Last week I jumped into my latest Intuitive Eating assignment…to eat whatever I want, whenever I want, whether I’m hungry or not…while being present and mindful. For an entire week. And to notice how I feel! As I mentioned last week, to many this might sound like a fun food vacation of sorts…a bender! A freedom binge! Wooohoooo! But I felt panicky and nervous, fearing I’d gain even more weight or only crave junk foods and end up malnourished. Now, the rational part of my brain knows that one week is not going to break me in any way. Not weight-wise or nutrition-wise.
But let me back up for a minute. When did all this insanity about worrying about my weight, trying diets and continually failing start for me? I remember the trigger now…like it was yesterday.
When puberty started with most of my friends, my body was one of the later ones to join in. All of my friends were having their growth spurts, starting to wear bras, get their periods…but not me. Was something wrong with me? When was it going to happen for me? I felt left behind but there was absolutely nothing I could do. My Mom reminded me that she didn’t go through her growth spurt until she was 14 or so and that it’s hereditary. Well, telling a 12-year-old to wait two years is a prescription for a long, painful wait. Two years to a 12-year-old is eternity.
So…around age 14 or so, I did finally grow. About 7-8″ in a year. I remember going to my doctor’s office for a checkup. I was 5′ 3″ (this is after the growth spurt) and around 103 lbs. Still getting used to my new body, but SO relieved I’d finally grown (although I wished I could be 5 or 6 inches taller, ha ha)!
Here’s the trigger: my doctor took out a piece of paper and a pen and started writing down his projections on how much weight I would gain every year for the next few years as I reached my full height. He told me I needed to start watching my weight, because according to him I would end up about 5′ 3″ or 5′ 4″ and weigh 130 lbs! Which was too much according to the height/weight charts in his office! I should be no more than around 120 or 125 lbs, he said. HOLY FUCK! I was sooo happy to be growing up, and then I get a smack down…a warning. A pre-punishment. Don’t ever hit the dreaded 130 lbs, I now thought! UGH! Something will be horribly wrong with me if I gain 27 lbs over the rest of my life!
Was this the type of ‘responsibility’ I would have as a teen and as a woman, to watch my weight? I guess I thought it was! And when a voice of authority tells you this you internalize it deeply. He’s a doctor – he’s been my doctor since I was a baby. Doctors are smart people. I should listen to everything he says and do it and not question it. So…I didn’t.
A few days later my folks took my brothers and me out for ice cream. We did this occasionally as a special treat…and I LOVE ice cream! But I remembered my doctor’s words to ‘watch my weight,’ and, with tears in my eyes in the store, decided not to have any ice cream. I sat there in the store and felt so weird and ashamed. Maybe this is what it meant to watch my weight – to say no to a scoop of ice cream I really wanted?
So whooomp there it is. From then on, my fear of weight gain became a clanging gong in my head. Is this a kind of a morphed self-fulfilling prophecy? What I feared eventually became reality for me? Help me out here, psychology-oriented readers!
I felt happy and proud about last week’s assignment to eat whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. But when I had my phone coaching session, I was told I was being too restrictive. I was only eating when I was hungry, which resulted in a more grazing or snacking way of eating. I liked how I didn’t have that hunger pain and light headed feeling I would typically get between 4 and 5pm at work.
What are my FORBIDDEN foods, she asked me. I could only muster up an answer like granola, because I’ve always been told to avoid it because it’s high in fat. But I DID have a bowl or two during the previous week and felt satisfied! Where am I still being judgmental about what I eat when I write about it in here? Honestly I am probably too close and emotionally attached to my feelings and my words to see it. Could it be where I unconsciously applauded myself on only taking a couple spoonfuls of risotto from the food bar for lunch, rather than thinking “hey, I ate risotto today and felt great”? Maybe that’s it!
When we finished our phone session I was exhausted. I felt sad and angry. I felt like I had done a great job over the past week with my eating assignment, but internalized the feedback as ‘you’re doing it wrong again, fivenineteen.’ Fuck, I hate that stupid voice in my head! I learned that before I can achieve my longer-term goal of normalizing my weight, that I might actually gain some weight over the next few months during this process. And how would I feel about that eh? Oh good Lord, I choked up inside. Gain even MORE weight? That horrifies me. She and I talked through this…and I’ll spare you the details but trust me it was emotional and scary.
I know way deep down on a practical level that this intuitive eating process is going to reset my body into knowing it CAN have any food any time it wants. It’s not going to starve (which is what the body thinks is happening to it when we diet). But that practical info and how I’m feeling about potentially gaining more weight still has a deep crevasse between it. How do I bridge this? Do I build a “mental” bridge to understand this more…or just take a running leap off the edge of the crevasse and hope I land on the other side, whether it’s on my feet or a funny belly flop? Can I truly leave behind the feelings I got instilled in me circa 1981 from those words from my doctor? Truly once and for all?
