Sunday, June 13, 2010

More on Intuitive Eating: Getting Rid of Your Scale

If you are interested in learning more about intuitive eating, Wikipedia has a short article that you may want to look at here.  The article mentions a number of different authors and titles, many of which I have checked out from the library and am starting to work my way through.

I finished reading Geneen Roth's book (Women Food and God) on the plan ride home from Tampa.  During the next week I worked to apply the concepts I had learned from her:

Geneen Roth's Seven Guidelines to Natural Eating

1. Eat when you are hungry. (Truly hungry, body hungry not mind hungry)

2. Eat sitting down in a calm environment. This does not include the car.

3. Eat without distractions. Distractions include radio, television, newspaper, books, intense   or anxiety producing  conversation and music.

4. Eat only what your body wants. (Big difference from what your MIND wants!)

5. Eat until you are satisfied. (This is different than full).

6. Eat (with the intention of being) in full view of others.

7. Eat with enjoyment, gusto and pleasure. 

I lost about six pounds without ever feeling hungry or deprived (or sick or depressed from overeating).  The next week, Eli & Dan had their back-to-back birthdays and I made a bunch of chocolate cupcakes and brownies.  I pretty much ate those things all day for two days and gained some weight back and felt sick and unhappy.  Each time I weighed myself and saw that I was not continuing to lose weight, I felt like my new eating goals were not working.  At about the same time, I started a 14-week Biggest Loser Competition with some friends.  The starting weight I entered was my new low weight, pre-birthday-chocolate-binge.  After a week, I weighed in at +0.5 pounds.  I tried to feel happy about the fact that the six pounds I had initially lost were still gone, but I was sad that I hadn't lost another six pounds the second week, and I started thinking that this new system was failing me (or rather I was failing the new system). 

The third week I pretty much gave up and weighed in at +3.5 pounds, still down from when I first returned from Florida, but sad nontheless.  I started reading Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch.  Where Roth speaks from personal experience as one who has struggled with compulsive binging and dieting throughout her life, Tribole and Resch are registered dietitians who discovered many of the same eating principles by working with clients in private practice. 

There is a section in Tribole and Resch's book called "The Scale as False Idol":

"'Please, please, let the number be...'  This wishful prayer is not occurring in the casinos of Las Vegas, but in private homes throughout the country.  But just like the desperate gambler waiting for his lucky number to come in, so is it futile for the dieter to pay homage to the 'scale god.'  In one sweep of the scale roulette, hopes and desperation create a daily drama that will ultimately shape what mood you'll be in for the day.  Ironically, 'good' and 'bad' scale numbers can both trigger overeating--whether it's a congratulatory eating celebration or a consolation party.  The scale ritual sabotages body and mind efforts; it can in one moment devalue days, weeks, and even months of progress...Weighing in on the scale only serves to keep you focused on your weight; it doesn't help with the process of getting back in touch with Intuitive Eating.  Constant weigh-ins can leave you frustrated and impede your progress.  Best bet--stop weighing yourself" (pages 66-70).

This description of what the numbers on the scale do to me is right on.  Regardless of how good I feel about my efforts to relate to food in a new way, regardless of the progress I might be making, I get on the scale several times a day and feel like a failure.  After reading this, I took my scale down to the basement and have not gotten on it for nearly a week.  I have noticed this week that without the scale, I am more able to turn my focus inward on how I am doing with my new eating goals.  When I eat too much of something that makes me feel sick (usually sweets), instead of rushing to the scale to confirm my worst fears, I can be more philosophical about how, in spite of telling myself that the sweets will comfort me in some way, they really just make my stomach (and my heart) hurt. 

Tomorrow morning I am supposed to weigh in again for my Biggest Loser competition.  I don't think this competition is exactly in harmony with the things I am trying to learn and change in my life, but I don't want to bail out on my friends.  I feel anxious for tomorrow, knowing that if the scale is up from last week I will feel like a failure.  I know that feeling like that is not helping me--is harming me, actually.  I am not motivated to "eat better" by a high number on the scale.  I feel like the number on the scale tells me whether or not this new philosophy is "working" (i.e. making me lose weight), that this (what I see as) enlightened way of thinking about food is true if I lose weight, and not if I don't.  But in my heart I feel that it is true and good for me to learn to live and eat this way, regardless of what the scale says, and according to the adherents of this philosophy, over time I will lose weight.  But it is a process.  Each "failure" is a learning opportunity, a step in the right direction.  As I write this, my stomach is upset because I ate one too many Lindt truffle balls an hour ago.  I am thinking about my weigh-in tomorrow and how that truffle ball is going to tip the scale in the wrong direction.  Without the scale, I think it might be easier to learn a lesson from the extra truffle ball and keep moving in the right direction, toward wholeness, toward wellness, toward freedom from some of the demons that plague me.

I am not an artist, but in my mind's eye I can see a reptilian monster with open mouth and sharp fangs.  He is trying to put me in his mouth.  The scales that cover his body look like the one on the floor of my bathroom, the same unacceptable number in each little window on each little scale.  I think this guy does belong in the basement, or maybe even at Salvation Army or a land fill somewhere. 

Intuitive Eating

Written May 30, 2010:

Dan and I recently took a trip to Tampa for a conference of his on Clearwater Beach.  We enjoyed our time together, but realized we probably don't need more than 24-48 hours of alone time before we're ready to be reunited with the little ones.  By the end of our five days we couldn't wait to see them.

I read a new book on our trip that was recommended by a friend called Women Food and God by Geneen Roth.  Roth is a leading voice in the anti-diet/ normal eating/ intuitive eating movement.  Adherents of this way of thinking claim that dieting (and the binging it inspires when the diet fails) leads to obesity and negative self-image.  She encourages people to stop dieting, to stop thinking of foods as "bad" or "good" and instead to learn to really listen to their body.  Feed your body when you are hungry, and stop eating when you are satisfied.  Eat what your body is craving.  Eat sitting down, pay attention to what you are eating, focus on the experience.

Roth's book deals a lot with emotional eating, eating that has nothing to do with the body's need for food.  I really recognized a lot of what she was talking about.