So, this is most unlike me. I have actually bought, and am reading, what seems to be a self-help book about eating. And now I am going to tell you all about my “battle” with food, and talk a lot about my own thoughts and feelings.
(Has my blog been hijacked?? No – I’m just lamer than I let on).
(More to come as I work my way through the book)
For as long as I can remember, food has been at the forefront of my mind. Whether I am dieting and relishing counting calories and seeing the weight drop off, thinking about what I’d love to eat but won’t let myself, bargaining with myself about when I will next let myself have a snack, raiding the supermarket for junk food, regretting having just pigged out, or thinking about the next diet I’ll do – it’s always on my mind.
Since my late teens, I have sought to control my weight, and have felt terrible when I inevitably “fall off the wagon” and gain weight. Matthew and I did WeightWatchers pretty successfully in 2012, and I lost about 40lbs. I’ve also (very briefly) tried Atkins and (equally briefly) the 5-2 diet. When I am following a structured diet, I lose weight. I am fine with that concept. My issue is that it never lasts. I get bored of dieting. I start to wonder what the point is. Am I really not going to eat fun foods again for the rest of my life?? Is that in any way realistic?? Is that the point of life?? Cue existential crisis.
I then abandon the structured diet, and opt for “normal healthy” eating. I can do it without the diet, right? Of course this still comes with a load of restrictions and rules.
I mostly have “healthy” days, which see me counting calories, and sticking to a structured meal plan. Then, of course, a “naughty” day creeps in. A naughty day might start out as being eating dinner out with friends and picking something “bad” on the menu. Inevitably, it will happen and I will feel the guilt. The day is then “ruined” – so I order dessert too. Tomorrow will be better. The healthy days then have to counter these perceived naughty days, and become even more restricted. This only makes the naughty days worse – as I am starving hungry and lose control. I indulge in “last supper” eating and eat everything I had thought about during the healthy days. The guilt of being naughty makes me eat more, and the day is written off – “it’s all over for me now; let’s eat everything in sight, and start the diet again tomorrow”. Tomorrow of course must be even healthier, to make up for yesterday’s blip. And so on forever and ever.
Gradually my eating becomes polarised and the naughty days involve full blown binge eating. Like buying a pack of doughnuts and eating three in a single sitting. Like buying a packet of cookies and eating it all. Eating a whole tub of hummous with an entire bag of tortilla chips – as a precursor to a full pizza for dinner, with a whole tub of ice cream afterwards. I wake up knowing that one slip, and the day will descend into absolute carnage. Black and white. Behave or go nuts.
I don’t know why I think my body cares about the 24 hours in a day, but somehow a day is either healthy, or naughty. Once it’s become naughty, there is no saving it and I might as well go to town, as after this, there will be no more naughty days. Only healthy healthy healthy. Right?
This isn’t a new phenomenon for me. Back at university, we would all egg each other on to exercise and eat under 1500 calories most days, only to go to the supermarket and buy shit loads of breaded food, ice cream, and chocolate and have blow out eating sessions together. Then of course we’d have to do extra exercise and feel super shit about ourselves the next day, and perhaps shoot for under 1400 calories…..which led nicely to the next binge.
To be clear, in my opinion this is far from a truly concerning eating disorder. I reckon lots of people have similar issues. Nonetheless, I am not happy with it – especially not as I often conceal from other people just what I am eating. Like I have actually hidden food in my desk drawer and eating it whilst other people aren’t looking. I mean, what the actual fuck? That is not normal.
So I was keen to do something about this. I had heard a bit about Intuitive Eating, and the Amazon reviews of the book were amazing. People were saying exactly what I felt; that the always embarked on unsustainable diets, even ones like WeightWatchers which are pretty balanced still ended at some point and the weight came back. Food was a constant battle and something they couldn’t face fighting for the rest of their lives. Opinions were almost unanimous that this book offered a solution.
The basic concept: dieting leads to binge eating (almost exactly as I describe). You need to eat what you want, whenever you are hungry, but only until you’re no longer hungry. Always feel safe that next time you’re hungry, you can eat that desired food again. No need to binge, no need to go hungry.
I won’t lie; I was – and perhaps still am – deeply skeptical. But for £10, I went for it. There are ten main principles to the book, and I will tell you how I am finding each of those in coming posts. One thing is sure – just reading the introduction, this book spoke to me. It perfectly describes some of my actions (including “last supper” – which is their term, but absolutely spot on).
Check back in the next few days for my thoughts on the first principle.