Intuitive Eating Didn’t Work (Completely) for Me – Battling Emotional (etc.) Eating

Last year, I went on this whole intuitive eating bit.  I read books and listened to podcasts, I did parts of a workbook, I wholly wanted to incorporate this into my life.  And to be clear before I continue, I still believe diets don’t work nor do I feel weight or BMI should be a measurement of your worth or health.  You are GORGEOUS and AMAZING no matter what that stupid scale says.  We have to quit judging each other whether we are fat, thin, tall, short, black, white, brown, red, male, female, neutral or trans gender, sexual orientation, rich, poor, average, whatever.  Just stop it.  Just fucking stop judging.  If you’re a kind person and you can deal with my nasty sense of humor, chances are we’ll be friends.  Or I’ll at least tolerate you with returned kindness.

Also, I still believe intuitive eating should be part of my life, eating when I’m hungry and really thinking about what I want to eat.  However, I gained 30 lbs over the course of this new intuitive eating.  Why?  Because my body craves shit.  It craves sweets and junk and frankly, I’m still have not completely conquered my tendency to eat when I’m upset, stressed, bored or its evening.  For some reason, evenings are the worst for me.  And my body isn’t craving celery, it’s screaming SUGAR!!!!! FAT!!!!!! SALT!!!!!!  I read in a book that your gut biome, if it’s out of whack can cause these kind of cravings.  Regardless of the reason, I have a lot working against me (though probiotics, fermented food and yogurt tend to make me sick).  It could be that and/or it could be past abuses, trauma, coping mechanisms, etc.

I really don’t know why my body doesn’t say ‘apple’ which would be good for me but rather ‘milk chocolate covered caramels’.  I’m not making this shit up, if my body (and/or mind-emotions-psyche-gut biome) had its way, I’d eat nothing but sugar day in and day out.  Which makes me feel awful.  This summer, 9/28/2018 to be exact, I was road riding on my country roads.  It wasn’t particularly hot or windy, actually the conditions were pretty nice for cycling.   Except I was struggling and frustrated, even on a flat section of my route.  When I got home, sweaty and exhausted, I dug out the scale hidden away in my garage where I had put it so I wouldn’t use it, and weighed myself.  I had gained over thirty pounds.  It doesn’t take a physics genius to figure out that the heavier and larger you are, the harder it is to propel your fat ass around with two wheels, a chain and crank.  I had literally added a bag of kitty litter to myself.  Strapped on a bag and just took off again.  Of course I was struggling!

So I took the scale back up to my bathroom and stuck it in the closet.  Again, I use this as a marker as my weight can jump up 5 lbs just from a heavy work out.  Using my phone, I took multiple full-length ‘before’ pictures of my body and emailed them to myself to keep as reference.  I dug out the tape measure, opened my long standing Excel spreadsheet with measurements clear back to 2004, and started a new section.  Then I recorded my current measurements.  I’ve found even if my weight doesn’t move, my measurements can drop significantly.   If you want a less potentially triggering way to track your progress, skip all that I’m doing and pay attention to how your clothes fit.  Do what works for you.

I started to sort of watch what I ate.  Though late November, 11/28/2018, to be exact (what is with the 28th of the month and epiphanies lately?), I found myself pissed off about how I ate the night prior.  Actually, I’d been building up to this point.  My life is pretty good except for the stress and crap at my job and this stupid overeating.  I will be 50 in February of 2020.  I do not want to be struggling with the same crap for the next decades of my life.  I want to be fit and healthy.  Not necessarily thin but I want to conquer my tendency to choose crappy foods and stuff crap in my hole when I’m feeling anything but completely serene.  I want to overcome this coping mechanisms so I whipped out my cell phone and reinstalled the app, My Plate, and started back in my food journal.

I’ll admit, food journaling tends to piss me off.  I SHOULD know how to eat.  I know what’s healthy (for the most part) and what’s not.  But I also love to lie to myself and conveniently ‘forget’ I ate a big old candy bar after lunch because I had been slammed with meetings and people asking me a bunch of questions that they already know the answer to at work that day.  I also know though that food journaling works for me.  As much as it’s annoying, it forces me to be accountable to me.  They say oh find someone to be accountable to, a friend or loved one.  This may work for some people but I would totally eat more in rebellion.  Maybe it’s the Irish in me.  Screw you friend that cares, I’m going to eat this family sized candy bar just to show you!  Show them what?  I have no idea.  But basically it comes back to our five-year old selves – ‘You’re not the boss of me!’.  Except it’s self-destructive.

The hardest person for me to be accountable to is me.  I’m going to kick my own ass all over the place more than any other person on the planet.  I am my toughest audience, friend and well, sometimes, enemy.  Plus, food journaling helps me get back into healthy eating.  As much as I hate to admit it, when I eat more fruits and veggies and less crap, I feel amazing.  I am being rewarded for taking care of my body, but my rebellious stubborn side still wants to punish myself for whatever dysfunction that still lives on inside me.  Taking care of myself whether it’s food, exercise, sleep, rest or disconnecting, is the way I overcome this tendency to disregard my needs.  Putting my needs first is sticking it to the man.  Whatever the ‘man’ from my past really is.  I’ve read 100’s of self-help books, journaled until my hand hurts, been in 100’s of therapy sessions and still old habits hold on.

Overcoming my emotional (etc) overeating is my goal for this next year and beyond.  While they preach you just have to accept yourself as heavy if this is where you end up when you utilize intuitive eating, I don’t want to keep struggling the rest of my life with carrying basically the equivalent of a thin, petite woman on my frame.  I’ve named her Agatha (no clue why) and imagine her as this old crabby lady trying to slow me down.  I’m carrying her piggy back and she keeps kicking me in the fat rolls with her sensible SAS shoes, the chunky heels leaving bruises while berating me for this and that with a harsh, nasally voice.  I really want to get Agatha the F off my back.  And her weight off my body, my joints and free myself.  Each time I choose healthy, each time I exercise (I bought a basic exercise bike for my living room cuz I know I will use it over a gym membership) and each time I chose to care for myself, more and more of Agatha starts disappearing.  It’s as if she slowly turning to dust, particles being swept up into the breeze and leaving me just a little more lighter.

Granted, I have an active imagination but I find this to be great motivation.  The food journal app, the scale and the measuring tape are all tools in this journey.  They aren’t something I need to rebel again (though I still catch myself).  Will I one day be able to truly intuitive eat?  I don’t know.  Maybe I will need to use a food journal the rest of my life.  Except maybe I go down to 2-3 days a week to keep me honest or if I’m having a bad day where I know I will revert to bad habits, I can use it to keep Agatha from returning, kicking my sides like I’m her pudgy horse she’s got to ride to a bridge tournament except she’s late and she hates being late.

I haven’t eliminated any foods from my diet though I did switch up to dark chocolate from milk chocolate.  I tend to binge on milk where the dark I don’t.  These are the changes, I am making.  Dark has more antioxidants so it’s good for me and I still get to really enjoy  chocolate, just not in huge quantities which are not so good for my body.  I’ve eliminated sugar from my hot and iced tea.  I still use half and half in my hot tea but I haven’t increased the amount to make up for the sugar.  Weird thing is, the cream tastes sweet to me now.  My iced tea, I put in an herbal fruit flavor bag with my regular family sized decaf ice tea bags.  Sometimes I cut up oranges or lemons or whatever to put in my iced tea so I enjoy it more.  I really don’t want the sugar back into it.

Another change I made several months back is cutting caffeine out of my life.  Going into menopause, your body suddenly gets super sensitive to everything (as if you weren’t being punished enough with mood swings and hot flashes).  I gave all my caffeinated tea except for some oolong to my youngest daughter.  I don’t recommend starting this during the work week though.  The first day I went decaf, I was at work and all I wanted to do was sleep.  I didn’t even drink that much caffeine to be honest.  A few cups of tea a day.   If I missed my morning tea, I would get irritable and would most likely garner a migraine.  It had started to feel like a chain around my neck.  I HAD to have caffeine.

