Eating What You Want, When You Want To: Can It Possibly Work?

Sometimes you really can just listen to your heart and it'll tell you exactly what to eat!

Today the anonymous blogger from Confessions of a Compulsive Overeater is back to share about her foray into intuitive eating. We’ve talked about this philosophy at HealthyGirl.org before, and it’s one I ascribe to myself. Day before yesterday, she gave us a little taste of what her life was like before recovery. I’ll let her tell her own story, but I found it inspiring how she went from counting calories and being fairly rigid in recovery to eating with more freedom. Although my details are different, I very much relate to her journey of having to start out a little stiff…then slowly loosen into an easier way of being with food.

I can’t remember exactly how I heard about Intuitive Eating. More than likely it was through the blogosphere. I read Evelyn Tribole’s book, Intuitive Eating, A Revolutionary Program The Works, and I also really got a lot out of Goodbye Ed, Hello Me by Jenni Schaeffer. It’s amazing to me how reading certain books at certain times can be so impactful on our lives. I don’t think the books would have affected me as much if I had read them before I realized I had an eating disorder. I think everything happens, or people/things come into our lives, for a reason, and those books came to me at a time when my mind was open to accept what they were saying.

I had been toying with the idea of making the transition from daily calorie counting, and weighing/measuring food portions to intuitive eating for about a week or two in mid March. Due to a combination of therapy, blogging and reading books, I felt ready to trust myself and my body to try this totally new way of eating and thinking about food. I was trying to decide when the best day it would be to start based on some other events that were going on in my life. Do I wait until those events passed, what day would make the most sense to get started with this, how exactly do I begin?

In the middle of wavering about when and how to start, before going to bed one Friday night, I read in Jenni Schaeffer’s book about taking the leap off the mountain without a parachute. I had my answer. The next day, with little fanfare, I didn’t count my calories or weigh/measure my food portions. I took the huge leap of faith. I finally had the trust in myself that I could listen to my body and that my body would not do me wrong. I realized that food is just that, food; it is not something that has magical powers over me. I control it, it does not control me.

That was three months ago and though there are days here and there, especially in the beginning, when I still sometimes tally the calories in my head (long-time habits are hard to break!), I still did/do not write it down as I had done for decades. I still feel like a work in progress. I am now pretty good at reading my hunger cues, but am still working on my satiety cues. (My cues have been thrown off after 30+ years of compulsive overeating and bingeing, so I understand it’s normal that it will take some time for my body to send me the right messages and for me to interpret them properly.) I have however, maintained my weight, so I guess I’ve been making good

Right now things are a bit tricky because though I’ve always worked out 3-4 days a week, I’m training for my first triathlon, which is more intense than my normal workouts, and it has thrown off my hunger cues. My appetite, oddly enough, has been reduced greatly. I know eating less would not be good for my training or for maintaining my weight, so I have had to eat even when I’m not hungry in order to keep my body properly fueled for my training. I feel like I’m walking a fine line between eating more because I know my body needs the fuel, and eating “just because” I can, bordering on compulsive eating. I have decided to weigh myself twice a month instead of once a month to help keep a tab on my food intake in relation to my triathlon training. As I’m dedicated to doing this first triathlon, I am equally dedicated to not blow my 2+ years of binge-free hard work and more recently, IE, but it’s difficult at times to keep my old ways from overtaking me again.

Still, letting go of the calorie counting, weighing and measuring food portions and making no foods forbidden has been freeing and empowering. When you stop framing foods as “bad” it takes away its attraction. Everything in moderation actually has meaning in my life now. So do the terms “eating to live” instead of “living to eat.” I love and embrace the new mindset of no food is forbidden, although I do choose to still make healthy choices, for instance, not choosing a meal with a cream sauce or one that is fried. Although when it comes to dessert, the sky is the limit, just in moderation. :)

Hey, it’s Sunny again. In recovery I think we all take winding paths. I went slightly overboard on being rigid before I was able to even out into “normal.” How has the eating pendulum swung for you? xo…Sunny

13 Responses to Eating What You Want, When You Want To: Can It Possibly Work?

  1. Heather says:

    The eating pendulum swings in similar, or opposite sometimes, directions to my feelings and emotions. It makes sense when you think of the feelings-behaviours-emotions triangle that anyone in therapy hears so often!

    – I had a tendency to overeat throughout childhood (when I felt ‘too big’, in the way and unwanted, really – my family and home life was a little turbulant).
    – I hit my teenage years and would have moments of bingeing and restricting (hormones and same as before at home).
    – I met my first love (and eating wasn’t such a big deal anymore). We broke up, and I started on other destructive behaviours (promiscuity and alcohol).
    – I went to University and developed anorexia (the shock of such a big change in my life and guilt at abandonning my family).
    – I moved abroad and started binge eating, returning ‘defeated’ (loneliness and depression)
    – I was successful academically and met my current boyfriend. Bingeing still an issue but much less frequently or severely, and diet less often (mixed feelings but loved)
    – I started work and made a committment to recover (again, mixed feelings but loved and supported). I binge infrequently now, don’t diet and have started cooking.

