|Some things move at their own speed.|
As I begin my 7th week of Sweet Peace … the search for peace with food, I realize I’m not sure what I’m even looking for. What does “peace with food” look like? As I leave the early “maybe a miracle will happen” phase and settle in to the “I’m probably going to have to change something” reality, I find myself whining in a far-from-peaceful cry translated as “why me?”
I think back to my fourth grade ideal: Charlene … pretty, creative, sweet. She wrote the plays we acted out at recess and the waistband of the skirt of her chorus outfit was always flat. Perfectly flat around her small waist while mine was always wrinkled and twisted tight around my middle. Sixty plus years later I’m still obsessing about her waist band, still seeing in my mind the photo … black skirts, white blouses and Charlene, long, lean, perfectly pressed, perfectly perfect. She became the metaphorical vision of what I should be: perfect.
Thinking about how to define peace with food, I find this definition at ILiveWellNutrition.com:
Making peace with food means giving ourselves unconditional permission to eat. When we restrict certain foods we can feel deprived and actually develop uncontrollable cravings.
When we give ourselves permission to eat ALL foods and allow them to become normalized in our life, it takes away that intense desire and urgency, which allows us to eat more mindfully and really notice how different foods make us feel. (This sounds like a one-way ticket to mumu-ville and diabetes.)
Rigid self-control may seem like the solution, but most of the time it back-fires and creates an unhealthy relationship with food and an unrealistic way of eating.
I’ve tried rigid self-control … that is not the peace I’m looking for, plus it has never worked. (Hmmm … define “worked.” Answer: self-control never took me to that magical state of flat waistband perfection. At 76, am I still chasing a fourth grade obsession? Sounds like it.)
I’ve made a commitment to spending 52 weeks making peace with food. I’m on week seven and the only thing that’s clear is that I’m not going to find the magic wand I want. In lieu of a magic wand, am I willing to do some work?
Suddenly my three-year old self is kicking and screaming on the floor, rejecting the bright, shiny toy she has been given, wanting a different toy, a blue one instead of red. That’s me.
Where did all of this come from? Those of you of a certain age may remember the glamorous Loretta Young. She was one of my first television heroines. As she swirled dramatically onto the stage wearing a beautiful gown that highlighted her slender body, she was my idealized adult manifestation of Charlene.
Through the generosity of Wikipedia, I learn that Young’s life was far from perfect. Her parents divorced when she was a toddler and she became a child actress. At 22 she had an affair with the married Clark Gable which resulted in the birth of a child she tried to hide. She married three times, experienced a bitter divorce, an affair with Spencer Tracy (married at the time), and only spent four years with her last husband before he died.
Wikipedia offers a punchline to my heroine’s story: “A smoker since the age of eight, a then underweight Young quit the habit in the mid-1980s and regained 10 pounds.”
Smoking at eight. Probably weight related. This was not a young woman gifted with a naturally slender body; this was a desperate child (or mother) trying to live within the confines of the Hollywood dictate for thinness.
The picture slowly comes into focus. My ideal body belonged to someone else. The one I was walking around in never felt like home. I was the ugly duckling who never emerged into the swan’s body.
I kept waiting, dieting, exercising, hiding. And, here I am today, somehow gifted with an incredibly healthy body; however, rather than being enormously grateful for my health and energy, I am still trying to sneak up on those flat waistbands by calling it “sweet peace” as if it has something to do with food. Rather than being grateful for my duckness, I’m still trying to be a swan.
The peace I need to make is with my body, with my authentic self. Before reaching this insight, I found ten principles for intuitive eating. They are posted below. However, now it’s time to gain some wisdom about how to make peace with my body. Google seldom fails and I find Jen Fiske who makes me laugh when she says:
I’m pretty sure those swimsuit model days I never had are over.
She adds: “Most of all, I have learned that the path to peace in the body and contentment in the spirit is far from perfect and takes thought and self-examination.”
Fiske offers six principles for making peace with your body here with the first being Eat For Your Health. I will focus on that one this week and explore the others in coming weeks.
