Thursday, February 09, 2012

When Your World is Tumbling Down Around You, Binging Doesn't Help...by Liimu

This was one of the most stressful weeks I can remember in a long time. At one point, I actually wasn't sure if I was going to throw up or cry, but I felt like something was definitely going to burst.

Here are a few of the things that happened to put my already overfull plate into a sloppy, too may trips to the buffet, food everywhere including on the floor, the seat and all over my outfit mess:

1. One of my clients informed me on Tuesday that a training program I was supposed to develop by the end of February needed to rollout the following week. This would result in days that started as early as 7 am and ended well past 11.

2. The Achilles injury I suffered when in Jamaica had developed into full-blown tendonitis, which meant that I would have to take a break from one of my favorite stress-relievers, rigorous exercise.

3. My mother-in-law went into the hospital, followed soon after by my sister-in-law (they are both out now and doing much better, thanks for asking).

4. And to top it all off, I had my period.


By Monday, I knew I needed to get my butt to the therapist, and pronto. I sat in the chair, just crying and crying (part of me felt good just to have an opportunity to cry, something I try not to do in front of my kids or clients...not always successfully). Once the tears slowed, she explained that I was just over my limit. Once I found a way to bring the stress down slightly and take care of myself a little bit (a manicure, a massage, etc.), I would feel much better. Then she asked me the question I knew was coming:

"How has your food been?" and that's when it occurred to me:

My food had been great.

Despite all the stress, I had eaten really well, and had naturally gravitated toward healthy food and reasonable portions. I had continued to juice green vegetables every day and had continued to bring my own food when faced with situations where the food choices might not have been good for me.

She and I were both amazed. I have been on this journey toward intuitive eating for nearly 6 years - starting off in full blown eating disorder, binging and body dysmorphic, and then going through a series of phases of eliminating sugar, dieting and exercising to the extreme, and finally breaking free of diets all together.

The book, Intuitive Eating, talks about the five stages of becoming an intuitive eater:

  1. Hitting diet bottom, when you can no longer diet but you don't know what else to do. I've talked about being in that frame of mind. It's maddening, because you actually often gain weight during this phase, which makes it that much harder to keep from dieting. You have to resist the temptation, though, because dieting will only forestall the inevitable.
  2. Exploration - conscious learning and pursuit of pleasure, where you get reacquainted with hunger cues and what's pleasurable and what your body needs. The authors of Intuitive Eating talk about the fact that just like when you are driving a car for the first time, you don't berate yourself for getting lost sometimes, it's important to be patient as you find your way with intuitive eating. Again, because of trying some things that don't necessarily work so well, the weight tends to stay the same or even go up a bit during this phase. (That was my experience.)
  3. Crystallization, where you finally start to experience the new behavior from stage 2 begin to take hold and become natural. You begin to trust yourself and your body's signals. Some weight loss happens during this phase or you at least begin to maintain, rather than gain. You continue to make peace with food and honor your hunger most of the time. From Intuitive Eating, "...more important than weight loss at this stage, is the sense of well-being and empowerment that begins to take place. You won't feel helpless and hopeless anymore." This is the phase I'm in now. It's a much better place to be than anywhere I've ever been before, and I'm excited about where I'm going from here.
  4. The Intuitive Eater Awakens, where all the work you've been doing up to this point culminates in a permanent, comfortable intuitive eating style. You opt for healthier lighter foods because it feels better to do so, not because you think you should. The desire to have fatty foods just because you can diminishes. Negative self-talk will come to an end. Weight loss becomes more evident and you're well on your way to your natural weight.
  5. The Final Stage - Treasure the Pleasure, is where you have fully reclaimed the intuitive eater within you. You trust and honor your body's natural cues related to hunger and fullness. You feel no guilt about food choices or quantities. Your relationship with food is healthy and you can "treasure the pleasure" eating gives you. Exercise is no longer a burden, but a way to feel better, physically and emotionally. During this stage, your weight naturally decreases to a place that is comfortable and appropriate for your height and body frame. You ca easily maintain it with no effort and without the emotional ups and downs that go with dieting and binging.
I have to say that for me, being in stages 1 and 2 without having read the book was extremely off-putting and scary. I couldn't understand why I kept gaining weight (or just wasn't losing) and wanted so desperately to try just one more diet. I am SO glad I resisted the temptation. I have never experienced this type of relationship with food (or if I have, it was so long ago, I can't remember). My relationship with food now is:
  1. Food no longer has a hold on me.
  2. I am intuitively eating food that's good for me and tastes good.
  3. I don't have to have any shame or guilt (or shoulds) about my food choices
  4. I don't feel guilty for missing a workout
  5. I look forward to working out
  6. There are no bad foods
And I'm just a regular person - not Jillian Michaels or Dr. Ian Smith. I'm just a regular, 40-something mom of 4 who got tired of the messages from the media (and my own head) telling me I'm not good enough just the way I am, that I need to lose 10, 20, 50 or more pounds in order to be okay. That if I eat this diet food or do that workout I'll be okay. That if I can just exhibit a little willpower, I'll be okay.
I'm okay right now, thank you very much. And getting better all the time.

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3 Comments:

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