You know what though?  After a few weeks of limiting caffeine (I’m not a Nazi about it, if I get a little caffeine here and there it’s ok), but my migraines disappeared.  Oolong tea had helped that previously but probably because it’s so caffeinated.  The other thing I struggled with was if I skipped a meal or didn’t eat ‘enough’, I’d get a migraine.  Now, I don’t drive my husband nuts when we are traveling or doing something that he has to keep me on a consistent eating schedule or I’d get a migraine.  That was annoying for both of us.  Whatever sensitivity I had regarding meal timing and migraines, went out the window which helps me eat only when hungry a key component in intuitive eating that I truly agree with.

Taking care of myself has been paying off with better overall health, I’m down roughly 18 lbs and 10.25 inches overall.  I just feel better in general.  Giving up caffeine has been an added bonus and each day, I try to find new or better ways to eat, sleep, exercise and take care of myself.  Small changes can add up to huge results in the end.  Not that I don’t still struggle with my emotional eating.  But at least now, using the food journal app, I catch myself when I’m doing it where I would completely ignore this before.  When I catch myself, I have to do the hard work of figuring out what is really the problem.  THen when I determine the issue, I must determine how to address it.  What can I do to help myself feel better?  Soothe myself with something besides food.  It’s frustrating after all these years I still haven’t conquered this but I’m  back at it.

The bottom line – do what works for you.  That’s what it all comes down to in the end.  Experts, well-meaning friends, diet gurus, etc. all want to tell us how to ‘fix’ ourselves but it’s never just so simple as oh, I need to educate myself.  We know an orange is better than a Snickers bar.  We have to dig deeper than just eating 1800 calories a day.  We have to figure out why we are using food to comfort ourselves, etc.  We all have our own reasons.  Women who were sexually assaulted have a high probability of being obese which is really the shit since we have been through enough already.  But we wear our ‘fat suit’ as protection or it seems like protection.  Whatever the reason, don’t get angry at yourself.  Be kind to yourself as you would your best friend or child.  Say, it’s okay you do this but let’s find a better way to cope so we don’t feel worse later.  You deserve this kindness.

Love yourself, take care of yourself and know that right now, no matter what you weigh, you’re amazing and deserve love and respect.  I love you all and I’m right there with you.  xoxoxox

 

 

 

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I Give Up! – Cultivating Peace with Food & My Body

As 2017 came to a close, I started thinking about what I wanted to accomplish in 2018 and beyond. Cultivate more inner peace and not be swayed with every wind that crosses my path. In conjunction with that particular goal, I started thinking about my forever struggle with food and weight. I was considering returning to my food journal app as I had lost 20 pounds using it but then I delved deeper. When I used it my idea was that after six months, I would relearn and retrain myself to eat healthier. It takes three months to form a new habit so wouldn’t six months help ingrain it into my thick skull?

Well it must have not worked because I gained the weight back. On the food journal, I felt hungry a lot, I felt restricted and while I didn’t plan on it, I returned to my eating habits to an extent. I cut out my restaurant and fast food eating quite a bit though and started cooking more so it wasn’t all for naught. So it had partially the effect and result I wanted but my weight went right back to where it was. So as I considered if I wanted to just do the food journal for the rest of my life, I felt in my gut that no, I don’t want to be tied to an app. If I couldn’t learn how to eat better that way, then what was the point?

So I know what foods are good for me and what are not or so they say. I know what portion sizes look like. I exercise fairly regularly, that thank god, is not an issue for me as long as it is something I enjoy. So what is the issue? The issue started when I was 10 or 11 years old living in Lone Elm, Missouri, in a small two bedroom house next to the cemetery. My father was full out an alcoholic who didn’t work and my mother was struggling to keep the family together and the bills paid. My elementary school was literally a two-room Lutheran School and there was a whopping seven people in my class so my options for friends was pretty limited. Plus, I carried the stigma of being ‘Larry’s daughter’ and everyone knew when Larry would drive his car into a tree on one of the back roads. There are not many secrets in a small farming community.

