Thursday, August 21, 2014

Update on my intuitive eating experiment

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I recently read a book on intuitive eating (or what the author calls "hunger directed eating"). It's called "How to Have Your Cake and Your Skinny Jeans Too" by Josie Spinardi. I'd read lots of books about intuitive eating, so I was very skeptical that this one would be any different, but I was really impressed with it. It explained intuitive eating in ways that I'd never really understood before, and even better, explained HOW to do it (as opposed to just what to do).

Most people know the basic principles of intuitive eating: 1) Eat when you're hungry; 2) Eat what you want  most; and 3) Stop eating when satisfied. It sounds SO simple, right? Well, I'd tried it about a dozen times before, and never lasted long. The second I'd binge, I'd think, "See? It didn't work," and I'd go right back to counting points or calories or whatever. After reading the Skinny Jeans book, and putting it into practice, I now realize what I was doing wrong.

When trying to eat intuitively before, I would still hold onto this thought of losing weight being the top priority, so I was still being somewhat restrictive. I didn't truly give myself permission to eat anything I wanted, and I avoided certain foods that I felt I might binge on. I also didn't eat enough. I didn't really understand how to know that I was satisfied, and I would stop eating before I was truly satisfied (physically and mentally). The combination of those two things would lead to a binge.

This time around, I really wanted to give it my all and fully trust the process. I even prepared myself to gain a few pounds in the beginning while I figured it all out. I decided to try intuitive eating not for the sake of losing weight, but more so to be able to eat in any situation without stressing out over it. I was tired of counting points, and I was having a really difficult time sticking to it because my heart just wasn't in it. I figured it couldn't hurt to give the intuitive eating one more try.

I'm so glad that I did! I am absolutely loving this way of eating. It's been a huge stress relief not to think about food all the time, and not to have to plan everything out in advance. I've learned a lot about my body just by paying attention to what it's been trying to tell me.

The Skinny Jeans book describes the beginning of this way of eating as the "Doughnuts and Doritos phase", because at first, you naturally want to eat nothing but what you deprive yourself of while dieting. Eventually, your body will stop wanting all the junk, and you'll crave healthier foods--but at first, it's normal to crave (and eat) "junk" food. This is the phase where I fully expected to gain a few pounds, but surprisingly, I'm actually down 4.5 pounds since I started the intuitive eating. I still consider myself in the "Doughnuts and Doritos phase", because I get excited to eat foods that I avoided for so long. But I've been completely trusting my body, and I've been eating what I crave--whether it's healthy or junky.

The thing that has surprised me the most about this whole process is that I don't actually want to eat a lot of the things I normally think I want to eat. For example, when I'm counting points or calories, all I want to do is eat ice cream. It consumes my mind until I end up bingeing on it. So I thought that as soon as I gave myself permission to eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner if that's what I wanted, I would do just that. What I discovered, however, is when I ask myself what I'm craving, it's never ice cream! I've only had ice cream twice since starting this experiment.

I've discovered that I actually don't really crave sweets as much as I expected to. When I do crave something sweet, it's usually in the afternoon between lunch and dinner. In the mornings, while I have full permission to get a doughnut for breakfast, it actually hasn't sounded good. When counting points, all I thought about was sweets!

Whenever I would see peanut butter Pop Tarts in the store, I always wanted to buy them; but I didn't, because I just "knew" I would binge on them. I'd had them once before, when they first came out, and I did binge. So when I gave myself permission to eat them, I bought a box. I ate one, and it just wasn't very good. Nothing like I'd imagined or remembered. In fact, we ended up throwing them away after a week, because nobody in the house really liked them!

On Jerry's and my anniversary, I bought a small bag of Birthday Cake M&Ms for us to share. Again, I always wanted to try them, but never bought them for fear of bingeing. We each tasted them, and neither of us was impressed enough to eat more than two.

These were not good at all!

Some of the junkier foods have definitely been worth eating, though! The ice cream that I had at the dairy farm yesterday was delicious. I had a single scoop, and ate all but a couple of bites. I made homemade fettuccine alfredo one night for dinner, and it tasted like what I imagine Heaven to taste like.

