Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Downside of Intuitive Eating

I don't talk about my Intuitive Eating journey often enough on here. Part of that, I think, is that in real life I frequently have to defend my way of eating, which makes me want to hold tighter to the parts of it that stay personal. But lately I have been struck many times by the downside of the process. Downside? There isn't supposed to be one! But, as with everything else in life, there are pretty parts and not-so-pretty parts, and sometimes they are even the same thing.

Family tension: My family doesn't eat like I do. They don't even understand my new way of eating. If I refuse dessert because I am not hungry or it doesn't sound wonderful, someone comments, "Jenny is trying to be good." Um, no, I am not...I think eating choices are morally neutral...I am just not hungry! Frequently if I don't put something on my plate, it's personal to the cook, and if my meal doesn't look 'balanced' I sometimes get a speech on the subject (as does Nate, who is the most intuitive eater I know...but at family dinners, there are veggies, fruit, chips and salsa out and he eats bunches of those and then when it is 'dinner time' he eats only meat...and gets a speech about it, every time. Um...he already had the other food groups? And what he eats is none of your business??!!). To be fair, this situation is getting better. I think my family has given up.

Inability to commiserate: Eat something not 'on your diet'? I could care less. Moaning and groaning about your belly? Really, I think your belly is fine. I think mine is fine, too. I don't care to sit around wallowing in self-hate, denial and false hopes. I actually think it's stupid to starve yourself or try to follow some formula. This does not make me popular.

Inability to eat emotionally: What?! But I thought that was the GOAL of this whole thing? Well, yeah, but do you realize what that means? It means...that when I am sad, chocolate is irrelevant. That some people who care about me can't make me happy by giving me Ghirardelli. I have to find new ways to cope. I am no fun at all-women ice-cream pity-parties. Chocolate sits in my cupboard or night table long enough that it has to be thrown out. In some ways that is very sad.

It's a bone of contention: Generally, what I believe about food and body size shouldn't be a point of argument, but it has become so at times. For instance, Raoul was coming over one evening. I asked him to bring me a cheeseburger. I don't eat cheeseburgers often but that night it really sounded good. What did he bring me? Nuts and berries. I kid you not. I insisted that nuts and berries are no 'better' or 'healthier' than a cheeseburger, but this was brushed aside. Of course they must be better for you! After all, you can pick them right off a vine! Um, no, actually, if one's body demands a cheeseburger, nuts and berries are not going to satisfy, no matter how 'healthy' they are deemed by some expert or another. And no, I don't really care that our ancestors and even some people on the planet today survive on that kind of diet, you can't listen to my stomach and you have no right to tell me what to eat. I could barely choke down a few nuts and berries and had to go to bed hungry (carless, mother hubbard me that evening, or I would have done something about that). Granted, not everyone is as conceited and self-righteous as my ex-boyfriend, but still, the need to shout "You're not the boss of me!" does pop up from time to time. Sometimes it isn't a friend or relative so much as it is society and situations...like at work, where the choice of convenience food is yucky vending-machine fare or the 'healthy food' table that only has granola bars and dried fruit...and this girl needs protein! So I have to go with the yucky Jenny-hating vending machine and be deemed 'that girl who is so fat because she eats hot pockets'. Well, no one has said that aloud, but you know how society makes you feel.

It won't make me skinny, and it ain't fast: Intuitive eating will never make me skinny. If I hadn't screwed with my metabolism to begin with, then perhaps I could intuitively eat myself to a socially acceptable weight, but I did screw with my metabolism and I have no delusions about what that means. I will be fat the rest of my life. I am ok with that now, but other people are not. The Navy, for instance. Nate's Sea Cadet unit could sure use another uniformed adult...but my body is, according to Navy regs, "a disgrace to the uniform." As if body size is, again, a moral issue? Um, no, thanks anyway. And other women are always assuming that I am trying to get thin. Nope! Wasted enough years on that, thanks! But then again, it is hard to give up the diet dreams, plus it is yet another way that I am different from the women around me.

The worst part? When angry at things like this, potato chips are no help. Sigh.

It makes special occasions harder: I almost didn't eat my own birthday cake this year. I wasn't hungry. It didn't even sound good, even though I had asked for it. I finally ate a small piece just to be polite, but I have grown to dislike doing such things. I know that naturally thin, intuitively-eating people eat when they are not hungry, and that is what I told myself, but I guess now that I am listening to my body, it's hard to argue with it.

It's more work sometimes: Starving myself is not an option, even for convenience's sake. Although I do struggle with this from time to time, the right thing to do is feed my hungry body. This is especially hard when I am home alone. Cooking a whole meal for one person who isn't even going to say thank you? What fun is that? But the other night I did make myself cook up a great chicken-pepper stir fry (with nuts...leftover from the anti-cheeseburger ex-boyfriend). It was wonderful, and I was so glad that I had done that. It hit the spot perfectly. But most days, I just want the hunger to go away rather than a cooking/eating experience. I have to learn to take better care of myself than that.

All in all, I still choose this path. I am free from the bondage of emotional eating, food rules and regulations, self-hate, despair, false hopes...it's wonderful! Freedom is a tasty thing :-)