All my life, the only way I knew how to “control” my weight was through dieting and starving and that always failed. Restricting lead, inevitably, to bingeing, each and every time.
When I began the journey of changing this cycle, I was bingeing and purging many times a day. Life was so miserable, I didn’t want to get out of bed most days.
Realizing that what I’d done up to that point didn’t work, I looked for a different approach to eating and discovered the idea of intuitive eating.
This approach involves legalizing food — carrot sticks are not any better or worse than carrot cake. No food is forbidden. In fact, we should stock up on all our favorite foods in quantities so large we couldn’t possibly eat them in one sitting.
If you love dark chocolate, don’t buy one chocolate bar, buy ten. If you love carrot cake, don’t buy one cake, buy three so you can keep two in the freezer. If you like crusty bread, buy a few loaves. If you want heavy cream in your coffee instead of skim milk, go for it! Cashews and almonds—buy the family sized packages.
The idea is this. We chronic dieters have spent our lives eating controlled, pre-determined portions of pre-planned food at specific times of the day. How much, what, and when we ate had nothing to do with how much or what we wanted or whether we were hungry. And then there were those times we ate from “mouth hunger” instead of “stomach hunger.”
We need to eat food on demand. Demand feeding requires learning to feel and respond to stomach hunger. This re-calibration of eating habits requires vigilance. In particular, it requires that we attend to emotional reasons for eating, since a lot of times we seek food for comfort (mouth hunger) even though what comfort it brings is fleeting.
How do we change our eating? Let yourself get hungry as much as possible during the day and eat just enough to satisfy that hunger each time. Carry a food bag, filled with your favorite foods, so that you are never hungry and without something to satisfy that hunger. Stop thinking in terms of meals or of food that is appropriate to specific times of day. If you wake up hungry and feel like eating a bowl of chili, eat it. If it’s “lunch time” and all you want is a piece of chocolate cake, have the cake.
Stop eating when you are satisfied — not stuffed. Stick with this, learning to forgive yourself, keeping at it long enough to convince yourself that you can stop now because, in an hour when you are hungry again, it will be okay to eat. The idea is that if you know you will have permission to eat later (unlike when you’re dieting), it’ll be easier to stop at a comfortable place.
I tried a lot of this approach. In my next blog, I will discuss what worked and what didn’t and how I incorporated some aspects into my current approach to food – and life!