Monday, June 15, 2009

Intuitive Eating--Take Power

Recently, I read a post written by a fellow blogger that really depressed me. I'm not going to give the link because I don't want to give the impression that I'm dissing a woman who has reached a goal that few manage to attain and even fewer manage to maintain: losing over 150 pounds and keeping it off.

What did she write and why did it make me so depressed?

Part of her post dealt with the meticulous meal planning she had to do in order to eat away from home for ONE SINGLE DAY. Everything was planned down to the slightest bite and she took food with her to avoid any possibility of deviating from plan. Her post dealt with the anxiety and anger she felt at having to plan to such an extent, but she came to the conclusion that such planning was absolutely vital to her continuing success and that the best she could do was take a more Zen attitude towards this unfortunate necessity.

My Zen response would be: if it works for you, my friend, then more power to you.

But my human response is: this is a prison without bars! And if this is the only way to lose weight, I'd rather live free and fat. But what disturbed me at least as much as the post was the tenor of the responses: essentially, "you are my idol", "you do what I aspire to", "would that I were as "good" as you".

What's the success rate for dieters? Five percent? What's the long-term success rate? Less?

I wonder why.

Thank goodness, I had to good fortune to drop by Smoke Yourself Thin where Julie was kind enough to reproduce the 10 principles of intuitive eating. The post is well worth reading. Nay, it is essential reading.

What are the 10 principles (

1. Reject the diet mentality.
2. Honour your hunger.
3. Make peace with food.
4. Challenge the food police.
5. Respect your fullness.
6. Discover the satisfaction factor.
7. Honour your feelings without using food.
8. Respect your body.
9. Exercise--feel the difference.
10. Honour your health.

These principles are essentially the same as those espoused by Paul McKenna in his book "I Can Make You Thin". I'm not here to sell anyone's book. I think we can all do ourselves a world of good by just making these principles our guiding principles in life.

Now, I'll admit, I'm not a binge eater. I am able to say that I've had enough, although obviously, since I write a weight-loss blog, somewhere along the line I too have eaten too much. My weight gain--above and beyond my mildly overweight state for most of my life--has been fairly recent. If I lost 150 pounds, I'd be in negative weight territory.

However, I--like so many others--have a hefty amount of anxiety about food. In fact--oh the ultimate irony!!--this post is the result of a recent, (and on-going) bout of fear/anxiety, which the unnamed blogger was experiencing at the same time as I was. She had gained TWO POUNDS!! And I have gained ONE AND A HALF POUNDS!! And my anxiety is through the roof, as was hers.

Now, she talks about distancing herself from the fear and she's right. Where we part company is the way in which we view food. I'm struggling, but my struggle is not to limit what or how much I eat. It's a struggle to make peace with food. To love it and eat it and enjoy it, but to let it go when I've had enough, to not eat when I'm not hungry, to stop when I'm full.

I know that I've discussed this many times before, but it keeps coming back to the fore. Why? Because I truly believe that for the vast majority of people, including myself, dieting does not work. The super successful lady featured in this post is also interested in Buddhism (as am I). One aspect of Buddhism is the idea of past lives (reincarnation). The thought struck me that a person who could maintain such a high and consistent level of self-denial was probably some sort of holy person in a past life--a cloistered nun, a monk, a Buddhist priest? It's as plausible an answer as any other.

Yes, there are people in the world who are capable of constant self-denial, but I'm not one of them, nor are many of us out there. I do think, however, that making a sincere effort to re-establish a healthy relationship with food is not beyond the ability of an average person. I think this is easier said than done, but I encourage everyone to have a piece of pie for breakfast--if that's what you want--and then get on with life!


  1. What you see as prison some people see as a crutch. I don't want to live like that either, but as someone who's yo-yo'ed pretty hard, I certainly understand the mentality.

    Very thought-provoking post.

  2. Thanks for mentioning me. I took a hard look one day at why I was fat, and it was from eating to stuff down emotions, not because I enjoy the occasional pizza, or handful of chips, or will occasionally use ice cream in my coffee when I'm somewhere without milk/sugar. I like the prison without bars analogy, and I feel like I've given enough energy to being neurotic about food and weight. Friends got tired of the obsession, and so did I.

  3. Great post. I also saw that post - like you, I'm a big fan of the poster but found the post sort of disturbing.

    I've had some significant yo-yoing in my past, and I've accepted that journaling my food intake is probably going to be necessary for me for the rest of my life. For me, however, it's more about awareness and accountability than rigid advance planning. I want the flexibility to make reasonable choices based on intuitive eating principles . . . but I like to confirm that my intuition is "working" by dropping the information into FitDay PC at the end of the day.