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:
- 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!