Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the tag “hunger”

Like with most things, “free” foods aren’t really free

Last week I wrote about my belief that if you are fat and you want to lose weight and keep it off, I recommend giving up your binge foods for good. For me, my personal binge foods are specifically sugar, grains, and starch. I do sometimes eat high sugar vegetables like onions or winter squash, but I eat them in smaller quantities than if I were eating cruciferous vegetables like Brussels sprouts or broccoli. I do also eat fruit for breakfast every day, but I even watch what kind of fruit I eat. I don’t eat bananas, cherries, or grapes, to name a few. I don’t eat any foods that will trigger my cravings.

I wanted to bring this up again because I want to say that what I do is simple, but not easy. But that it is possible. The problem is that it sucks. Only in the beginning, but the beginning lasts a long time. My beginning lasted a year and a half.

But I want to say that it was worth it to get past the suck. It was worth it to suffer through the pain of it for 18 months. I have never been happier.

When people ask me how I lost my weight, which they do (I get it – 150 Lb. weight loss is noteworthy) , and I tell them I gave up sugar, most people are already not listening. If I get to tell them that I also gave up grains and starches, and I eat specific quantities, most people are now half way down the block heading to some appointment they suddenly remembered. Some even look at me in shock, or think I am joking when I say that I not only control the portions of my proteins and fats, but also the vegetables that I eat, including salads.

We live in a culture where we have been sold an idea that we should be able to eat with impunity. That we should never be hungry. That we deserve a reward in the form of a cookie or a donut for doing the most basic tasks (also known as “adulting.”)

So when we are on a diet, we want foods to be “free.” I have been on those diets before. Pickles are free. Salads are free. Celery is free. You can eat as much of those things as you want on many diets and food programs. I, personally, see two problems with this way of thinking. 1) If the vegetables are “free,” that means that what we are saying is that food that “counts” is, at least in part, empty calories. The cake counts, the bacon counts, the ice cream counts. But the broccoli doesn’t count? Vegetables are food! They count. Why are we, as a culture, acting like they don’t? Why are we calculating and shifting and moving and negotiating to put crap in our bodies every day, and as much as our diet allows? And 2) I needed to stop eating. Eating was making me miserable, and not just because I was fat. I needed to learn to be in any given moment and not be shoving something into my face.

Part of the reason I was fat was because I could not stop, and here I was being told how to eat all day, and lose weight. Now, it may not “matter” in terms of my weight if I was eating celery all day (which, by the way, I would never do, because I hate celery with a passion), except that I was eventually going to go off that diet, and I was going to continue to eat all day, except that time I was going to eat sugar, and carbs, because those were the foods I wanted, and I already had this idea that it somehow made sense to eat non-stop. This idea that we could eat all day, and eat all of the foods we “love,” and still lose weight and keep it off is fascinating to me, because why haven’t we already been doing that all along then? Because those of us who haven’t, probably really can’t.

In putting boundaries around my eating, I learned that being “hungry” is not the end of the world. (If you have enough to eat in the first place. Please note that I am not talking about real hunger. I am not talking about people who live in poverty and who do not have enough food to live.) Learning to get from breakfast to lunch without eating something in between was a gift in ways that I could not have imagined when I was eating compulsively. Realizing that most of my eating was either to get high, to avoid feeling a difficult feeling, or to stave off boredom, was a revelation that changed my life. And I would never have had that revelation without going without food for a few hours at a time. I couldn’t have learned the lessons I needed to learn without letting myself be uncomfortable. There’s a saying that goes, If you want to know why you eat, stop eating. Being “hungry” and “wanting” to eat, and not eating, meant that I had to sit with all of the things that were making me “hungry.” And when I was confronted by them, and yet didn’t blot them out with food, I could see what they were, and I had a chance to do something about them. And, in terms of pleasure, being hungry meant that when I got to eat my nourishing, abundant meal, I enjoyed it in ways that I never enjoyed eating before. Even when I had been eating chocolate cake, or donuts, or pizza.

I do not get hungry very often anymore. It happens occasionally, but for the most part, the meals I eat are enough to get me to the next one happily and comfortably. From time to time I am ravenous by breakfast time, since the time between dinner and breakfast is often around 11 hours, and usually includes a 2-mile jog. But for the most part, I don’t think about food, unless it is to plan tomorrow’s delicious meals. And I am sure that it’s because I am eating real, whole, nourishing foods, not empty calories. And because all of them count. And because I am dealing with my eating problems, my mental obsession with food, and my addiction, rather than my weight.



Because sometimes you just have to choke it down…

I have not been hungry for a while now. Dinner has been tough for a few months. I have been trying to make it as small as possible. Sometimes, if I am eating alone because of work or just because my boyfriend wants pizza or something I can’t eat, I make this teeny tiny dinner that I can eat in 10 minutes and be done.In some ways it is nice to not care about a meal. Since I have spent most of my life obsessing over food and eating, it makes me feel almost kind of normal to not be hungry. I mean, sure, once I put boundaries around my eating I got a little less obsessive, but then I got a lot more excited, because…guilt-free eating!

I don’t expect this to last forever. I expect I will go back to anxiously anticipating every single bite again sooner or later. Like everything else in life, this too shall pass. 

