Things are going well, this feels like my new normal. I have been eating two meals a day, most days, as this is a pattern that works for me. I find food boring most of the time so only having to think about planning two meals makes my life easier, we are buying less food, our fridge is half empty. I enjoy going out for meals, especially for things I don’t cook very well myself but even so, I don’t find food fascinating at the moment. It all seems ok but I still don’t know what I look like. Of course I can look at myself in the mirror but I don’t understand what I look like in comparison to someone the same height, weight etc as me. I suppose I don’t know who I am.
All this came into my mind last weekend when I went to stay with a friend. On Saturday morning I was getting dressed after having a shower and I caught sight of myself in a full-length mirror and I looked fabulous! I stopped, turned around and spent several minutes admiring what I saw until I realised the mirror was slightly warped. That wasn’t what I looked liked after all. But do you know what? It didn’t really matter: having seen and loved the “me”I saw in that mirror made me feel good all day. I saw the “me” I wanted to be, the way I would like to present myself to the world and for that short time when the mirror reflected what I wanted to see carried me on for the rest of the day. That was me, warped mirror or not, and I loved it!
It’s all been going so well. I haven’t been eating rubbish, I have been aware of when I am “hungry” for other reasons, stopped myself, I am eating less, feeling better, feeling “normal” around food, so far, so predictable or is it?
Today I caught sight of myself in the hall mirror. Do you ever do that and get a shock? It happens a lot to me in photographs, surprisingly not because of my size but because my face doesn’t look like me. I look old (which I suppose I am) but the photo face isn’t the one I see in the bathroom mirror (except my morning face which really doesn’t count), it doesn’t seem to show the me who I really think I am. Luckily I look better in real life than photographs but still…..
Anyway back to the mirror. I suppose I had been thinking that as I was being so “good” I would be losing weight (and I might be but not as in the old diet days where a week on a diet would see 7lbs disappear). Thankfully I am sensible enough now to just give myself a good talking to: perhaps my body won’t change but, you know what, it does its job, it keeps going and I’m not huge, so maybe I just need to let this go too? Maybe I could stop doubting myself, stop even thinking about those voices that are encouraging to go back to the dark side. I don’t want to and I don’t need to.
I’ve realised that for years and years I have been afraid of food. Food would call to me when it was in the fridge, in the cupboard, or somewhere else, hidden, out of sight. I knew it was there, it kept reminding me and it was only a matter of time before I went to the place, took the food out and ate it. It didn’t matter if I was hungry, the only way to get away from thinking about the food, remembering the food, knowing the food was there and that at some stage I would eat the food, was to eat it. Of course, not longer after I had eaten this food I would feel compelled to buy more and go around the loop all over again. The food was in charge and I was just a slave to it. I understood the theory of not banning any sort of food, not being on a diet, but my sad reality was that some sorts of food were dangerous,I couldn’t be trusted around them. They needed to be kept out of my house, my eye sight, my imagination. I couldn’t control myself around these foods.
I was thinking all this today when I was preparing dinner in the kitchen and how much my thinking and actions have changed. These foods are in my kitchen, they are in my cupboards but I no longer feel I have to eat them. The chocolate basket has remained untouched by me for over 4 weeks, the crisps in the cupboard remain clipped from the last time I ate them and I don’t remember when that was. I am in charge.
I went for a drink at a friend’s house the other day and she produced a bowl of crisps to have with our wine. I felt challenged (not afraid but aware of my “crisp” history) but I managed to have a few without feeling the need to eat them all. I enjoyed them but that didn’t make me come home and finish the ones nestling in my cupboard. They were just snacks, something to be eaten with wine, and they had no power over me. Like I said, I am in charge.
After decades of reading diet books, looking for that one diet that would be perfect for me and lead me to the promised land of a slim body and away from an obsession with food, I realised that I was never going to find it, that I was getting fatter and that I needed to give up dieting and find another way of eating that worked for me, kept me healthy and gave me back the huge parts of my mind that I had devoted to this pointless quest over the years. These “giving up dieting” books seemed to have one thing in common: identifying when you are hungry. They asked lots of questions, asked where you were on a scale of hunger and suggested you worked towards feeling pleasantly full. Great advice generally, but useless for the life-long dieter, who had been eating when someone else told her to eat, and eating food (and amounts) dictated by someone else too. How do I know when I am hungry?
Of course I know when I am very hungry, when my stomach starts to rumble, when I would eat virtually anything I could get my hands on to make me feel better but the feeling of hunger approaching? I lost touch with that years ago. I eat meals at roughly meal times, the times I have eaten at for years because I have other things to do, I have people I want to eat with, so an approach of I shall wait until I am at a 7 or 8 on the hunger scale doesn’t really fit in with my life even if I knew what it felt like. I eat when I know I won’t be able to eat later. I still eat according to a routine and a lot of that is having to go to work, having to attend meetings, so I eat before so I know I will be able to focus on the meeting not on my stomach, what I am going to eat, all distractions from what I should be thinking about.
