Claire is 41 years old, married with 2 young children. She has a very busy life. In addition to looking after her children and running her home, she works part-time as a beauty therapist and spends lots of time with her parents, sister and her husband’s family.
Claire and I have been friends for years and when she told me that her GP had diagnosed her as pre-diabetic, I floated the idea that she might like to try Appetite Retraining in order to make the changes her doctor said were essential if she were to avoid developing Type 2 diabetes.
By coincidence, around this time, a client of mine who had successfully made significant changes to how she eats, suggested that I should make some short films about the process of Appetite Retraining to show people how it works and how it might be useful to them. This client, who worked in the media, thought that telling someone’s story through short videos would show people what a radical and gentle alternative Appetite Retraining is, for people who want to change how they eat.
Claire was very happy to make videos of how she’s getting on, and I’ll be posting those in the coming weeks. Then I’ll write another blog about her results.
Here is how Claire’s story begins…
Claire’s GP’s advice to her had been uber-simple. She needed to lose 5% of her body weight in order to reverse the pre-diabetes.
Claire told me she was worried about the idea of developing diabetes, but she was not looking forward to the idea of having to restrict her eating and embark on an intense exercise regimen.
Not only that, but as her diet was largely based on cooking from scratch and she exercised regularly, she wasn’t sure how she could make the changes that would have the health effects she needed.
We agreed that I would explain how Appetite Retraining might work for her, and we’d see how things went.
Explaining Appetite Retraining
I called my approach to helping people change how they eat “Appetite Retraining” because it is re-training us to eat more like we did when we were infants. Most of us in the UK have to a degree lost touch with using our hunger and fullness signals to guide how we eat, for lots of reasons. Claire immediately recognised this as something that applied to her.
The way Claire had been eating, was to frequently skip breakfast (she wanted to lose weight so this seemed like a logical thing to do) and then push lunch back to about 2pm. She tended to feel hungry at about noon, but had an idea that this was too early to eat lunch, hence pushing it back until later.
On a typical day she was therefore, unsurprisingly, ravenously hungry by her 2pm lunch. Her kids’ teatime is about 5.30pm so she’d also snack then, often on their leftovers as she didn’t like to see food wasted. She’d then cook for herself and her husband and they would eat together around 7pm.
Why specific eating habits matter
The approach central to Appetite Retraining is to look at the specific eating habits you have that are contributing to you eating more than you need. Those are the habits that tend to be out of sync with your hunger and fullness signals.
The simple prompts in my Unhelpful Eating Habits checklist are a useful starting point.
Claire filled in the Unhelpful Eating Habits checklist:
Or you can click this link to have a closer look:
Claire’s checklist showed that the specific habits that were contributing to her eating more than she needed and weighing more than she wanted were
- “I skip meals quite often to save calories”
- “I eat now in case I’m hungry later”
- “I eat something just because it’s there”
- “I eat when bored although I’m not hungry”
- “I get cravings for particular foods and give in to them whether hungry or not”
This meant that in effect we had a behavioural diagnosis of the eating patterns that were keeping her stuck. The task then is to work through these habits one at a time.
The Appetite Pendulum®
Before we looked at the first habit change, I introduced Claire to the Appetite Pendulum®.
This simple tool offers a way to rate how hungry or full you are at any point, and it is part of changing the overall pattern of how you eat. By spacing your meals and discovering what size and content of meals keeps you going until your next meal or snack time, you aim to stop eating each meal at “just full” (+3 on the Pendulum) and to arrive at each meal “definitely hungry” (-3 on the Pendulum).
You can read more about this in my book if you’re interested.
A concrete, step-by-step plan
The UEH checklist gave us a few particular things about the way Claire tending to eat that were out of touch with whether she was hungry or not.
We could translate each of them into a habit change that she could focus on. With Appetite Retraining my suggestion is to work on one eating habit at a time, because habit change is effortful. Once a habit is easy to stick to, you move on to the next one.
Claire’s plan has 5 steps
Here are the specifics of how this becomes a plan for Claire…
|CURRENT HABIT||PLAN FOR DEVELOPING NEW HABIT|
I skip meals quite often to save calories
Develop regular eating routine
I eat now in case I’m hungry later
If I’m not hungry now, I won’t eat. If I’m going to be away from access to any food for long, I’ll pack a snack in my bag
I eat something just because it’s there
|I’ll only eat when I’m hungry|
I eat when bored/ stressed although I’m not hungry
|I’ll develop a non-food way of dealing with boredom & stress|
I get cravings for particular foods and give in to them whether hungry or not
I’ll learn a technique to manage food cravings, but if I’m hungry I’ll have what I really fancy
Where to start?
It was clear with Claire, that skipping breakfast and pushing lunch back was really not working for her. It meant that she felt under enormous pressure to eat and when she did start to eat, there was more urgency than pleasure.
Step 1 was going to mean establishing a regular eating routine that would help her avoid getting overly hungry.
My recommendation to Claire was that her first step should be to reintroduce breakfast and bring forward lunch to 12 noon or 1pm (she’d discover what time works for her by trial and error).
Then at the kids’ teatime, I suggested that rather than eat the leftovers, she should throw them in the bin and look forward to her dinner with her husband.
Willing but sceptical
Claire was willing to give it a go, but was very honest with me about being sceptical because adding breakfast felt like it would be upping, rather than downing, her calorie intake.
My additional tip was something I explained would be like a mantra for the whole approach, which was to aim to eat meals and snacks that were always “small and fabulous!”
This suggestion went down very well and she set off on her journey to retrain her appetite.
Claire’s progress on video
Claire kindly agreed to record her progress, beginning with her initial thoughts before she started.
Here are her initial thoughts on video
Follow her progress
I’m going to be posting videos that Claire will be recording so that you can see how she gets on by following me on –