Ready to talk about food…

22 12 2010

Or at least I think I’m ready to talk about my issues with food. Every time I sit down to hash out this post, my mind tries to intervene. I start to think maybe I don’t really need to write about it. Maybe nothing I say is going to be important enough to put here. Maybe how I feel about my food is just too damn crazy and if I let the rest of the world (or at least the few that read this) then it’s just going to confirm that I’m making too much out of this whole intuitive eating thing. But it’s in those thoughts that pass through my mind that I know  that how I feel about food / how I deal with food / how I consume food has been a struggle since I was a very small child and it is just as much a part of this LCJ as everything else.

A while back I wrote THIS post about starting my IEJ since making goal weight and what I’ve learned about my relationship with food. When I stopped counting calories I didn’t know the first thing about Intuitive Eating. In fact, I didn’t even know what it meant until I saw a few people on twitter throwing the word around.

Intuitive eating as defined by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch:

Intuitive eating is an approach that teaches you how to create a healthy relationship with your food, mind, and body–where you ultimately become the expert of your own body.   You learn how to distinguish between physical and emotional feelings, and gain a sense of body wisdom.   It’s also a process of making peace with food—so that you no longer have constant “food worry” thoughts.  It’s knowing that your health and your worth as a person do not change, because you ate a food that you had labeled as “bad” or “fattening”.

So after almost a year of religiously counting calories and tracking my food I have decided that Intuitive Eating is going to be the way that I want to go. I mean seriously, who doesn’t want a healthy relationship with food? Who doesn’t want to be able to eat without guilt or shame or a sense of panic? Who doesn’t want to be able to feel an emotion without looking in the refrigerator or cupboard for some “hand to mouth” therapy? Who wouldn’t like to eat without checking the calorie count or writing it down on a piece of paper?  Don’t get me wrong, counting calories and tracking my food was tremendously beneficial. It helped me lose over 100 pounds and it’s a tool I can depend on if I need to take a step back for any reason. However, this journey is about learning to trust myself with food, understanding why I feel the way I do about food, and in time taking both of those ideas / concepts and applying them to life.

I can’t write about everything I’ve learned in the short amount of time I’ve been reading about Intuitive Eating but I can say it has been nothing short of eye opening. On my last post about Intuitive eating I made a short (but very important) bullet list of some of the things I knew to be true about my relationship with food and the very first bullet was this:

I eat almost consistently in survival mode

Coming from a home where the consumption of alcohol was more important then the raising of the children that lived under the roof of that home, it’s not surprising that I learned at a very early age to eat out of survival. My older brothers didn’t really step in to take care of me (they had their own manifestations of having an alcoholic mother) so as far back as I can remember I had to cook / prepare food on my own. I wasn’t a teenager…I remember making meals as young as being in kindergarten. Because we were low-income I got free breakfast and lunch at school, but at night I was on my own.

You might be surprised to know this but kindergartners don’t come with an innate ability to cook. I did the best I could. Sandwiches made from peanut butter, cereal and syrup or with half packages of bologna and several slices of government issued cheese. Whole boxes of Macaroni. Bags of marshmallows (and for kicks roasting them over a candle in my bedroom) and some days just resorting to eating sugar out of a bowl while sitting at the dining room table.

It was during those early years I began to worry that the food would run out. I didn’t have money (unless I stole it from my mother – that’s a different story). I didn’t shop. I just ate what was there in the cupboards and magically it would reappear. I began to have serious fears that the food would run out and I would never eat again. It was in that fear that I started to over eat. I didn’t have the necessary adult supervision to help me with portion control. I just ate. Sometimes it was because I was bored. Sometimes it was because  I found friendship in my food but when I began to eat because I was afraid the food was going to run out, that’s when it got out of control.

Now logically as an adult, I know that the food will not run out. I live in a society that allows me to have access to food at any given time. Unfortunately my brain is not wired just yet to understand this. Every time I eat, I’m still eating in survival mode. I put too much food on my plate because I think it’s going to run out and then I HAVE to eat everything on my plate because a) I was forced to clean my plate when my mom did participate in meals and b) I’m afraid at some point I won’t have access to food therefore I need to overeat in order to stay calm and not worry that the food is going to run out. If my stomach is beyond full (to the point of painful fullness) and the food runs out, I have stomach full of food to last until I can find more food.

Is this making sense?

Even when I started this journey and began to make “healthier” choices, I ate out of quantity rather than quality. I would’ve rather of eaten an entire 2 pound bag of baby carrots than something smaller, more satisfying and the same amount of calories.

