Let’s get right into the subject of today’s post! I have not talked about my battle with Intuitive Eating in quite some time, so I think it’s time for an update, and to delve deeper into the ideas behind this.
I want to remind everyone that I am not being paid to review or recommend this book! I read this self-help book a few months ago at the suggestion of Nancy Clarke because it could potentially help me regain a healthy relationship with food. Disordered eating has negatively distorted my attitude and thoughts towards food and my body, so re-building this is a very important and necessary step toward recovery. I need to stop seeing food as the “enemy” the necessary substance that is “out to get me” aka make me fat. No, this is wrong and ridiculous. Food is fuel- simple as that.
Intuitive eating is something I believe we should all strive for, pretty much eating when you are hungry and stopping when you are satisfied and getting the correct amount of nutrients- done and done. Of course truly understanding this is easier said than done, which is why I am making my way through the Principles of this book slowly and really trying out and reading what they suggest. Thus far, I have challenged myself with two of the principles listed in Intuitive Eating, Make Peace With Food and Feel Your Fullness. After I have practiced these principles for a bit longer, I am going to update you on my progress and thoughts so far.
Today, I am going to talk about the principle of Honoring Your Hunger.
Oh boy, this is yet another tough topic for me. In these last few years, I have become unfamiliar with how to really gauge my hunger levels, when to stop when I am satisfied or full, fearing the pangs of hunger and yet continuing to deprive myself of proper amounts of food…. Oh yes, I have some work to do in this area and thought it would be a great idea to address next.
From the book, Keep your body biologically fed with adequate energy and carbohydrates. Otherwise you can trigger a primal drive to overeat. Once you reach the moment of excessive hunger, all intentions of moderate, conscious eating are fleeting and irrelevant. Learning to honor this first biological signal sets the stage for re-building trust with yourself and food.
Well yep, that makes sense. If you are restricting and depriving yourself of nutrients that are essential, your body is going to react quite negatively and cause you to feel this compulsive NEED to get huge amounts of food into your mouth as soon as possible, aka binge. When you are starving, your self-control pretty much goes out the window and you feel desperate to get your hands on any kind of sustenance. I know I have been there, plenty of times as a matter of fact.
Although I have improved with this idea, I still have my own personal struggles. When my disordered eating was at its lowest point, breakfast and the morning would be the time this principle would have helped me out the most. A number of times I have opened up about my fear of breakfast - having “too many” calories in the morning and then not “saving enough” for the end of the day. I used to wake up every morning, go right to the gym or on a run, come home and have coffee (no food), shower, get ready for the day, all without eating anything. I had a great schedule at school last year where I would not start classes until 11:15 so I would always use the mornings to workout and get homework done. I would not eat anything until that 11:15 class, and then it had to be at least 11:30 until I broke my fast.
To say I was hungry at the point would be an understatement. I would feel starved, that desperate NEED for food would be there, my stomach would be out-of-control growling, I felt exhausted, winded, weak, dizzy from a lack of calories… Those first few minutes of class were so painful. Since my ridiculous “rule” to not allow myself to eat until 11:30 was in effect, 15 minutes felt like eternity. I would not be able to pay attention to the professor, my mind would be spinning and full of thoughts about FOOD. I would finally “cave in” and eat a yogurt and an apple… oh in about 8 seconds flat- duh, because I was STARVING!
Obviously some things needed to change. Intuitive Eating has a lot to do with people that have been on countless diets to lose weight, but the information can be useful to anyone. The point is to re-establish a healthy relationship with food. In “Honoring Your Hunger” they make a few very useful and relate able points of what happens to us when we are constantly starving ourselves. When I say starving, I don’t mean zero calories coming in… I am talking about restricting the necessary intake and leaving our bodies without adequate calories. The body is constantly in a state of deprivation, something it obviously does not approve of.
Metabolic rates decrease by 40%.
You become obsessed with food.
Eating styles change- vacillating from ravenous gulping to stalling out the eating experience; making their meals last for hours.
Bulimia can result if you have a binge and then feel the compulsive need to rid of the excess amounts you consumed.
Personalities change- onset of apathy, irritability, moodiness, and depression.
I can relate to most of these 100%- except the bulimia one, that was never for me!
These all make such perfect sense. You are fighting against something that is necessary to continue living- eating! Food was the enemy to me, so I tried to “avoid” it all costs, yet have become absolutely obsessed with it at the same time. When I was at quite a low point, I would always be searching online for recipes, reading articles about foods, watching Food Network like there was no tomorrow… I was obsessing about something I deemed was not allowed, that whole eating thing. I can remember talking about favorite foods of mine to friends, items I had not tasted in literally years. I had countless recipes bookmarked that I know I would never make, because those contained “fear” foods…
Another aspect of this chapter that I paid close attention to was the idea that hunger is terrifying. That’s exactly what it is for me. I “love” how ironic this whole thing is… I am petrified of being hungry yet don’t eat when I am feeling those familiar pangs… uhh interesting. This is something I really want to work on- when I feel even the slightest bit hungry, the world is coming to an end. I can’t tolerate this hunger, even though I know some kind of snack or meal is not too far away. A small pang is felt and I immediately think of what I am going to eat, how I am going to cook or prepare it, how long until I can eat again…
I am terrible at dealing with hunger, and yet other people are fine with it. For example, my mom feels hungry, voices this but does not go into some crazy state over it. She knows she is going to eat in the near-ish future and that everything is going to be fine. I envy this… because when I am hungry, nothing else can happen, I need to EAT. And YET, I don’t feed myself properly, hrmm is all of this connected?! I’m thinking it might be…
From the book, many studies have shown that lowering body wight by food restriction and dieting makes no sense metabolically or to our brain chemistry. In fact, it’s counterproductive. The biological chemicals that regulate appetite also direct affect moods and state of mind, our physical energy and our sex lives.
What I am taking away from this principle is that I really need to begin listening for hunger. Things have improved a great deal as I have recovered these last few months, but I still “fear” hunger, I still restrict to a certain point, and food remains on this high, unnecessary pedestal. I want to be able to recognize gentle hunger pangs and understand that the world will not end if I don’t eat at THAT VERY MINUTE. The book suggests “checking in with your body” and simply inquire, What’s my hunger level? If you can truly focus on this question and answer honestly, then deciding whether to eat at that moment and what it should be, ought to be no problem at all.
I need to trust my body.
There are some days that I am just hungrier than others, and learning that this is perfectly fine is a goal of mine. I get frustrated on those days when I feel the need to eat everything in my pantry… but this is simply my body telling me that it needs a bit more food. And that’s OKAY. I also want to deem it alright that I eat when perhaps I am not so hungry. Maybe I just want something at that moment, and this does not make me a failure. Just because I eat a bit more at a meal or one day, does not mean I am losing my willpower, I just need more freakin food!
This can be done. I believe I can reestablish a healthy relationship with food and conquer that ridiculous idea that food is the enemy. Yes, this mindset has improved, but my old disordered thoughts are still a part of my life. They linger in the back of mind, ready to spoil my day by rearing their ugly heads and voice the ideas and thoughts that are quite “good” at destroying my life. Those need to go away, so that I can finally live the life I am supposed to, deserve to, and want to.
On that note, I am rather starving at the moment and am going to go eat my cereal concoction, perhaps with a bit more cereal added in this morning. Just because I am more hungry than usual today, does not mean something is wrong or am I a weak person that can’t resist food! I had a hard workout earlier, and my body wants more food. Simple as that.