What a concept… enjoy your food… or, as the authors of Intuitive Eating describe – “regain your pleasure in eating” (Kindle version p 136).
Last night I found myself thinking about meal planning – “maybe if I just eat chicken and rice and broccoli I’ll feel better” I thought, “that’s silly, how will I enjoy that?” was the next thought, followed by “why are you worried about enjoying your food? you don’t enjoy it whether it’s boring chicken and rice or chocolate covered peanut butter covered chocolate!” The latter statement isn’t exactly true, because nearly anything that mixes chocolate and peanut butter would be enjoyable for at least the first bite – in my opinion – but the conversation is always the same. Talk myself into some radical nutrition strategy, talk myself out of it, and then talk myself back into it again.
In an effort to continue my honest look at this journey – I feel it necessary to tell you that last night, on my way home from work, my husband called and said he was eating baked ziti – my mouth immediately started watering and I had this hankering for Sbarro’s baked ziti from the mall — clearly at 7pm this wasn’t exactly the ideal situation as the mall was no where near me and to drive over the bridge to get the exact meal I now wanted just didn’t seem logical. So, I went to the supermarket — in the past I know that the supermarket has been a very scary place when it comes to me and my food cravings, but I was determined to get the closest substitute for that overcooked, sat out all day, chewy baked ziti that always inevitably came with a to-die for bread stick. It’s kind of silly when you stop and think about it – the things we sometimes crave – isn’t it? In hind-sight, I think about how gross that sounds, food that’s been sitting out all day – who knows what kind of things are growing in there – but that’s what I wanted. Anyway, I found myself in the frozen aisle after deciding that I would be completely unable to recreate said masterpiece, and after toying with the idea of baking an entire families worth of Stouffers baked ziti, substituting it for the much less desired vegetable lasagna (because that would be the healthier choice, of course, it has vegetables), or buying the Smart Ones brand ziti which isn’t actually called ziti but it looked the same – I chose the smart ones. I want to be clear that I didn’t choose the smart ones because it was some “diet food” but I thought that I could microwave it just a little longer to make it just a little more chewy, plus I’ve had it before and knew what it tasted like. I was weary against the stouffers because I hadn’t eaten it before and what if I just spent 15$ on a huge family sized ziti and I don’t even like it. At least the 3$ smart ones, I know I may somewhat enjoy, and if I don’t want it anymore I won’t feel bad throwing out any remainder if it’s not
really hitting the spot. I opted to stay away from the lasagna because I recognized that I was going to try to use it as a “phantom food” – one which would assume to kick the craving but I knew that it wouldn’t, because I knew I didn’t want it, so why even get it?
The thing about this exploration of Intuitive eating, for me at least – is these little steps, these little inner thoughts that have me thinking about what I choose in a completely different way, has been one huge learning experience and it’s just beginning! To finish the baked ziti story from yesterday, I got the smart ones meal, I over cooked it on purpose, and even though it wasn’t that sbarro’s ziti I longed for, it actually kicked the craving quite nicely. I don’t want the old pasta anymore, and although it was still a “phantom food” it was somehow good enough for my brain and my belly.
Here’s another example of a learning experience on the other side of the spectrum. Although the ziti pasta experience yesterday was actually positive in the end – I made another choice last night that wasn’t so positive (but of course I found a way to look at it differently and in a more positive way so that next time it doesn’t end up this way). So, while I was searching for my ziti, I started thinking about that scoop of mint oreo ice cream I had the other day way my husband and I went to Subway/Carvel. He got a sandwich, and I didn’t want one but was longing for that ice cream so I got the smallest cup and savored every second of it. The problem? A day or two after that I decided I wanted more, but told myself that I “shouldn’t” have more, that I had already had enough and that should have been enough so I had to stop dwelling on the darned ice cream – trying to convince myself that it wasn’t that good anyway. Well, many days after this I was still longing for it – but because i was lazy and couldn’t see myself driving all the way to carvel after having driven to the supermarket (where they sell ice cream too) I decided to just look for a replacement – hopefully a small sized one – so I could have the minty oreo goodness that I so longed for. The funny part about all of this food/diet mumbo-jumbo is how us chronic dieters can have multiple cravings at one time. How can I be searching for ziti and then want ice cream so badly? So, I found Ben & Jerrys and saw that they had a mint oreo ice cream – PErFeCt! I thought. I would scoop out one scoop and I would then monitor my belly and my craving. I thought that I had come so far and I’d be able to suppress my binge eating disorder enough to just have a little, until the craving is gone and then I’d feel better. So, I got home (positive thing here I don’t want to overlook: I did NOT eat on the way home… this is HUGE because it has been something that I’ve done for many years – distracted eating at it’s best!) and while my ziti nuked in the microwave, I scooped out a scoop or two of the ice cream. I sat down, and tried really hard to enjoy the first bite. Immediately I knew it wasn’t the same – yes, it was minty, yes it was oreo-y (is that a word) but it just wasn’t minty enough, or oreo-y enough. It just wasn’t the same. But, I kept eating… in hindsight I wonder if I had thought that maybe it would get better as I ate it? Maybe I felt bad for spending 4$ on ice cream when I could have spent $2.50 on one scoop (which is overpriced in my opinion) and actually had the food I was craving rather than it’s not so good substitute. Anyway, I finished the few scoops I had in my bowl just about when the ziti was beeping that it was done (mind you that means I ate it in like 3 minutes flat? so how enjoyable was that experience, for real).