Not eating out of survival has been a tough change in my thought process. I’m learning to allow myself to continue to have those thoughts but also combat them with logical thinking:

“The food is going to run out”

“Tara, you know that’s not possible. The store is right down the street and you can go buy more food”

“I need to keep eating because what if something happens and I can’t get to food”

“Tara, think back over your adult life and think about a time when that happened? You can’t because it’s never happened”

“I need to fill my plate up with as much food as I can because if I go back for seconds, the food will be gone”

“Tara, it’s highly unlikely the food will be gone and if it is you can always cook something else or stop at the store”

“Even though my plate is full of food, I need to eat out of the pan on the stove just in case I come back and the food is gone”

“Even if for some reason, the pan is empty and you’re still hungry there are plenty of other food options left and you can have more food”

So my first step in eating intuitively is understanding that while I want to fill my plate like this picture over here, it’s not necessary for me to live like this any longer. I don’t have to be fearful that I won’t have access to food. My fear is irrational because of what happened as a child. I am an adult and I provide for my well being now. Not my absent / alcoholic mother. I’m pretty confident that if I called any of my friends and said I needed a meal, they wouldn’t let me go hungry. I can’t rationalize the concept that food will run out any longer. While it is possible it’s not probable.

Eating out of survival.

Necessary as a child.

Not needed any longer.







21 responses

22 12 2010

I do my own sort of mix of IE and calorie counting. I don’t deny myself anything but I don’t go crazy either.

It’s funny cause I grew up in a house with plenty of food & only one sibling so it’s not like it would run out. Yet I always had that “the food is going to run out” feeling too.

23 12 2010

Even as an adult I feel the “run out” fear. Which is strange because Hello, there is food all around me.

22 12 2010

It’s funny, this post pulled out some memories for me, ones I hadn’t thought about in ages. I used to sneak food, I have no idea why, my parents rarely ever told us we couldn’t have food (time times they did it was cookies before dinner kind of stuff lol). But my brother and I both did it… hmm something to explore. Thank you for this thought provoking post, I think more people will relate than you know :).

23 12 2010

Your welcome BooBear! Love you.

22 12 2010

Four things:

1. I TOTALLY feel where you’re coming from with this. You are NOT alone.

2. Have you looked into Eat Stop Eat? That might help wee Tara see that going without isn’t the end of the world.

3. Invest in vintage or kids’ dishes. They’re smaller, so they look really full with less food. Plus kids’ dishes are just funner than grown up dishes (I have Hello Kitty & SweetPea has Transformers).

4. *big hugs* You’ve got this, honey. You are SO AWESOME!!

23 12 2010

I am going to look into the recommendation! Transformer plate?!? I just died a little.

22 12 2010

For letting me know I am not alone. No, not with thinking food will run out, but with the feeling of not being alone in eating within control. I don’t know that I’ve resolved or surfaced why I eat / worship food the way I do

I also never knew there was such a “condition” as post race blues. I went back and read that post. I felt very blue after Ragnar. We did this as an ultra team, of which I completed 38.1 miles. The next day I barely moved out of bed; not sore – depressed. Yes 5-15k ‘s are great, but the other long distace races for 2011 on the calendar have me stressing I may go through PRB again!

Thanks for the enlightening! And congrats again on reaching goal BMI!!
You Rock! (@x2bfroggy)

23 12 2010
Raeanne Sisson

did i write this? 🙂

i am also from an addictive family/past… and i struggle because i too want to eat intuitively. not sure i will ever be able to. seems like as soon as i give myself permission, i go buck wild. 😦 thank you for such an honest look into your feelings/emotions/issues/history. it helps me to see myself in your story.

23 12 2010
Jules - Big Girl Bombshell

Yes…I do understand….But I am not near the stage to start the intuitive eating.. I am still learning…….long story…not ready yet…

23 12 2010

Jules, remember the great thing about our journeys is that we set the time line. You do what you feel is right when it feels right. Intuitive eating may never be a right fit for you. When you find what works for you, you’ll know it and it will be the right time.

23 12 2010
KCLAnderson (Karen)

Tara, your awareness never ceases to amaze me. The positive, logical statements you came up with to refute the negative, emotional thoughts are key!! Keep practicing and they will become second nature!

A great book that goes along with IE is Geneen Roth’s Women Food & God.

23 12 2010

thanks for the recommendation Boo. Definitely putting this on my library list!

