Monday, 23 February 2009

Intuition Knocking At The Door

Kath posted her thoughts on the book Intuitive Eating and it's gotten me thinking about where I am with that. I, like a lot of people with eating disorders, really struggle to listen to my body and know when I need to eat, what I *want* to eat (versus what anorexia wants). I am fascinated by the concept of intuitive eating. I watch little kids eating- pushing away their plates when they have had enough, asking for food when their body is hungry, knowing what tastes good to them at that moment.

I was brought up in a pretty strict household when it came to food/meals. We ate dinner together with pressure to clean our plates ("what you don't eat will be breakfast tomorrow"), desserts and treats were rare, what my parents deemed as "junk food" rarely made an appearance in our house. I don't know whether I should be grateful for this, or whether I agree with this. I don't think it had any major impact on me or my eating disorder, but I guess I never really got a chance to be intuitive and listen to my body.

Since I developed anorexia, I have become increasingly rigid around what I will/won't eat. Certain foods trigger certain memories/feelings- not all "bad" (there are foods I won't eat simply because it reminds me of my lowest points), and treatment has helped somewhat in widening the variety in my diet, though also contributing on some level to the structure I maintain around meals (ie, we ate set amounts at set times, were encouraged to stick to meal plans when we left and branching away from our set plans wasn't allowed). I have improved a lot with this- the last inpatient treatment I was in didn't adhere to a rigid meal plan- it worked by calories, not exchanges, so allowed a little more flexibility. We had rough guidelines but were encouraged to really break out of our comfort zones, try new foods, face "fear foods" head on and discover what we enjoyed eating.

So where does this leave me?..

I still follow a pretty set plan of times I eat, types of food I eat. I've improved, but am in no way an "intuitive eater". I guess I am confused about when is a good time to try being more flexible. I am not in a place physically where I can afford to lose any weight, my current intake is adequate for maintenance, though only just. I guess the pitfall of breaking away from a meal plan is the risk of being too tuned into what anorexia is saying, as opposed to being in tune with what the real *me* wants.

Has anyone got advice about this? Has anyone successfully transitioned from a meal plan to a more intuitive way of eating?

My biggest fear is that I'll suddenly want to eat anything/everything. I honestly don't know if I am hungry or full- I eat according to the clock, and I eat the amount I planned. I've started switching things up a little (ie, 3pm rolls around and I decide I'd rather have granola + yogurt than a protein bar) but beyond that, I don't know when is a good time to start experimenting.


Pammy said...

I can totally understand your frustration with intuitive eating. I wish I give you the answer to how to eat intuitively but I dont have it. I guess my suggestion would be to take it slow- to start with what your doing by switching around foods and then gradually start listening to your body. I fear the same thing- that if I dont strictly follow a meal plan I will never stop eating but then I reality check that thought and realize that it is irrational.

Good luck honey. Hang in there <3

Jaime said...

LOVE the book intuitive eating! i've been following that principle for the past 3 weeks during my recovery-- it's been great :)

Lauryn said...

intuitive eating is not easy, but nothing worth fighting for and winning is ever going to be easy in the moment! good for you for starting slow and strong, though, and where you feel comfortable. i think if you throw yourself in too deep all at once, it might be overwhelming; i think you have a fantastic idea of where to begin and how to challenge yourself though! you're doing an awesome job, friend =)

and YES go to chipotle when you visit the US! so so good! i really miss some restaurants in the UK though, like wagamama!

Erin said...

hey. just found your blog....

i had the same problem & am still transitioning out of it...
i was completely on the schedule of eating..every night i NEED to have my popcorn.. whether i'm hungry or not.. it's just a habit, i'm comfortable with it..

you don't need to take big steps or make big transitions fast.. slow steps, baby steps work!
honestly the movement from a granola bar to yogurt & granola was enough!

set goals for a week .. try new foods and if you are in a pickle and can't eat a snack at a certain time, take a breath, relax.. eat it when you have time to savor every bite.

enjoy what you eat and don't feel the pressures. if you feel pressure, you will shy away from it more often... it will scare you more than it should.

i was completely and utterly afraid to free myself of my exchange counting & calorie counting.. but you know what.. one day i realized.. IT is NOT WORTH IT.. it's a part of recovery, but only for so long..
it took so much time, it was exhausting..

now i think about what i eat a day ahead but if it doesn't work out, i don't freak.. i take a breath, have a swig of water and look to my sister who is the exact opposite of any girl with an ED she eats all and anything..

what a comment!
good luck!
<3 erin

@ shopeatblog

Anonymous said...

I wish I could listen to my body too...sometimes I just don't even know what I am hungry for...nothing sounds good to me. I also tend to be stuck in a rut with what I eat, eating the amount planned like you said. I almost always clean my plate.
Sorry I don't really have any advice, but, at least for me, it helps to know that I am not alone with my struggles!
Maybe trying changing one item at breakfast, and then next day, something at lunch, etc, and then work your way up?

Elle said...

I know what you mean about wanting to avoid certain foods completely because they remind of your "low point" - I have a few of those and when my therapist suggested that I reincorporate one into my daily food plan, I just cringed.

The first time I had peanut butter again (after 2 years), I turned off the TV, sat at the table and really focused on nothing but what I was eating. I let myself enjoy the taste - I wasn't eating just to eat, but trying to take pleasure in the experience. It felt a little weird at first, but it might be a way to try to incorporate some new foods that you think YOU really are craving into your diet. By eating slowly and really appreciating the taste of what you're eating, I think it takes some of the "fear" away of just eating uncontrollably/past the point where you're satisfied.

It was difficult for me to do but I didn't feel any regret after I finished my PB and waffles, so it might be worth a shot :)