Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Trust Me

Every spare minute I had yesterday I spent reading my new book, "Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program That Works" by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. It makes so much sense to me, and I'm soaking it all up like a sponge. I'm going to try not to turn into one of these converts that annoys people to death by preaching day and night about their miracle cure, so let me know if I reach that state.

In reading this book I'm finding some relief in the fact that my eating behaviors lately are not insanity or a severe eating disorder. It's the simple fact that my body is reacting to this restrictive, depriving state I've kept it in for so long. What started out as an attempt to eat "healthy" has become a strict set of rules, very black and white, and the breaking of those rules leads me to the "what the hell" attitude and rebound eating. The lack of control I'm feeling is my body responding to the restriction of food by consuming as much as possible in case another "famine" comes along, which invariably does each time I start restricting again.

I'm not even "starving" myself -- all the current experts say you shouldn't go below 1,200 a day without medical supervision -- and I probably average between 1,200-1,600 a day. But the book relates a famous study from the 1950s when healthy men were put on a 1,500 calorie restricted diet. This was before the health food craze, before the models and actresses started getting more and more skeletal, before the "obesity epidemic" that's taken over our society. These men displayed all the symptoms that I have encountered: obsessive thoughts about food, mood swings and binges.

So here I am, sick to death of being a Careful Eater (the authors use this title for those who claim not to diet, but who wind up using the guise of "healthy eating" to set up all these food rules and black-or-white thinking), and I'm standing here at the precipice of a new journey: becoming an intuitive eater.

So what's holding me back? Fear and distrust. Not of the authors, but of myself. For years I ate so much that I never gave myself a chance to feel hunger. Then, when I lost the bulk of my weight, I didn't allow myself to trust my hunger and my cravings. I pre-planned my meals and snacks with a certain list of foods that I deemed "healthy" and "guilt-free." I'd set how many hours I needed to wait between meals, and if I got hungry in between, I'd do everything to ignore it or try to turn it off. Once in a while I would get the notion that I could eat what I want, as long as it was in proper portions, but inevitably my guilt and built-up deprivation would turn it into a trigger food and would instigate a binge.

If I'm given permission to eat whatever I want, whenever I want, won't I go crazy and gain 100 pounds? I've spent so long either bypassing, ignoring and rejecting my body's responses to hunger and satiety, how do I now trust myself to listen to my body? There's no universal rule book, there's no list of foods that are safe and which ones should be avoided. It's all individual and honors each person's preferences and bodies. After being "taught" how to eat by every magazine and diet plan out there, you mean I'm now expected to be the expert on how I should eat? How terrifying!

But yet, how liberating. The thought of being able to make endless choices, to eat exactly what I want, when I want it, without guilt, and more importantly, without the primal gorging caused by deprivation, sounds wonderful. I'm not saying I'll never eat emotionally again, but I'd love to be able to say, "Okay, I'm eating emotionally right now. Why not stop for a minute here and sort out what's going on?" And maybe it would last an hour instead of a day, or two, or fourteen.

The past couple days I've been dipping my feet in the water, so to speak. While I'm pretty much eating my usual weekday foods, I've been giving myself permission to throw in things I normally would only eat on the weekends -- fried fish, noodles, the peanut butter crackers Mabel made especially for me for an evening snack. I take a portion, telling myself over and over again in my head that if I want more, to take it. But so far it's been enough.

I'm still pretty leery, but I'm taking it a day at a time and trying my best not to get caught up in calories, carbs, fat and the like. I'm still wanting a lot of healthy foods because I genuinely like the taste of them and like how they make me feel. But I keep telling myself that if the craving for ice cream hits me, I won't reject it because it's "bad" or "unhealthy." So far, so good.


Amy said...

hey, this is completely off topic but i tracked back from a comment you left me and i've been reading your archives. i just read that you started up a B&B. i've been thinking about that (after uhm saving lot of money and buying a fabulous house and then ofcourse remodeling it, you know..someday) and i'm wondering if you would reccommend it now you've been doing it for a few years.

Beula said...

Whoa Nellie. Very scary stuff. I think I am starting down again but is because I have cut out starches and upped protein. More restrictions and more rules. If I am a food addict I can't trust my body, right? So...then how do I trust it to eat normal? I have trouble with the whole concept of food addiction anyway. Gad now I am really mixed up. But really, really interested. Keep posting. I'm getting this book.

Shauna said...

hi, just dropping in to give a word of encouragement. after losing and keeping off a lot of weight, but still not at "goal", I started a version of intuitive eating (I haven't read that book, but others with the same premise). I am feeling happy with the results. not so much that I started losing weight again, but that I am starting to feel "normal" around food, not obsessed. sometimes I eat too much, make mistakes, wish I hadn't eaten something, but I feel so much more relaxed. My roommate brought me some junk home last night and I didn't even have to think about it, I just didn't want it and tossed it out. I can't tell you how freeing that felt. sorry for the long post, I hope you find this book and the process helpful!!

Jason said...

Good luck, keep up with the fight! I run so that I can control my weight, but I am still a big boy (230's). I run 1/2 marathons and recommend them to all.

Andrea K said...

Amy, I actually closed the B&B down after a few years. Here were my problems:

1. The house was too small. Ideally it should be big enough for you to live on site, or at least in a smaller house behind it. I lived down the block and the distance caused some headaches.

2. Extremely seasonal business. I got lots of business from late spring to early fall, but then it dropped to almost nothing for the winter season. It's best to be in a location with year-round attractions. If I had already been married and had a back-up income from my husband, it would have been easier to deal with the income fluctuations.

3. The main reason I stopped was because my life completely changed. I lost weight, met the man who became my husband, and suddenly I was swept up in his social circle, not to mention my daughter's increasing school and extracurricular activities.

So basically, if I had already been married, my daughter was off to college, and the house was a little bigger, I'd still be doing it. It was a fun job, I met lots of interesting people, and I enjoyed the compliments on my cooking.
To run a B&B you definitely have to be a people pleaser, a decent cook, and have no fear of holding conversations with strangers. It helps if you have some internet skills (my website was my main advertising and where I got most of my customers)and bookkeeping abilities.
There are lots of good books on the subject out there, too.