After my ziti was done, (I actually took longer eating the ziti as I wanted to savor each bite and in hindsight I could have stopped eating it and been happy with what I had eaten but more on that later) I scooped a bit more ice cream into that bowl from before – “maybe now that I’ve satisfied one craving, the ice cream would taste better.” Nope. The same thing, not minty enough, not oreo-y enough, and yet I finished the bowl. On my way to the kitchen to deposit my bowl in the sink, I decided to stop and see how much ice cream I had left. Less than a full spoonful left in the pint – “just eat it, no point in leaving such a little bit, plus, if you leave it, your husband will know you ate ice cream, and then you’ll feel bad – what if he makes a comment? He’s been so good, he hasn’t told you that you can not have anything, he’s been so supportive, would he say anything? let’s not take the chance, lets just eat it and throw away the evidence.”
Maybe the conversation wasn’t verbatim, but it was pretty close and here’s how I am drawing positivity from this experience. Yes, I ate the entire pint of ice cream last night, yes I talked myself into eating it because of some notion that my husband would be disappointed in me for eating it, but I recognize that this is disordered thinking and disordered eating. I recognize that I didn’t enjoy the ice cream the way I had intended, and that a more constructive way of dealing with it would have been to pack up the ice cream and chuck it, or offer it to someone who would have enjoyed it. I understand that financially I would have taken a 4$ hit, but even though it may be a “waste” it’s also doing harm to my “waist” (I can’t take credit for this revelation, I read it this morning in the Intuitive Eating book and it really resonated with me). I realize that I have to start taking care of myself, start loving myself, start honoring myself. If I’m craving something I need to either go out of my way to get what it is that I’m craving even if that means driving over a bridge any paying a toll or driving to carvel for the scoop of ice cream which would have been MUCH more enjoyable than that entire pint and calorically would have made more sense overall (200 cals vs 1000 plus the enjoyable factor makes the drive worth it).
The thing that I’m having the most trouble with is not being afraid to enjoy my food. Why is this such a hard concept? Why is it so hard to enjoy what you are eating? For so long I’ve been told what to eat, when to eat it, and why I’m eating it. I’ve been told “eat all of your food on your plate – for Christ sake, there are children starving in Africa.” I’ve been told “eat only the foods on this list” or “choose only foods in the green and dark green column” which made me feel like I had a choice – but in reality it was still very restrictive. There was a time when I thought it was better to be restricted to certain foods because “I can do it if I’m told what to eat and when” but then when faced with every food being “Okay” and being asked questions like “what would you like to eat?” “What foods do you enjoy?” and “if you could eat anything you want, what would you choose?” I am at a loss. I have been restricted to diet foods and meal replacements for so long that I no longer know what I like. So I’ve been trying different foods to see if I like them – believe it or not I actually enjoy chicken and rice, but kind of hate broccoli. I love roasted brussels sprouts, and only really like bacon when it’s not soaking the bread with grease. This is going to take some time, but I also figured out that I’m not a big fan of the ben and jerry’s mint oreo ice cream, and probably should have either driven to the mall for that pasta or had something else last night and gone for the trip today when I have the time.
This morning I got up and went to the gym – it’s funny how I have this mentality that when I’m home and bored, I’d much rather just go to the gym regardless of what I’m doing when I get there – to move my body. I enjoy that. I have recognized that I enjoy moving my body so I do it at all times that I can – so why wouldn’t I use that principle with my food consumption? Why wouldn’t I enjoy my food like I enjoy my workouts? I do the stairmaster as my cardio, almost exclusively because it’s what I enjoy. I take Body Pump and teach body pump and lift shoulders and back as much as i can physically handle it because that’s what I enjoy. So, why wouldn’t I choose foods that I enjoy?
As I continue to embark on this journey to love myself inside and out – as I continue to learn and read and move my body, I will continue to choose foods that I enjoy and celebrate the little victories like throwing out the remainder of my steel cut oats this morning because I was physiologically full and no longer needed anymore food. It is hard, it really is, but I believe it will be worth it – to continue this journey, regardless of what I look like, basing decisions on how I feel and what feels good and what I enjoy.
What foods do you enjoy? Do you even know?
What are some of your small victories that you experienced this week?