Keeping the faith

Being a lifelong dieter I can’t tell you how hard it has been for me to keep going on this road to “normal” eating. Every time I ate something without thinking, something considered bad or an item of clothing felt tight, my mind was telling me to go back to dieting. I kept reading the reviews of the latest “last diet ever” book and scanned the newspapers for articles that would lead me to the holy grail: the diet that would work without effort, without me changing anything, and suddenly everything would be all right in the world. It was hard, so hard, for me to drop these habits, to change, to accept.

But now I think I am getting there. I am not “cured” (I think I’ll always be a dieter inside but trying to ignore that nagging voice) but I am feeling more comfortable, both physically but probably more important mentally and emotionally. I think I have managed, most of the time, to put food in its place, to not obsess, to think about other more important things but like many people who have given up smoking there is always a temptation, a pull back towards these habits, these behaviours that have filled so much of my adult life. I think I will have to continue being vigilant, maybe forever, but I can live with that as it’s such a watered-down version of what I have been doing.

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Watch out! The monster’s back…

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.

So just do it!

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

Thinking about me

Whilst I have been trying to sort out my eating I kept thinking there was some magical way that “normal” people ate. I kept trying to understand these people and their eating habits, thinking they knew something I didn’t, found it easy around food and didn’t find themselves obsessed with food and weight. And some people probably do but now I have realised that those people aren’t me! I have come to the conclusion that I have to find a way of eating that works for me, not try to follow another sort of plan suggested by someone else. Writing this down now it seems so obvious but I’ve probably struggled with this more than anything else.

So I haven’t been writing for a few weeks: life has been really busy and food wasn’t a priority (did I really just write that?). I ate when I was hungry, eating what I wanted (usually limited by the food I actually had in my house) and feeling much more relaxed about it all. I haven’t denied myself anything and after all these weeks I have realised that if I am relaxed around food then sometimes I just don’t want those “bad” foods I used to deny myself. For example, we’ve both been really busy at work over the past few weeks and have had more fish & chips suppers than usual. Now I find I don’t really want them: when I can chose I don’t want chips. I can have them if I want but I don’t want them, choosing a meal with vegetables, albeit ready prepared to fit in with our lives at the moment but it’s working for me. I am not slipping into the old diet thinking, ie I had better have them now as I won’t be able to have them once I am back on the diet treadmill, but I am genuinely thinking about what I want, what would feel right in my body, and opting for that, knowing I can go back for chips any time I want. That feels really positive. Perhaps things are working and I just need to keep going?

My own rules

So Christmas has been and gone without me expanding to the size of a house. I don’t know if I ate any more than normal but I suppose I’ve been trying to work out what normal is, what it looks like. And further than that I have been trying to work out what my normal is, to understand my eating more.

Lots of experts will tell us that the answer to weight is to eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’ve had enough but when you’ve spent more than half your life eating because someone else tells you when to eat, what to eat and how much it’s very difficult to get in touch with what your own hunger feels like. Yes I know when I’m starving if, for example, I’ve been unable to eat something when I became hungry or was distracted until my rumbling stomach reminded me to eat. On those sorts of occasions it’s easy to eat a lot to overcome the feelings and sensible logic says it would be better not to get to this stage, to eat before the feeling became urgent but I find it hard to identify that time. In the same way I find it hard to recognise when I am pleasantly full: I can feel when I am becoming full but what point on the dial is the right point to stop? I suppose it all takes practice.

I have been working on leaving a bit of food every time I eat; maybe just a mouthful or a crust but something that tells me I don’t have to eat everything on my plate. I feel better and more relaxed around food. I have a basket full of chocolate in my cupboard but I realise I don’t have to eat some of it every day. Quite often I feel like a small piece of chocolate after dinner but I don’t feel the need to eat a whole bar or bag which feels like an improvement. Crisps are still a bit of a draw to me but I am working on that too.

Another problem area for me is eating when I’m not really hungry but I know I won’t be able to eat later. It feels like it goes against what I am trying to do with my eating but I am not sure how to get around it. I normally don’t eat as much but I still have a bit of my brain that tells me I can it so I should eat it and that contradicts me trying to identify and respond to my hunger. I think I need to read more around that and develop strategies. Another thing is eating with other people: if you’re out with someone it’s hard to say that you don’t want anything to eat and it could feel like a new dieting thing rather than just responding to your body. Still more to work on.

I am sticking with my mantras:

I can have it but I don’t have to

I don’t have to do it but I want to do it

That’s reinforcing my self control and keeping me in charge of all this. It is all my choice and I am working out the best way for me.

Chatter, chatter

The voices are back. I was feeling ok, I was getting my head around things. I knew I had put on weight but I was keeping the old feelings of panic under control. I felt like I was moving in the right direction: I was leaving food on my plate, I was eating what I wanted to eat, but I was still eating when I wasn’t particularly hungry to fit it in around my life, having lunch because I knew I wouldn’t have time for a proper dinner so something I still needed to work on. The chocolate stash was no longer calling to me every day but I was working on my crisps things. So far, so good: it felt like I was moving in the right direction but then….

In the old days, the PD (permanent diet) days, I would jump on the scales every day (well sometimes several times a day) to make sure I hadn’t become huge overnight. Every tiny increase would send me into a panic until I justified it, cut back and the scales returned to the previous level, usually the next day, or after a weekend. Now I don’t weigh myself, I haven’t weighed myself for well over a year. I know, well my logical brain knows, that I don’t want to spend the rest of my life on this dieting merry-go-round, I know that my body works better when I eat more but all parts of my brain know that I don’t want to be the fat girl, the one who other people look at, marvelling at the size of their bottom while being too polite to say anything. So I have found other ways to keep an eye on my size and yesterday it was the winter coat. The weather has turned colder so the coat came out. Now the coat still fits but it’s much tighter than last winter so bring on a panic and a frantic searching in the mirror for clues that I was becoming larger. Yes I have already said I have put on weight, but I was accepting this (in a panicky way) as a necessary step to becoming a normal eater, ie I had to allow myself to eat what I wanted so I could get to the point that nothing was banned and then I would learn to listen to what my body wanted/needed, eat enough and stop. All seems very sensible. But I don’t want to be fat, large, the big girl and now I feel like I am in freefall.

So I am trying really hard not to return to the old habits, go back to dieting under another name, I am trying to keep calm. Yesterday I heard about someone who has lost weight only eating one meal a day so I thought perhaps I could go back to skipping meals but surely, and I know this, that’s just dieting under another name. So I am trying to tell the voices to be quiet, I am trying to keep going, I am trying to tell myself how well I am doing. All this has pushed food and eating right back to the front of my mind just when I thought I had taken a huge step in the right direction, I thought I was getting there, and now I feel so tempted to just go back to starving myself. How sad.

Normal? What’s normal….

So things seem to have been going well over the last few weeks. I haven’t really been thinking about eating, my body, my weight most of the time. Of course I have occasional moments of panic: it’s funny how I can feel that I look and feel ok one day and then the next the self-doubt reappears and I am convinced I am on the fast road to becoming a whale! Just catching a glimpse of myself in a shop window or looking at myself in a mirror can have all those negative thoughts circulating again. I get fed up with them, but they are still lurking in the wings, waiting to catch me in a moment of insecurity, filling my brain with their toxic messages. Sometimes I find it hard to fight back, readjust my thinking and get back on the road I want to be on. It takes time.

But that’s all an aside: what I have been considering is what is “normal” eating. Take today, for example, a stressful morning: a long difficult drive to a meeting only to find the other person didn’t show up. I know that happens sometimes but I have been feeling really positive lately (if that doesn’t contradict what I wrote before?), especially about my work so I felt a bit of a dip. When I got home I made coffee and thought that I fancied a bit of chocolate, I knew I didn’t want a lot, but I had a long mental conversation about whether I really wanted chocolate or was I comforting my disappointment? Eventually I decided I did just fancy eating something sweet that had nothing to do with crushing my feelings, I broke a bit off a bar of chocolate, ate that slowly, enjoyed it and didn’t feel that I had to go back for the rest of the bar. Is that what normal people do (probably without the irritating internal dialogue)? Am I starting to be normal?