Recently it was forcefully brought home to me how much I need to eat regularly, and not let myself get too hungry, even if it means eating only an hour or so before a meal I know is coming.
I went to church on Wednesday of last week, for a dinner before the evening Advent service. Usually I eat a snack before heading home from work so I'm not a ravenous beast, or have something small with protein when I get home like a glass of milk or some cheese or herring. That night I ate some almonds before heading home, but when I got home I knew I'd be eating dinner at the church in two hours, so didn't have anything else.
The almonds were not enough to tide me over.
The dinner wasn't what I would have chosen. Besides the very tasty fried chicken, there was down home country fare: mashed potatoes, corn, and rolls with butter. Nothing green. Carb city. Oh, well. I figured I'd make do. I started with the chicken, knowing that getting some protein and fat in my system was the highest order of business. I planned to eat the roll, half the corn, and a forkful of potatoes.
Before I knew it, and without even tasting it, the chicken, roll, and corn were completely gone and the mashed potatoes were fast disappearing. I made myself stop. I could easily have eaten another couple of rolls, but didn't. (I'm a bread hog, which is why I won't go full low-carb.)
I am proud of myself for stopping at half the potatoes and only one roll. I am disappointed that I fell into old habits at first and ate without tasting, to fill the hunger I could barely feel as yet. My plate was almost bare before I came back to my senses.
But good choices make a big difference. Compare that situation to the one yesterday, when we went out to a country restaurant for lunch when I was very hungry. Here I could choose my dinner, so I got pot roast with two sides: green beans and carrots. We had corn muffins as well. As with the chicken incident, I began with my meat to get some protein into my hungry system. Then I switched to eat my green veggie and began on my carrots. By the time I was starting to feel human again and could slow down to taste and enjoy the food, I still had some pot roast to savor, and the rest of my carrots. I had half a cornmeal muffin for "desert" (the slight sweetness of cornbread really hits the spot sometimes when I want something sweet).
In both instances, I allowed myself to get overhungry. In both instances, I turned on the vacuum and began shoveling food into myself quickly, barely tasting it. But the food choices made a world of difference. And I made myself slow down sooner in the second instance, so I enjoyed the food tremendously more.
Hunger cues for me are not rumbly tummy sounds. If it's gotten to that point, it's too late. I have to try to be aware of how subtle my cues can be. Irritation is a big one. If I'm getting *****y and short-tempered, there's a VERY good chance I need to eat. A slight tension and the beginnings of a headache. Tightening my jaw a lot. A feeling of restlessness.
If I let it go too far, I lose touch and withdraw into myself. I can remember going out to dinner with friends and sitting there very quietly, not saying a word, just staring a bit. Twenty minutes after the first mouthful, I am cheerful and have jumped into the conversation. I'm "human again". It's like food is a drug to me. No wonder I've learned to overeat all my life. I'm more pleasant and I like myself better when I'm not hungry.
Better, healthier food choices, and consciously slowing down as I eat, can go a long way toward feeding The Beast and still eating normal amounts of food and calories. Vacuum mode is not a good thing for me. I must be more aware of my hunger cues, and prepare strategies for the times when I will need to face this sort of situation again.