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.
With all this writing about what I do and don’t eat, why I eat, when I eat and how I feel about eating I have found it easy to forget that the way I appear in the world is much more about the way I feel about myself. In the past a tiny gain in weight was enough to ruin my mood, imagining that I had somehow become a different shape overnight and everyone could see the extra bit of weight on my hips! It sounds ridiculous when I write it down but I know that’s what was going through my head. I’d like to say that giving up the bathroom scales had cured me of this but I think I just put another measure in its place, ie panicking about eating too much like the whole bag of chocolate as I wrote about yesterday.
When I look back on my adult life I can see my weight fluctuating by several stones, me feeling great in tight jeans and a failure in stretchy trousers but when I talk to friends they didn’t notice this; what they did comment on is the way I looked to the world, whether I was happy or sad. I’ve always made an effort with the way I look regardless of my weight: my hair is done, make-up applied and I like to think I coordinate my clothes well but a tiny increase was enough to make me doubt myself, worry about what others were thinking. I’d be very angry if my daughters only judged their worths by the size of their thighs but I can see now that perhaps I passed on a lot of my weight hangups onto them and that’s probably how they do feel. Yes I dressed it up as healthy eating, with the odd random alleged allergy, but the message was probably the same and I can remember telling them occasionally when I felt “fat”. That makes me feel sad. I am worth more than that and they are worth more than that.
I am learning to like myself more. Of course the negative body chatter still goes on when my clothes feel tighter or I’ve eaten more than I eat but I find it easier to shout it down. I might never lose weight, I might end up bigger than I am now but I feel determined that I have better things to do with my life than obsess about what I eat and the size of my stomach!
Today I am bad tempered. Why am I bad tempered? Because I feel fat. I look at myself in the mirror and don’t like what I see: I don’t see the “good” bits, I just see the fat, the letting-go, the things that make me lesser than. Usually these feelings would make me start on another diet, another restricted eating plan, another trying-on of the jeans with a promise to make them a bit looser, look better, to make myself feel better. So much of my self worth is tied up with how I think I look. I imagine people judging me: people who haven’t seen me for a while thinking about the weight I have gained, feeling sad and ignored, and yet I know so much of this is inside my head.
Through the years I have lost (and gained) a lot of weight: the times I was slim seem to have passed in a flash and I was soon back in those comfortable clothes, long tops, trying to disguise what I see as my failure, hiding the evidence from all those people that I knew were judging me. But did I know it.
Now I am certain I can’t spend the rest of my life punishing myself, restricting what I eat, focussing on how many calories or carbs I have eaten that day, rewarding myself for being “good” and beating myself up for every lapse. A self-imposed life sentence of misery and yet the journey to learning to eat normally, to using food simply as fuel, is tortuous, every turn provides a new challenge, a new uncertainty. I keep going but I doubt myself every step of the way and wonder what those behind me are saying about my body.
I’ve realised how much eating I do because I am bored. I don’t tend to think of eating when I feel sad, lonely or fed-up (no pun intended) but boredom will do it for me every time. I’ve started watching myself doing it, thinking it, and most importantly resisting it. The other evening, for example, I was watching some tv and was aware my mind had started wandering to what was in the kitchen, what I could eat. I stopped myself, asked myself was I actually hungry? The answer was no, but I did eat something. I thought it was a breakthrough for me just being aware and I didn’t beat myself up about it afterwards. The next day I went over the incident in my mind and decided I could do more to resist, I could take a moment, distract myself, but I understood it was part of the learning to eat like a normal person, someone who isn’t obsessed with food all the time, and it felt like an important step forward.
I’ve started to do something else rather than allowing myself to get bored: I write here, I’ve started reading novels again, and I’ve been going walking with my daughter after dinner. It’s lovely to spend time with her, I feel better for walking and it stops me thinking about food and having access to a kitchen full of it. It feels like a huge step in the right direction.