The Pendulum Effect:
Using your body’s natural signals to achieve permanent weight loss
The Hunger-Fullness system is a bit like a pendulum
The body’s system for regulating appetite and eating works a bit like a pendulum: it swings gently between hunger and fullness. Picture the right hand side of the pendulum as stages of fullness and the left as stages of increasing hunger. If you eat the amount your body needs to keep going for a few hours, the pendulum will move in to the “full” zone as you eat and then gradually move in to the “hungry” zone over the course of the next few hours.
Before what the World Health Organisation calls the epidemic of “globesity”, food was neither plentiful enough or perhaps palatable enough for most people to overeat. In those days, the pendulum was regulated by the availability of food for most people. Of course, for centuries, wealthy people with access to plentiful appetising food were at risk of overweight. But the majority did not have the luxury of overeating. We all know how easy it is to overeat in modern affluent societies. What happens to the pendulum when you overeat
When you eat more than you need to produce the energy to keep going for a few hours, in effect you are pushing the pendulum a long way into the “full” zone. After a large meal, it simply takes the body many more hours to use up the food eaten. If we did what animals did, this wouldn’t be a problem. When rats in a laboratory consume more calories in a meal than usual, they leave a longer interval before eating again.
We humans however tend not to do this. Although you may plan not to eat any more food after a large lunch, your desire to eat can easily be triggered again by the sight of tasty food or by the arrival of the time you normally eat your evening meal. Then, instead of the pendulum returning to a gentle to-and-fro between hunger and fullness, it is pushed back further into the full zone perhaps before it has got anywhere near the empty zone.
Something that most of us sort of know, but choose to ignore, is that when we eat again when we are not hungry, the food isn’t all that satisfying or tasty. There are sound biological reasons for this: our taste buds only become sensitive to taste when we are hungry. When we eat when not hungry, we are depriving ourselves of the full enjoyment of that food. It may also mean that we reach for highly salted or flavoured foods to try and get the taste we desire.
What happens to the pendulum when you get too hungry
When you restrict the amount you eat either by missing a meal or by eating too little, you are pulling the pendulum right to the far end of the “hungry” zone. Two consequences follow. First, it takes a lot of effort to keep the pendulum held in that hungry zone. Second, when you then start eating the pendulum overshoots in the opposite direction and you find yourself overeating. When you use dietary restriction over a period of time, you put yourself under huge physiological and psychological pressure to eat. This is one of the reasons that diets fail and is also a reason for binge eating to develop.
Avoid the extremes and make weight loss easy on yourself
You can use the notion of the pendulum to lose weight in a way that chimes with your natural biology. Use the Appetite Pendulum to start tuning in to how hungry or full you are at any point. Use the simple rules of waiting until you are -3 (definitely hungry) on the scale before you start eating and stopping eating when you get to +3 (just full).
To work with me in person on learning how to eat in tune with your body, see the Work with Me page