Thursday, February 17, 2011

Stopping and inquiring

 Yesterday I wrote about stopping while eating and evaluating whether you actually want to continue.

And today, I want to expound that thought...
Sure, eating sumptuous and delicious foods all the time *sounds* good, but how can I do that *and* lose weight?

After all, isn't that what sounds so unbelievable on the intuitive eating/carte blanche plan?

So maybe it's not about indulging in every way... it's about making choices that make sense.

Take this morning. I went to a bagel place just outside of our building. It's well documented on this blog that I LOOOOOVE bagels. Smear some cream cheese on a toasted bagel and I'll roll over in ecstasy. When I walked in the bagel joint, I knew that I *could* have anything on the menu. But I also knew that I really want to lose weight, to feel healthier, and to be fueled as much of the morning as I can.

Instead of ordering a warm gooey bagel that I knew would taste awesome, I ordered a 240 calorie bagel thin with egg whites, turkey sausage, and salsa.  It had complex carbs, good protein, and some fat to help me feel sustained.  It's 3 hours later and I'm still delightfully satisfied.

What happened there?  I think we can all agree that that was the "better" choice than the full fat, carb-loaded, and calorie-heavy bagel, but why?  And why do I feel like sometimes I can make that choice confidently and other times, I feel deprived when I make that choice?

THIS is exactly what I've been struggling with for the past few months in regards to intuitive eating.

Honestly? I've been struggling with the (sometimes) loosey-goosey approach of "eat whatever you want whenever you want and still lose weight" idea.  I know it CAN work.  But I know that sometimes, I crave the stuff that isn't going to get me closer to my goal of being smaller, thinner, and healthier.

So what do I do then?

My therapist tells me that the step I should take then is to ask *why* I want the stuff that I know isn't going to get me closer to my goal.

Well, sure, if I had all the time in the world, I could probably practice analyzing every moment before food passes my lips.  But gosh, sometimes I don't know why I want something. 

In those times, here is all I really know:
* I want the ooey-gooey whatever it is to be in my mouth NOW
* I want to not feel restricted
* I know that when I feel like I'm on a diet, I feel like rebelling
* I know that if I eat only the stuff that tastes awesome, it's going to take a whole lot of concentration around every bite to stop when I'm no longer hungry
* I know that if I'm distracted in almost any way, I don't stop when I need to
* I know that when I eat "too much" of something that is high caloric, I gain weight

So yes, in an ideal world, I'd be able to be mindful about every bite and every step in the process.  But I don't live in an ideal world. 

Moreover, sometimes I don't have the emotional fortitude or patience to figure out *why* I'm eating whatever I'm eating *every* time.   Sometimes I honestly just don't know.

And in those moments, I feel paralyzed.  Should I honor what I really am craving even though I know it's not good for me?  Should I restrict?  If I do, will I resent myself and this process later? 

All of the sudden, what seems like it should be a simple process has my mind spinning.  I feel more anxious (although I don't know why) and feel more lost.  I feel confused and mistrustful of myself and the process.

And that?  Well, that doesn't feel good either.  So basically, my whole plan to make me feel more in tune with my body sometimes leaves me feeling confused, mistrustful, and bewildered.  AND my pants are tighter.

Uhhh...not exactly a winning outcome.

But people succeed at mindful eating.  HOW?  What am I doing wrong?  Is it me or is it the process that is broken?

I want it to work SO badly.  I want to be thinner and healthier.  That led me to being more inquisitive about what I could to, with the focus being on health (mind, body, and spirit) to help me achieve my goals.  It led me to ask myself, honestly, where is this marriage between mindfulness and me falling short?

I think I figured it out.  I *am* being mindful when I stop and ask myself what really sounds awesome.  At the counter of the bagel shop, what sounds the best is the gooey bagel slathered with cream cheese.  If I ate it mindfully, I'd savor each bite, eating it slowly.  But honestly, if I did that, I'd probably stop 1/4 or half way through the meal because I'd be satisfied. 

But the thing is, I usually don't eat mindfully.  Sure, I ORDER mindfully, but I don't eat it mindfully because life happens.  So in the bagel situation, I order the bagel with cream cheese mindfully, but then because I'm not eating mindfully, I end up eating the whole thing.  Which means, TADA! I've just gotten further away from my goals, my pants are tighter, and I'm questioning what the hell I'm doing anyway.

So what to do?

I think I've got a good game-plan - or at least a good rough draft of what that process can look like.

1. Ask myself if I'm hungry. I'm pretty good at this step.
2. If I am, ask myself if I want to eat primarily for pleasure or for fuel.
3. If I'm primarily eating for fuel, I make the "best" choice for myself.  Something with a lot of nutrients, veggies, fiber, or protein - whatever it is that will meet the strain that my body will feel in the next few hours or day.  This means, I choose steamed veggies, not sauteed.  It means that I hold the mayo.  It means I limit sugar.
3. If I want to eat primarily for pleasure, I need to ask myself if I have the time to actually donate to eating mindfully. 
4. If I don't, then I need to choose to eat for fuel reasons at that moment - and then re-evaluate my meal choices at the next time I'm hungry.

