The month where words tumble out of every newspaper, magazine and social media channel telling you how to improve your diet. Lots of do’s and don’ts, recipes and rules.
Is another diet actually what you need?
When you’re scrolling through the New-Year-New-You advice, it may save you time, money and effort if you pause to reflect on what you actually want to change.
If you’ve slimmed down in the past, but then regained what you lost, you are in very good company. Most diets don’t work so well long-term, even if they are effective to start with. The main reason for this is that you can stomach the diet for a while, but it’s not a long-term fix.
Perhaps you want to change how, rather than what you eat
Your eating likes and dislikes have been developing from before – yes you read that right – you were born. Your genes, and what your mother ate when she was expecting you are among the earliest influences on what you love to eat.
If you’ve tried to stick to diets that made it hard to enjoy those favourites, it was only a matter of time before you rebelled. It could be that what you’re looking for is a way of enjoying what you love without feeling out of control around food. I developed Appetite Retraining for people like you.
The key elements of Appetite Retraining
- You start where you are now, and make one sustainable change to your eating habits at a time. When you’ve changed one unhelpful eating habit you can decide whether to tackle another. This is all about human psychology – it’s hard to change the habits of a lifetime, especially when they are about something as basic as how you eat. It’s realistic to stick with one change at a time.
- You allow for the fact that you may run into obstacles on this journey. I call these obstacles “saboteurs” and I’ve identified 4 main types. Lack of motivation, lack of willpower, lack of self-belief and pressure from other people around eating can all get in the way of changing how you eat.
- You gradually return to eating more in tune with your appetite – like you did as a baby – before eating became complicated by shoulds and oughts, and by believing in good foods and bad. Before judgement and guilt confused the issue, you ate when you were hungry and stopped when you’d had enough. Appetite Retraining offers an approach to help you return to that way of eating. At the heart of Appetite Retraining is the Appetite Pendulum.
The Appetite Pendulum® explained
I designed the Appetite Pendulum to reflect changing levels of feelings of hunger and fullness. Other people have created scales to rate hunger and fullness which go from 0 to 10, where zero is extremely hungry and 10 is extremely full.
This doesn’t work at all for me, for the simple reason that to me, zero denotes nothing – an absence rather than a presence. But feeling extremely hungry is an intense experience for me – it nags at me until I do something, so it is anything but nothing.
When I was working out how to retrain my own appetite after decades of riding rough-shod over whether I was hungry or full, I needed zero to be the neutral point between hunger and fullness, so that it would resonate with what I was experiencing in my body.
The idea of a pendulum was a real light-bulb moment for me and I knew that it was the image I needed in order to get back in tune with my gut.
I settled on the pendulum having 11 points – this isn’t a magic number and any odd number would have worked – but having 5 levels of hunger and 5 levels of fullness seemed the most practically usable, so I went with that. Using the wording for each of the 11 points on the Appetite Pendulum, you can tune in at any time when you think of eating and check what number you’re at.
It may take practice for you to get in to the swing (excuse the pun!) of using the Appetite Pendulum, especially if you’ve ignored what your gut is saying for years.
The +3 and -3 guidelines
The Appetite Pendulum is designed to help you stop eating any meal at the point when you’ve had just enough (+3). By spacing your meals to fit your lifestyle, your aim is to allow yourself to get to -3 (definitely hungry) by each meal. This way, your food will taste fantastic (because of the way our taste perception works in relation to hunger).
If you find that you are getting towards -3 and it’s still a while to go until your next meal, a small snack can tide you over. You’ll learn by trial and error what snacks work for you, so you still get to -3 by your next meal.
You only need to bring the Appetite Pendulum to mind when you are eating, so that you can tell when to stop eating, and when you think of food between meals. If you spot the biscuits by the kettle, ask yourself what number you are on the Appetite Pendulum and if you’re not -3 then do what you can to move away from the temptation.
Tuning in to how hungry or full you are at any point, with simple rules of +3 and -3 is an alternative to overhauling how you eat – it will help you develop a pattern of eating in tune with your lifestyle and your body. You may also find you feel more in control around eating.
What if I can’t tell what number I am?
The alternative to using the Appetite Pendulum is to train your eye to gauge the amount of food you need at each meal, which is helpful for people whose appetite signals may have become difficult to tune into.
What if the Appetite Pendulum doesn’t work for me?
If you find the Appetite Pendulum doesn’t help you change how you eat, remember that nothing works for everyone. It’s not that you are failing – just that this isn’t the way forward for you. You may prefer an approach that offers recipes and guidelines around what to eat.
If you want to know more
The Appetite Pendulum is freely available for you to download from my website. If you’d like to understand more about how to use Appetite Retraining and how hunger and fullness work, my book “How to Retrain Your Appetite” walks you through the process of identifying which eating habits you want to change. There are chapters on how to stop eating at +3 and how to avoid eating when you’re not hungry.