I picked up a book last week from work that I hope will change my life. It is called "The Diet Survivors Handbook: 60 Lessons in Eating, Acceptance, and Self Care." I picked it up because I thought it would be some Diet book that would promise all kinds of weight loss which would make me all mad to read but also somehow hopeful that it could be done because as much as I hate to admit it, there is still a part of me that really would like to be more average in the weight department. Not for health reasons because I have already accepted that dieting does not lead to better health but totally for the opportunity to live for a while without dealing with our culture's excessive and persistant fat hatred.
Anyhow, it turns out it isnt that sort of book. This book was written by a couple of eating disorder specialists. They talk a lot about "intuitive eating" and "normalizing one's relationship with food" as opposed to overeating as a disorder. It is quite interesting. The idea basically is to change how one views food and to learn to eat when one is hungry and to eat the foods that one is hungry for. They talk a lot about the health risks of weight loss diets (of which there are many). They also talk a lot about our society's downright hatred of fat and fat people and how it isnt fat people who are wrong but society. And I needed to hear that yet again even though I have been reading all kinds of fat positive literature over the past few years. The book is structured into 60 lessons with nice quotes and little workbook type activities designed to get one to really think about things.
The first five lessons were pretty much about how one should eat when one is hungry and eat the foods one is hungry for. They talk about recognizing hunger and the difference between stomach hunger and mouth hunger. One of the first lessons is not just "eat only when you are hungry" but "you must eat when you are hungry." It is funny but I have been so disconnected with my hunger that it was weird paying attention to it and it was weird planning for it. I mean, in just the past three days since I have been trying to change some eating habits, I have noticed that I not only eat a lot when I am not hungry, I also ignore my hunger a lot too. My eating habits actually seem to have little to do with hunger and I never noticed that before!
One of the lessons is one I am already having a hard time with. That of categorizing foods into "good" and "bad" categories. I cant help but think of candy bars, ice cream, french fries and such as bad foods. But they present some interesting research that shows that depriving oneself actually can cause a person to overeat! I guess we always want more of what we cant have even when the rules are imposed by ourselves.
Another lesson that really spoke to me was one about keeping food in the house. They said that they have noticed that a lot of overeaters dont tend to keep much food around that they like (yup, that's me). Oh, I have lots of food but most of it isnt food that I actually like much. A good chunk is stuff I thought I should buy because it is healthy. They say that having the food can create a sense of security and that as a person gets used to having food, they will eventually stop feeling the need to eat it just because it is there. So I went out to Trader Joe's last night and stocked up on stuff that I actually like. No good or bad foods...just food (but ok, see...I cant help thinking of food as good or bad and trust me a lot of what I bought falls into the bad category...I can see that is going to be a challenge for me to stop thinking that way).
Ok, ok...I know I am probably boring you all to death with this whole food thing but it is a real issue for me. Interestingly, I think I was more receptive to this book than I would ordinarily be because I just spent a week with Shannon who totally is an intuitive eater. She eats what she wants whenever she gets hungry which is a lot. I often tease her that the meals in her house are First-Breakfast, Second-Breakfast, First-Lunch, Second-Lunch, Pre-Dinner, Dinner, and Bedtime snack. In fact, I will even admit to moments of annoyance when she stops everything because she or a member of her family are hungry and I would rather be doing something else besides eating (although since eating curbs annoyance for me, it never lasts long). The point is that Shannon seems obsessed with food sometimes but really, I was the one with the gleam in my eye in the cookie aisle thinking about having an Oreo binge.
Anyhow, I think I will close with a quote in the book because I think it kind of sums up a lot.
"When hungry, eat your rice. When tired, close your eyes. Fools may laugh at me but wise men will know what I mean" -Lin -Chi