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intuitive eating

intuitive eating

The girl with the heart tattoo

December 29, 2016

heart-tattoo-wrist

A couple of weekends ago, I had a dainty little heart inscribed on my wrist. Such a simple gesture, but it means so much to me. It’s a reminder, a symbol of hope, my own little rebellion.

Loving myself is one of the hardest lessons for me to grasp through my therapy. It’s an ongoing process. I have times where I can be okay with who I am, how I look, what size I wear. Those times are much more frequent these days. I am able to hang out in the mental space of contentment, acceptance and gratefulness for the way I am made. Pure wonder at my good luck to live my amazing life. Other days, often on the days I feel stressed or inadequate in another avenue of life, I spiral into this terrible swirl of hating myself. I’m not moderate with it. I feel embarrassed to even walk around in public because of the way I look. I can’t look in the mirror. I want to stay in bed.

I’ve learned, though, that it’s all in my head, because I am always the same me whether I feel content with how I look or whether I feel ashamed. I don’t really change day to day or week to week. Recognizing that my brain has a pattern of turning on me, I’ve learned ways to short circuit it. I’ll notice a distressing thought pop up, I’ll recognize the way I’m feeling and then I’ll follow-up with a more moderate thought. I’ll keep going back to that moderate thought over and over until my brain breaks free of its pattern of beating me up. Often, that thought is simple: I love myself. I say it because I do love myself in so many ways. I love that I care so deeply for the people in my life. I love that I am thoughtful. I love that I am smart and kind and joyful and hardworking. I love that I keep reaching for the light and good in my life, even when things are really hard.

This simple little tattoo on my wrist is now my constant reminder to hinge my thoughts on love, both for myself and for others. It’s a nod to how far I’ve come on this journey to stronger mental health, a delightful pause to appreciate my growth and to set myself up for success as I continue to work toward being the person I want to be.

intuitive eating

On Enough

December 11, 2016

flowers

One of the hardest things for me as I learn to eat intuitively is to stop at enough. It’s the simplest concept, really. You eat when you’re hungry and you stop when you’re full. Ideally, you eat before you get really hungry and you stop before you get really full. If you take action before you get to the ‘really’ stage, it’s easier to listen to your body and do what it wants.

I seem to be fond of getting way, way too hungry. For someone who loves food as much as I do, it’s weird to me that I wait until I’m shaky hungry before I figure out what to feed myself. That starving stage makes me feel a bit food-panicky and my brain shifts into survival mode. When I finally get to food, I feel scared to stop eating. It takes a tremendous amount of willpower to listen to my body when it’s had plenty of food if I’ve waited too long to eat.

It helps to stop at enough when I don’t get too hungry before I eat. I don’t have the panicked feeling and I can tune in a bit more to how I’m feeling. I know there’s a precise moment where I’ve gone from ‘this food is fantastic’ to ‘wow, I think I’ve eaten enough for now’. My body will tell me every single time. The problem is that I often willfully ignore my body. I keep going. I eat the other half of the sandwich. I get the second bowl of soup. I practically lick the plate clean. I end up feeling really full and my brain starts to dull a bit. I feel uncomfortable in my pants.

It’s something I’m still working on. I know I’ll never be perfect at stopping at enough, but I hope to be better about it. As I head into this new work week, my goal is to tune in a bit more to my body’s cues. I hope to eat before I get really hungry so that it’s easier for me to stop when I’m full. It’s good for me to work on this. Practicing new skills is the only way to make progress toward the relationship I want to have with food and with my body.

What are you working on with your intuitive eating practice?

image via makelight.com

intuitive eating, weight

Embrace Documentary…worth it

November 11, 2016

I’m not a huge movie buff. Because I’m a big reader, a movie has to be compelling enough for me to use two potential reading hours to watch it. To Keith’s frustration, I will often start a movie and then end up on my phone because it doesn’t hold my attention. So, I may not be the best authority when it comes to film, but I feel confident saying that Embrace is worth the watch. Not only did it hold my attention for the entire film, it caused me to have a deeper understanding of women’s body image and how to strengthen my individual resolve to not subscribe to narrow definitions of beauty.

It’s a great story of personal agency and the power that comes when you fully accept who you are. Learn more about Embrace here and take a peek at the trailer below.

I’d love to know your thoughts if you give it a watch. Do share!

intuitive eating, Uncategorized

On Intuitive Eating

November 8, 2016

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I’ve mentioned on this site a few times that I practice intuitive eating. I thought I’d share a very personal post about what this means to me and why I decided to learn to eat this way.

A bit of background:

I started seeing a therapist for help with learning how to eat intuitively in August or September of last year. At the time, I was so fed up with the cycle of dieting that I knew I needed to find another way. I would do some new restrictive diet (Weight Watchers, South Beach, Atkins, 4 Hour Body, you name it) for a few weeks, lose some weight, feel good about myself, start craving ‘bad’ foods, blow the diet miserably, eat like crazy for a few weeks, feel bad about myself and start another diet again, promising myself that this time would be different. I did this over and over and over again.

Finally, I hit a wall.

I distinctly remember feeling like I needed to go on another diet again, but I just felt so defeated and tired and weak that I just couldn’t face doing the cycle again. Even I could see the futility. It was time to find a better way to live because constantly berating myself for not having the willpower to stick with the diet du jour was too exhausting.

I had heard and read about intuitive eating before, but I knew I needed help to make it happen. Beyond the dieting, there were real emotional issues lurking below the surface for me related to self-image and childhood trauma that I needed to address. The food and the emotions felt so inexorably fused together that I didn’t have the knowledge to untangle them myself.

I found a therapist who would help me with the emotional work and also teach me how to eat intuitively. It seems so counter intuitive that you need someone to teach you to eat, but after so many years of shame around food, I needed a reliable voice of reason to show me the way. I needed someone to tell me that I could trust my body to tell me what it wanted to eat. I needed someone to tell me that I wouldn’t gain a million pounds by giving up dieting and by allowing myself to eat anything I wanted. I needed someone to reassure me that I wouldn’t only want chips and ice cream for every single meal (including breakfast) for the rest of my life. I needed someone to promise me that if I undid the shame around food and trusted myself that I would be able to eat when I’m hungry and stop when I’m full and that I would be able to live a fuller life. I needed someone to help me safely return to my childhood emotional trauma to help me diffuse it and give away its power over me.

We’ve been working together for more than a year now and I just can’t tell you how much therapy has helped me. The best way I can describe it is that I knew I had the capability to be the person I wanted to be, but I didn’t have the tools to get there. Every day, I’m learning the tools and they’re helping me peel back the layers that led me to such destructive behaviors.

Man, it’s hard work. There have been so many times that I’ve wanted to quit or just go on one more diet again, but I just keep on keeping on. I have homework after every session. I read a lot and I write a lot. Most of all, I reflect. I observe what’s going on in my head without judgement and then I try to puzzle out the how and why I feel that way. Most of the time it has nothing to do with food and if I just allow myself to sit with the emotion, I come out so much stronger.

The inevitable question: have you gained weight learning to eat this way? Most people ask me this and then reassure me that they’d be as big as a house if they just let themselves eat whatever they wanted.

The truth? I haven’t weighed myself once since I started eating intuitively. Judging by the way my clothes fit, I may have gained a bit of weight while I was legalizing food, but not much at all. I’m still pretty much the same me on the outside, but I’m so, so much better on the inside. That’s what counts.

Image via designlovefest