Food Peace Journal – Week 10 – For the Love of a Zebra Cake

Holy Swiss rolls, I’m 2.5 months into this bad boy of Intuitive Eating. Am I thinner? Nope. That’s not the point and honestly, I’ve been overeating a bit so my jeans are a little tighter. Intuitive eating is something I am definitely still learning. I don’t believe it’s something you automatically pick up if you haven’t been eating this way most of your life. There are so many ‘rules’ that have been embedded into your mind and psyche, that it take time to retrain yourself and how you eat.

Coming out of a dieting mindset and realizing that you can eat whatever you want is much like being a kid locked in a candy store overnight. There is a bonanza of foods that you can suddenly eat again or maybe for the first time. Starting Intuitive Eating is scary, and it feels like walking out of a dark, dank prison cell and into the sunlight of freedom. Don’t be surprised if you go through a period where you actually grow a little bigger (get off that scale!) because you’re indulging in all the deliciousness you had been forbidden for years. Then you remember, hmm, I’m only supposed to eat until I’m just satisfied but but lately, I have been eating past that point, quite a bit. Your first instinct will be to start restricting your food intake and what you eat. STOP! Do not do this.

I’m at this point right now and I know the panic you might just be feeling. I’m getting fat (or fatter)! I have to stop, control and restrict before I blow up into a Macy’s parade balloon. Take a breath, a deep and calming breath and remember you’re okay (I just did this yesterday). Think about why you are eating more than you want (or whatever is going on). It’s not about what you are eating but why you are eating. This is a hard thing to decipher at times especially if it is something you’ve done for years. Be kind with yourself, remember that this takes baby steps and it’s a learning experience. You’re undoing years of dieting behavior. Years of emotional eating, though you’ll always have times that you emotionally eat, as much as we want, it’s impossible to be perfect and it’s okay that food provides comfort at times. Deep breath, calming thoughts, its all okay. It’s even okay if you get bigger, we are more than our bodies – I am using this mantra a lot lately.

Being patient with yourself is so hard especially when you have a fear of being ‘too fat’. I know my odd is a little bigger right now than a few weeks ago and since I pursue athletic pastimes like hiking and cycling, I am freaking out inside that I will not be able to do activities I love because I am getting bigger. I don’t want my size to limit my life. So I had to stop my momentary freak out and remind myself that I’m fine just as I am, I just need to look at the fact that I’m eating a lot of times when I am not hungry and figure out why. Maybe it is because I’m stressed at work, maybe it’s because the four-year anniversary of my mom’s passing is close or maybe I feel lonely or bored. Therein is where the hard work comes up, the reason(s) behind the ‘why’ when I emotionally eat. My body is telling me one important thing, I”m feeding it more than it wants, so I need to figure out why I am ignoring my hunger cues. It is a simple theory but not always so simple to figure out. It gives me something to work toward though.

That aside, I have a little story of a hike that I took over a week ago. I took my dog and drove to one of my favorite, closer parks. The sun was out though it was still cold but the wind was calm. I needed some gas so I stopped at a gas station about a mile from the park entrance. While I was pumping gas, I realized, I’m hungry so I went inside for a drink and a snack. I’m asking myself what I might want. What sounds good to me, I pick up a pack of trail mix, nah, on to the next idea. Out of habit I walk by the endcap full of Little Debbie snacks. Little Debbie’s have been forbidden fruit for a long time. I rarely eat one or even buy them. I stop halfway up the next aisle of snacks and realize I want a Zebra cake. White icing with brown stripes over some kind of white cake with cream filling. When was the last time that I actually ate one? No clue. I bought the cake and a tea.

The park is closed to auto traffic right now which is a big bonus to me, the lover of solitude. I packed up my coat with my key lanyard, my cell phone, my tiny notebook and pencil in case I wanted to write or sketch and the Zebra cake. Bundling up and grabbing the dog’s leash, I took to the wooded trails rather than the paved ones today as the mud was minimal. I did one trail, cross the paved road for the nature trail which partially runs along the river. Out of habit I had started a route with my Map My Walk app. Standing a few feet into the woods, I realized I had been walking fast and not paying a bit of attention to my surroundings. I pulled out my phone and deleted all my fitness apps. I can always put them back on if I want but I continued without thinking about speed or steps or calories burned.

Do you know what happens when you aren’t trying to walk to fast and burn calories? The world comes back to you. When you get out of the ‘training’ mode and just enjoy your surroundings, it’s a completely different experience. I would have walked right by the path down to the river because I had to go fast. I would have missed the fact that across the river where the bank was higher, where the trees’ roots anchored the soil and my oldest daughter had recreated in her first college art print, the trees had fallen after all the rain and crashed down right beside where I stood on the trail. A bit of melancholy for a special place to my daughters and I. Looking around, I found several sycamore branches that I picked up to take home. When it warms up, I will clean up the jagged ends and clear coat them for decorations. I would have missed the way the sun felt on my face when I just stopped, closed my eyes and turned my face to the sun, the sounds of the rushing river soothing my soul.