23 12 2010
Theresa @ActiveEggplant

I struggle every day with portion control & intuitive eating – but for different reasons. I was always given large portions as a child “because we’re big people” my Dad would say. “You need to eat like a Rankl”…since my father’s side of the family was big, I guess we ALL needed to be big. And we always had to clean our plates, no matter if as a 7 year old we were given enough food for a two 47 year olds.

I tried counting calories, but I became obsessive and angry about it. I hated having to write everything down and calculate before I could eat anything. And I really didn’t eat any less…so I didn’t lose any weight…and instead got even angrier about all of this “hard work” I was doing and not seeing results.

So I scrapped the idea of counting calories. Now I watch my portion sizes – I measure/weigh almost everything so I “learn” what I real portion/serving size should be. I’m getting there. I still have days/weeks (months!) where I am eating a lot more than I should be, but I can at least recognize that now and FIX it.

Thanks for such an open and honest post Tara. Even though we’ve all gotten here via different avenues, it helps to know we’re not alone in our struggles.

23 12 2010

True story: my mother would make me sit at the table until all my food was gone. Even if it took 2 hours. Otherwise I ate it for breakfast the next day.

Funny thing is she never woke up early enough to fix me breakfast and I always ate at school. But the idea of eating liver and onions for breakfast was enough to force myself to eat the large portion of food on my plate.

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

23 12 2010
Theresa @ActiveEggplant

That’s exactly how my father was with making us sit at the table til our food was gone. My sister wouldn’t eat hot dogs or green beans for YEARS because cleaning her plate meant eating way too much & she got sick.

So happy we’re NOT doing this to ourselves anymore.

23 12 2010

Tara, this is such a powerful post because you are NAMING where your fear comes from. I haven’t figured out where MY fear comes from yet, but I am working on it. I, too, want to get to a place where my relationship with food is healthy. Last night, I took a tiny step. I was eating chocolate covered raisins, which in the past have been a “mindless” food for me – handfuls and handfuls, even after the taste is no longer that great. Last night, after two small handfuls, I took another bite and thought, “This doesn’t taste that good anymore.” And so I stopped eating them. It was a light bulb moment for me – THAT is what listening to my body and eating for nourishment and, yes, even pleasure is about. NOT eating mindlessly, but enjoying the food and feeding my body…and stopping when it’s enough.

Sorry to make my comment all about me, but girl every time you write you make me think! Thanks for doing it again.

23 12 2010

You never have to apologize to making a comment all about you. In reality it all comes down every comment / post is about us.

Naming the fears is hard. Difficult. Painful. Scary…


My next IEJ post will be about competitive eating…


23 12 2010

I have a couple of the same things. ALWAYS had to clean my plate. If I didn’t, I sat until bedtime and then there it was at breakfast. But now as an adult, particularly since I went to Africa, I can’t stand wasting food. But my solution is portion control and/or tupperware. If I put too much on my plate, I can save it for later (NOT breakfast the next day, but in a couple days when it sounds good), and I can do the same with too much food at a restaurant. It still pains me though to see others throw away food.

But growing up, I was in a house with lots and lots of brothers, which taught me to shovel the first plate into my mouth as fast as possible, then load up on seconds, then take time to converse and enjoy — if you talked or ate slowly on the first round, there wouldn’t be a chance to have more. Not that we needed more, but we all seem to have escaped relatively unscathed. But the food issues that come from childhood are crazy!!

24 12 2010

You are not alone, or crazy. I grew up in a household with a mainly absent mother as well. She went shopping once a month, so when the good stuff was gone, it was gone. I have similar issues today. I have to remind myself often that the store is open 24 hours a day, and I have the funds to buy more if I want it.

Often your posts hit me, and pretty hard too. I feel you and share many of your struggles. Thank you for putting them out there.

24 12 2010

I am trying to find a way of eating that works for me and when I read “eating to survive”, a light bulb went off.
I have approach my life from this place of scarcity, to the point where i am a border line horder, but it makes sense now that my relationship with food is not one of enjoyment, it is one of survival, and not in the good way.

Thank you for a pondering and insight into me,


31 12 2010

I have had those same thoughts my whole life…word for word…syllable by syllable. I too, have to remind myself about how Im simply fooling myself and if i need to..I can get more food. I have had to turn off the panic button. For me, there WAS a time there wasnt food…I went to bed hungry. But as Im older, have a job, that isnt the case anymore. I can take just what my body needs. it takes a lot to beat the commentator in my head. Most days I do ok.. some i dont. it is –after all–a WLJ

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