Self-Care: Permission to Eat, Granted
When my physical therapy (knees, hips, shoulders, basically everything) ended recently, I became a client at my therapist’s sister outfit, a fitness consultancy. It’s all the same people: everyone is a post-doctoral fellow physical therapist, a rarity in the personal training world.
I’m there for bone density issues. Also because I want to be able to open jam jars and take out my rubbish until the day I die. I am emphatically not there to lose weight or “get a beach body” or hike my booty up three inches. (Although I admit the latter would be welcome.)
However, part of the “accountability program” I’m signed up for is … nutrition. And I could use more nutrition knowledge, sure! Poor nutrition earlier in life probably contributed to my bone density issues.
But I make my living helping people give up dieting and diet thinking, among other things. So when my trainer said “You’ll be tracking your nutrition daily. We’ll probably put you on a ‘maintenance’ level of calories,” I beheld him with serenity. Equanimity. Friendliness, even.
Inside, I said to myself: I promise nothing, sir.
The Cookie Reaction
And my thoughts turned to chocolate chip cookies. Lots and lots of them, aka my Early Warning System that unless I take evasive action, a binge is about to occur. This is how fast a gal can revert to Diet Brain, if she’s not paying attention.
To avoid that binge, I did what I teach my clients to do, and what you might experiment with, if you’re prone to a diet/binge cycle of your own:
- I reminded myself of this crucial fact: I am a sovereign adult woman who is allowed to eat anything she wants. I don’t have to, but I may. Then I made a batch of chocolate chip cookies, exactly the way I like them (here’s the best recipe I know of; these are serious-minded chocolate chip cookies), and I baked three, and ate them (they’re BIG, just so you know), and I froze the rest.
Because sidebar: A supposedly “insatiable desire” for [your most desirable food] is probably satiable, actually. Unless I’m at the bottom of the Grand Canyon with a craving for fried oysters, I like to satisfy a desire for a food with that food. Worth a try.
And yes, sometimes a desire for companionship or entertainment or an apology or a pay raise can masquerade as a desire for food. Also worth trying to get. I’m for all of us getting all the things!
But often, a desire for a specific food is best handled by having that food.
- I reminded myself that no matter what my weight or what society has to say about my body, I am allowed to eat regularly, as in no less than three times a day. I don’t have to, but I may. And I usually do eat three times a day, if not four.
Even if—and if you are familiar with Intuitive Eating, this may sound crazy to you—even if I am not “hungry.” (Though mostly, because I eat at regular times, I am hungry.)
It’s called MEALS, and it’s a miracle cure for the diet/binge cycle.
Many of us were raised eating meals and are still doing it. (Lucky people!) If your eyeballs are rolling back in your heads until they make a thunk at the obviousness of the regular-meals concept, I don’t blame you.
But I will say this: Eating regular meals is astoundingly uncommon among the women I work with.
Many women skip meals because our pervasive diet culture encourages it. And in rebellion (reasonably enough) many women find themselves eating more or less all day long, in an endless round of snacking and picking and bargaining and arguing with themselves. This too is the opposite of eating meals.
So if you’re not already doing this, here is my simple two-step plan for anyone struggling with eating, one of the most basic acts of self-care:
- Allow yourself to eat anything. It doesn’t mean you have to eat everything. It just means having freedom.
- Allow yourself to eat often. It doesn’t mean eating all day. It means eating several times a day, with non-eating in between.
And let me know how you go.