On the way back to the car, I traipsed the same trail I had quickly walked through before I had deleted my fitness apps. I passed the covered bridge and settled into the woods again until I came to a bench in the sun. My stomach was growling a little so I thought it was a great moment to eat my snack. I tied the dog’s leash to the bench as he is so impatient and pulled out the slightly mushed cake. Opening the cellophane, I broke off a piece of cake and tasted it. Granted, this is not the mecca of baked goods but it brings back happy memories of my childhood. In a way, it felt like I was a bit of a kid again, especially when I realized I was swinging my leg like kids do when they are happy. I slipped out my notebook and sketched the woods and covered bridge. Sketch, take a bite, pause, just be. It was the perfect afternoon. Quiet, simple, unrushed, like the summers of my youth. Why do we get so busy doing, achieving, improving and so on? I had forgotten to slow down. Well I’ve told myself I had slowed down but I was still walking too fast to enjoy what was right around me.

We wonder where the joy and fun of childhood escapes as we age but we push it away with all our responsibilities, to-do lists and constant need to be achieving something. We can’t eat a snack cake because it’s unhealthy and will make you fat. But I wasn’t fat as a kid. I ate plenty of them. I just ate when I was hungry normally. I finished my sketch, adding the date to the bottom. I stuck the wrapper in my pocket to discard in a trash can and set back to my car. I don’t know how far I walked or how fast I walked nor do I know how many steps I took. Tracking all that stuff never made me thin anyway and I’m not training for any events. I just felt that I should do that kind of metrics. Why? What is the point? To suck all the joy out of the little things in my life? Oh track your exercise and it will force you to burn more calories. Maybe it does but again, I’m not thin still. I may never be thin and it”s hard to accept that possibility and live with it but I am working on it.

When I went home, I didn’t stop and buy a box of Zebra cakes to binge on. I was happy and contented with one. The knowledge that I can have one whenever I wanted keeps me from wanting to binge on them. It is only when they are forbidden do I feel the need to scarf them down like I may never have another meal. It’s simple psychology when you think about it.

Sometimes when I’m feeling a little down, I pull out my notebook with the sketch and look at it. The memory makes me happy, makes me smile. For the love of a Zebra cake and letting go of achieving every moment of every day.

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Week 3: Peace With Food Journal – Stay Strong!

This week has been about being very mindful of diet mentality and behavior. It has also been about not weighing myself eve though the urge to “check” and see if I’ve made any progress is powerful. But I am afraid if I give in to my urge to step on that damned scale, I turn my intuitive eating lifestyle that I am cultivating into a ‘diet’. All these years of judging myself based on what I weigh and my size is going to take some time to overcome. I wish it was overnight but it’s going to take hard work. I can’t undo years of thinking that my weight and body size define who I am as a person. Smaller = better person & happier. Bigger = Miserable failure.

I reflected over my life and think of all the diets I’ve tried, the millions of magazine articles I’ve read, all the health tips and studies which the next year, they are saying oh never mind, it’s actually okay in moderation. Coffee won’t really give you diabetes or whatever. Or eggs won’t kill you. My great-grandmother, Sadie, always said everything in moderation. She lived to be almost 101 years old. The only thing I remembered she would do is eat a banana and drink orange juice every day to keep her mind in good shape as she aged. It certainly didn’t hurt her. I mean there are some things you don’t want to have ‘just a little’ of such as crack and heroin. But as far as food, unless you have a severe allergy or medical issue forbidding a food, I can’t think of anything that if you just had a bit of it, that it’s going to kill you.

In other words, food isn’t the enemy. Food is our friend and we’ve been villainizing it for years. And then there are the ‘miracle’ foods that I have yet to have experienced a miracle from eating grapefruit 2x’s a day for weeks. Common sense need to take over here. If diets worked, I wouldn’t be fat. If all the drinks and diet aids etc. companies want you to push worked, we wouldn’t be fat and then we wouldn’t need these products. They want you to feel you must be dependent on them and keep buying them because they want their cut of the billions spent in the diet industry. Think of what would happen if we all took the money we spent on diet products/drinks, diet books, programs, gyms we hate, etc. and put toward world hunger? Billions of dollars to feed the starving in our country and other countries.