I was having trouble sleeping then, I would sleep with the King James Bible under my pillow after reading Psalms to soothe myself. On particularly hard nights, I would tuck in my few stuffed animals around me as a fully wall of protection. Even though I shared a bedroom with my younger sister, I felt so alone. I would lie in my bed and stare out the window at the stars praying, praying and praying some more that we could be a normal family and my father would be healed from his disease. Then I would pray to God to help me sleep, I was growing more and more exhausted as my insomnia held fast. I was just a kid, I had no idea how to fix this issue. There was no one to talk to, no one to confide in as everyone just excused my dad’s behavior and behest my mom to honor her marriage vows so she would not leave.

But one night, I crept down the wooden stairs and shut the door behind me as quiet as I could. My dad was snoring loudly, probably sleeping off another drunk. I stepped off the last step and turned right into the kitchen flipping on the switch. I stood there for a moment to make sure my parents hadn’t heard me and would come down to shoo me back to bed. Nothing. I breathed a sigh of relief and walked past the kitchen table into the alcove that was the actual kitchen area. Gently I opened the cupboard doors until I found something to eat. I can’t remember if I was actually hungry or not but I grabbed a box of sweetened cereal so common in the late 1970’s. Since my cooking skills weren’t much yet, cereal appealed to me because I could actually ‘fix’ my own breakfast. I took the box of cereal, a bowl and spoon to the table. Pulling the milk out of the refrigerator, I sat down and remember feeling very independent. Plus no one even knew I was awake moving around. I believe this gave me a sense of control in a life that felt so out of control.

The swell of freedom intoxicated me as I poured my first night bowl of cereal. I sat down and ate slowly, looking out the window at the dark night, seeing my reflection which seemed so grown up at the time. Once I finished the bowl of cereal, I wondered what I should do so I didn’t get in trouble. I would have to wash the dish and spoon then put everything back. Except I wasn’t sleepy. I didn’t want to go back upstairs and to just lie there for hours so I poured a second bowl of cereal even though I wasn’t the least bit hungry but the action of feeding myself in secrecy felt too good. Eventually, with a full belly, I crept back up the steps and fell asleep, feeling comforted for the first time in forever. And so this started my career in emotional eating and my mom wondering why we were going through cereal so fast.

Remembering this helped me pick a goal for this year and beyond. I can diet, use food journals and ride hundreds of miles on my bike but until I conquer my emotional/stress/comfort/bored eating habit, I’ll never shake this. There’s also the guilt of eating certain things, the long held diet mentality instilled in me from a young age after spending the summer with my grandmother who loved to feed me until I was ready to burst, weigh me and then chide me for gaining weight. My entire maternal side of my family was overly concerned about their weight and being thin. I’ve suffered abuse as well, which means when I do lose weight, there are times when I draw attention of men that freaks me out internally. My subconscious wants to keep me in a fat suit to protect me from the world. So I have multiple issues to deal with not just one.

This year (and beyond), I want to attack and conquer my eating when I’m not hungry. My diet mentality about ‘good’ and ‘bad’ foods needs to go as well. This year, I want to discover the freedom of eating and not having to think so much about the act at all. I don’t want to feel guilty or ashamed. I don’t want to weigh myself every day. I want to trust my body to tell me what I need, when I’m hungry, when I’m satiated and what I am hungry for even if it is chocolate cake. No foods will be off limits. I will not sit and force myself to stay hungry until noon or whatever time I’ve deemed appropriate to eat. No more starving myself. No more forcing myself to eat things that I don’t really want because they are ‘healthy’.

I’ll admit, I’ve been down this road before when I got thick into books like Intuitive Eating and such. I just wanted to trust my body but something would always derail me. The last time was the Weight Watchers program at work. I thought it would help me but in the long run, I ended up heavier. Restriction makes me eat more. I rebel against the tight constraints. How many people do you know or maybe even yourself where they had short term success with diets and then gained it all back? (I’m raising both my hands because this is me, me, me!)

