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.