    From this, if I were to draw a graph, I think I’d see the times when I have felt negative, sad or bad as the same times when my eating is more chaotic (under or overeating). The times when things have been better are more steady.

    Thinking about it this way, I can see that there is some real-life evidence and truth in what I’ve heard and read so often: that not dieting means I will binge less, or not at all. I can also see how I’ve made progress in the past 8 months or so, since seriously committing myself to recovery.

    I’m at the hardest bit now – where I actually have to put into action all the things I’ve learnt. My head is full of chatter all the time as I seek to counteract the negative thoughts that barrage me all day. I trust my therapist who says it won’t always be like this; it won’t be such hard work forever. I just need to put the work in now to get the results – happiness and healthfulness – I want in the long term. I wouldn’t pretend to anyone that this is easy – or ever truly over, as such – but I am starting to see some of the benefits and wouldn’t go back to my eating disorder/s out of choice.

    • love2eatinpa says:

      wow, you are really on top of your history of behaviors and food! it’s great that you have such a good grasp and can really see the patterns.
      your therapist is right, it’s not always going to be this hard. clearly you are well on your way to recovery – kudos to you!

      • Heather says:

        Thanks :-) I think the awareness comes from me treating my recovery a bit like a school project (I get a bit carried away ;-))

  2. I also find it more difficult to eat intuitively when I’m working out a lot. It’s like it just messes up my hunger cues completely. I find it a lot easier to self-regulate when I’m just doing moderate exercise.

    • love2eatinpa says:

      it’s funny how our bodies do that!
      my triathlon is in a little over a week and for the past few weeks i feel hungry all the time. i guess when i wrote this post, my body was still adjusting to the more intense workouts. i guess i will go back to my regular hunger when the triathlon is over and i’m back to my ‘regular’ workouts.

  3. Rachael says:

    I’ve just started reading the Hirshman & Munter book “When Women stop hating their bodies” which is all about intuitive eating. It makes no food forbidden and takes the focus off weight loss.

    I’m really struggling with the concepts, but am trying to approach my eating from this new direction. its just so natural for me to always be thinking about losing weight AND then my life will be better. Not – getting better and then perhaps I may lose weight.

    I also found this great youtube clip of a fellow Aussie girl who is all about fat acceptance and positive body image.

    You may enjoy

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XHfrNhkvoyA

    • love2eatinpa says:

      thanks! and yes, we all seem to think that confetti will fall from the sky and our world will be perfect once we see a certain number on the scale or wear a certain size jeans. but that is not the truth. the overeating is just a symptom of something much bigger. and you know what, thin, in-shape people still have troubled lives and problems. they aren’t instantly happy all of the time because they don’t have a weight problem.

  4. […] is part 2 of my post yesterday on Healthy Girl. You can click on the link or read it […]

  5. I have so much respect for love2eatinpa! Any addiction is so hard to overcome & taking the baby steps or big steps necessary is always a learning experience, as life is! I can’t imagine coming from that point as I did not have a food addiction, I just ate too much of the wrong things & had to relearn the way to eat right for me. I am one that knows approximately what my calories are & I am a definite portion control person but since I have been at this so long, I don’t log food anymore. I also plan ahead, I plan for treats & I exercise including weights.

    With addictions, I can see how the process has to be different & again, finding what works for the person. Always impressed with love2eat lady!!!! :-)

    • love2eatinpa says:

      thank you so much for your kind words and support!
      i hope you give yourself props for realizing that you had been eating the wrong things and teaching yourself the right way to eat for you!

  6. […] to read her earlier HealthyGirl.org posts on how early her bingeing started—8 years old—and how she found her way to intuitive eating.) […]

  7. Nina says:

    Congratulations on your move to intuitive eating. It certainly is a huge step and can be terrifying. Like you, I was in 12 step recovery programs for a long time and I found it difficult to believe that I would know what to eat without having support and a sponsor.
    But as it turns out, I DO know what to eat and have been binge free for 3 years. I dont have any sort of food plan – I eat what I want, when I want and my weight has stayed exactly the same for several years.
    I threw out my scales when I decided to get rid of all diets and food plans, I just go by the way my clothes fit me.
    The miracle that happened was that my obsession completely lifted once I let go of the regimented eating plans, calorie counting and elaborate planning. This is after 10 years of absolute hell and never believing that I would be able to eat like a “normal” person again.
    Congratulations again on your amazing recovery and thanks for sharing it with the world.
    Nina

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Sunny Sea Gold

About the Author

Sunny Sea Gold is a media-savvy advocate and commentator specializing in binge eating disorder, cultural obsessions around food and weight, and raising children who have a healthy body image.