Rules. What rules?

When I was writing before I presented a summary of the things that have worked for me. I didn’t want to put forward a formula: follow this and everything else will fall into place because I know that what works for one person (me) doesn’t necessarily work for another (you). You have to work it out for yourself and I think that means not really having rules, it means winging it, making it up as you go along.

As I see it, and experience it, the problem is with rules, especially diet rules is you are either on it or you’re off it and if you’re off it you’d better make the most of those times because you’ll be back on it before you know and then you won’t be able to eat all those banned, “bad” foods. Take me with alcohol for example: I gave myself a rule that I wouldn’t drink alcohol three nights a week. Now that might seem pretty easy for a lot of people but when you come from a background with a large amount of alcohol floating around and an alcoholic parent this rule was meant to keep me safe, keep me from going the same way. BUT the problem with this rule is that when I had nights that I was “allowed” to drink I made sure I got my quota because I knew the restriction was coming. Am I making sense so far?

And it’s the same with eating: if I knew I was going back on a diet tomorrow, if I had a set of rules to follow, when I decided not to follow the rules I had to eat or drink as much as possible to make up the famine I knew I was going to impose on myself

So now so more rules. On Saturday I had one glass of wine and decided I didn’t want any more. Now I don’t diet, I eat what I like but make a choice whether to eat something or not. I have made my own guidelines but if I don’t stick to them or you decide they’re not for you it doesn’t matter. Not one bit.

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Mouth Hunger

The problem is that when you have spent so so many years on a diet is that you don’t know what hunger is. Sure I know what a growling stomach feels like and sounds like but a bit peckish stomach, a I might be hungry in an hour stomach, I have no idea.

One thing I have found out and been using successfully is the idea of mouth hunger. This happens when I know I am NOT hungry but is brought on my food adverts, the idea of food, being in a place where I normally eat etc etc. I find that my mouth feels hungry but now I simply tell myself this is mouth hunger (sometimes checking how my stomach feels first) and then ignoring it. If it’s still there in 20 minutes or so then I shall think about what I am hungry for that isn’t food. Am I bored? Sad, lonely, tired? Then I shall look after those needs without having to use food to do it.

It sounds great and has been working really well all week. I shall keep going, it feels good.

Turning a corner

Say it quietly but things feel different. I feel more at ease, more relaxed about all this eating stuff, it feels like something has clicked BUT, and it’s a huge big, massive, intimidating but,I feel like I have been here before, I don’t trust the feelings I am having. In my adult dieting life I have turned so many corners that I have made myself dizzy and ended up where I started, or even further away from where I wanted to be. Will this time be any different? Will I have the guts to show my face on here again if I feel I have gone backwards again?

I have been feeling enthused about making food, delicious food, not using anything from a packet and I feel really good. I have a lot of health issues so energy isn’t normally washing around inside of me but I do feel brighter, lighter (mentally at least) and I want to carry on feeling this way. I am not saying I can’t have any of the things that might have tempted me in the past but I am choosing not to have them. It’s down to me, only me.

So wish me luck as I wander along this road to food liberation but understand my little setbacks, my doubt, my panic, have my back, make me feel supported. I feel like I can do this (I would like to say I know but I am not that brave…yet) as I feel determined, in control, it feels right and all I am doing is eating when I am hungry. Who would have thought?

Hitting the reset button

So yesterday I wrote for the first time in ages and was worried that I had gone right back to the start and the lure of trying another diet was getting stronger BUT then I read back what I’d written and realised I had gone into the same loop I always go in. Basically my thinking was that you can’t do this, you need a diet, you don’t want to look like this, you can’t trust yourself around food, you’ll never be normal. Wow, what a lot of negativity! Talking in a nasty way to myself has become the same sort of habit as trying to lose weight: it’s been a regular feature of all my adult life. Well, no more!

I have not gone back to the beginning but I realise that I use food to keep my emotions under control. It’s my coping mechanism, in the same way that other people drink, take drugs etc. That’s not to say I sit around all day eating but when something important comes along all the important (to me) things about food go out of the window. I am not cooking from scratch, I am grabbing something handy, I am trying to keep my anxiety under control, I don’t want to feel hungry. And, to be honest, what does my dress size matter to a sick child? It only really matters to me and the way I feel about myself. Most other people don’t notice, they’re not judging me on the size of my body, it’s just me that’s doing that, talking nasty to myself.

So what I am doing at the moment is not going back to the start, it’s just realising that I have strayed a bit away from the path that will take me to where I want to be and I am getting back on track, I am hitting the reset button. I now have the time and the brain space to remember what I am trying to do, and going back to doing it. The last two days I have cut back on my eating, not because I am on a diet but because I need to get away from the easy crisps or chocolate way of eating. I am eating stuff that I enjoy, but I can live with feeling a bit hungry just to get back on track. I am not going to stick with this way of eating but I am reminding myself, especially my stomach, of what I want to eat and how much. I am getting back on track.

Blown off course

The last few weeks have been really stressful: there is nothing like having a sick child to take your mind off the size of your body and I didn’t give what I was eating a thought. Thankfully things are better now so I have a bit of brain space to think about where I am, and, probably more importantly, think about my health.

What we eat has such a huge impact on how we feel. I know sometimes I reach for a snack to give me an energy boost, something that tastes good, like chocolate for example, even though I know I won’t like myself for eating it later. When there doesn’t seem to be any time it’s easy just to pick something handy but I have been aware that picking the food that is good for my body is very important for me. It’s so easy to just grab something, something processed, ready straight away, rather than think about making something that I would probably prefer the taste of and definitely would appreciate the effect it has on me, especially mentally. I have a friend who has type II diabetes but carries on eating and drinking in a way that doesn’t help him and yet I haven’t applied the same logic to my own consumption. I have a number of health issues, and am definitely feeling my age at the moment, so how about I eat what will suit my body, make me feel healthier, or is this just me trying to sneak back onto a diet by another name? That’s what I normally do.

The past few weeks I have needed to feel full: if I eat less my stomach complains and when it is already tied in knots with worry then I don’t need any more upheaval. I eat to quell the anxiety and yet at the end of the stress I feel blobby and bloated so start feeling anxious about me, the way I look, my weight, all the same old baggage.

So what can I learn? I know that I need to keep the balance of my diet in the healthy range because it suits my body better. I know that I use food to dampen my feelings. I know I will try to sneak back onto the dieting treadmill if I don’t watch myself.

So am I any further on than when I started? I’m not sure….

Think about it

So I feel like I’ve gone back to the beginning (again): all these weeks of writing and I am starting again. I know what I am going to do so I am going to document my steps and see how I get on.

The first thing I must do is eat mindfully. You keep hearing that word, don’t you? But basically I need to eat what I like but be aware of what I am eating. I am not going to go back to the old diet/binge cycle because there is no dieting in the future, I just need to learn to relax around food, not restrict what I eat but be aware of what I want to eat, how much of it I want, really taste the food and if I want more, have more.

A big part of eating mindfully to me is eating slowly. I think I have always eaten my meals at 100 miles an hour, usually finishing before most people are half way through. Why? Well one reason I can think of is that I came from a big family and food always seemed to be the way I felt loved so having seconds meant I was loved more! I think it’s quite common the food = love thing: I’m sure I’ve done it with my own children. I haven’t got time to spend with you but have this cake/bar of chocolate/home-cooked meal instead. Food has been so tied up with my emotions for so long that it’s hard to separate them.

The sad thing is that eating quickly meant I didn’t really taste the food and, of course, when I was finished with this super-quick eating I had more time to shout at myself for being so weak in the first place. But no more. I’ve never been a huge chocolate eater but I did want to eat it when I first felt determined enough to give up dieting. For the first few weeks it was a huge draw: I knew it was in the cupboard and I had to eat it, I had some every day. Then I realised that one of the reasons I was eating it was because my husband does have a sweet tooth and even though I bought bars I liked it didn’t stop him eating them so I felt like I had to eat them first. So then I decided to move my stash to another cupboard so I know they are there, I know they are mine, so I don’t have to eat them all and eat them quickly. Result? I haven’t had any for the best part of a week, in fact I can’t remember when I last did eat some, but when I did I really enjoyed it, it felt good. Sounds almost normal, doesn’t it?

Step back and recap

I’m feeling a bit more sane about things today! Yesterday was a bad day, a day when I was going to end up as a woman mountain, where I was out of control, well, at least my thinking was out of control. Today I feel better, a bit more normal and a bit more reasonable.

I realised that I was panicking about the whole body/diet thing, that without my daily weighing in (and my mood adjusting accordingly) I felt rudderless. Today I realise that I am doing ok, I am on a road and I will keep going until I get to where I need to be. I need to take a step back from my feelings of being out of control, look at what I was actually doing, remember why I started all this and give myself a good slap (figuratively, of course). So I have summarised my thoughts on all this:

1 I am never going on a diet again, I am not going to starve myself, eat in a strange way, in an attempt to be a size I am not meant to be. All that has stopped;

2 Where I am now I need to be aware of what I am eating and drinking. This creates a bit of a problem because thinking about food is the last thing I want to do because it makes me think I might be hungry and then eat something but at this stage I need to be aware. I am not ready to eat like a “normal” person but I am working towards it;

3 I am fine the way I am: I am perfectly imperfect. I have my own hang-ups and I need to be aware of how much these affect my thinking;

4 I don’t eat huge amounts. When I see diet stories (yes, I still read them, maybe that should stop?) people talk about eating enormous meals, lots of snacks etc but I don’t do that. I normally eat two meals a day, plus a snack or two, one of which is normally fruit. Secret eaters wouldn’t find me very interesting but I do eat when I am bored, become aware of food and I do eat more than I need;

5 I am going to eat less: not in a “on a diet” way but rather just being aware and leaving a mouthful on every plate, re-training my brain that I don’t need to finish it all. I am also going to take a step back when I think I am hungry and tell myself to wait 20 minutes to see if I really need any food. I have done this a few times and end up not eating but I need to persevere. I have put a large question mark on the fridge just to remind myself to stop and think.

I don’t want this to go back into a disordered way of eating but I do need to think about what I am doing and why I am doing it. Time to take stock.