I don’t want to call what I’m doing a diet. When I diet, my mind starts screaming for food. By the time dinner rolls around (oooh dinner rolls), I eat a second helping because I’m hungry. Well, chances are by the time my “reasonable dinner” is in front of me I eat too fast and don’t even notice what I’m consuming. I feel antsy and deprived.
The Slow Path to Conscious Eating
Instead, I’m trying to slow down the pace that I eat. Theoretically, this means that I’m giving my stomach a chance to send my brain the signals that it needs to know it’s time to stop eating. I’m also trying to determine whether or not I’m hungry in the first place or whether I’m eating to numb whatever emotion I happen to be experiencing.
This doesn’t mean that scarcely a week into the process of intuitive eating that I’m doing all that well. Last night I wanted chocolate so I ate a quarter-cup of the semi-sweet chocolate chips that were the only chocolate in the house. Sometimes I eat so fast you would suspect that I’m in a competitive eating contest. Knowing what to do and doing it, well, those are two separate things.
Dieting + Deprived = Mindful Eating?
In light of the realization that some of my poor eating habits are connected to a lack of healthy choices in the house, I need to shop more consciously. Instead of feeling guilty about buying food that only I will eat, I need to make the conscious decision to honor my body’s needs. I want enough options so that when I’m hungry I can decide what I want instead of staring into the refrigerator and the kitchen cabinet.
Have you ever eaten something without it being the thing you wanted to eat? You’re craving pancakes but you eat the sensible bowl of oatmeal. You want a piece of birthday cake but you virtuously eat a few pieces of cantaloupe. What happens? You don’t eat what you want and you go off on a binge.
But, instead of eating a couple of pieces of fruit salad and then deciding you really want to eat a piece of cake, you go home from the party and grab a couple of crackers, and then some cheese, and another piece of fruit, and a muffin, two slices of pizza, a yogurt (because it’s there), and the leftover Chinese food that should have been tossed a day ago. You’re not hungry but you feel deprived. Nothing you eat takes away that feeling because you’re not eating what you really want.
Intuitive eating is about eating when you’re hungry, eating slowly and consciously, and stopping when you’re full. You can also eat whatever you want as long as you follow those three steps. This sounds easy and appealing but we’ve had years training to eat when a clock tells you eat, eating fast to get onto something “better”, and eating past fullness because subconsciously or consciously we’ve decided skip a meal or start dieting to make up for our transgressions.
You’ve probably heard that our bodies hold onto fat because this was a survival mechanism for our ancestors. In times when food wasn’t available, they had the fat stores to make it to the next meal. When we deprive ourselves, we link in to an ancient response.
So I will shop for a variety of food so I won’t feel deprived and start binging as I search for satisfaction. I will continue to try to eat only when I’m hungry and not when I’m trying to meet an emotional need. I still need options to occupy body and mind when I want to eat but I’m not hungry. I also need to develop the courage and trust in my body to stop eating when I’m full.