This post is the first in what I hope will be an ongoing series of updates about what I’m learning about intuitive eating and how to best feed my body. I’m posting here not only to share what I’m learning with others who may find this information useful, but also to document this information for myself to refer back to as I work on building a better foundation of healthy eating for myself and my family.
Also, please note that I’m really, really new at this and still learning what it’s all about – baby steps.
Exploring intuitive eating makes me feel like a scientist. I can’t remember a time when I haven’t been influenced by other people’s judgments about food — broccoli good, Twinkies bad; skinless grilled chicken good, fried chicken bad; spinach good, carrots bad (that one from when I did the Carb-Addict’s Diet); beans good, rice bad (South Beach); Triscuits good, Wheat Thins bad (Sugar Busters); fat-free sugar-free ice cream good, grapes bad (thanks, Weight Watchers). Intuitive eating means I wipe the slate clean with all of those judgments and I eat like a researcher: I’m observing the effects that different foods have on my body, making hypotheses, and then testing those hypotheses to see if they’re valid. It’s the scientific method, y’all!
For instance: I’ve long been a big diet soda drinker — Diet Coke with Lime, specifically. I got hooked on Diet Coke with Lime the last time I did Weight Watchers, and then I kept drinking it because (a.) I felt I could drink it without feeling guilty, and (b.) honestly, I liked the taste. (It’s the Lime.) But about a month ago I finished up my 12-pack and decided not to buy more, because I was trying to limit highly-processed foods so I could better tune into my body’s signals.
Then last week, Aaron brought a 12-pack home from the store, and I drank a can with lunch. That evening, after we got the kids to bed and collapsed on the couch to watch Criminal Minds reruns, I realized I was starving — despite eating a dinner that had left me feeling full only a few hours before, and despite eating normally all that day, I was ravenous. So I fixed myself a plate of leftovers from dinner and ate them…and it was like my hunger hadn’t even been touched. Even though I could feel that my belly was full, my brain was convinced that I was famished.
I wondered: Were the Diet Cokes with Lime affecting my hunger/satiety mechanism? So I went a few days with no soda, maintained my normal eating pattern, and then tried a Diet Coke with lunch again — and the same thing happened that evening: a feeling of starvation that I couldn’t shake, even though I knew I was full.
So I’ve concluded that artificial sweeteners may affect my body’s ability to feel satisfied by food, and it’s something I’m watching for now. That’s not to say Diet Coke with Lime is completely off-limits to me now; just that I’m aware of the likely effect it will have on my body if I do drink it, and so I’m making an informed choice. (And frankly, I’m far less likely to choose to drink one if I know I’m going to be feeling unsatisfiably hungry later, because it was not a good feeling.)
Other things —
1. Breakfast: For a couple months now my breakfast has been the same items, varying only in quantity based on how hungry I am that morning: whole wheat toast with peanut butter, a grapefruit, and a latte. It’s a good breakfast for me because it provides me with plenty of energy that lasts until lunchtime, and the foods are ones that I really enjoy. And eating the same thing for breakfast every morning gives me a feeling of security that I don’t have to be making food choices before I’m fully functional, and provides a morning ritual that I find soothing.
2. Salad: It turns out I really like salad! This is surprising! Salad has always been a staple of any diet plan I’ve been on (from the salad you’re required to eat every night at dinner on Carb Addict’s Diet, to the year I gave up everything except fruits and vegetables for Lent), but I never actually enjoyed it. But here’s what’s changed salad into something I look forward to eating instead of a chore: regular salad dressing. Also the occasional croutons or shredded cheese. Thanks to those couple of tablespoons of full-fat dressing, I’m eating plenty of leafy greens and raw vegetables, because I want to. It’s been revolutionary!
3. Lentils: I wasn’t a huge lentil fan until I took an Indian cooking class last week and learned to make dal. A few days later I made a batch of dal and brown basmati rice for lunch. It was yummy, but it didn’t necessarily seem like anything extraordinary — until the next day, when I realized that — well, when I realized that apparently I hadn’t been getting enough fiber in my diet before then. Because I went to the bathroom, is what I’m saying, and y’all, it was miraculous. So now that I know what the, ahem, results can be of an increased fiber intake, I’m more aware of finding other ways to incorporate it into my diet. (I just can’t go back to the way things were before. Once you’ve gone like that you you cannot go back, if you get what I am saying.)
So that’s where I am with intuitive eating so far. It’s hard for me to take a neutral approach to food, but practice, practice, practice, right?