On Struggling with Food and Intuitive Eating.

I’ve struggled with food for a long time.  I was a healthy-weight kid until about 4th grade. I ended up being put into a “gifted and talented” program  (G & T)(Note: I don’t think I’m gifted and talented over the average person. This is just what the program was called. Also of note: I hated every second of this program and will never place any of my children in one. I don’t blame my parents though. They did what they thought would be right for me.) at that time and it necessitated me moving from the elementary school within walking distance of my home to one across town.  With the stress of moving to a new school, spending extra time on a bus, being uprooted from many of my friends, and being thrust into the social dynamic of the G&T program along with the extra academic work involved, I became depressed and began to eat emotionally. Looking back, I can see that that is really where my issues with food and disordered eating began.

In reality, I wasn’t nearly as ginormous as my mind told me I was (and never have been since), but ever since that time I have considered myself “the fat one.” I’ve tried quite a few diets. Weightwatchers (multiple times), classic calorie counting, South Beach and, most recently – Paleo.

Now, I never really thought I was someone who had disordered eating. Eating disorders tend to be associated with anorexia and bulimia and I have neither of those. I always just figured I had a lack of willpower, and needed to force myself to eat what I “should” eat in the “proper” portions.  I’ve been in the vicious deprivation cycle for at least 15 years. Go on a diet, be “good” for a few weeks (or months), feel deprived – but noble, lose weight…and eventually it all falls apart. I end up binging on things I don’t even like in what they call “last supper” eating because I told myself I couldn’t have them, and I better get my fill of them now before I go back to being “good!” I would “closet eat” – sneaking snacks when noone could see me. Being embarassed to order at restaurants because of the ludicrous idea that people were judging me because overweight people don’t deserve to eat. Or overweight people should only eat salads because they need to lose weight.  I’m using past tense here – but really we’re talking about last week. Not 3 years ago.

I’ve always seen people who, at least outwardly, appear to be able to eat without stress and been incredibly jealous.  Why do they get to just eat while I have to obsess about food in order to “control myself”?  Why is it so easy for them and so hard for me? Because my eating is disordered. I’ve spent so many years on the deprivation cycle that I have no idea how to honor my hunger. I eat alloted amounts because I tracked that much darnit and I’m going to get as much into me as I’m allowed. Or I’m going to order something that’s at least percieved to be more healthy even though I don’t really want it because I “should” – and then end up eating even more than I otherwise would have because what I ate didn’t satisfy my cravings.

I’ve recently come across a concept called Intuitive Eating (IE). I learned about it by reading a couple of my favorite blogs on my blogroll – Fitting It All In and A Dash of Meg.  Both Clare and Meghan have recently taken part in  Jamie of StudioEats 21 Day Intuitive Eating challenge. They’ve inspired me, so I signed up and picked up a copy of a book on Intuitive Eating (the book isn’t necessarily associated with the StudioEats challenge. I just picked it up to help facilitate my journey.)

So this is where I’m at. I want to be able to be one of those people who eats with ease. I don’t want to feel hungry. I’m exhausted.  Utterly exhausted by worrying about what I “should” eat.  I’m tired of being embarrassed by the food I eat and my weight.

So today, I’m going to start working on healing my relationship with food. It’s not going to be easy and I’m not expecting instant success. I discovered this morning that eating without distractions is HARD, and I have completely lost touch of my real hunger signals.  I’ve started a journal  – not tracking my food intake, but tracking my thoughts. Assessing my hunger levels as I eat. Making sure I actually WANT what I’m eating.

The challenge officially starts on April 1, but I don’t want to wait. I’ll blog about it as I go.  Here’s hoping I can break the cycle.