I spent the month of March focusing on Intuitive Eating. I participated in the Studio Eats 21 Day Intuitive Eating Challenge, had three one-on-one calls with Jamie, attended one group conference call, and read most of the book. (My initial thoughts on the challenge can be found here). It’s April and it’s time to reflect.
How did the month go? In a word (ok two)… life changing. I really don’t want to turn into the “anti-diet” crusader or anything… but this approach to eating and living works for me. I am a chronic, life-long devotee to dieting and I needed something serious to make a change in my life. Deep down, I’ve always felt that there was something wrong with my body and the way I look. I was heavy as a kid… it’s not completely shocking that I felt this way. I used dieting and restricting to feel control. The best part about my IE journey is that I feel more in control now than I ever have, and I’m not dieting for pretty much the first time ever.
Right now I am eating and drinking what I want, when I want. I have found that by giving myself complete free reign over my eating and exercising, I am eating less, feeling more satisfied, not binge eating, and finding much more pleasure in my workouts. The ultimate moment of truth came last week though. I decided to not weigh myself for the entire month of March, which terrified me. I have this irrational fear that if I’m not dieting and monitoring myself, I’m going to balloon up and gain a ton of weight. I was feeling nervous, I mean I had been eating EVERYTHING I wanted for a whole month. I took a deep breath and stepped on the scale. And it hadn’t changed even an ounce. I weighed exactly the same, and I had enjoyed my life so much more in that month. That’s when I knew this was for me.
What was the hardest part? Learning to trust myself again. I have accepted responsibility for being overweight throughout my life. So I thought I was flawed. There was something about me that wasn’t programmed correctly. When left to my own devices, I would get fat again. The hardest part about this journey was to stop fighting myself. I told Jamie during one of our calls that I had a really hard time realizing what “hungry” felt like, because I only ever allowed myself to eat when I was “ravenous”. She pointed on that this is common in chronic dieters. I had this perception that I only deserved to eat a certain amount, at certain times, and only when I was absolutely starving. Throughout this month, I have worked really hard to trust my body to tell me when it needs fuel and what it is craving. Totally wild.
What am I focusing on now? I want to continue to honor my hungry, feel my fullness, and throw out my food rules. I am also working on challenging the external food police. The past weekend I was at a restaurant and ordered a salad and an entree. Our waiter made a completely harmless comment like “Are you sure you want all of that?” (apparently my entree was comically large… half of it is currently sitting in my refrigerator). In the past, such a comment would have sent me into a tailspin. But now that I’m challenging the “food police,” I simply laughed and told him I was sure I could handle it.
I am also working on the issue of body acceptance. That’s going to be a big one for me, because deep down I wish I looked fundamentally different than I do. But I never will. I will always have the same basic shape / frame and it’s due time I got “good” with that. Every day, I stand in front of the mirror and make myself say something positive about my body. When I’m exercising in front of a mirror, I do the same thing. I force myself to say positive things like “You look so strong”. It might seem very narcissistic, but don’t worry I only say it in my head 🙂 Jamie and I discussed this issue on our last call and I know I have the power to change how I view myself. It’s all mental!
Questions for you guys:
- How do you express “body acceptance”?
- What lifestyle works for you? We’re all different after all!
I wasn’t 100% certain I was going to write about this on the blog because it’s kind of personal. But I’m starting to think that my “secrecy” about dieting / food and my embarrassment to discuss with others really only further perpetuates some of my issues. This month, I am participating in the Studio Eat’s 21 day Intuitive Eating Challenge.
Intuitive Eating resonates with me because I have lived in dieting hell for so long, I don’t even know what eating normally would be like. In an honest conversation with Mike not too long ago, I was so exasperated I was just like, “I just hate everyone who doesn’t have to deal with this. Like… how can they just EAT like it’s NO BIG DEAL???” Andddd then I was like, woah… that is one super crazy sentence. So I enrolled in this challenge. I also downloaded the book and am currently working my way through it.
Jamie (who is running the challenge) wrote this great post after conducting all her introductory phone calls with challenge participants. It is so worth a read because it is so freaking true. I am TIRED. So, this is an experiment. Three weeks of not counting calories, restricting, or judging. Eating what I want, when I want. Listening and observing with the intention of learning, not judging. What foods make me satisfied / feel good? What foods don’t? When am I hungry? When am I full? Trying to relearn to enjoy food and find eating pleasurable.
Here are some observations / lessons / thoughts from the first 5 days:
- The first two – three days of the challenge, I completely resisted it. I was hanging on to this idea that I needed to lose weight, and, once I did that, then I could focus on “improving my relationship with food.” If I could just get to the weight I think I want to be, some of this would go away on its own. However, deep down, I know this isn’t true. Because I’ve never been happy with my body. Never. Not when I was fat, not when I was the thinnest I’ve ever been… never. Then a member of the challenge posted this quote in the Facebook group from Breaking Free from Emotional Eating by Geneen Roth: “When you live a life based on the externally imposed and inflexible need to be thin, it is impossible to develop trust in your ability to eat what satisfies you because what you are believing is that being thin will satisfy you.” Mind. Blown.
- I didn’t realize how many “food rules” I had created for myself. I thought I had a pretty balanced approach to eating, but, once we were told to throw out all the rules and eat whatever the hell we wanted, I realized that wasn’t true. Some of the foods I was eliminating or majorly restricting included pasta, rice, sandwiches, nut butters, whole eggs, red meat, cheese and olive oil in addition to the obvious sweets, candy, cookies, and fried foods. Literally the only foods I allowed myself to eat without guilt were plain vegetables, fruit, and chicken. I don’t even really like chicken that much… bleh. God, no wonder I felt so much pressure about food… look at all these guidelines I had set!
- I don’t enjoy 75% of the meals I eat in a given day. I eat breakfast and lunch mindlessly at my desk out of Tupperware with a plastic fork. I don’t savor it or take my time because I just want to get it over with. Same for my meals outside of work. Eating anything ultimately comes with such guilt and shame, it sabotages any potential enjoyment. In addition to focusing on exactly WHAT I want to eat, I’m also trying to focus on how / where I’m eating.
I have a lot of work to do. The last couple days have been really great but I’m worried about the long-term sustainability. Sometimes all it takes is one unflattering picture to knock me well off course. I know a key piece for me, in addition to the actual food/eating, is going to be figuring out how to love my body the way it is. I’m working on it. Will check back soon with an update but for now… feeling good… wary of the future?
[Note – Jamie is actually re-doing the challenge in April, so if you’re interested in the concept of IE I HIGHLY recommend it. The price is really reasonable and you get two 15 minute one-on-one calls with Jamie, continuous access to Jamie via email, access to a secret facebook group of all participants (where Jamie comments / responds regularly), and a daily email exploring one aspect of IE. ]