But I feel like I have said the obvious in explaining how it’s nice for a girl who was never satisfied to not be hungry, so I want to say this next part clearly. It is painfully uncomfortable for me to eat when I do not want to eat. And it is scary for me make the choice each day to sit down and (on particularly bad days) choke down food that I would rather do without.

If you don’t know about my food boundaries, I eat three meals a day. No more. But also, no less. The idea is that I don’t eat based on hunger, because I don’t have that thing that most people have that tells them when they have had enough. I have three specifically portioned meals a day. That is how I know I have had enough. And I must eat every last bite. I am not on a diet. I am a person who is sick with food and the boundaries are my medicine.

It has become clearer and clearer over the past couple of months that I am going through a major life change. And I wouldn’t be surprised if this is why my appetite had changed.

I would tell you I don’t deal well with change, but if you have read my blog, you might know that to be a lie. I am actually spectacular at dealing with change. I’m a pro. But it comes with feelings I don’t particularly like to deal with: fear, anxiety, and that generally itchy-in-the-skin-rawness. And if I am going to be honest, the idea of pursuing big experiences and having a big life, which seems the direction I’m headed, is less pleasant than my ambitious friends and acquaintances would have me believe. 

I am not saying no to a bigger life. But I will say that there is something really beautiful about a smaller life of peace and quiet, a life of little joys. I have had one for a while and it suits me just fine.

Maybe when this transition slows down and I find my footing again in a new set of circumstances, I will get my appetite back. But for now I will choke it down. The feelings and the food and the next right action.

She’s not hungry, she’s my fat girl

As a person with eating disorders, I don’t really know what hunger is. That evolutionary trigger that says “you need fuel or you will die” does not function properly for me. So when I’m “hungry”, I can’t always judge if that feeling is a physical feeling or an emotional upset. And when I was eating compulsively, I promise, it was never a physical feeling. If you can imagine how much and how often a person has to eat in order to maintain a morbidly obese body, then you can imagine that at no point was my body in danger of starvation.

Knowing this about myself is important. Because I have eliminated “hunger” from my reasons to eat. There is actually only one reason for me to eat now. Because it is time to eat. That is part of my food boundaries. There’s a time to eat. Not just one. Three of them every day, in fact. Big, beautiful, abundant meals. And then that’s it. If I have eaten lunch and I am “hungry” I just “be hungry” until dinner. Being hungry for a few hours is not the most horrible thing in the world. Especially for someone as well fed as I am. So far, I have not died from it.

A few weeks ago I may have actually been hungry. When I quit smoking, my metabolism changed. Is still changing. And I was not feeling satisfied after my meals. So when it was time to eat, I made some different choices about what I ate. Giant cantaloupes. Less salad, more vegetables cooked in butter. And that hungry feeling went away and my body started feeling full and fed and content again. So it could be that that was real hunger. The truth is, I don’t know. It doesn’t really matter. Real hunger, emotional cravings. As long as my eating is within my boundaries, it’s basically none of my business. I don’t have to care. I don’t even have to wonder. (it’s very freeing, frankly.)

But this week, I have been feeling “hungry” and it is definitely not a physical hunger. I have been feeling this “hunger” even though my meals have been incredibly decadent and filling. Even when I have just finished a huge, gorgeous meal, and my body is stuffed, I have been “hungry”.

Even knowing that I am stuffed is something that only came to me after I had my eating under control for a while. When I was eating compulsively, I was basically disconnected from my body. Not only did my thoughts tell me that I was “hungry”, but they kept me from ever feeling the sensation of “full”. All of those feelings that lived in my mind and my thinking that occurred to me as hunger trumped any actual physical sensation. I didn’t (still don’t?) have that thing that regular people have that tells them they have had enough. All of the discomfort and shame and pain (and joy – any intense feeling is hard for me to deal with) registered as hunger. And I fed them.

But now, because I have boundaries, and therefore some clarity (not to mention sanity) I can look at feelings of “hunger”. And I have a shot at distinguishing what they really are. And I think I understand what this week’s “hunger” is about.

Right now, there are some areas of my life that are up in the air. There are some things that are not settled. And it’s not time for them to be settled. I don’t know what is going to happen. And I don’t know what I’m supposed to do next. I don’t know when I’ll know what the next right action is. I don’t even know what the next right action is supposed to lead to. So I have to wait. And be still. And I have been getting impatient. I don’t want to wait. I want to know. I don’t want to be still. I want to move. Now! And the not knowing and the not moving are making me uncomfortable. And that discomfort registers as a kind of emptiness. Like there’s something missing. Like there is a hole in my life. And the fat girl who lives in my head wants to fill that hole with food.

Here’s what I already know: There is not enough food in the whole world to fill that void.
I am grateful that I don’t have to eat compulsively today. The clarity that I have has not only let me see that impatience is the real feeling behind the illusory hunger I’ve been feeling this week, but it lets me see that it really isn’t time for me to act yet. And then it will also allow me to be alert and know when it is time to move. And to know what to do when that time finally comes. Not a rash decision and a drastic action. Rational. Honorable. Honest. Maybe not perfect, but definitely not shameful. All that for being “hungry” for a few hours every once in a while. Yeah, not a bad deal…
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