Throughout my binge free journey I have attended therapy and clinics, listened to motivational speakers and read many blogs and books. I did read a couple books twice, only because the first time through it didn’t click, and something drew me back for a re-read. One of these books is called ‘Intuitive Eating’ by dieticians Evelyn Tribole M.S. R.D. and Elyse Resch M.S. R.D. F.A.D.A. The book describes, in detail, how to learn to eat without dieting and it addresses the phases people go through, based on clients they have treated.
A therapist recommended this book while I was attending an eating disorder program near my house. Three days a week, I drove to the clinic with the Intuitive Eating book and my food diary in tow. In the food diary, I kept track of all the food I consumed, and once a week a dietician would examine my diary and make recommendations.
I learned a lot from the program and came out with a better attitude and more appreciation for my body. But the eating puzzle still didn’t fit together. If I could eat intuitively, like the book said, why did I have to measure and keep track of my food in the program? And then there was the paragraph in the book, on page 90- “Beware of the I-Can-Eat-Whatever-I-Want, As-Much-As-I-Want, Whenever-I-Feel-Like-It-Trap,” which basically stated that you should eat unconditionally, but “eating whenever you feel like it, without regard to hunger and fullness, might not be a very satisfying experience and might cause physical discomfort. Attunement with your body’s satiety cues is an important part of this process.”
Okay, now I was really confused. There was a condition to ‘unconditionally.’ It just didn’t add up. I was expected to learn to eat what I want, but it cannot be what I really want, it must be the best thing for my body and it must be enough to satisfy my body, but it can’t be too much or too little. And it has to be when I am hungry, and I have to stop when I am satisfied. OMG!
I graduated from the program, ditched the book and looked for a food plan I could live with. I checked out the overeaters anonymous food plans, the paleo diet and whole 30 plans. I tried them all. I kept journaling my food. I played tennis more and rode my bike and joined a gym. The bingeing lessened, but I struggled with it and still didn’t know what satisfaction with a meal felt like.
I need to skip some of the story here, which I will write about later, but let’s just say, two years elapsed and some things happened, and I finally made the decision to forget about the food plans, the diary and the scale. I stopped exercising just to burn calories and began playing tennis and riding the bike for fun. I cancelled the gym membership. I began to do the one thing I have been wanting to do for years… that is –eat without guilt.
I picked the book back up and despite the warning, I decided to eat anything I wanted, any where I wanted, anytime I wanted, with no guilt. Read that again, with no guilt. That means I ate with no thoughts of dieting in the future to make up for it, with no thought of having to exercise to ward off the calories, no thought of eating less or ‘better’ tomorrow. I stopped reading food labels. I didn’t eat out of entitlement, and I didn’t give up on myself, I just ate what I wanted and what tasted good. I knew this was the only way I would come to terms with myself. So, I went all in.
For the first few months, I occasionally overate. But it was only in guiltless overeating that I learned how to eat normally. I did gain a few pounds during that time, and almost went back to dieting for this reason. But I stuck it out, and within a few more months, I was eating and feeling satisfied and not overeating. Bingeing seemed like a foreign language, I didn’t even understand the hold it once had over me. And the book, which I read two years earlier made a lot more sense. When I re-read it, I saw myself and understood it. If it hadn’t been for that one warning paragraph, I may have tried this sooner.
The point is, when I try to control what, when, where or how much I should eat, my body sees this as a warning that there is something wrong with the food source. So, it goes into craving mode to ensure I eat more food to thwart the coming restriction or whatever is wrong with the food source. And when I become desperate to not overeat, my body fights harder to get more food now. Suddenly, I want to eat anything that looks scrumptious. And the only things that appear scrumptious are sweets and high fat foods which, as my smart body knows, are calorie dense. And calories are what it is looking for to continue to function while the food source problem gets straightened out.
Of course, there was no problem with the food source. The problem was me, giving my body a false signal. As smart as my body is, it can not interpret my restriction of food as a good thing. Why? Because I wasn’t eating to nourish my body, my desire was to eat less to lose weight to be a better person, to feel like I fit in. I did not honor my body, how could I expect it to honor me?
We must work with our body and not against it. And the best way, I have found, is to allow myself to eat with no guilt or thoughts of restriction. This way, my body is satisfied that there will always be food available, it will settle down and stop the cravings.
The hardest part for me, in doing this, was trusting myself. Even after I made the decision, I second guessed myself several times, but persevered. Then my body began to honor me by only wanting to eat at the usual meal times. It stopped craving sweets and fatty foods. And now, when I do feel like eating cake, I don’t need a whole cake or even a whole piece, usually a couple bites satisfies me. The key is allowing myself to eat, and choosing what I feel like eating and not what I think I should have based on calories or fats or macros.
So, I eat what I want, where I want, any time I want. I eat when I am hungry and stop when I am satisfied. (Yes, this is a real thing you can acquire.) Sometimes, if I think I am full, but want a few more bites, I take them, and its okay. Some days I eat more than others, but over a week’s time, it evens out. I don’t force myself to eat more vegetables or healthier foods, but I eat them because I prefer them now. And even though weight loss was not my goal, I have lost the weight I gained initially and have remained at an even weight since then.
So, I did exactly what I thought the book, in that tiny paragraph, told me not to do. Maybe there are some people who actually want to keep overeating or bingeing and not worry about it. But I will give my readers credit for being smart enough to know that it is not a trap that someone else ensnares you in, it is will-full self destructive behavior. And we’ve all had enough of that. What we want is behavior that enhances our lives. I figure if you are reading this post your goal is to nourish your body, satisfy your psyche and live a happier life.
I recommend you read the book. It may not make sense the first time around, but let the information just sink in. And don’t worry about the disclaimer, just eat. Eat what you want, when you want it, without guilt or shame. The more you do this, the more sense the book makes.
“It’s not the thought of eating everything in sight that is the problem, it’s the thought of restricting food to lose weight that makes you want to eat everything in sight.”