One of the biggest decisions I made in recovery from disordered eating was to stop trying to control my hunger. This was a decision I had to be proactive in making. I had to wake up every day for a couple month and set my intention as, “today I’m going to listen to my body. I will listen to my hunger/fullness/craving cues and that means eating WHATEVER I am craving even if that means I go days without eating vegetables. I will not try to make my food look a certain way.” Instead of waking up everyday and thinking the default thought which was, “I’m going to see how little I can eat today…” (and then ending up bingeing at night or on the weekends.).
At the time when I decided to make this shift I was restricting my food in the morning and then bingeing at night and I was like, “whoa. What if throughout the day at meal and snacks I just ate the food I was bingeing on at night?”
The shift towards letting my body decide how much food I needed was helpful. It took practice though. You don’t wake up and just know how to listen to your body. You practice it just like you would practice learning a new language. Actually, learning to listen to your body cues really is learning a new language. It’s a silent language that connects your body and your mind. It takes times for you to learn how to ‘speak’ it.
The biggest point I want to make in this post is: You shouldn’t be afraid of feeding your body. Your body has the natural ability to tell you when you are hungry and when you are full.
Today I also wanted to have a conversation about calorie counting, because from comments I’ve gotten I believe it is something that quite a few of you struggle with. I rarely (if ever) even mention calories when working with my clients. Calorie counting is an external activity that prevents a person from learning how to self regulate his or her food intake. Calorie counting keeps one from using internal cues of hunger, fullness and self-satisfaction.
When I come across food at the grocery store that is advertised as being low calorie AND when it makes some reference to how eating that low calorie food will make you thin…it drives me nuts. Eating low calorie food only ever helped me binge on food more.
From a biological sense, low calorie food should repulse you. You should seek out food that is going to sustain you and that is higher in calories. My goal of eating is to be satisfied. If you are always seeking out low calorie foods, that means you are disconnected from what your body’s needs are. If you are always seeking out the lowest calorie foods, it’s like you are a car on a road trip but you only put in enough gas to go half the distance. Don’t let yourself ruin the joy of eating by thinking about food via a calorie in-calorie out approach.
If you are someone who is stuck calorie counting, I recommend you working with a non-diet dietitian or a certified eating disorder registered dietitian to get you on a meal plan that helps you get away from calorie counting. Yep, a meal plan. Some types of meal plans can serve as a bridge to intuitive eating and help you progress out of calorie counting. A meal plan that doesn’t involve calorie counting gives you a new way to look at food, which you need. A meal plan can be a reset to get your brain on a path to thinking a different way. There is no form of intuitive eating that involves calorie counting.
I’d love to hear in the comments section anything you’d like to share about recovery from disordered eating. Especially tools you used to step away from calories counting, what calorie counting kept you from, and so on and so on.