Intuitive Eating

So much has happened in my life over the past month; I have been experiencing so much chaos, confusion, frustration, and anxiety. In the moments of calm; however, I have not wasted the opportunities to reflect. As we have dealt with the rapidly failing health of a loved one, those reflections have often pertained to health and wellness, especially long-term health. In a roundabout way, that has led me to the concept of intuitive eating. 

Intuitive eating isn’t a new concept to me. Being a perpetual dieter and spending a lot of time online and offline in this space, I have some understanding of it. I have a half-finished book, “The Emotional Eaters Repair Manual” by Julie M. Simon on my nightstand that talks in great length about it. That book is unfinished largely because, while exhilarating, my knee-jerk emotional response to the concept is fear and mistrust of my own intuition.

I have endured an ever-evolving eating disorder for the past 30 years. I have sought and received professional treatment for bulimia and binge eating disorder. I find myself now questioning whether the past 10 years of dieting is nothing more than a restrictive, control-based counterpart of disordered behavior surrounding food. When I am counting calories, when I am pre-planning and preparing my weekly meals and weighing out portions on my little kitchen scale, I feel like I am being “good,” like I am being disciplined and healthy. But maybe this isn’t self-care – maybe this is just another extreme. I believe I fall short of orthorexia, but I also believe that the emotions I feel when I think about having this relationship with food for the rest of my life tells me this isn’t right, it isn’t sustainable, it isn’t what I want for myself. At the same time, giving that up feels like risking the weight loss and improved overall health I have achieved thus far.

It’s scary to imagine giving up control. It’s scary to imagine learning to trust my intuition. It’s scary to think I may not be able to tell the difference between my intuitive voice and the voice of my trauma. Yet, it is equally scary to imagine being 60 years old, my mobility limited by nearly a lifetime of being overweight, tugging my little food scale out of the cabinet to weigh out one ounce of chickpeas. 

When I think about a successful transition to intuitive eating, I feel this potential for liberation. What would that feel like? What if there are no more “good foods” and “bad foods?” What if there were no more counting calories, no more weighing foods, no more refrigerator full of little snack-sized zip top plastic bags of portioned grapes or carrot sticks? What if I never looked at others again with envy at their “normal” relationships with food, if I didn’t feel like there is something wrong with me?

I have been driven by my goals to where I am now – the incessant calorie-counter, the persistent dieter, constant “pinner” of online fitspo. My weight loss journey has been driven by the pursuit of a physical ideal I have imagined for myself, sculpting the body I see in my mind’s eye. I have paid some lip service to the idea of overall mind, body and spirit wellness but, honestly, those were superficial thoughts I invented to justify my quest for a certain type of body I saw as worthy of love and respect (something I have never felt I’ve had in my life). I find myself, today, in a head- and heart-space, of wanting something different from what I have wanted before: wanting true and lasting overall health and wellness. I find myself, today, wondering if adopting a practice of intuitive eating along with a more natural, intuitive and holistic approach to fitness, emotional health and mental wellbeing might be the path for me. It’s scary. It’s exciting. It’s enticing. I wonder…

My Indulging Moment

Ice cream and burgers and chips… oh, my! When we are faced with unhealthy foods we can’t help but be tempted.

Unhealthy food isolated on white background

These are two stories – one from my friend Karol and one from myself. We’ve been dealing with occasions to indulge transforming into overindulgence and struggling to get back on track and it presented an opportunity for us to talk about our personal stories as well as examine the tricky path of navigating sticking to a meal plan in a world that invites us to veer from it daily.


Karol’s Indulging Moment

I had a moment – no it was not a snackccident – during which I ate an entire bag of Recess. It was a moment of shoveling and total chaos in my mind and self control. Yes, it still happens. Yes, it does still happen to ME, very frequently but, sometimes I do indulge. Its human right, it’s normal – right? I was not feeling deprived, as I say nothing taste better than being fit and healthy and confident feels. Then why did I indulge?

