Losing Weight (Part 10): Eat Like a Toddler to Maintain Your Lost Weight
Research shows that only about 20% of overweight individuals are successful at maintaining their reduced weight, defined as 10% less than their initial weight, for at least one year. So 80% of people cannot do it. Why?
In general, adults over the age of 35 years gain weight by storing fat inside their fat cells, (unless they are doing resistance training to increase their muscle mass which also causes weight gain). This is why weight loss programs generally force you to consume less energy than you spend in order to draw energy from your stored fat. If you are successful at that, you can indeed lose weight.
However, when you are seeking to maintain that lower weight, you not only need energy to power routine functions of the body, but you also need over 100 different nutrients for metabolic activities, including extracting the energy from nutrients. This means that in order to maintain body weight, you need to watch how much energy-containing nutrients you consume, while also providing your body with all the necessary nutrients in a timely manner. A weight loss and maintenance program based primarily on reduced consumption of energy-containing nutrients usually fails at this requirement, even with supplements, because only your subconscious mind knows what nutrients your body needs at any given time.
So, how can you maintain your authentic weight for the rest of your life? Here’s how.
The way to maintain your authentic weight is to “eat like a toddler.” I say this quite seriously. If you think about it, toddlers are actually the best example of how humans can eat and not gain weight. A toddler, with no knowledge of food groups, calorie counting, energy content, or nutrient relevance, is able to ingest the needed amounts of food and stay healthy without gaining much weight (other than in alignment with his or her growth in height). This means that from infancy, everyone has the capability to obtain all necessary nutrients as long as you have access to a variety of foods made with ingredients in their natural form with minimal processing.
How do toddlers do this? The answer is that the human subconscious mind learns to track our food intake. While the conscious part of your brain continuously seeks input from the world to engage with, the subconscious brain is continuously engaged in monitoring and regulating life-sustaining activities such as heartbeat, respiration, digestion, kidney function, etc. The more we repeat a learned activity, the more proficient and automatic the subconscious mind becomes.
Started in infancy, eating becomes ingrained in the toddler’s subconscious mind after untold number of repetitions. Acting on automatic pilot, the subconscious mind guides all of us to select the food items containing precisely the nutrients our body needs at any given time when we feel the sensation of hunger.
In addition to starting a meal only when hungry, toddlers choose what they want to eat during a meal from among the available choices—guided by intuition, an act of the subconscious mind. They terminate a meal not based on fullness of their stomach or emptiness of their plate but based on satisfaction coming from signals generated from sensors in the mouth. In other words, when the food they are eating is no longer enjoyable, they stop eating it. By doing this they not only select what to eat but they also control the quantity they consume—just enough to meet the current needs of their body.
Since every one of us had this same toddler way of eating, why did it change to the point of causing unneeded weight gain as adults? The natural way of eating should be to start when you feel the sensation of hunger and to finish when the food is no longer enjoyable. But as adults, we are pushed by our work lives, family obligations, and other pressures to eat at more predictable times, even if we are not hungry. Convenience, accessibility, availability, affordability, visual cues, attending rituals and ceremonies, obligatory participation in festivals and celebrations—all these contribute to reprogram your subconscious mind about hunger, eating, and satiation.
For example, some people develop the “goldfish” pattern of eating. Goldfish will continue to eat as long as food is available. For this reason, it is advised that goldfish should be fed only an amount equal to what they can eat in a few minutes. Humans who eat like goldfish though feed themselves yet have no one to cut them off from food. It is a variation of this — eating whenever food is available whether one is hungry or not—that is seen in most people who gain weight.
Another factor that sabotages the maintenance of body weight is eating in a way so as not to register nutrients passing through the mouth, essentially making it difficult for the body’s natural control mechanisms to regulate the quantity of nutrients consumed. The best example of this is the increasing tendency of people to consume food items without chewing. Foods that are too soft and require very minimal chewing, such as the majority of foods made with grain flours, foods that are pureed, blended or juiced, prevent natural control of quantities consumed because your tendency is to swallow these fast. Chewing allows the receptors in the mouth to identify the nutrients and send signals to the subconscious brain that register the nutrients and generate responses such as enjoyment. This process is short-circuited when you swallow fast because of the soft consistency of what you are eating.
In addition to quantity control, deliberate chewing is also important for digestive functions. For example, the flower Venus’ flytrap releases enzymes to digest the prey that falls into the trap proportional to number of bumps detected by the flytrap’s sensitive hairs. Similarly, control centers in your brain can decide on the amount of digestive enzymes to release and insulin molecules to produce in the pancreas by virtue of detecting nutrients with the receptors in your mouth and nasal cavity.
So, in sum, if you want to maintain your weight after losing some pounds, my advice is to think back on your toddler years at how you used to be able to eat just enough to maintain your weight while also providing for the nutrients your body needs. There is no need to buy 3rd party diet programs, count calories, or eat restricted portions. Rather, eat what you enjoy and enjoy what you eat, but do it just like a toddler.
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