Friday, August 10, 2007

Researching Me, A New Genesis

So lately, I've been thinking a little about the "Intuitive Eating" concept that I first stumbled over on Joc's blog. It seems from what I've read about it that it's going to be a bit slower for results ... but it's going to be something that lasts much better than any "diet" that's out there. The concept is basically based on common sense ... you eat what you want to eat when you're hungry, you stop eating when you're no longer hungry, and you don't eat again until you're hungry again.

For some, this idea is nothing short of a miracle. Eat ONLY when you're hungry? What about when lunchtime rolls around at noon? What if you don't want anything? If you don't eat at lunchtime, you might eat at ... *gasp* ... three o'clock in the afternoon!! And that's just two hours short of dinnertime ... utterly shameful! Or something really scary ... WHAT IF IT'S BEEN SO LONG SINCE YOU'VE WAITED UNTIL YOU WERE HUNGRY THAT YOU NO LONGER KNOW WHAT IT FEELS LIKE? HOW WILL YOU KNOW WHEN TO EAT? WHAT IF YOU STARVE?

But those people are wrong. Yes I realize that our bodies are meant to go according to a clock. The thing is, we are meant to run our bodies according to the body's own individual clock, not according to the clock that hangs over the mantel or sits pretty on the table. Some days if you're paying attention, you'll notice that you are hungry before noon ... but you wait and wait, watching the ever-present clock, hoping that it will be lunchtime soon. And by the time it's the designated lunchtime, you're either so beyond hungry that you'd eat any-and-everything that you can get your hands on, or you're almost weak with hunger, lethargic, and you don't even care about eating anymore at all. In fact, by this point, you may actually be afraid to eat, because you're not sure if the nausea is from illness or hunger. You don't even know if eating something will make you feel better or worse! Make sense?

This means that as humans we have gotten to the point where we don't even know the signals our own bodies are programmed to send us. The ones that tell us when we're hungry, and the ones that tell us when we're not. That's because we don't listen for them. If someone offers a cupcake, or a cookie, we rationalize that it won't hurt to eat it, it's only just little, right? And that's true. It's only little. But what you don't look for is this: "Am I hungry? Yes, it is a cookie, and yes, it is a small one - but do I need it?" Food was put here for us to stay alive on. I agree that it should be enjoyed, otherwise what's the point, right? But it was put here to keep us alive, not to keep us happy. And not simply to keep us occupied. So many of us eat just because it's something to do without regard to whether it's something we need or not.

That's why intuitive eating is painted to look like the new weight loss miracle ... instead of being portrayed as what it really is. Common sense. Eat when you're hungry, don't when you're not. Simple ...

If you know the signals. If you know the triggers ...

So that's the first step I guess, in learning to eat intuitively. First, learn to understand why you're overeating. Do you eat too much ... or do you simply eat when you don't need to? Me? I don't typically eat too much. Sometimes I REALLY want to. Like last night, when my head was full of pizza. I literally wanted to make and eat a whole pizza. But I didn't, and I usually don't. Sometimes I eat something "terrible" ... it's almost like a rebellion. But usually if I'm hungry and I eat something, it is typically something healthy, and it's most usually a healthy "portion size" of food. When I am finished eating, I am not full, I am not stuffed. But I am no longer hungry. And that's as it should be.

My problem is eating when I'm not hungry. I will make breakfast for Teenybop, and because it is "good" for me, I will make and eat breakfast for myself. Whether I am hungry or not. And at lunchtime when she says she's hungry and I feed her lunch before a nap? I tend to eat lunch too. Whether I am hungry or not. Dinner? I eat then because it is the time that my family sits together and eats since Boyfriend is on third shift and sleeps all day. It's the only meal I share daily with Boyfriend, and sometimes we don't even share that one. So I cherish it ... not the food, but the togetherness. So why does the food have to come along, part and parcel with the conversation? The answer is, it doesn't.

So that's my first step. Promise myself that I will not eat until I am hungry. Even if it means I have to prepare meals once for Teenybop/Boyfriend, and later for myself. Even if it means I will have to wash all those dishes a second time. Even if it means I will sit down at the dinner table with my family as they enjoy dinner, and I will eat little or nothing. Even if I have to take flak from others who think that my not eating when I am not hungry is just an effort to starve myself thin.

The next step is to allow myself the freedom to eat guilt-free when I am hungry. Even if it is three o'clock. Even if it is a lump of bread and that's all I want. Even if I am eating alone. And the bonus to that is that I can tell the "flak-givers" to hush it because I just ate this-and-that at such-and-such-time.

From the stories I've read and the few that I've talked to, I've heard that once you realize what type of eater you are, you are already more conscious of what you're doing in the kitchen, and at the table. Then you start to notice things ... if you watch. You'll notice that you eat when your stomach growls, or that you eat when your husband growls. Maybe you eat when your kids act out, or simply because they are eating at that time. Maybe you eat when you've had a bad day, or to celebrate a good one ... But if you watch, you'll see when you eat. Then you can think, honestly think, about whether you should be eating then. Are you really hungry? If not, then what follows is not self-flagellation. the next part of the process isn't "pick up the biggest board your flabby arms can lift and beat yourself over the head with it." No, the next step should be simply having a greater knowledge of yourself, a greater awareness of your habits. That alone will help you. And you will notice that you will eat less and less at the times when you shouldn't be eating.

Next, learn the difference between eating what your mind wants and eating what your body wants. Last night, my body mostly didn't want anything. If I had gone to bed instead of obsessing about what to eat or not eat, hunger would not have kept me awake. So that was mind hunger. Emotional hunger. But when my stomach is growling a bit, that's physical hunger. One should be fed, the other should be explored and dealt with.

For the most part, my life as a woman struggling to lose weight has helped me to learn all of the above stuff pretty well. I know the difference between hungry and emotional. I have the control to stop myself from emotional eating. I know the right foods to eat so that I don't end up gorging because my body wants nutrition and not chocolate.

So what's next? What's beyond learning what and when to eat? Well, that's simple too. Apply the knowledge. See? Simple.

And that's where I am right now.

  1. Promise myself that it's okay to not eat if my body isn't asking for fuel.
  2. Promise myself that it's okay to eat when my body is asking for fuel, and that I will give my all to actually eating what my body is asking for, instead of abusing the freedom and eating what sounds most tasty. While sometimes I will eat a guilt-free bowl of ice cream because I'm hungry and it sounds great at the moment, for the most part I want to put my effort into eating foods that will fuel my body, strengthen it, and re-teach it to work properly.
  3. Promise myself that the only clock that will govern my food life from now on is the inner one God programmed me with. It may be a cuckoo clock ... but it's my clock.
  4. Promise myself freedom from numbers (within reason). Instead of worrying about how many calories are in the bowl of broccoli I'm eating, why not be glad that I've got something so healthy and fulfilling to eat ... and that I actually desire to eat it? Instead of obsessing about my weight and size numbers, why not rejoice in the fact that as I work through this, I will learn more about myself, and I will become more fit and strong? It's not about wearing a size ten, a size eight, or a size six. It's about being able to walk up my stairs and still be able to breathe at the end. It's about being able to look down and see past my stomach. It's about being able to be focused and healthy and able-bodied.

If I focus on those things, then I know the excess weight will come off. It only makes sense that in a healthy body, you don't hold on to unhealthy levels of fat. You don't hold on to unhealthy water levels. You don't hold on to the need to eat just because you're angry. You don't laze about just because you have no energy.

Because in a healthy body, you are fit and strong, you are energetic and amazing. The healthy human body is beautiful and miraculous. And that's what I want more than a simple size 8.