Intuitive Eatings 10 Principles ... while I don't think these are the answer I was looking for, they are sound principles.
1. Reject the Diet Mentality
Throw out the diet books and magazine articles that offer you the false hope of losing weight quickly, easily, and permanently. Get angry at diet culture that promotes weight loss and the lies that have led you to feel as if you were a failure every time a new diet stopped working and you gained back all of the weight. If you allow even one small hope to linger that a new and better diet or food plan might be lurking around the corner, it will prevent you from being free to rediscover Intuitive Eating.
2. Honor Your Hunger
Keep your body biologically fed with adequate energy and carbohydrates. Otherwise you can trigger a primal drive to overeat. Once you reach the moment of excessive hunger, all intentions of moderate, conscious eating are fleeting and irrelevant. Learning to honor this first biological signal sets the stage for rebuilding trust in yourself and in food.
3. Make Peace with Food
Call a truce; stop the food fight! Give yourself unconditional permission to eat. If you tell yourself that you can’t or shouldn’t have a particular food, it can lead to intense feelings of deprivation that build into uncontrollable cravings and, often, bingeing. When you finally “give in” to your forbidden foods, eating will be experienced with such intensity it usually results in Last Supper overeating and overwhelming guilt.
4. Challenge the Food Police
Scream a loud no to thoughts in your head that declare you’re “good” for eating minimal calories or “bad” because you ate a piece of chocolate cake. The food police monitor the unreasonable rules that diet culture has created. The police station is housed deep in your psyche, and its loudspeaker shouts negative barbs, hopeless phrases, and guilt-provoking indictments. Chasing the food police away is a critical step in returning to Intuitive Eating.
5. Discover the Satisfaction Factor
The Japanese have the wisdom to keep pleasure as one of their goals of healthy living. In our compulsion to comply with diet culture, we often overlook one of the most basic gifts of existence—the pleasure and satisfaction that can be found in the eating experience. When you eat what you really want, in an environment that is inviting, the pleasure you derive will be a powerful force in helping you feel satisfied and content. By providing this experience for yourself, you will find that it takes just the right amount of food for you to decide you’ve had “enough.”
6. Feel Your Fullness
In order to honor your fullness, you need to trust that you will give yourself the foods that you desire. Listen for the body signals that tell you that you are no longer hungry. Observe the signs that show that you’re comfortably full. Pause in the middle of eating and ask yourself how the food tastes, and what your current hunger level is.
7. Cope with Your Emotions with Kindness
First, recognize that food restriction, both physically and mentally, can, in and of itself, trigger loss of control, which can feel like emotional eating. Find kind ways to comfort, nurture, distract, and resolve your issues. Anxiety, loneliness, boredom, and anger are emotions we all experience throughout life. Each has its own trigger, and each has its own appeasement. Food won’t fix any of these feelings. It may comfort for the short term, distract from the pain, or even numb you. But food won’t solve the problem. If anything, eating for an emotional hunger may only make you feel worse in the long run. You’ll ultimately have to deal with the source of the emotion.
8. Respect Your Body
Accept your genetic blueprint. Just as a person with a shoe size of eight would not expect to realistically squeeze into a size six, it is equally futile (and uncomfortable) to have a similar expectation about body size. But mostly, respect your body so you can feel better about who you are. It’s hard to reject the diet mentality if you are unrealistic and overly critical of your body size or shape. All bodies deserve dignity.
9. Movement—Feel the Difference
Forget militant exercise. Just get active and feelthe difference. Shift your focus to how it feels to move your body, rather than the calorie-burning effect of exercise. If you focus on how you feel from working out, such as energized, it can make the difference between rolling out of bed for a brisk morning walk or hitting the snooze alarm.
10. Honor Your Health—Gentle Nutrition
Make food choices that honor your health and taste buds while making you feel good. Remember that you don’t have to eat perfectly to be healthy. You will not suddenly get a nutrient deficiency or become unhealthy, from one snack, one meal, or one day of eating. It’s what you eat consistently over time that matters. Progress, not perfection, is what counts.