Checking in real quick to give you an update of the Intuitive Eating project. It’s been over 2 months now with no dieting, no concerted calorie counting (I keep a tally from time to time, just for curiosity’s sake) and no weighing. I’ve been preparing to go on vacation so it’s been a little quiet around here. Next week I’ll officially be teaching in Jamaica at a fantsy pantsy resort, so expect silence around here. 😉
Here’s my progress so far:
- Pants still fit, though they are admittedly snugger. I think I’m carrying maybe 5 pounds extra, although most of that is from increased water and glycogen stores since I’m no longer restricting fruit and grains.
- 90% of the time, I look in the mirror and like what I see. I make a conscious effort to mentally praise my body instead of staring gloomily at the parts I wish would vanish. Yes, 10% of the time I still wish my thighs were smaller, legs were longer, shoulder more delicate… but that’s an improvement over my dieting days.
- Food has largely ceased to be a pleasure source for me. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy it (boy do I ever — I enjoyed the lion’s share of a fresh baguette with butter last night) but food is just food. Pleasurable food is pleasurable to eat, but it’s not a comfort. It’s not entertainment. It’s not something I think about every minute of every day because my rabbit portions are not sufficient for active booty-shaking girls. I’m not a rabbit. Why did I try to force myself to eat like one? Baffling.
- Because I’m not in constant deprivation mode, my eating patterns are different. Sometimes I’ll eat like a horse because I’ve taught a bunch of cardio classes. Then I won’t be so hungry for breakfast in the morning (FYI, I have skipped breakfast occasionally. My metabolism has not ground to a halt and my muscles have not catabolized themselves).
- I eat something sweet every day. Sometimes this is just a Luna bar, sometimes it’s 4 or 5 cookies, sometimes it’s just my chocolate Shakeology. I can take bites of what I want and leave what I don’t. I don’t feel the pressure to snarf down every morsel of sugar because tomorrow, the no-sugar regime begins.
Here are some things that I’ve noticed in this experiment:
It seems like everyone is on some diet or another. Yes there are one or two exceptions (please don’t feel the need to comment and tell me you are the exception, that’s really not the point of this blog post), but generally, every person I run into is in some sort of food restriction. Either they’re cutting calories or carbs, meat or wheat or sugar or dairy… somehow they’re manipulating their macronutrient intake so they can manipulate the way their body looks.
Even perfectly slim people are constantly in the overeat/restrict mode. It’s an intriguing phenomenon… I wonder how people define diet success. Is success merely losing weight and not gaining it back? Because even slim people do this — frequently. I see it because after nearly every major holiday or vacation, there is talk of a cleanse or a detox or a reboot or something of the sort. Is that success? Perhaps.
Or is success being able to live your life and enjoy your time with your family with the knowledge that if the scale tips up it will tip back down again? That today’s overeating is tomorrow and the next day’s gradually light eating.
Some people will argue that if it worked that way, no one would be fat. But there is a lot of research surrounding dieting and psychology and it seems that most people would not have weight problems if they didn’t start messing around with food restriction in the first place. Once you begin down that road, yes, you will always have to weigh and measure and count.
How exhausting. Counting calories is probably easier in the short term than learning to listen to your body and give it what it wants and stop when it doesn’t want anything else… but in the long term, it’s terribly inconvenient. If your special food isn’t available on vacation… or if you can’t take your food scale with you, what do you do? You end up, more than likely, fretting over all the unknown calories you’re eating and deciding “Screw it, I’ll eat myself sick because I’m going to be super strict after the holiday.”
And round and round the cycle goes. And it looks like success, because they’re staying slim, when really it’s obsession and control.
So I let go of the rope a few months ago and the fight went out of me regarding food and my body. I’m not saying everyone needs to. I guess I probably think that way, in the depth of my soul, but some people probably aren’t as obsessed as I was with diets and calorie counting.
Something that’s funny to me as a non-dieter is the people who give me advice. When I was a dieter, people would also give me advice. Typically, people who were bursting out of their clothes had the most advice to give. South Beach. Cabbage Soup. One man lectured me, back in my vegan days, about the importance of protein as his belly hung out from underneath his polo shirt.
Similarly, people with… um… let’s say “dysfunctional relationships with food” will often give me advice about non-dieting. Just eat in moderation, they’d tell me. Such simplistic advice is difficult to swallow (if you’ll forgive the pun) when you have food issues. And I see in them the same behaviors I exhibited — restricting and overeating desserts. Forbidding bread, cheese or other “junk” food. Feeling depressed or ashamed for eating “bad” and feeling virtuous for eating “good.”
Alternatively, I would receive advice from people with very limited palates (maybe they enjoyed eating a handful of foods). Moderation is certainly easy when you only like chicken, plain buttered pasta, cereal and grilled cheese sandwiches. In my case, there are maybe a handful of foods I don’t like. Moderation is more difficult there.
Am I a “skinny” Intuitive Eater? Nope. Some people would probably consider me slim or fit. I’m still fitting in size 6 jeans. Although I have noticed I’ve slimed down a little bit in the last week or so (I had a looot of celebrations in April ;)) I don’t think intuitive eating will get a person with my body type into a size 2. Food restriction does that, and I’ve been there and done that and I just don’t have the energy to put into it.
Am I a happy Intuitive Eater? Absolutely.
If hating my body and if criticizing my body would make me skinny, I would be the weight of a feather right now. I eventually came to the realization that certain things I like to do, like teaching and dancing and shouting and sweating and laughing and drinking wine and eating cookies with friends and pizza with my husband and the cupcakes that my students bring me and savoring artisanal cheese or fresh bread, were just not compatible with food restriction and whittling my body down in size. What’s the point of having a perfect body if you can’t live life with abandonment?
When I die, I don’t think I’m going to care what I ate or didn’t eat. But I also don’t think I’m going to care what my body fat percentage is. I’m going to care about the people I love and who love me, and I’m going to hope that I savored every morsel of time I was allowed with them. And maybe I can do that and pack my chicken breasts and broccoli and time my meals, supplements and water. But I doubt it.
Your body is a temple and you should honor it, but it is also a temple built on shifting sand. So you have to decide how much energy and time every day you want to devote to its upkeep and refinement. And those activities should be pleasurable, I think.
So that’s my 2 month check up. I’ve learned a lot and have a lot still to learn. Now I have to get my hair whipped into shape and then it’s DATE NIGHT! Woot! Have a good one Fitties!