Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Adventures in Emotional Eating

It's a weird and whacky journey I feel like I'm on at the moment.

As I've mentioned, I'm trying to resolve my issues around food - my topsy-turvy, love-hate relationship with food, and as it turns out, myself.

What started out as a simple journalling exercise has sort of spiralled out in all sorts of directions; the more I read, the more I started to see that this is a complex problem with complex answers.  And yet, at the same time it is incredibly simple - I should be eating what I want, when I'm hungry.  When I'm no longer hungry I stop.

One idea I've been working with is that rigid mealtimes - the structure of breakfast, lunch and dinner - isn't a bible I should just adhere to without thinking.  Working on that same principle of eating when I'm hungry, I should be waiting until I'm actually feeling definite hunger and then eating, and if that's not lunchtime or dinner time then that's ... ok.  The book I'm reading currently put it in a lovely analogy - you wouldn't stop to put fuel in your car when it wasn't empty / necessary.  We don't need to do the same to our bodies.  Eating mindlessly at mealtimes, is potentially doing just that.  Of course, most of the time we ARE hungry some time around those periods of the day, because basically speaking you probably get hungry sometime between 3-5 hours after you last ate, but the trick for me is rediscovering that it's ok to wait and eat my lunch at 2, or even 3 or 4pm, if that's when I'm hungry.

Work being work (and me being me, and being susceptible to eating when I'm bored), it's very easy to just pick the same lunch hour every day and eat straight away.  I've been working on shaking up my lunch routine to make me more mindful.  I still take my full lunch hour, but if it's dry I quite often pop out for a walk, or go for a jog with a friend, or do whatever errands need sorting.  If I'm hungry straight away, I'll get something of course, but otherwise I get a sandwich, salad, sushi - something that will hold for a while, and keep it on my desk for when I'm ready.  The only thing I have to work round then is in-person meetings in my diary.

At dinner times I'm trying to do the same - I hold until I'm definitely in need of eating.  Breakfast is the only one I often eat when I'm not quite hungry, because I tend to be hungry sometime whilst I'm getting ready for work or walking in, and my diary is heavy on morning meetings, so I get food when I can at work and eat.  I figure it's good to wake my metabolism up anyway.

It's been a bit strange - on Sunday I ended up not eating any kind of proper meal until 5pm as I just wasn't getting properly hungry.  I probably could have waited longer than that, but I'm not in the habit of starving myself and was starting to think I'd actually gone past my hunger point.

I've also been working on losing the guilt over "bad" foods.  Yes, some foods are nutritionally more sound than others, but I want to move away from the diet-trained habits of considering certain foods bad and worthy of guilt.  I don't want guilt to be any part of my eating regime.  This is where it gets trickier - the idea of eating anything you want.  I have a leaning towards sweet foods, which means if I truly go with what I want, sometimes I want a sweet meal with no savoury, which feels very weird and "bad".  But several of the books I've read have had the same message - that I need to free myself of my attachment to labels for food and learn to trust myself.  The principle here seems to be that if you just let yourself have exactly what you want (whilst sticking to the rule of eat when hungry, stop when not) you will eventually and naturally reach an equilibrium where your body wants the right combos of fruits and vegetables all on it's own.

So far, and this is probably the first week I'm really consciously doing this exercise (i.e. not tracking food, waiting for signs of hunger, eating whatever takes my fancy, no judgment), it's going ok.  Surprisingly so.  In fact, the scales are down at this point in the week, and just below where they've been stuck for a while.  Whether they'll still be there come Friday will be interesting, but I actually feel pretty good.

More to the point, I don't feel in the slightest bit deprived of anything, because I'm not.  I had crumble for lunch on Friday - no savoury, just crumble with some custard.  I'm not judging myself.  In fact, thinking about it, this week sounds ridiculous to have generated a loss - I've crumble, fish and chips, pizza, ice-cream and a pulled pork bap with chips.  I've also gnocchi, boiled eggs, fresh fruit, risotto and stew so I guess I'm hitting a balance in there somewhere.  And I don't eat until I'm so stuffed I can't move, I stop when I'm done, and if that means leaving something on the plate then I'm getting to grips with that too.

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