I've been eating and drinking things that I used to avoid--like orange juice. I never wanted to waste my calories on juice, but it sounded good to have with my eggs for breakfast one morning, so I bought some. And I love that I can do that without feeling guilty for "wasting" calories on a drink.

This has pretty much been my go-to breakfast--it makes me feel great,
it keeps me satisfied for hours, and it almost always sounds good when
I ask myself what I want for breakfast.
When we went out to dinner after the Tigers game last weekend, we went to a place that is known for their Chicago-style pizza. It's deep-dish, and loaded with cheese--definitely not something to fit easily into a calorie budget. In the past, I would have blown off my points, stuffed myself with pizza, because I planned to get back on track the next day. This time, I ate two slices, and felt good. We had four slices leftover, so we brought them home. It sounded good for breakfast the following morning, so I ate a slice for breakfast. And again the next morning. I didn't feel guilty, and I didn't feel like I was "blowing it" by eating the pizza.

Something else that I've been paying particular attention to is how my body feels after eating different foods--both good and bad. I've discovered that eggs with cheese, Ezekiel toast with butter, and some fruit makes me feel good and very satisfied for about five hours. I've discovered that I'm much more physically satisfied with savory foods than I am with sweets. I've discovered that homemade chicken noodle soup gives me a stomachache (not sure why), and that fried food makes me feel tired. The fettuccine alfredo that tasted amazing? It didn't make my stomach feel very good. I've learned that cinnamon raisin granola and milk makes my body feel great and gives me energy for several hours. I never used to pay much attention to this kind of stuff before, so I've found it really interesting!

Homemade chicken noodle soup--it tasted fantastic, and
was very healthy, but my stomach disagreed with it for
some reason

Despite all that I just wrote, I haven't eaten ALL junk. I just eat what I really crave, and I'm trusting that after this "Doughnuts and Doritos phase", I'll crave healthier foods. I've been eating a lot of fruit, because I love it, but haven't been craving many vegetables yet. Hopefully I will as my body adjusts.

I think the hardest part about eating this way is knowing when I'm satisfied, or have had enough food without being stuffed.  I've probably been erring on the side of eating a little more than necessary than too little, because I don't want to cause a deprivation binge; but the Skinny Jeans book really did help me to realize when I'm satisfied. For example, when you eat the first bite of what you've been craving, it should taste like a 10 on a scale of 1 to 10. When you get to the point where it just tastes like a 7, then you've probably had enough. I've found this to be pretty accurate for me.

Something I've found to be helpful is that I don't go to the grocery store and buy all the stuff that I think I might crave--I only buy it if I have a craving that very moment. Instead, I know that I can go buy it at any time, so I'll just wait until I actually have that craving (and am physically hungry) before buying it. For example, I always see Oreos when I'm grocery shopping, and I think, "Oh, I can buy those now!" but deep down, I realize I don't actually have a real craving for them in the moment. So instead of buying them to keep around for later, I just leave them at the store and give myself permission to go buy them if I really want them later. And so far, it hasn't actually happened.

Well, this post is way longer than I intended--I'm just pretty excited that I'm doing so well with it. I've only binged once, and I realized it was because of having too much wine--I felt a "false hunger" after the wine, so I was eating to try to satisfy that--but because I wasn't truly hungry, I was never satisfied. Instead of saying, "See? It doesn't work!" and quitting, I learned that I just need to be careful when drinking wine that I don't follow that false hunger.

Our upcoming vacation will be a big test for me, because usually, on vacation, it's easy to go way overboard and say, "Oh, I'll just get back on track when I get home". But the reason intuitive eating appealed so much to me was that it's the same in ANY situation, including vacation. So I'm going to follow the same principles I've been doing all month, and hopefully continue to see progress.

So far, I'm just really happy with how everything is going. I've really enjoyed discovering all these new things about my body, my cravings, how I feel after eating, etc. It's been a fun and interesting experiment!

If you happen to have a Motivational Monday submission this week, I'd really appreciate it if you could email it to me by tomorrow evening. Since I'm going on vacation, I won't have a MM post for two weeks, unless I prepare one in advance. If I get some tomorrow, I'll put together a post for Monday. I know you've all got a lot of accomplishments to brag about! ;)