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?
When I started writing this blog I knew I couldn’t carry on with the endless dieting cycle I had been on for all of my adult life: losing weight, gaining weight, knowing the calorie content of every food in the universe, talking negatively to myself all the time, having a rubbish life. I wanted to do something different: I wanted to feel normal around food, I wanted to not worry about a number on the scales, I wanted food to be nourishment, not the answer to my problems, my friend when I was lonely, something to do when I was bored. I wanted it all to go away.
I have read endlessly about how to give up dieting, how to live with food again and I thought I had come up with the solution. I couldn’t ban foods anymore, I needed to think about what I wanted to eat, I needed to eat slowly, I needed to think about whether I was hungry and what for, I needed to use food for its original purpose and not for everything that was wrong with my life. I understood the logic, I threw out the bathroom scales, I stopped wearing clothes that were too fitted as a tiny feeling that they had tightened would be enough to send me back into a dieting panic. I thought I was doing all the right things, but now I feel I am back at the beginning.
I suppose I thought that I would go through the months I have gone through, thinking about what I am doing, working hard to overcome all these issues, and would emerge as a smaller person, magically transformed into the person I wanted to be, physically at least. But today I had to wear my swimming costume and it took me right back to the world of self doubt and insecurity, with those negative voices screaming abuse in my head. It feels so sad, so demoralising, so unfair.
So I go back to the start, I remember how I want to be, I start all the intial steps all over again, trying to feel positive but feeling scared about my future and uncertain where I shall end up.
I’ve realised the purpose of this blog is to eat without rules: if I want chocolate I’ll eat chocolate, if I want a salad I’ll have one, but I need something now to tide me over. I think it’s too much for me, as an ex-dieter, to go from living and eating by someone else’s rules, to be told what, when and how to eat, to go completely off piste and be able to eat anything I like, as much as I like, as often as I like (I’m feeling quite panicky just typing that!). It feels just like a kid in a sweet shop: allowed to have anything but overwhelmed by choice, greed and the fear this is only temporary and it will be taken away again. So it’s too much of a leap for me: I understand that people should be able to listen to their bodies and eat what their bodies need without guilt but going there straight away is like going from A to Z without looking at anything in the middle.
So I am giving myself a framework (better than rules as I can deviate from it without guilt), something that will help me keep going on my road to “normal” (for me) eating. The thing that I am doing more and more is leaving food on my plate. I have become good at eating more slowly, putting the food down between bites, it’s beginning to feel natural, so natural in fact that I don’t have to always remind myself to do it. So that is a positive.
On the list of things I still have to work at are understanding my own hunger: I think I’ve said before that I can feel “starving” but that “I need to eat something soon to stop me getting to starving” is proving more difficult. I suppose my years of dieting have made the feeling of being famished quite familiar when I was using willpower to push through another set of rules but everyday hunger? Not sure. I eat meals at certain times, usually, but then other days I don’t so it’s hard to pin it down. Yesterday for example I went for breakfast with my son, left food on my plate and didn’t even think about lunch but when I was preparing dinner there was a voice in my head telling me I hadn’t eaten since early morning so I deserved a snack. That tempting voice is still the most dangerous for me: the one that knows exactly what I have eaten and tells me to have more. So I had some chocolate (but split a bar with my partner)and later had crisps (because I could). I managed to escape the post-eating guilt but was left wondering why I did it? Something else to add to the mix?
I haven’t been writing for the past few weeks as I am trying not to think about this all the time and unfortunately writing about it brings it back to the front of my mind (well, to be honest, it’s there most of the time but I am trying to ignore it). So what have I achieved so far?
1 I have given up dieting. I am never going to diet again. I have wasted too much of my life trying to lose weight on conventional diets, the latest wisdom, without getting anywhere, well ending up bigger than I started. No more!
2 I am eating better, more natural foods, but not denying myself treats. I am working towards finding a way of being relaxed around food, eating, my body, my weight, myself basically.
So far, so positive but one thing I am really struggling with is understanding when I am moderately hungry. I think for so many years I haven’t been at this stage (either stuffed or starving) that I can’t seem to identify when to eat something to stop myself getting really hungry and then having a binge. The steps seem very simple: eat when you’re moderately hungry, eat until you’re fairly satisfied and stop but what happens when you can’t identify this point? I know when I’m famished (normally when I’ve been busy or engrossed in something and my stomach is rumbling loud enough to hear) but normal, everyday hunger? I’m not sure I know what that is. Something like I could eat a bit but not a whole meal. And the calculation is further complicated by mouth hunger (mainly because I am trying to work out if I am hungry or is it just because I am thinking about food) and my past (dieting, eating at set times etc).
Now that’s a bit difficult: I don’t live alone so I can’t always say I’m not eating now as I’m not that hungry as we have dinner, say, at the same time every night. Does my body now get hungry at that time because it knows it’s dinner time? Once I eat dinner I don’t really want anything else though those chattering voices can suggest I might like a bit of chocolate but if I resist then those feelings go away. It’s something I am working on but when I have spent so many years with my eating being governed by external rules it’s not easy to go back to working it out for myself.
I’m sure I’ve said before how frustrating I find this process: understanding what I need to do, trying to do it but having to wait so long for results. I want to change my thinking and I know I have to do that slowly, in baby steps, not rushing anything, but I want to get to the end. I want my thinking to be different, my mind to be different, I suppose I want me to be different and, being really honest (and what has really only occurred to me while sitting writing this) I don’t want to put in all the hard work. That’s a bit strange, as I was always a champion dieter: once I decided on a plan I stuck with it, losing weight faster than most of my friends, following the rules religiously. This feels different: there aren’t any rules, I have to trust myself not follow someone else’s plan. It’s hard for me.
Often I feel blown off my course: I can wake up feeling positive and then decide I’m letting myself go (for no other reason than I look at myself differently) and then I seem to go into a decline. I have to keep fighting those voices in my head, those negative irritating voices that tell me how awful I am, how I should be slimmer, basically how my whole existence and its meaning is dependent upon my dress size! Sounds ridiculous when I write it down.
So I am going to keep working, I am going to keep telling those voices to shut up, I am going to keep trusting myself. This is just one more step forward.
After a bit of a wobble I am feeling more positive today. I’m doing something new and that is bound to feel strange, it will take me a while to get used to this way of thinking, and most important of all start to accept myself the way I am. If my weight settles at a higher level than I would like am I going to spend the rest of my life thinking about it, contemplating everything I eat, being tempted by the scales and thinking about going back to dieting? NO! I don’t want to do that so I have to live with the doubt, the nerves,the newness of it all. It’s just very hard, especially when I don’t know where I will end up.
So my latest thought is to distract myself, to think about something else, make sure I am busy and happy and then food/weight won’t matter so much. I don’t need to think about what I weigh, what I look like, what I am eating, what I am allowed etc anymore. If I am really honest my biggest fear is getting fat and people noticing but not saying anything about it. What does that say about me? Do I want or need to be around people who are even remotely bothered about the size I am? I suppose the bottom line is that I need to accept myself and not worry about other people but not being able to do that is probably what got me here in the first place – sigh!