My relationship with food is healthier than it’s been since…well, since I started eating!
As a teenager and 20-something I was obsessive about eating “healthy”, which for me was an honest attempt at both eating well and trying to be “skinny”.
I did eat “well”. I was never skinny.
In fact, I was about 10 pounds heavier than I am now during my butterless, egg white-and-fat free yogurt days.
Back then I was completely stuck (read: obsessed) on the idea that calories count above anything else so I ate the lowest calorie (which equals low fat), highest volume food I could stomach. I was always hungry, always thinking about my next meal yet never satisfied.
Yes, this was absolutely disordered.
I am not proud of this distorted and wholly unhealthy pattern but you know what? I’m not ashamed either because nearly every woman I’ve ever met has some version of this story.
Over the last 6 years my eating habits, and more importantly my thoughts around food, have shifted completely. It’s been almost that long that I’ve been trying to put into words what happened internally to make this shift because I am healthier (and “skinnier”!) than I ever have been.
I have no stress, no guilt, and no fear surrounding food.
I am not embarrassed that it took me nearly 30 years to figure out how to be this way, I am proud that it took me only 30 years.
This is the first post in a series where I will share my story on how I have shifted away from disordered eating and towards what I am calling Conscious Eating. I know from my personal experience and from observing the women in my family and friends circle that some of these things will resonate with most women reading this post (sorry men, perhaps some of you too but women have a very different relationship with food…a conversation for another time). If none of this post resonates with you, congratulations, you are one of the lucky few who have escaped a disordered relationship with food.
Here’s a few things that I do to practice Conscious Eating
I eat amazing food. This morning for breakfast I had a mushroom & asparagus hash over brown basmati rice topped with a fried egg. After the first bite I was less than impressed to I grabbed smoked salt, gorgonzola cheese, and siracha and made it amazing.
I eat what I’m craving. Similar to the above, before I decide what I am going to eat I really check in with myself and assess what I’m craving and needing. Thankfully my cravings are often for nutritious veggie and protein based combos but I don’t have a salad when only a toothsome sandwich will satisfy. When I satisfy my cravings, for taste, texture, and nutritional needs, it’s so much easier to stop eating before I’m stuffed and to be sated until my real hunger builds back up again.
I let go of set mealtimes and set meal sizes. I used to think that healthy eating meant 3 meals + one or two snacks and never going more than 3 hours without eating (gotta keep the metabolism up!). Now I think healthy eating means eating when I’m hungry and stopping just before I’m full; sometimes this means eating every two hours, sometimes I go for 8 or 9 hours without eating (it’s generally more like 4-5), which leads me into my next lesson.
I recognize that my appetite changes and shifts dramatically throughout the month. I am ravenous mid-cycle and so for a few days a month I eat A LOT. Generally my appetite evens out for the rest of time but I do notice myself being really hungry early in the day sometimes then tapering off to an average to light appetite those evenings. Paying attention to these patterns has allowed me to calmly feed my fluctuating appetite instead of getting caught up in how much I’m “supossed to” eat or not eat in a given day.
I don’t like being “full” so I stop before I arrive there. It’s really uncomfortable to be “stuffed” and makes me feel yucky, no judgement or guilt, just straight up physical discomfort. I stop (most of the time) before I’m full by chewing a lot and slowing down while I’m eating. I’ll often take a pause when I’m about 80% done with the food on my plate to check in with my stomach and depending on what it tells me I might be done eating (or I might go for 2nd…or 3rds!).
I don’t hold on to guilt or stress over my food choices. Actually, I don’t even really experience guilt or stress anymore except when I eat too much, and that’s only because it’s physically uncomfortable to me so it causes a little stress. I used to have the “last supper” syndrome regularly, where I’d overeat or eat something I didn’t think I “should” and then reprimand myself and promise I’d do better tomorrow. This was a super unhealthy cycle that never worked out, i.e. it didn’t feel good, it didn’t taste good, and it definitely didn’t yield the desired results.
Please note, the above may sound like I still pay too much attention to what goes in my mouth but it doesn’t feel that way at all. It feels like just the right amount. It feels like the same care and attention that I give to my clothes choices, my exercise habits, the way I keep my home, and the effort I put into being a good friend, in other words, life takes care, energy, attention, thought, and mindfulness.
I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments!