There are a lot of articles, books, and information out there about eating intuitively. I, for one, am inclined to emotional binge eating. For me, emotional eating stems from boredom, sadness, and loneliness. Loneliness being the big one. My weight gain went full speed ahead when I lived in Knoxville. I was bored, sad, and lonely a lot of the time. I also had absolutely no structure around my meals; I went from gross dining hall food, walking miles and miles a day on-campus, and home cooked family dinners, to eating literally whatever I wanted for dinner. I remember specifically one night thinking: I’m an adult. I can eat whatever I want for dinner. That night, I had some Cheez-its and beer for dinner. Domino’s delivery? Why not! I also lived in the fast food capitol of the South – the intersection of Interstates 40 and 75. It was far more convenient to hit the McDonald’s drive through than prepare something healthy for dinner. The emotions I felt that year just exacerbated my disordered eating tendencies. Because I usually never had anything to do on Friday and Saturday nights, I would treat myself with some take-out.
|That’s me on the right at the peak of my weight gain, and my biggest weight loss inspiration on the left|
My weight loss has been a progression through many different methods. It started out trying to lose weight on my own through calorie counting and journaling when I lived in Tennessee (-5 lbs), then Weight Watchers when I lived in Atlanta(-13 lbs), then calorie counting with My Fitness Pal when I moved back to NC (-2ish lbs). Then I got wrapped up in a few months of craziness. Well, in those few months, I stopped tracking food and kept myself busy. Food was no longer the center of my universe. Life was. Ok, ok, food is still a really big deal to me… but I find myself obsessing over it a fraction of the time that I used to.
I had an ah-ha moment one day. I realized my trying to ‘control’ my food intake was having the opposite effect. Food was controlling me. If i had 50 calories left for the day, or 2 points, or whatever, I would eat those calories or points – and didn’t care if I was full or hungry. I didn’t care what I was craving. I would eat to fulfill a calorie or points threshold. Which would lead to bingeing (embarrassingly frequently) – I would eat something to try and satisfy my appetite, but that something had to fit with my daily calorie goal. It wouldn’t usually be what I was craving, which would almost always lead to me binge eating.
I was not listening to my body, but rather an online tracking tool. If I went out for lunch or dinner and had a ‘bad day’ – I would use that as an excuse to just eat whatever I wanted when I got home that night. I would tell myself: Tomorrow is a new day, right? Yea, I will just start over tomorrow.
Please note, I am not knocking calorie counting or Weight Watchers. They are great programs and helped me lose 20 lbs. Weight Watchers taught me portion control and the importance of fruits and vegetables. My Fitness Pal taught me truly how many calories I was burning during exercise (by wearing a heart rate monitor) and how to eat to compensate for those calories and keep my metabolism going. In the end, neither of these programs were quite right for my weight loss journey and maintenance because of my (self-diagnosed) tendencies towards disordered eating. I have never been to a doctor about this, but it is also not something to which I am opposed. I am a huge proponent of therapy! I just have never been for weight loss or disordered eating.
Where am I now? I am learning to intuitively eat. To me, this means eating when I have physical signs of hunger, not based on what the clock says. It means not tracking my food on paper or online (I do mentally keep a general mental record of what I have eaten for the day). It also means if I am seriously craving something, I need to just indulge in an appropriate–sized portion of what I am craving. I can’t try and substitute it. It won’t work (for me). Since I stopped tracking food, I have lost 5 lbs. It also doesn’t hurt that it’s summertime, I am regularly working out, and more inclined to eat generally healthier anyway… I fit in to my ‘skinny’ jeans for the first time since college, and I just feel good.
Is everyday perfect? No. Here’s a great example. Sunday night, I wanted a Mcdonald’s hot fudge sundae. I told myself it wasn’t a great idea, but I was craving it. I wouldn’t let myself go get it. I ended up eating a 150 calorie Magnum ice cream bar, a cheese stick, some chips, another cheese stick, and some turkey pepperoni. Had I just indulged in the McDonald’s sundae, I very likely would not have gone on that binge. Could it have been worse? Oh yea, and I’m not beating myself up for it. Nights like this used to happen very frequently when I was actually tracking my food. Now they are few and far between. Side note: today I got that hot fudge sundae and it was so good.
Since I made the commitment to lose weight, I have lost about 25 lbs! That is no small feat, and I am very proud of my accomplishments so far! I have about 5 more lbs to lose before I am back to a ‘healthy’ weight for my height. Ideally, I would like to lose about 10 more lbs. It is going to be a slow but steady journey. I am sure I will still struggle, but I know now I am on the right track.
I’ve come a long way, baby! And so have you, Betsy (my weight loss inspiration from the picture above)!!