Monday, June 19, 2017

Balancing Act

Before I get started, I want to make something very clear to everyone.  I do not believe that being in optimum health is an obligation for anyone.  We all have our own choices to make, and if we CHOOSE to tune into our health and do things for our bodies that make us feel stronger and better able to withstand the constant wearing down of our daily routines, tasks, responsibilities, and stress, then that's awesome.  But in the same vein, if we decide that other aspects of our lives are currently taking priority for us, then that is awesome too!  There's no need to feel guilt because you don't run a 5K every day, or because you hear someone say, "I'm going to be bad and eat half a cookie!" when you're on your second one.  As my friends like to say, "You do you."  In other words, the only person you have to answer to for your actions is yourself. You can choose to answer to others for a time, or you can choose not to listen to anyone else and deal with the consequences that result, but it is YOUR choice.

There.  Now that's out of the way, and I can get on with today's post! :)

I am a believer in Intuitive Eating.  I encourage people to stop following meal plans and start actually listening to our bodies again.  Most people worry that they won't be able to stop eating if they give themselves permission to eat whenever their body says to do so.  If you talk to most IE folks, though, you'll hear the same thing over and over.  When they first stopped restricting foods and classifying foods as 'good' and 'bad', they went a bit crazy.  All of the things they never let themselves have before, or only allowed on special occasions, were their focus.  Their minds and bodies hadn't trusted them in their undertaking, and reacted like this freedom would end and the food would go away again.

After a period of time that varies from person to person, your mind and your body begin to work together and trust in each other.  The Intuitive Eater learns to ask themselves, "Why am I wanting this?  Do I REALLY want it, or am I afraid if I don't eat it now, I'll not get another chance?" If they decide that yes, they really want whatever it is, they eat it without guilt or feeling like they'll have to punish their body later for the enjoyment now.  The other key is that Intuitive Eaters re-learn how to stop when they are pleasantly full.

We all knew how to do that when we were children, but eventually we have been taught not to trust in what our body was telling us.  We were told when we would eat ("Your lunch period is from 11 to 11:30, that's when you'll eat whether you're hungry or not.).  We were told what we would eat ("That's what for dinner.  Either you'll eat it or you'll go to bed hungry.").  We were told how much we would eat, ("Clean your plate! There are starving children who would love to have that food!" or "Your breakfast today is half a grapefruit with no sweetener, one slice of dry toast, and a quarter of a cup of cottage cheese.  If you think you're hungry, just drink some water until you're full.")

When people return to IE, they learn to pay attention to what they're eating.  Does the food still taste as good as it did on the first bite?  If not, you may be getting full but your brain hasn't caught up with your stomach yet.  Are you starting to feel physically uncomfortable? Then you may have eaten past your full point, so next time you'll listen a bit better to your body's signals.  Does the food even taste good at all?  Or are you eating it for other reasons?  Maybe you're thirsty.  Maybe this particular food is one you've severely restricted in the past.  It's important to know just what's going on in your head and in your stomach.

I'm not saying that people with food-related health issues should ignore them and just eat whatever.  If you are truly dealing with diagnosed conditions like celiac, Crohn's, diabetes, arthritis, IBS,or any number of other issues, then pay attention to what your doctors say.  But there's a huge difference between avoiding wheat because it causes you physically to get sick, and avoiding bread because Weight Watchers or the latest popular diet says to do so.

For me, I am dealing with diabetes.  I have to pay close attention to my protein intake, and my carb intake.  This isn't because I say they're either 'bad' or 'good' foods, but because my glucose levels change based on how much of them I eat, and there are physical consequences for ignoring that fact.  Since I really don't want to have to start injecting myself with insulin, and I really don't feel like having my blood sugar go so high that I end up in a hospital, I track those things and adjust them as needed.

But I never, EVER deny myself the right to eat the things I want.  I may not be able to have that ice cream right now because I just had a cookie and my blood sugar will go through the roof, but I WILL be able to have it later!

Sometimes it is frustrating because I can easily start to fall back into the dieting mentality. When you've thought a certain way for your whole life, it's not always easy to stay on the new path.  The old path is ingrained and our minds can so easily fall back into old habits without us even realizing it is happening. That is when we need to be able to pull ourselves up short and determine if we are still following our new path and aiming for our new goals of having a good relationship with food, or if we have begun classifying food into 'good' and 'bad' categories again, and if we're denying ourselves things even when we could safely eat them.

It is time to re-learn how to eat.  Food isn't good or bad, eating is not a morality play.  Let yourself have the things you love until you are honestly satisfied.  You'll be surprised at how quickly you find yourself pulling free of the diet mentality.

I'm by no means an expert at it, but I know what I've done in terms of my own journey.  If anyone is interested in knowing more or asking questions, you all know where to find me!  But right now, I'm going to have a scoop of ice cream. *grin*

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