If you haven’t yet, pop over to Fat Fu and read Meowser’s post on Intuitive Eating. I read it this evening and it was exactly what I needed to hear right now. The validation within that post is phenomenal for me.
The quote that really validated me was:
The thing is, those it’s-bad/I-shouldn’t/I-want-it-even-more effects can persist for years — decades — after you cease trying to lose weight. (Remember the Ancel Keys semistarvation study? It doesn’t take much calorie restriction, or too long a period of time doing it, to potentially screw your head up but good.) That’s why not everyone can practice IE out of a book, or a blog post, without outside support (and why people with full-blown eating disorders can especially find it problematic).
I’ve been trying my darnedest (notice the implication that I’m failing) to practice IE and living by HAES principles for at least a couple of years. The only thing I really think I have succeeded in is turning IE into another diet of “shoulds” and “should nots” with some “goods” and “bad” thrown in quite often.
I can truly say that, for me, it may take me a few years to really get a hang of living intuitively. For meowser to point out that it may take some people decades to retrain their brain to think along the lines of being intuitive was a god send for me. I’ve been beating myself up for not being “farther along” than I had thought I would be. I’ve been wondering what is wrong with me that I can’t get the hang of IE or HAES as quickly and fully as I would like to. After I read Meowser’s post, I started putting some thought into what’s going on in my brain regarding IE and my seemingly opposition to living it.
Of course, the first thing that pops into my mind is that I’m now 45 years old and I’ve been dieting since I was 7 years old. I’ve been told by my parents, society, my “friends”, complete strangers yelling at me out of their cars as I walk around the track and salespeople that I’m fat and need to lose weight. I’ve been led to believe for 38 years that I’m not good enough, I’m lazy, I’m worthless, I’m “bad”, I’m ugly and I’m stupid.
Only last year did my doctor get on board and see that I was more than just a fat person in his office. Before that I was told by all of my doctors that I “had” to lose weight….no reason why, just lose weight. An old gynecologist of mine told me that even though I’m in my time frame for perimenopause that I probably wasn’t having hot flashes, I was just wearing a “permanent jacket” and that I needed to lose weight. (Notice I said he’s an old gyno of mine….don’t go to him anymore.) The therapist that I found in my city, who I thought would be able to help me so much told me within the second or third visit that I needed to either lose weight or have gastric bypass surgery. He said that the root of most of my problems was my weight. As a child I was taught to respect my elders, believe the professionals, blah, blah, blah, I believed all these professionals. “They’re professionals, they must be right!”
My first diet was Weight Watchers at the age of 7. My sister was constantly dieting (still is) and she and my mom decided I always needed to be on a diet. I can’t tell you how many organized diets I went on from elementary school through high school but it was a lot of them. My parents shelled out the money to get me to look thin. Each time I lost the weight, only to gain it back plus more. When I dropped out of college and disappointed my father yet again, I started working in a factory with over 300 women (very few men) and a friend of mine and I joined Weight Watchers (probably for my 10th time) and every week we would meet at the WW weigh in, sit down in the small chairs that were placed WAY too close together and listen to the wonders of dieting. I lost over 50 pounds at that time. Within a year I had gained almost all of it back.
I’ve taken dexatrim, fen phen (or however you spell it), done Nutri-System, WW, The Diet Center, the grapefruit and boiled egg diet, the Mayo Clinic diet, the cabbage soup diet, 1200 calorie diet, 1500 calorie diet, 1800 calorie diet, American Heart Association Diet, Diet for Diabetics, the Food Pyramid Diet, etc….and now apparently, the IE diet. My point is, I’ve done this for a freakin’ 35 years! It’s engrained in my brain to choose grilled chicken instead of fried, to look at labels to count calories, fats, fibers, sodium, etc…, to eat a salad with low fat dressing instead of full fat dressing.
So after thinking through all that, I had a real AHA moment. Not only is that engrained in my brain but so is the sense of rebellion that comes from restricting and dieting. From the time I was a child and going to WW, I was sneaking food into my room at night or sneaking to the store to buy candy and eating it before my parents found out. When I got old enough to drive, I would eat my diet meal at home then make an excuse to go out, go through a drive-thru and snarf down all I could. Of course, on the way home I had to drive with my windows down to get rid of the smell of the food. In college I would eat one meal with my “friends” and then go to my room and find something else to eat. I still do that today. I still get the sense that someone is trying to control what I eat because I’ve lived it for so long. You cannot turn on the news without seeing a diet related news story or a story about obesity or about the stupid airlines charging fat people double for a ticket. You can’t pick up a single magazine without a whole 4 page layout being dedicated to the “right foods” or what you “shouldn’t eat”. My mind instantly goes into rebellion stage.
My AHA moment: I’ve been in this rebellion stage for about 3 years now. I have purposely over-analyzed and over-thought IE and HAES to the point of rebellion….just as I did with dieting. I know in my heart that IE is what I want to be about. It’s how I want to live my life but as soon as I rededicate my life to it, the rebellion rears it’s ugly head. I turn IE into a diet. I have turned IE into another set of rules and by doing that, I’ve created the rebellion that comes from restriction.
What do I mean by that? As soon as I pick up my IE book and refresh my memory of things, I start saying, “yeah, I can have ANYTHING I WANT, WHENEVER I WANT, HOWEVER I WANT, IN THE QUANTITIES I WANT.” Yes, my brain does go in that direction. My brain is still functioning in the “rebellion from restricting” phase. There is no middle ground. There is either restriction or rebellion. Even if I post about it and I sound like I could be a guest speaker for IE, I’m still taking it to the extreme and not seeing the “intuitive” part of it. 35 years of dieting has brainwashed me to believe there are only two ways to live – restriction or rebellion – and I can tell you from personal experience they are both hell!
I would really like to open this up for discussion because I feel like this really has me stuck. Any ideas on how to deprogram my brain?
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