it is easier to see why I believe the first rule in the Rules of Induction (for the Atkins diet) is the most important:

Rule 1:
  • Eat either three regular-size meals a day or four or five smaller meals. Do not skip meals or go more than six waking hours without eating.

The first rule is straight forward and critically important not only in the first two weeks, but throughout the entire weight loss period, and then for maintaining weight in the long-term.

The reason is simple - it establishes that one doesn't need to eat in a typical three-meal-a-day pattern, but highlights the importance that eating regularly - even simple smaller meals multiple times each day - is a habit to continue with if you're already doing so, or establish now as you begin and continue to learn how to eat properly for the rest of your life.

Without establishing this as habit, you'll leave yourself open to disordered eating habits and continue to view food and eating as something bad or to be avoided. Now is the time to set aside all that disdain for food, eating, portions, and all that and dismiss that thinking so you can begin to learn to love food again!

This is the first step to "get back to basics" - a means to develop a healthy relationship with food and avoid continuing in a disordered eating pattern that is counter-productive in the long-term. In anything you do in life, be it your job, your hobbies, or anything else that requires skill, one thing that clearly sets apart those who succeed from those that fail is the feeling of confidence in ones ability. Few are "born naturals" in a given situation - most take the time and put in an effort to learn and do along the way, to build their confidence and master whatever it is they enjoy.

This is no different; by taking the time to work on this as you start a diet to lose weight, you will develop not only a sense of confidence that food is really not an enemy (since you will be losing weight while you establish good eating habits), you will also learn to listen to your body and take cues based on hunger to learn when to eat in a pattern that is in synch with your body. This is because eating regularly keeps your metabolism functioning and enables your metabolism to hum along nicely.

If you read the rule, you'll notice it says " three regular-size meals a day or four or five smaller meals" which hints at learning how much is enough; stated another way, portion size is important. If you're inclined to eat three meals a day, these meals will be larger than if you are inclined to eat four or five smaller meals.

We know from the various publications written by Dr. Atkins, that Induction is not a license to overeat or stuff ourselves. In my view, this Induction period is an opportunity to learn what a "portion size" means to you as an individual.

So many weight loss diets prescribe specfic weights and measures, claiming such portions are more than adequate for anyone attempting to lose weight.

But let's be honest - how many are truly satisfied after eating a tiny 2-to-3 ounce portion of bonless, skinless chicken breast? If you're one of the few who find this intake adequate for you and you're satisfied and not hungry, great!

If not, maybe the problem isn't you, or as you are often told, your lack of willpower, but instead that you have not eaten enough to adequately provide for your needs.

Listen to that - have some more - and as you begin to feel that sense of "satisfied," not stuffed, but satisfied and confident you've eaten well, without worry that you're going to be hungry again way too soon, then stop eating.

In this period, you are allowed to portion your meals as "regular-size" meals, keeping in mind that you won't eat larger portions just because you can. If three "regular-size" meals isn't your style, you simply adjust to more "smaller sized" meals in a regular pattern throughout the day.

The key here is to develop good eating habits and then maintain them as you move along.

Long-term this rule is the "golden rule" of maintenance. It is the most important rule of all the rules if you ask me!

By the time you reach maintenance, if you have been following this rule all the time - not just in induction - you're not only eating an adequate level of calories, no longer in ketosis and at your goal weight - you're also in the habit of eating portions that are "normal" for you and eating regularly to keep your metabolism working at a steady pace.

You've also learned that skipping meals may lead to eating more when you do eat and that it is best to keep your appetite sated by eating regularly for your particular needs - whether it is three regular meals each day or four or five smaller meals each day; and you may also have learned you're less likely to snack as often because your appetite is sated with regular meals!

This rule firmly establishes that you are tasked with setting the frequency of your eating pattern, sticking with an eating pattern that is regular, and develop a sense of what your needs are, learn what your "portion size" is in meals, and learn how to eat regularly instead of fearing food or your appetite!

Over the long-term you'll set the stage for success with this rule because you're allowing yourself to establish a healthy relationship with food and come to know that food is not your enemy, eating well is not a bad thing, and that enjoying your meals is truly a wonderful thing!

18 comments:

  1. Great article, Regina. This type of thinking helps me to better understand the book, Atkins for Life. The idea that one could add many of the forbidden foods back, but in small portions, only makes sense if you have learned well the principles of induction, which you are enumerating very well for us. I'm still not quite sold on adding so much carbohydrate back to my diet now that I've reached my goal because my ACE is not very high. I can quickly tell a difference in energy, mood, cravings, etc. once I've exceeded my modest level of carbs. Sure, I could probably add some more, but it seems like torture. It's difficult to stop eating carbs after a small portion, because by their very nature, they are just not satisfying foods. It seems almost unhealthy to eat such small portions of food. However, Atkins for Life suggests that you take these foods with the right mix of fat and protein, and it severely lessens their effect on your metabolism. Maintaining the proper ratio of fat, protein and carbohydrate seems to be more important than even the highly subjective portion size.

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  2. Maintaining the proper ratio of fat, protein and carbohydrate seems to be more important than even the highly subjective portion size.

    I'm so glad you're enjoying the start of the series...you're absolutely correct about the fat and protein, and that's going to be discussed in the next installement, where rule 2 breaks all the rules we're told about fat (and by extension) protein!

