Do you remember when you were young and were told you had to finish the food on your plate or you couldn’t have dessert? Or that it was rude or disrespectful to the cook if you didn’t eat all the food you were served? Do you remember falling and being soothed with a lollipop or an ice pop? Well, that was the beginning of you learning to ignore your needs and replace them with habits like overeating and emotional eating.
- Finishing a plate of food you didn’t want to eat = ignoring your fullness cues.
- Eating because you were told you had to = ignoring your hunger cues.
- Soothing with food when you’re hurt or sad = emotional eating.
As you got older, those habits became so normal, you didn’t even recognize them. So, when you got upset (or sad, or excited, or heartbroken, or wanted to celebrate), you ate a ton of ice cream or drank a lot of wine. Or when you ate, you had to finish what was there, even when you didn’t really want or need any more.
Chocolate was my go-to. Milky Way to be specific. It always brought me comfort.
When I was young, I’d go grocery shopping with my mom and we’d always grab a Milky Way from the checkout line at Shop Rite. Then we’d split it in the car. That was our thing. It made me feel connected to her. As I got older, if I needed comfort, I’d reach for a Milky Way. If I didn’t have one, I’d run out and buy one, and whatever else I could get my hands on in the candy isle. That was emotional eating, before I even knew it had a name.
I’m grateful now to have learned how to approach my emotions from a different perspective. To be able to identify them and work through them without needing food for comfort (or punishment).
But it’s not easy. At least not at first. It takes loads of self-evaluation. It takes patience. It takes time. It takes allowing yourself to be uncomfortable and figuring out how to bring comfort in a healthier way.
Enter moderation, my new way of eating.
Which is no longer controlled by how I feel. Instead, I focus on what my body actually wants: intuitively. It may not be the sexiest or most popular way to change your body, but it is by far the most effective in the long run.
I will never diet again. I will not try their miracle shakes. I will not cut out food groups. I will not count points. I will not “cleanse”. I will not fast. I will however, eat food that satisfies me without leaving me feeling stuffed. I will eat protein and fiber at every meal. I will also add in the foods I love like rice, potatoes, and hello….bacon. I even reach for a Milky Way every once in a while, if I so choose to. And most importantly, I will listen to what my body is telling me. If I’m hungry, I will eat a well-balanced meal. If I’m satisfied, I will stop eating.
And I will not let guilt, shame, sadness, comfort, or even happiness and excitement anywhere near my food. Food fuels me, and THAT IS IT. Emotions should not be dealt with in the kitchen.
Eating all foods in moderation takes practice. It’s simple, but not easy. It’s simple to say “I’ll eat when I’m hungry and stop when I’m not”. But actually doing it takes time. You’ve learned to ignore your body for so long, that making room for trial and error is necessary. Want to stop dieting and learn to listen to your body? Try these tips:
Every hour or two ask yourself “Am I hungry? “. If it’s real hunger then eat. If it’s habit or boredom, then think of a new habit to replace it with.
Pay attention to how you feel after you eat. In the past I’d eat pasta and feel shitty, then wait for it to pass. Now I know that when I eat too much pasta, my fingers swell and my belly bloats. So smaller portions are right for me.
Try eating the food you love every day. For example: eat a little chocolate every day after dinner. I love a little dark chocolate with sea salt. Yum! Or take a spoonful of ice cream every night. After a while, it won’t feel so forbidden, and your cravings will dissipate.
Drink lots of water (about ½ your body weight in ounces). If you don’t love water, add some berries or lemon for flavor. Or try flavored seltzer
The things we want and value most take time and effort to achieve. Value yourself. Value your health. Value your peace of mind. Value the process.
And remember “What comes easy, won’t last. What lasts, won’t come easy.”- Author Unknown