So back into the books and resources I can find on emotional eating and finding peace with food. I’ve been reading a book by Linda Bacon entitled Body Respect which is refreshing me on the principles I already know from the last time I delved into the whole intuitive eating, no dieting and making peace with food foray. The one thing that stands out so far in her book is that your body has a normal set point and by dieting, we push this set point higher (starvation effect). To return to your normal set point, you have to quit dieting and eat normally. Do I even know what normally is at this point? Time to relearn.

Today, I listed to multiple episodes of a podcast called Love, Food by a registered dietitian who claims you shouldn’t try to lose weight. People write letters to ‘food’ which entails their struggles with eating, weight gain and so on. The letters are read on the air and the dietitian, Julie Dillion, gives suggestions to help with the issue as well as brings in other experts. Though she grates on my nerves with her super cheeriness sometimes, Julie seems to really want to help people overcome her food issues. It is her passion and all her podcasts are extremely supportive, kind and do not recommend diets or weight loss to anyone. Again, it is simply listening to your body and your hunger cues while addressing your issues head on.

I haven’t thrown out my scale, but I did tuck it away. My food journal app has been deleted. The health tracker that keeps my steps has been tucked away in a less accessible place because it contains my health data on it such as my allergies and so on that can be accessed by first responders. Starting yesterday, I started focusing on my cues. Am I hungry? Do I want to eat this? Does this taste good to me? Am I full? You know what? I found I eat a lot of things just because they are handy or already prepared but not what I wanted. So mid-afternoon, I had my Instant Pot out making steel cut oatmeal because it was what I was craving. I had that for a late lunch because I didn’t eat much due to nothing suiting my taste. Later I had a salad from the Mexican place in town.

Today, at work, I found that I need to stock my desk with more food I find appealing. My tendency to starve myself is very evident in my eating habits at work. I literally try to eat a small bowl of instant oatmeal and make it stretch for as long as I can until I’m starving. Then I may grab a piece of fruit or a protein bar I keep in my desk. My unwritten rule of not eating lunch until after 12:00 to make the day seem shorter can leaving me starving again. Basically, I try to eat as little as possible at work which means I’m probably overeating once home. Why am I doing this? No clue. But I bet I am forcing my body to hold onto fat even more by not satiating my true hunger.

So today, I ate when I was hungry. I even ate lunch before noon and I ate what I wanted which was steel cut oatmeal and an orange. Then mid afternoon, I was hungry again and I delved into the carrots and dip with part of the piece of jalapeƱo cornbread I brought. I tossed half of the cornbread because I was full. For dinner, I ate a nice bowl of jambalaya with apple slices I coated with peanut butter. Oh and a small bowl of chocolate ice cream with whipped cream on top.

The result of two days of eating intuitively? Have I lost weight and am going down to my natural size? I don’t know. I don’t care anymore. Today I felt giddy with the fact I could eat what I wanted. Not forcing myself to suffer made me happy. There is a very distinct feeling of freedom. Like you just got a monkey off your back. I know I will have a lot of work ahead of me in the coming months and I may even get fatter. If I do, I will buy clothes to fit me and I will get nice clothes. I promise not to punish myself and to always be kind as if I were my best friend. If I lose weight, I will buy smaller clothes and I won’t post selfies saying, look I lost weight! Because it doesn’t matter. I no longer give my weight or size the power to run my life. Whether I’m a size 14 or 24, I am the same person with just a differently-sized body. No longer will I feel inadequate or ashamed because I am bigger nor will I feel smug if I end up smaller. It doesn’t matter.

What matters is I enjoy food, eat when I’m hungry and eat what I want as well as trust my body. That I break this 38-year battle with emotional eating. That I stop trying to hide in a ‘fat suit’. I’m already healthy at the size I am which befuddles my doctors but I am an active woman who generally eats well 80% of the time. I will stop starving myself. I will exercise doing the things I love without having to worry about steps (though I am going to count cycling miles for my year’s cycling goal but that’s not diet-related). I refuse to be a slave to my coping methods, to diet mentality, to learned behaviors that make me miserable.

I am simply going to trust my body to tell me exactly what it needs.