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Archive for May, 2008

Moving from emotional eating to intuitive eating requires a big change in thinking.

For me, food was punishment and comfort at the same time. I would whip myself into an anxiety frenzy, then turn off my brain and start eating. The eating was accompanied by thoughts like “Why are you doing this? You’re so fat – you shouldn’t be eating at all. You are terrible for doing this.”

Since I rarely under-ate, I had no way of physically sensing fullness in a way that I could rationally stop. So I ate. Hundreds of calories, probably thousands over the course of a binge. Nothing seemed to help me to stop.
Then, slowly, I started saying different things to myself.

  • “I don’t want to do this.”
  • “Punishing myself hurts – it’s not comforting.”
  • “I don’t have to eat to comfort myself.”
  • “There are better things to do than eat.”
  • “What would make me feel better than eating?”
  • “I can’t imagine that eating could possibly help me feel better now.”
  • “I don’t need this in my life.”

Wonderfully, this is spreading over into the rest of my life. I do more chores, I don’t worry as much, I take things more in stride, I feel more peaceful.

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Fundamental physics is still fundamental physics

The formulas are as complex or as simple as you like.

Weight = (current weight) + (weight from food eaten) – (weight from energy expended)

This is true every single moment of every single day. If I eat a pound of food or drink a pound of water, I gain a pound. If I burn a pound’s worth of energy, it’s gone. If I eat a pound of food and burn a pound’s worth of energy, I stay the same.

Now, I can start adding in the complexities like the fact that metabolism isn’t a fixed number, or that I sweat or retain water sometimes, but those all even out over a longer period of time.

Choosing to skip a meal

DH usually eats lunch with me at work. Today he was away visiting a supplier, so I had to choose what I would do. He said he would call when he left the other company, and he did. At that point, I was trying to decide what I would eat. When he called, he said it looked like he wouldn’t be back at work before the cafeteria closed, so he might stop on the way, unless I wanted him there.

Then the epiphany came – I don’t have to eat if I don’t want to.

That shocked me. I even got a tear in my eye from the emotion surrounding the decision.

Turns out that food is not love. Who woulda guessed?

Food is not love

My DH will not love me less or more if I skip a meal. I am not more or less popular if I go to lunch with colleagues. It does not matter rationally if I eat once a week, once a day, or 10 times a day.

How often I eat does matter physically. It does matter emotionally. If I really get too low on energy, I’ll feel weak and maybe faint. If I feel I “have to” eat 3 squares a day, I’ll feel deprived if I don’t, and will likely binge.

In order to meet my goal of losing weight faster while still eating naturally, I have to align my eating behaviors to my intuitive eating and weight loss goals.

Intuitive eating is NOT in conflict with weight loss

Some people think that you are only successful at intuitive eating if you always eat to the same level all the time, eating only what you want. They seem to expect that you will magically eat just little enough to lose weight, and healthy food to boot.

Wrong wrong wrong. There ain’t no magic in intuitive eating.

Intuitive eating is a learned behavior assisted by your body asking for what it needs. If you grow up on 3 meals a day, and always the salad before the main course, you won’t feel that you’ve eaten “intuitively” until that happens.

I’ve been eating at regular intervals, often ignoring that I was not always hungry enough to eat. Today at lunch, nothing looked good, so I decided INTUITIVELY that I didn’t really need to eat. I did the same thing at breakfast – I simply wasn’t hungry. I was, however, hungry at 9 and again about 10.30, so I ate fruit both times.

How empty should you get before you eat?

Depends on your goals. I’m trying to lose weight, so I should continually try to wait a little longer than someone who is trying to maintain.
I celebrate this extra emptiness, because I’m giving my body a chance to burn up some of the energy it has stored for me for a long time. Instead of spending my emotions and time trying to choose a meal that isn’t satisfying, I’m feeding myself emotionally and giving me some down time during my lunch break.

Conclusion

Writing this gives me new perspectives on intuitive eating. A year ago I couldn’t skip a meal because my emotions required that I eat regularly as a form of self-care. Now good self-care seems to be skipping meals occasionally and finding a new level of hunger. This pleases me.

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Figuring things out sounds like an admirably intellectual thing to do, right? “Once I figure out why I overeat, I’ll be fixed. Once I figure out why he said that, I’ll get over it. Once … Once… Once….”

It’s a trick. Your critical voice wants you to keep figuring things out because constant “figuring out” lets the critical voice rule your thoughts. Forever.

When the critical voice rules, you lose. It’s not possible to figure out why you had a bad childhood, you can only identify some bad things that happened. It’s not possible to figure out why the person looked at you funny yesterday. It’s not possible to figure out why you overate that time. You can only make a best guess.

Making the best guess and letting go of the event is a critical element to letting go of emotional eating.

Next time you start to try to figure out everything, try these words instead:

  • Hmmm. I don’t know the answer to that. It’s also over, so I think I’ll just go do something that I enjoy instead of trying to figure this out
  • This doesn’t really solve anything.
  • I’d rather go do something fun instead of constantly worry
  • Next time, I’ll try to do xxx instead, but for now, I’ll just let it go.
  • Nobody’s perfect, so I’ll just move on

 

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OK, so maybe it’s a bit farfetched to think of me ever doing an Ironman competition. First I’m highly non-competitive. I hate competition. Sure, winning is nice sometimes, but I could live quite happily in a world without competition.

But I have been able to be far more active since I changed how I talk to myself. Last week, while visiting the in-laws, I was able to walk further than normal without stress. Yesterday, I did my aquajogging, with a little swimming thrown in for good measure, and worked it good. Later, DH offered to take me on a nice walk, followed by a cup of coffee somewhere. We ended up walking about half again as far as we expected. In total, I probably did over 3 miles on Sunday alone.

Food was absolutely no problem. I ate a light lunch because I knew we were going to have cake with our coffee, and later a hot dinner. However, when later came, we weren’t hungry enough for a cooked meal, so I heated some soup. And no snacking afterwards. I left f

Today I’m cooking a broccoli cheese soup for lunch, and am really looking forward to the vitamins. Broccoli, carrots, onions, yum! I use bits of leftover cheese, so this one will be a mix of cheddar, processed cheese, and mozzarella. Hmm. I better add a little cayenne to kick it up a notch.

To all of this I can add that I’ve been successfully ignoring the scale, and not judging myself. Also, I’ve been calm and present enough in my life to get back to playing my harp and reading real paper books, things I feel like I haven’t enjoyed in years.

Do I ever want to do a real ironman? No. But I do want to keep living the way I’ve lived in this past week.

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Today I looked at my goals again, as you just read. I’m starting a week’s vacation, and I made a nice list of things to do, mostly for fun. I also listened to a podcast or so, to help me move along a bit.

Where did I move? Straight to a few hours of endless eating. It started when I began watching a movie called Cashback. Somehow it triggered me, or perhaps simply presented me with my own issues in a creative way that sent me running to food for reassurance. The protagonist is an artist who can stop time, but at the same time is not using the time that passes well.

I ate lunch, slightly larger than normal, followed by a dessert of ice cream, which of course needed chocolate shell poured over the top. WHile I was eating, I realized that I was eating for a reason other than hunger. Sadly, it was followed by a second dessert, this time marzipan cake with ice cream on top, and more chocolate shell. Now at least I’ve stopped eating and started journaling, so I’ve broken whatever was going on.

Binges always have internal conflict as a root cause. My internal conflict has to do with my desire to live “normally” versus the desire to lie around surfing the web and doing nothing. Whenever I have a long (> several hours) time of not taking action on something I “should” do, the urge to eat starts.

Next time I hope to recognize it earlier so I can stop it before it gets this deep, and I also hope to recognize the inner conflict before the food stage.

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Update on May goals

I looked back at my goals for this month, and decided to make some changes.

First I’ll pay more attention to them, because I’ve been paying too much attention to the scale and not enough attention to the rest. The scale has been quite annoying, because I promised myself that I would not get on it until the end of the month, and it’s still too easy to step on it every day, defining my mood according to the number. Grr. The one thing that helps is to wear clothes when I go in, because I religiously weigh in naked.

Additionally, I am still listening to the IOWL podcasts, and took a break, because I felt that the changes I was making were permanent. Now I know better. To lose over 100 pounds means big big changes in my permanent lifestyle, and I never knew the how miniscule an individual change can be.

Additionally, these changes are incremental. First I try a small thing for the first time, like eating 5 veggies a day. I did it once, then didn’t do it again until I got used to the idea. Then, slowly, I began doing it more often until it’s a regular practice, at least during the week. Now I get to start the process again to create this habit on weekends.

Funny, now that I think about my goals, I don’t really need to change anything except the scale and my expectations. I am giving up my goal tracking after doing it for over 2 weeks. Two weeks is enough.

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When I feel good and occupied with my life, I don’t overeat. Therefore, the more good feelings I can bring into my life, the easier it will be for me to eat intuitively.

Here’s a list I just made of things I like and do not like. My intent is to recognize the Do Not side, and replace those activities with Do Like side activities as often as possible.

P.S. Yes, I do like ironing and hand-washing dishes.

Feels Good

Does NOT Feel Good

Being at peace with myself

Almost anything done too long or too much

Walking along a stream

Walking up stairs

Touching a tree trunk

Having to walk somewhere

Playing harp

Having to contact someone

Being approached by someone

Eating

Cool

Weighing in

Movies

Feeling like I made a mistake

Things in their places

Being confronted

Hearing compliments

Jiggling

Reading

Exercise

Feeling strong positive emotions

Heat

Sewing

Worry

Hugs

Hunger

Holding hands

Transitions between activities

Getting something done right

Not knowing how to do something

Playing computer games

Watching my team lose

Sleeping

Feeling like I could have done more

Listening to harp music

Repetitive activities

Helping those who need a little help

Being angry at someone

Being asked my opinion

Feeling depressed

Giving my opinion

Pain

Swimming

Being ignored

Washing dishes by hand

 

Ironing

 

Hits on my blog

 

 

 

 

 

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