I meal prep, I prepare every week, count my calories, macros, carbs, you name it. I am aware of all calories that go in, and out, of my body.

But, on this occasion, I threw discipline to the wind. I was invited to a sit-down dinner – a five-course meal, beginning with a cheeseboard to die for. Then we were on to courses two, three and four. The meal ended with a delicious chocolate desert. I felt had to eat it or someone might ask, “why are you not eating? Go ahead you been working so hard on you.”

The internal struggle is so hard for me. I did not not eat all of every meal – I wasn’t about shoveling it all down – but I felt unstoppable in the moment, all the while knowing this is not healthy for me physically or mentally.

It is true, we condition ourselves to feel this way, and when that moment comes when we feel we have been “deprived” we dig in. I finished it off with a praline later on that night, why not right? Yeah, NOOOOO!

I did not count my calories, did not log into to my Fitness pal. I almost blocked it out of my mind but, my body knows better. I took the next day off the gym, I needed to rest but I felt so bloated and yucky from my meal that I did get up and go to the gym, even if for a few minutes.

I picked myelf up and realized this is not ME and for me, I cannot indulge this way. I have to be accountable for me and it is so easy to turn and slip to a fall and to stay down and grovel and eat and not exercise, but, for me, I can’t do that.

I went grocery shopping the next night and it felt good to prepare myself for the week, now onto mentally preparing and being more mindful of the slip and to be selective when I indulge and yes, account for it in every way.

That is how I move on. Thinking back to the night, I realize had not done this in a long time and, as a result, I felt entitled. I wanted to be a part of the celebration, I did indulge but now back to ME – to my lifestyle of healthy eating, exercise and water and positive self talk, my winning combination.


Jody’s Indulging Moment

Every Saturday night is Date Night Dinner. Each week my boyfriend treats me to a delicious restaurant dinner, and an equally delicious reprieve from cooking. On some occasions I have checked menus online before we went to the restaurant, pre-selected what I would order based on my meal plan so that I can keep to my goals even on weekends or I made sure to eat light throughout the day to accommodate a larger meal and dinnertime. Other occasions… not so much. The last few Saturdays I have treated it simply as an indulgence – what many call a “cheat meal” (although am not a fan of that term). I have stuffed myself with scallion pancakes, fried pot stickers, buffalo “chicken” sandwiches with fries and all manner of yummy high-calorie foods with reckless abandon. Oh, and let’s not forget the desserts. I have paid the price for my carelessness. Immediately after the meals, I have felt lethargic and nauseated, overly stuffed and uncomfortable. I have also felt the pangs of guilt and shame, which are far longer lasting and more damaging to my progress. These meals have cost me my weight loss goals for weeks but, worse, they have chipped away at my discipline and left me on the brink of depression. The latter can and has led to going off my meal plan midweek and skipping workouts at the gym. After these past few weeks, I have felt like a failure, felt weak and frustrated with myself.

In the throes of the aftermath of these indulgence meals, sad and bloated, I promise myself I won’t do it again. I tell myself I never want to feel this way again. And, yet, I do it over and over. Why? Why sabotage myself? Why succumb to something I know is bad for me both physically and mentally? I grapple with this a lot and I always come back to the same thing… because it feels “normal.” It is what normal people do on date night. It is how normal people eat, how normal people relax at the end of a week. Normal people doing normal things in a normal world from which I feel very cut off at times. Participating in the rituals, however damaging, give me a sense of participating in everyday life, a life to which I sometimes feel entitled – and feel cheated out of.

As I have sorted through these feelings, I resolved to write this blog. It is a catharsis; a purging of the thoughts and feelings I have held in and no longer want to carry because they weigh down my spirit. I am fighting every day to stick to my meal plan (admittedly with varying degrees of success); I am working out daily. I am focusing on being disciplined even when my hurting heart may not entirely be in it. This is it – this is me in the wake of indulgence becoming overindulgence, overindulgence becoming habit. This is me fighting to get back on track and asking myself how I can break this cycle.