I had been on an endless cycle of trying to be “healthy”, doing “good” for a short amount of time, and eventually missing certain “bad” foods, or a the feeling of being satisfied after eating a meal. I always had to make myself stop eating & when I was good I would stop, but when I didn’t have enough will power to stop, I would keep going, usually to the point of eating WAY too much. I would have a “what the hell” moment where if I had already blown my good day, might as well keep going.
It wasn’t a healthy relationship with food and it wasn’t fun to eat anymore. When I would watch my 10 year old daughter eat what sounds good and finish when she is full, I wanted to go back to the days when I used to eat like that too. She could go though Holidays & vacations, and eat at restaurants without ever gaining excess weight because she can eat things that might be less nutritious but knows to stop when she is full so she is never overeating. Plus when she does eat a little more at one meal, I notice she naturally eats less at another meal.
What happens as we grow up in a world where there is so much focus on trying to achieve the “perfect” body we see on airbrushed girls in magazines that we completely forget how to eat in a way the gives us the perfect body for us? And how sad is it that most likely my perfect little girl will someday lose that too? So I decided I needed to start eating in a way that set a good example for what a healthy relationship with food is. It wasn’t easy but over time I worked to eat what I most wanted when I was hungry & stop when I was satisfied & eventually I learned how to eat like I did when I was a kid again.
I will read about the health benefits of certain foods and in my brain eating more of it becomes better. The problem is that anytime I eat more than enough of anything, my body doesn’t need the fuel & it’s forced to store it. No matter how healthy the food choice is, making a habit of overriding my body’s hunger & fullness cues is never good for me.
I have a vacation coming up & for the first time there is no race to get “in shape” (i.e. lose weight) for the trip. I’m not cutting back on snacks, avoiding restaurants, or increasing the time spent at the gym. I’m not calculating how many pounds I will lose if I lose x number of pounds a week. I’m not worrying about how I will fit in my workouts or what food rules I will need to follow during vacation so as not to undo the progress I’ve made under-eating & over-exercising the weeks & months leading up to the trip. I’m just looking forward to it. My life is so much happier now that I’ve let go of trying to control my weight with food & exercise!!
I was never that great at restricting food, but I’ve always been someone who has a hard time sitting still so exercising too much became my way to deal with the fact that I lived in a body that wasn’t going to let me starve it.
When I learned to eat intuitively it became clear that the only thing more exercise did was create more hunger. I had been chasing my tail without knowing it, working out more to make up for food choices I didn’t approve of, only to find myself hungry again & making more food choices I didn’t approve of.
With intuitive eating, the goal is to trust that your body will balance the input (food) with the output (resting metabolism & exercise). You trust that your body knows how to maintain the right weight for you without any help. The great thing about letting your body handle it is that you no longer have to force yourself to eat less & exercise more which is such a better way to live.
In dieting there is the “what the hell” effect. You do something against the diet rules & once the rules have been broken, you can’t undo it so you might as well give up & start again later. What it really is, is giving yourself a free pass to overeat or binge & it pretty much sums up what is wrong with diets.
This all or attitude nothing is impossible to live up to so you set yourself up to fail from the beginning. Unless you follow the rules perfectly, you fail. I once heard that perfectionists are negative thinkers. That something can be 95% great & they only focus on the 5% that wasn’t. Someone who focuses on excellence however sees that it was mostly great. They might see some negatives & learn & grow from them but their focus is on what went right instead of what went wrong.
If you think in terms of eating this way you can see that even if you think you ate more than you needed to, had a snack when you were bored & not truly hungry, or had an extra cookie that you weren’t really craving, that you are still succeeding. You didn’t eat a little past full at dinner & say “what the hell, might as well finish off the ice cream in the freezer”, SUCCESS!! You didn’t have an extra cookie & proceed to polish off the rest SUCCESS!! You didn’t decide after the snack to graze through the pantry for the rest of the day SUCCESS!!
Then you can take it a step further & treat yourself how you would treat a friend or your child. You had a day where you needed a little bit extra, so what. That is normal, none of us goes around doing anything perfectly 100% of the time, why would it be any different with what & how we eat? And expecting that it should be leads to standards that are impossible to live up to. It’s what you do most of the time that takes you where you are going, not the things only happen sometimes!!
Just because all foods are equal doesn’t mean they are all the same. All foods have their pro & con list, including the most nutrient dense food on the planet because nutrient dense on its own can’t make me feel satisfied anymore than brownies on their own can. There must be balance in order for me to feel satisfied. Diets put too much emphasis on the nutrient rich side leaving people desperate to create balance (hello brownie binge). The opposite is also true, how much nutrient free food can you really eat before you start craving a salad?
If I’m hungry & not particularly craving Apple Pie, an apple is a better choice. However if I’m craving Apple Pie, there are not enough apples in the world that can satisfy that craving & I’m better off choosing the Pie. It’s a much happier way to live when there’s room in my life for both.
Fullness is not the exact science calorie counting would have you believe it is. Eating to a 6 on the fullness scale instead of an 8 only means I’ll be hungry sooner, & neither way is right or wrong or changes the outcome of what I’ll weigh. My body knows how to keep itself the weight it was meant to be & as long as I’m waiting to eat until I’m hungry & stopping when I’m satisfied my body will take care of the rest.
Once you learn to eat intuitively you will no longer struggle to keep yourself from gaining weight from a bigger meal, a vacation, or a missed workout.