Guys! I have big news. I don’t want to jinx anything, but I’m feeling so relieved, and let me tell you why: I think I cracked the code. The intuitive eating code! I’ve not perfected anything, and I hope I never do. I want to always be learning and listening. I want to be growing. I am growing.
For quite a while there I was restricting in a less obvious way. I was hungry for foods I wouldn’t allow to pass my lips. I was never satisfied. My sugar cravings were off the charts, and all I wanted to consume was chocolate, snack cakes, caramel corn, ice cream, candy bars…all of the sweet things. My lunch was just a short road leading to dessert. More sugar? Yes please! I was kind of obsessed. Theories, anyone? I have a few. But more importantly…
I’m not constantly thinking about food anymore!
It’s common to be obsessive about food in many different ways, when a person is restricting. My “symptoms” were almost textbook. I used to pull out all of my mom’s cookbooks that contained pictures and gaze at the delicious foods in the layouts. When I wasn’t looking at food, I was thinking about it- dreaming about it. It was the thing I wouldn’t allow myself, and the thing I most wanted. Since beginning my commitment to recovery in September, I have been waiting for my obsessive thoughts about food. I was always planning my next meals and snacks. It was so frustrating! I didn’t want to think about food all the time, but I did because I was still hungry, in a way.
I was afraid of getting hungry between snacks and meals, so I drew them out as far as I could. It was like a constant grazing, except I knew exactly what I would consume and when. What better way to shake things up? A road trip. I’ll admit, I was really scared to try what I did with my eating. And on the way home, I had thoughts of going back to my old habits and patterns. What has happened so far has been spontaneous and lovely…it’s been so good.
This past week I got back from a wonderful trip with my husband. We were gone for about five days. I like to be prepared, so I brought snacks with me in the car. But let me tell you, I barely touched them. Why? Because I made a promise to myself before we left. I told myself to eat at mealtime, and since it was going to be mostly eating out, order what sounded good and go from there. (The reason why I didn’t touch very many of the snacks was because I was eating meals. “Real” meals. The knowledge that I might be ingesting more calories, or fuel, was there; but I tried to push those thoughts far from my mind.) This was a huge leap for me. To give you some better perspective, a few months ago, my husband invited me to lunch with him at Subway. My reaction was to tell him I couldn’t. Subway is a dinner food, and I would not eat it at lunchtime. But I did it. I beat down my thoughts and forged ahead, and I won! If that was hard for me, imagine what breakfast, lunch and dinner would do to my confused little brain!
While I was away from home, I had pancakes, blueberry muffins, a doughnut, burgers and fries, sub sandwiches, KFC (a huge fear food for me!), a McFlurry! I ate a lot of fast food, and I am not ashamed. I am actually incredibly happy. I suspect this experience was one of the things that quickly led me to where I am now. I ate when I was hungry, and stayed satisfied a lot longer than I realized I could. I wasn’t craving sugar at all. I realized that I don’t have to eat the second I sense hunger. Hunger just means I need to mindfully seek out food in the near future. I’m not a baby, I can wait, as long as I’m not using the waiting to hurt myself. As long as I eat something that will sustain and nourish me.
Now that I am home, and getting back into my routine, things are starting to make sense. Especially after having an appointment with my dietitian. When I told her how I was feeling, she immediately said she thought I might be experiencing intuitive eating. What? Finally?! This thing I have been reaching for, straining for, giving up on…here? Now?
What does this look like for me? For once, I am not overthinking food. One day a muffin sounded delicious, so I ate it. Some days recently, veggies at lunch just don’t sound good. That’s OK! The other night I was out for dinner with family at a new restaurant. I ordered off of the adult menu (if you aren’t aware, the children’s menu is often a friend of mine…) and tried a fish taco, black beans, and fries. Then later at home as a test, I took a bag of caramel filled Hersheys Kisses with me to my easy chair, and ate until I was satisfied. This is a really big deal, because usually I count out a serving or two, and eat them all. Eating them all often results in me feeling a little sick, but it was my allotment, and it’s yummy, and it’s candy!
I’m going to keep testing myself. I am going to use my words and say “yes” when I want a food, and “no” when I don’t. My sugar cravings haven’t come back, but sweets do taste good. I just don’t feel like I have to have it.
I feel like I have been learning about, and waiting for intuitive eating to show up for so long. I can’t wait to see what happens within the next few weeks. I’m going to try to go with the flow, and listen to my body. I feel so much calmer and less anxious. I feel wonderful.