Eating isn’t completely natural because my life isn’t completely natural but I am better at eating slowly, leaving food behind, not being dominated by this battle that goes on inside my head around food.
Has it finally worked? Do I feel confident and relaxed? Is my body smaller? Actually the last one doesn’t seem to matter that much anymore because it feels like the first two questions have been answered positively so the final question doesn’t matter that much. Did I really just write that? Who am I? I’m not sure I know anymore because I feel I have changed so much. Scary, but thrilling, stuff.
I feel it would be helpful for me (and maybe anybody reading) to summarise where I am now. That feels all a bit self indulgent, but do you know what? This is all about me!!! Wow, that feels a bit strange and selfish.
Anyway, back to my focus:
1 I am eating more slowly, putting down the food between bites.
2 I am really (and I mean really) tasting my food, asking myself whether I enjoy it, do I want to eat any more of it, would I prefer something else?
3 I am not thinking about food, eating, my body ALL the time. Still thinking about it but I’m not quite as obsessively.
4 I am eating because I am hungry not because I am bored, sad, angry, stressed etc etc.
5 My biggest step forward is being able to identify mouth hunger (which normally happens because of the reasons listed in point 4 and also because I see food, smell food, someone else has food, food is placed close to me). I can tell myself this is simply mouth hunger and resist. Well done, me. Well, most of the time anyway.
6 I can eat out, eat more one day than normal, without thinking that everything’s ruined and I might as well eat everything I can see until I rein myself in and go back on some ridiculous diet.
7 I am never going to diet again.
8 I am enjoying good quality, nutritious food, with the odd something off the list thrown in without feeling guilty.
9 I am eating much less than I used to because nothing is banned. I have a basket full of chocolate downstairs and I haven’t thought about it for weeks. I haven’t eaten crisps for nearly a month (I think) and I haven’t been yearning for them and denying myself.
10 I feel better and think I look better. I don’t know how much I weigh, I don’t weigh myself but my clothes fit and feel comfortable. I move freely and with confidence.
11 I am a different person. I have worked very hard to get where I am, to understand myself more and I feel it is finally working.
12 When I feel it has worked I probably won’t feel the need to write about it anymore which feels a bit sad but I suppose I could tackle any other one of my hang-ups, that should keep me in material for years.
13 I’d like you to try it too and see if it works for you. Think how much more energy you will have to focus on important things if you stop thinking about the size of your bottom!
That seems like enough for now. I am sure I will think of something else and come back to this later.
Enjoy your day x
I’ve been keeping on with my new way of eating, I’ve realised how little I am really hungry and I’ve stopped all the miscellaneous snacking. Unusually for me I have stopped trying to eat my “old” foods by justifying that I could have them for various old dieting reasons, eg I haven’t eaten much today, I can have them if I want, I won’t be able to have them tomorrow so I can have them now. Everything seems to be fitting into place, starting to feel natural and normal. I went out for breakfast this morning (I haven’t really been eating breakfast) but I told myself that I am not on a diet so the odd breakfast out isn’t going to signal that I am going backwards, quite the opposite. So it all seems good and yet….
One of the main problems I am facing if that I have been rewarding myself with food for so many years that now I have stopped doing it, stopped dreaming about the next time I can have chocolate, crisps, chips, cake, all the foods that I used to “treat” myself with that I don’t know where my joy is coming from. Does that make sense? Sure I love walking by the sea (which I did this morning after my breakfast), love sitting in the sun, love reading BUT there feels like there is a huge diet sized hole in my life. I suppose I have spent so much of my time thinking about food, when and what I am going to eat, studying my body for signs of loss or gain, that now I am not doing those things there is a void and I’m not sure what to fill it with. I don’t feel hungry but I do feel a bit empty and I need to work out how to fill myself up.
I’ve been thinking about what I wrote about my day in the “real” world, a day where I wasn’t in control of where, what and when I could eat. I feel proud of myself because I managed the situation, didn’t think this is a time to eat everything and anything because I could, and slipped straight back into my way of eating afterwards, the way that seems to be working for me, the way that seems sustainable. This, along with identifying mouth hunger, feel like huge strides forward for me. I am beginning to understand, acknowledge and be aware of at the time, how much I was eating for other reasons. I know I can lose weight by restricting myself (I am very good at following rules) but I am working towards food not being a thing in my life, having more importance than it needs to have, and my body just being normal, just what it is, rather than some sort of embarrassment, something that needs to be controlled, hidden, something to be ashamed of.
It all feels good, positive, like it is starting to work BUT (and of course there is a but) I am waiting for the other shoe to fall, waiting for it all to go wrong, waiting to wake up (physically or metaphorically) in a pile of empty crisp bags and chocolate wrappers, unable to control myself around food. I am still vigilant, I don’t trust myself yet, I still think about food too much, I still judge my body and the way I look. I shall keep working, keep writing, keep moving on.