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.