Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Back to IE

I started this blog in January 2009 with a sense of excitement that I had rarely felt before. For the first time, I was NOT going on a new diet.

I remember back around 1992, I went on "Fit for Life", the diet that forbids mixing carbs and proteins. What that meant was that I could eat a hearty meal of spaghetti topped with as much vegetarian sauce as I wanted. Conversely, I could have a huge steak, accompanied again by as many veggies as I wanted, but with nary a bite of baguette or potato. In the morning, you were only allowed to eat fruit . ONLY fruit. The FFL gurus stated that science showed that mixing carbs and proteins was bad for your body. Hey, it was science and I followed it and you know what? It worked. But it worked because I actually ate less. You see, you had to wait a set number of hours before switching from ingesting carbs to ingesting proteins (or vice-versa). In the interim, you stayed hungry. Nuts, BTW, were in some sort of nether world: OK, but be careful. I don't exactly remember where they fit. Fruit was fine, but only on its own and with a time buffer zone before and after eating anything else.

Even though it's been a good 18 years since I gave up on FFL, a little bit of it remains eerily and ghoulishly imprinted in my mind. Every time I eat a piece of cheese with a cracker or bite into a tuna sandwich, a little voice screams, "Carbs and proteins! You have sinned!" Honestly. That's what I hear.

When my younger son was around 2 or 3 (he just turned 15), I went on one of those "shake" diets, where you drink two meals a day and eat one meal of real food, plus taking copious numbers of vitamin pills. I can't even remember the name of the diet, though I do remember that the founder--a man whose mother had died when she was only in her 40s, supposedly as a result of excessive fad dieting--dropped dead around the same age as his mom had. He looked great--slim and trim--but he was dead as a doorknob.

Again, I did lose some weight, but as soon as I dropped the shakes, the pounds came piling back on.

Then, at the beginning of 2009, I read Paul McKenna's book, "I Can Make You Thin" and I had a lightbulb moment.

The parameters (oh, I like that word so much better than "rules"!) were simple:
1. Eat when you're hungry.
2. Eat whatever you want.
3. Eat consciously.
4. Stop when you're full.

Once again, for a brief few weeks, the weight started coming off. McKenna wisely advised against weighing oneself every day. Every two weeks was suggested. I lost 4 pounds in the first two weeks, then 2 pounds in the second two weeks, then 1 pound during weeks 5-6. Over the following 5 months or so, I lost a few pounds. Mostly, I stayed the same weight.

Then, I went on summer vacation and gained 4 pounds back.

This may not sound like a disaster but you have to put yourself in my shoes: 4'10" and unable to engage in any strenuous exercise due to arthritis and back problems. During my vacation, I had not by any stretch of the imagination gone off the deep end. A few bites more and a lot less walking and bang, six months of good work for the most part went down the toilet.

It's been about a year since that vacation and I haven't managed to get back on track. I still weigh a few pounds less than I did in January 2009, but I feel like I'm hanging on my bloody, bruised fingertips. OK, it's not quite so horrible, just rather depressing.

And yet, I feel that my move into the intuitive eating (IE) world has been beneficial.

My "project" over the past few weeks has been to once again to go back to the intuitive eating basics, most notably, eating much more slowly and consciously. One thing that I think we all realize on our journeys is that everyone has to find the best way for him or herself. For me, eating consciously is unbearable if it means that I have to block out everything else and concentrate on the "wonder" of whatever it is I'm eating. I just can't put all my mind's energy on cottage cheese. Not even on chocolate mousse, incredible as it is.

Here is my own personal, "non-kosher" version of conscious eating:

I look at the clock or my watch. I set myself a minimum amount of time needed to eat whatever's on my plate. If it's my favourite breakfast, for instance, I might decide on 5 minutes. Five minutes doesn't seem like a very long time, but try eating one piece of toast (with peanut butter and banana slices) in 5 minutes or more. Personally, I find 30 seconds to be much more reasonable. LOL.

Here's what I no longer try to do while eating: nothing else. Let me be brutally honest. It's boring. Boring. Doing the crossword while eating or reading the newspaper while eating is a no-no in the McKenna world. And maybe he's absolutely correct. I just can't do it. So I do what I can, which is try to slow down the process of eating as much as I can.

I have made one other change to my eating environment: I never listen to the radio while eating, although my absolute favourite radio programme, As It Happens, is usually on just as we're sitting down for supper. The best thing to do while having a meal is to chat with your family, though in my house it's really hard to do with three taciturn men. So in this respect too, I have "slimmed down" my food environment.

Although it has not really helped me lose weight, intuitive eating is the right thing for me. It is basically a way for me to guard against gaining too much weight or ideally, just a way to keep my weight at the level it is now. You just have to know when to fold your cards...something I will discuss further tomorrow.


  1. I believe it is not "boring", for me, as you suggest, but rather prevents dissociation from my feelings and pain. That explains the reason of why eating without distraction, slowly, focused, and in-the-moment is so damn challenging for me. It is almost impossible to overeat without dissociating, at least in my own personal experience. The parallels between my own compulsive overeating of the past and the kind of eating that anorexics seek (to maintain control over) are extraordinarily similar. The anorexic in the grip of her or his ED reduces anxiety through controlling what she/he consumes to a frightening degree of certainty and connection while the compulsive overeater relieves her anxiety by eating while engaged in dissociation of the experience (disconnected). Both seek to control and manipulate their inner worlds through their engagement (or disengagement) with eating behavior. At some point in the person's history, such as my own childhood, the ability to approach eating with neutrality reached a place of no return. I will never approach eating with that original childlike innocence. It is a source of deep loss.


  2. Hi, nice to find you - seems like we have somewhat similar approaches, I'm very keen to dive deeper into the whole 'mindful eating' thing (I use that as the more generic term instead of the by-the-book approach of IE and some of the other variations on the topic).