Thursday, August 02, 2007

This is NOT diet advice, but...

I've been thinking about food lately. I'm not on a diet nor do I intend to be, any time soon. I have dieted and lost weight and regained it so many times in my life that I've finally realized that diets don't work for me. I'm not sure they work for anyone, considering how many friends and relatives I've watched go through the same cycles I've gone through.

For me the problem is always that I feel deprived when I cut back on my food intake and, when the pounds offed seem sufficient, I return to my regular programming---eating carelessly and indulgently. And I'm sure you know what happens then!

Now, I'm no dummy. I know that excess poundage isn't good news and if it were easy to lose and keep off, I'd certainly do it. I'm not a candidate for drastic surgical interventions. I figure that I'd have to cut my food intake in half and double my exercise if I were to lose weight; and when I'd lost it, chances are the old habits would resume. I do want to maximize my health, however, at this time of my life, so I've been thinking about what I need to do.

One of the things I've noticed about myself is that I will frequently eat when I'm not really hungry; instead, I'm eating out of a sense of obligation to a ritual expectation. Ex: it's a hot summer afternoon, there's an ice cream stand, wouldn't a cone taste great? Only it's only momentarily great-tasting, I finish it out of a sense of thrift, and I'm uncomfortable the rest of the afternoon and not hungry at suppertime, but I eat supper anyhow.

I also eat out of a sense that I should indulge myself with food. I'm not sure where this comes from, but I may be reacting to the years of someone else (mother, diet consultant, weightwatchers group) telling me what I should and should not eat. I may not even want the food that is set out temptingly, but I eat it because I think I ought to want to eat it. Does that make sense? I don't want it, but I eat it because I ought to want it. Nutso?

I eat because I am afraid to be hungry. Somehow there's a fear in me about hunger. It may stem from infant fears of starvation when my mother's milk wasn't adequate or the shakiness of low blood sugar which occasionally accompanies hunger pangs. But I rarely let myself experience hunger pangs for any length of time. Yet, when I do, the food I eat becomes ambrosial! Hmmmm, something to be learned here.

A couple of years ago, I engaged a clinically certified hypnotist to help me with weight management and during this course of consultation, I lost a few pounds but most importantly, I cleared the cupboards and refrigerator of most of the non-healthful foods I had on hand. This was mostly sugary stuff. I kept the nuts, the cheese, the apples, grapes, berries, the popcorn, the good bread, the peanut and sunflower seed butter, and the dried fruit. I've managed to keep the cupboards bare of the sugary stuff----mostly, anyhow.

The other day on the ferry, I made a list of the food "rules" I think I can follow:
1. Eat only when hungry.
2. Don't eat just because I think I ought to want to.
3. Don't talk myself into wanting something because I just want to indulge myself.
4. Make all food choices work for me nutritionally.
5. Don't be afraid of hunger.
6. Don't avoid hunger.
7. Have regular meals at regular times.
8. Eat a meal early if I'm too hungry. There's no law against eating supper at 4:30.
9. Don't eat a snack too close to a meal. I want to be hungry for the meal.
10. Think about what I'm eating in the evening---can I deal with the hunger? can I take the edge off without overdoing it?

I have no dream that this will help me lose weight. I don't care if it does or not. I'm not in the market for a boyfriend who requires a slim babe; if a candidate for boyfriend comes along, he'll have to take a potbellied person. I am intent on being mindful about eating, increasing my real enjoyment of foods I relish, and taking in nourishment, not emptiness.


Ms. Theologian said...

I especially like what you write about hunger.

Christine Robinson said...

Great Post! May I put a link to it on The Weight of the World? (

uumomma said...

This is a great post. I've been having similar conversations with myself about food lately. Thanks for sharing this.

ms. kitty said...

I'd be honored, Christine. Thanks, friends, for your feedback.

hafidha sofia said...

One of the things you're describing is referred to as "structural tension" by Robert Fritz. This is when you have two conflicting beliefs (e.g. I need to lose weight + I deserve to eat what I want) that you oscillate between. Once you've relieved some of the tension for one belief ("I need to lose weight" and look - I've lost a few pounds!) then you get closer to the first ("I deserve to eat what I want"). And then back and forth.

Have you read his book, "The Path of Least Resistance?"

ms. kitty said...

I haven't read it, Hafidha, and I'd be interested in doing so. It doubtless applies to lots of things in life besides weight issues! Thanks for the input.

Mile High Pixie said...

Beautiful! How funny that these are indeed rules I've been following for the past six years that allowed me to lose and keep off 20 pounds. It's not "diet" advice at all, but rather common sense observations about making peace with and enjoying your food and being healthy. So many people are afraid of hunger, as if they're about to go into the Mojave Desert with no rations. If you live in the US, you can find food somewhere if an when you get hungry, so don't fear the feeling. One of the things I had to do was get to know the feeling of actual hunger (which is physical) again so that I could differentiate it from appetite (which is psychological). Excellent observations, excellent post!