To me, that's HUGE!

This means that in the morning, when I'm hungry, I give myself permission to eat whatever I want (for pleasure)...but only if I can actually (gasp!) ENJOY it to the fullest extent.  Usually, that isn't the that means that usually I need to choose fuel-friendly options over what would taste the most awesome.

And really, isn't that what happened this morning?  I only had a few minutes to grab something...and I needed to eat it on my way to work.  I know that on the way to work, I'll be distracted by other drivers, the radio, the fact that I'm running late or something else.

So in those situations, if I order the heavier option, I'm setting myself up for not really tasting my food and for putting lots of unwanted calories in my body.  Because in situations where I'm completely distracted, almost anything will do.  Why not make the choice that will lead me to my ultimate goal - being smaller and more healthy?

Taking it a step further... if I'm at a bar or hanging out with friends and someone asks me if I want a drink, I'll ask myself if I'll really be tasting it or if I'm going to be so focused on other things that I won't even notice it.  If I'm going to be focused on drinking something that is absolutely fabulous, great.  If not, perhaps a Bud Light or (GASP!) water will do.

See the difference? 

It's no longer about restricting myself to drinking only Bud Light or only eating a bagel thin with egg whites. 

It's about being practical. 

It's about stopping and inquiring WHY I'm eating the food I'm eating.  It's about STOPPING before you order and thinking about what you really need - both physically (i.e. how hungry am I really?) and mentally (will what I order get me closer to or farther away from my goals that I have set up for myself?).

If I'm eating for fuel, then I might want to consider appraising the food in a fuel-based way.  In other words, if it's for fuel, I'm preparing my taste buds for something that may not taste the best, but is good for my body. I'm choosing to forgo cheese on my sandwich not because I *can't* have it, but because maybe because I recognize that I'm already going to get my calcium and protein in another way .  I'm also acknowledging at that point that I might be so distracted during the eating process that I wouldn't even taste the cheese anyway!

Making a "smarter" choice can happen intuitively because I recognize that the extra calories aren't going to get me closer to what will really make me feel good - a smaller size and a healthier body.

Maybe the fuel-friendly option is your go-to meal...something that you know the points, carbs, or calories of easily.  Something you know will nourish you and it's a no-brainer; something you don't have to stress about - either in the preparation or the consumption.

Now, that doesn't mean that I'll go out of my way to eat something that is disgusting just because it's healthy for me.  Life is too short for that mentality too.  But it means that I can choose the healthier option, the option that is going to fuel my body with the fiber, protein, or nutrients it needs over the one that is higher calorie, fat, or carb.  And let's face it, in this day and age, there are many opportunities to choose the more fuel-friendly choice.

If I'm eating primarily for pleasure, then I'll order or prepare something that really seems like it'll hit the spot. And when I take that first bite, if it's not something that tastes absolutely divine, I'm going to give myself permission to make something else.  Just like what I wrote about yesterday. 

In fact (and here is a big a-ha moment for me), if I notice that I'm always choosing fuel foods over pleasure foods AND start feeling resentful about it, maybe that's a warning sign.  It might indicate that it's becoming necessary to schedule in some "me time."  Time when I treat myself as a priority.  Even if that's getting something that tastes divine and savoring it by myself simply because I enjoy the taste of it and I'm worth enjoying tasty things.

To me, these steps make more sense.  They have some structure behind it.  They don't make me feel restricted or not worthy AND they still get me closer to my end goal of being healthier - mind, body, and spirit. 

In fact, if anything they make me feel better:
* I'm so important that I'm worth fueling my body with foods that will help it do what I want it to do.
* I'm so loved that I can have awesome tasting things.
* I'm worth slowing down and actually enjoying foods that taste delicious.
* I'm also worth taking care of.
* I'm worth realizing my potential and achieving my dreams.

If mindful eating can work (and I believe it can), perhaps it starts with knowing your own mind; knowing your own pitfalls, triggers, routines, and justifications.  And then developing a successful way to navigate around them.

I think I'm finally honing in on what will work for me - both for immediate and long term gratification.

And holy cow, I'm actually feeling something I haven't felt in a long time:  clear-headed and optimistic...what a welcome relief!


Dawn said...

I totally understand this whole 'what am I going to eat, what do I want to eat' mindset.
For me, past diets have failed when i know precisely what I ought to eat but go right ahead and eat the thing i know I should not.
The thing that stops me/keeps me on track is 100% willpower. If I'm full of it I can make the good choices easily and happily, once it wavers thats me done and I can fail spectacularly.
I'm working hard on eating healthily, exercising but this time I'm really working hard to be motivational and top up the motivational conversations I have with myself every day.
I live in UK and bagels are not easily available, but I think I would struggle if they were for you make them sound wonderful

Sugar said...

Planning helps sooo much. And I heard in my meeting that "the first two bites are all you really enjoy" and since then.. I have realized that is true. weird.

Katy said...

This was great. You were totally your own therapist in this post. It's nice to see someone be able to really work through a situation.

Karen said...

Very deep today but, you had me at bagels:)