If you had have asked me two weeks ago about my ‘intuition’ when it comes to eating, I’d have told you that my intuition was hungry. Hungry or maybe just…broken.
Just like a magician, I could make any food placed in the vicinity disappear in the blink of an eye. A chocolate bar straight after a filling lunch – gone. A packet of biscuits left next to me by a work colleague- going, going, going…gone. The second half of a baguette even though I was full up – gone. What can I say, I was brought up to be part of the clean plate club.
Even now as a fully grown adult I am too scared to leave food on my plate when I visit my parents for dinner. My hyper sensitive mother takes it as a huge insult if you do not finish every single morsel of food on the plate she serves you. Not hungry for dessert? Tough luck, turn it down at your peril! To make matters worse, my mother cuts a cake depending on how many people are in attendance. Ergo, if there are only 4 of you dining you can expect a QUARTER of a cake. No, really.
Of course now you are envisaging my parents to be huge, morbidly obese, unhealthy people who sit around eating all day long (you are, admit it!) Quite the contrary. Both of my parents are very slim and energetic. While they may eat big dinners and huge portions of dessert for special occasions, they generally don’t eat very much the rest of the time.
Back to me…
Despite moving out several years ago, I still have it in my head that I must eat everything that is in front of me. Sometimes, I can almost hear a ‘grown up’ encouraging me to finish. Say I had a delicious dinner of chicken, potatoes and vegetables on my plate at dinner time. I’ve eaten approximately two thirds and am beginning to feel a bit full. A voice chirps up and says, well you can’t waste good meat, so eat that chicken. Then another says, yes and make sure you eat those potatoes too – you need those for energy. Finally, another says, yes yes that’s all true, but you can’t leave the table until you’ve finished your greens…. Good girl, you’ve finished all your dinner. Now you can have dessert.
When you think about it, that doesn’t make any sense at all!! No wonder my intuition is messed up, I’ve taught myself that if I overeat, I get rewarded with yet more food! And not just any food, delicious, sweet, buttery food.
Two weeks ago I decided it was time to teach my intuition some new tricks.
For those of you who haven’t yet come across the concept of Intuitive Eating, here are the 10 principles in brief:
1. Reject the Diet Mentality
2. Honor Your Hunger
3. Make Peace with Food
4. Challenge the Food Police
5. Respect Your Fullness
6. Discover the Satisfaction Factor
7. Honor Your Feelings Without Using Food
8. Respect Your Body
9. Exercise–Feel the Difference
10 Honor Your Health
Most of the guidelines were fairly easy to follow. I enjoyed deleting the calorie counting app. I embraced eating any thing I fancied without the guilt. I already enjoy exercising for the way it makes me feel, but by not linking it directly to how much I should eat in a given day, rest days felt more…restful!
The problem, of course, was Number 5 – Respect your fullness.
I have to admit that during the first few days I really struggled to quit the clean plate club. This overeating habit is ingrained deep. I even noticed that sometimes when I eat, I enter a sort of trance like state whereby I don’t even notice that I am eating until all the food is gone.
In this case though, practice makes perfect. The more I have consciously made an effort to focus completely on eating, the easier it has become to stop eating once I am full. Whether that means leaving just one mouthful or half a plate full. Respecting my fullness is the key to making this work for me.
So what’s the outcome? Well, I’ve lost 3 of the 5lbs (don’t judge me!!) I gained over Easter. (I said don’t judge me!!!!) Which wouldn’t seem that amazing except for the fact that I have had a lot of social eating occasions to attend. We’re talking wine, pizza, a burger, chips, cake and pancakes, to name a few. I have eaten all of those things, without guilt, without counting a single calorie and without worrying myself sick about ‘burning it off’ in the gym or ‘making up for it’ by cutting back at other meals.
That’s not to say that I haven’t exercised at all. The opposite in fact, the weather has been so lovely that I’ve been running like it’s going out of fashion. But its been for pleasure and fitness, not to ‘buy myself’ extra calories. If I’ve eaten more because I’ve been hungrier following my 9 mile run, then so be it.
That’s also not to say that I haven’t also enjoyed plenty of traditionally ‘healthy’ foods, like salads for lunch, fruit for snacks, and oats for breakfast. I enjoy eating those things and they make me feel good, so they are here to stay.
The difference is that I have stopped convincing myself that I need to eat every single bite of my salad for fear I might offend someone, or worse, get hungry before my next scheduled meal time. So what if I do happen to get hungry before dinner? I can eat. In fact, I can eat whenever I like. So long as I am physically HUNGRY. (Not bored, lonely, tired, sad, happy, angry, frustrated or any other emotion at all!) And so long as I remember to focus so that I am able to stop eating when I am satisfied.