I have such a deep hunger (no pun intended) to understand so many things around me. Well, not everything, but I am naturally curious. On the flip side, I have no desire to understand how my car works. It gets me safely from point A to point B and I make sure it’s maintained properly. I don’t know exactly what is done when they change the oil or check the tire pressure and I don’t care to know…I only know it’s good to do it. I don’t have any desire to understand how my digestive system works. Well, maybe on a high level, but not at the molecular/chemical level. Never was much into biology. But yet I’ve been told I have a tendency to ‘clue out’ on certain things. I miss key points. This just leaves me feeling frustrated and angry. How is my need to understand things either empowering or disempowering me through this intuitive eating journey? Well, I suppose it could be disempowering. Intuitive eating is not a diet. And it’s so goddamn hard to try to explain that to people, especially this time of year when people are still holding onto new years resolutions to diet or do cleanses, etc. And how diet-obsessed we are as a society any time of year, really.
Instinctively I want to know…how long is this process going to take? And oh, I now may have to take a step *backwards* and gain more weight in the short-term? Yeah, I felt ‘backwards’ in my brain so I wrote that word down; I don’t do a lot of editing when I write in here. But maybe gaining some additional weight isn’t a step backwards at all…maybe it’s just…a step! I’ll have to keep working on that one for sure.
So are you wondering what I’ve been eating this past week? Here we go.
What are my truly forbidden foods? Maybe I’ve unconsciously been rejecting them so hard for so long that I’ve blocked them out of my mind without even recognizing it anymore! How can I think about this without over-thinking it? Hmmm…OK here’s a few. Deep fried foods like tempura or KFC. Super processed foods like velveeta cheese or beef jerky. French fries. Red licorice. And drum roll….FAST FOOD!! Aha! I realized the fast food dealio after I’d gotten home from work and the grocery store. Let me tell you about the grocery store this time around!
I walk down aisles I rarely ever walk down. Looking at candy, cookies and crackers. What jumps out at me? I fill my basket with smoked sausage sticks (kind of like beef jerky…I love sausage), pesto-flavored bagels (which I will toast and smear with cream cheese oh yeahhhh), more sliced pepperoni and a piece of berry-flavored cheesecake. Then the movie-theatre style of popcorn, which I will drizzle with melted butter. Pickles! Huge, dill pickles! Starburst candies! YES!
Meanwhile, I have never farted so potently and so frequently in my life. Good grief on Friday afternoon at work I was a putt-putt-puttin’ motorboat. Thankfully I had very few meetings that day and wouldn’t risk my co-workers keeling over getting downwind of me!
Friday night dinner…glorious mac and cheese with white cheddar. I started off with some sausage sticks (there’s the esophagus burning but so worth it). And some cheese puffs. A pickle while the pasta was boiling and another after dinner. Then popcorn with butter later in the evening!
Saturday morning breakfast…V8 juice and berry-filled cheesecake! Afternoon goodness: I rotate between the cheesecake, pickles, sausage sticks and some pepperoni slices with cream cheese. So what else is on my personal forbidden foods list?
Ahhh…ice cream! I never keep it in the freezer anymore on purpose. But I picked up some Ben & Jerry’s…when was the last time I had ice cream like this? Delicious. And then I DID IT. Funny how there is a McDonald’s and a Dairy Queen each within walking distance from my house. I’ve always had this proud feeling that after living here a decade I had never EVER set foot in either of those places. OK, one time I had a Blizzard though. So as I was driving up to the McDonald’s I felt kind of tingly and nervous. This was a funny feeling actually and it surprised me! I’m not feeling very hungry at all but that quarter pounder goes down so smooth and tastes SO good. Yep, that’s a forbidden food alright! Oh and the fries too.
I feel proud I’ve realized what else is on my forbidden foods list besides granola! And I’ve eaten a few of them…yeah I felt a little guilty but not regretful. Sure I felt a little bloated yesterday but I woke up today feeling great. Not with the typical hunger pangs that wake me when I sleep in on the weekends.
Sunday morning breakfast and grazing…more Ben & Jerry’s some V8 juice and the cheese puffs. Oh and pepperoni slices with cream cheese. These all taste sooo good. I feel a little weird but feel happy!
I trust this process, I trust this process…ergh but I’m still fighting off the weird feelings. And trying to explain this to friends or others not on this journey? Well, that’s fodder for another post.