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  3. I was a month into my Atkins adventure when I was thinking I needed to get to bed soon, and was realizing I'd been ignoring my hunger. It was so common for me to go to bed hungry I hadn't noticed.

    I remember the sense of liberation I felt, thinking, "Dr. Atkins said eat if you are hungry."

    So I had a nice low carb snack, slept well, and still remember how I felt... no more going to bed hungry!

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  4. Regina,
    I'm really thankful you're taking the time and effort to explain in detail the meanings behind all the Atkins terminology--it's been the best plan for my metabolism so far in this life, and yet in my wildest enthusiasm I sometimes blow through the 'Diet Revolution' too quickly and miss out on some rather important details. Thank you so much for breaking this all down!
    Adam

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  5. Anonymous8:41 PM

    Thanks Regina! As always, awesome information and much appreciated!

    Hey, if you haven't the site exposing the kimkins diet fraud, check this out:

    http://www.slamboard.com/2007/07/07/jimmy-moore-and-the-kimkinscom-controversy/

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  6. Janice10:58 AM

    I'm so glad you're doing this series.

    I'm once again losing weight following Atkins and admit, even the first rule went right by me and your insight here is something I need to keep focused on. My past attempts to do Atkins did make me lose the weight, but I didn't really see the need to keep it up and gained the weight back.

    I can't wait to read the rest of this, it will help me better understand how to make this WOE a lifestyle, not just a diet.

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  7. Anonymous3:54 PM

    Hi Regina:

    Atkins Rule 1: "Eat either three regular-size meals a day or four or five smaller meals. Do not skip meals or go more than six waking hours without eating" runs contrary to Dr. Eades intermittent fast recommendations:

    http://www.proteinpower.com/drmike/?p=278

    Shouldn't this rule be revised?

    Thanks!

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  8. Shouldn't this rule be revised?


    I don't quite follow the logic that because of Dr. Eades' interest in IF, Atkins rules need revision? I mean, I am writing about Atkins' rules...aren't I?

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  9. Anonymous5:12 PM

    Regina, you stated that many women and men develop what is termed "disordered" eating habits including going long hours without eating anything, then taking one large meal at the end of the day.

    This is exactly Dr. Eades' IF recommendation, which reserarch has shown produces a lot more health benefits than Dr. Atkins rule 1.

    Dr. Eades adds that combined with LC, IF is even more effective.

    Don't you think that IF rules out a large meal at the end of the day as a "disordered" eating habit?

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  10. Regina, you stated that many women and men develop what is termed "disordered" eating habits including going long hours without eating anything, then taking one large meal at the end of the day.

    Let's start with my exact quote:

    "..."disordered" eating habits; skipping breakfast or other meals, relying on meal replacement products, like ready-to-drink shakes, rather than eat food for all meals, eating lots of small things on the run, or going long hours without eating anything, then taking one large meal at the end of the day..."

    An explanation of eating habits some get into over years of dieting to lose weight only to gain weight back. It's part of the lead into the first rule I discuss and is not related to IF, its principles, nor the subject of this post or the ones that shall follow. If and when I do write about IF, then we'll have something to discuss, won't we?

    Thanks for stopping by!

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  11. Thank you! I've been doing low-carb for a month or so and now that you've pointed it out, I realize that I haven't stopped the crazy eating habits I have. I do all the things you said were 'disordered eating', some days I eat meals, other days I just graze, other days eating nothing most of the day and then boom eat too much at night. I'm going to try to get more order to my eating habits and start to try to make it habit to eat more regularly to see if it helps.

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  12. My only quibble is that you should say "a meal in the morning" instead of "breakfast." Breakfast is just that--breaking your fast. I totally can't stomach food in the early morning (used to drive my mother insane) so my breakfast is at 12:30 or so. Since I've given myself permission not to have to eat something first thing in the morning because it's "healthy", I enjoy my two meals a day. On the rare occasions I am hungry in the morning, I will eat though.

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  13. My only quibble is that you should say "a meal in the morning" instead of "breakfast." Breakfast is just that--breaking your fast. I totally can't stomach food in the early morning (used to drive my mother insane) so my breakfast is at 12:30 or so.

    I agree! I too am not much of a morning person when it comes to eating something for "breakfast" - I'll have a cup of coffee and when I'm hungry (usually an hour or so later), I'll have something to eat....but it really isn't all that often that I have "breakfast" - it's really more just a small "morning meal" to start the day and really isn't first thing when I wake up either!

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  15. Great info, Thankyou.

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  16. Anonymous7:03 PM

    For obese people addicted to food, this is absolutely the wrong approach. It doesn't work, just like telling an alcoholic to have 5 small whiskeys a day, lowering the dosage slowly.

    For me, eating 1 meal until I am full, at night, is the only thing that ever worked. Because I cannot have small portions (makes me feel incredibly sick) but I also cannot sleep with an empty stomach.

    Everybody is different, and a lot of these diet recommendations are obviously made by people whose addiction is either much weaker or who aren't even overweight themselves.

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  17. Agreed in that it's not an approach I use (3 meals/5-6 small meals) but I think the Dr's goal was to get people on some sort of schedule with their eating so that when appetite supression kicked in, they'd not end up eating just 500 cals in a day. I'm guessing here.

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