Billions. Billions. According to Time Magazine, 66.7 BILLION….. What good could we do in the world, in our neighborhood, with that money? Remember the diet industry doesn’t want you to get thin without having to continue on their meetings or products because they want your money. That’s all it is about, the almighty buck. There isn’t some team of corporate board members sitting at the fancy conference table saying, ‘Gee, Bob, I really want to help people who are overweight, let’s find the fix for it and give it out at low-cost without any maintenance products, etc. to keep funneling money into our pockets. We will cure obesity.” I mean maybe there is, but I highly doubt it. Scientifically, this may be happening but they have yet to find the ‘fix’ for obesity just yet. I’m going to find out if my ‘fix’ is just to trust myself and my body for what it wants.

Also, I am working on my ‘good’ and ‘bad’ food labels that are burned into my brain much like the grape jelly the other week. I ate grape jelly and my health did not come to a sweeping halt. Grape jelly isn’t ‘bad’. Yes it has sugar in it and not a lot of nutritional value but it tastes so good. And guess what? I didn’t binge on grape jelly by having it. No giant spoon in the jar taking huge bites of nothing but wiggly dark purple grape jelly. One day at work this week, I had the distinct craving for little cookies that come in the vending machine. So I took a handful of change, wandered down to the break room and studied the offerings. The little vanilla cream sandwich cookies or the tiny choc chip cookies? Chocolate chip won. I took them back to my desk, put down a napkin and opened is so the cookies spilled out the bright blue packaging. Then I slowly enjoyed and savored each cookie. I didn’t shovel them into my mouth like I had to hurry up and eat them before someone saw the fat girl was eating tiny cookies. I debated on whether to go get a second pack. I scanned my body to see what it wanted and one pack was just fine. World didn’t end. I didn’t go up a size. And I was happy.

So essentially this week is just staying strong. Keeping on the path of teaching myself to listen to my body, using intuitive eating. While it’s a simple theory, overcoming years of dieting behavior and judgmental crap makes it more difficult than one would think. The other thing I continue to work on is showing myself kindness and not judging myself. If I eat a little too much at a meal and am overly full, I stop myself from saying things in my mind like “OMG, you just are such a pig” and replacing them with gentle prompts like “I wonder why I ate too much?” I am trying to replace the judgmental with observational kindness. Learning from the moment rather than beating myself up. I wonder if all the beating myself up over the years has contributed to my overeating? I feel bad for eating too much, beat myself up mentally or sometimes even out loud, then I comfort myself with more food. I can see how that could easily be a cycle.

I’ve continued to listen to my podcasts as much as possible as they are much like going to a support group without the awkward circle of chairs and all that sharing. On one of the podcasts, the dietitian suggested to look at pictures of people of larger bodies having fun, and being happy to reprogram ourselves from shying away from these images or in real life. You can follow ‘Be Your Own Beloved” campaign on Instagram as well if you want to do this. I thought this was an interesting point because I never really thought about if I was uncomfortable looking at people with larger bodies including myself. I’m better at looking at myself in the mirror and being less judgmental than ten years ago, but I’m not really completely comfortable with how I look. I rarely post any full body shots of myself on social media perferring headshots as it hides my body. So I think it’s a good project, working on being more comfortable with myself and other people in larger bodies. Cringing at myself in the full length mirror because I have a belly is not accepting myself!

I’ve adopted the mantra ‘stay strong!’ as a reminder to keep following the principles of intuitive eating, to trust my body, to fight my long engrained diet mentality, to let go of judging myself by weight and size. Though, I have to remain vigilant right now just about every waking hour to fight my old habits, I imagine eventually it will become natural for me. Not that I won’t have setbacks or fall back into dieting mentality. One of the podcasts I listened to this week on Love, Food, was where this woman had been doing very well for a few years with intuitive eating and then suddenly had the impulse to go back to dieting because she saw herself in some photos. She didn’t look the way she thought she should look and it was enough to send her back to dieting for awhile. So, I don’t believe that I will just magically be fixed and not have moments where I slip.

So the bottom line for Week 3:

1. Stay Strong – Keep the faith, stay alert and keep pushing on.

2. Stay Kind – Don’t get upset or angry with yourself. It’s hard sometimes but show yourself love and kindness.

3. Enjoy Food – Eat when you are hungry and only what you want (or the closest you can get to at the time)

4. Stop when Satiated – I’m still learning my cues of when I’m full but noticed this week I wasn’t uncomfortably full but once.

5. Stop and Take Note – If you find yourself overeating or eating when not hungry, stop for a moment and scan what it is you really need, feel or want. Be gentle.

6. You Deserve Love – We are all worthy of love for ourselves as well as love and respect from others no matter what our size. If someone is being disrespectful or harmful to you, you can take charge of the situation. You can’t fix or control their behavior but you can make the choice to speak up for yourself, distance yourself or ignore their stupidity.

That’s it for Week 3. More later. Happy eating! 🙂