St. Paddy’s Day and the giant chocolate bar
I went out briefly last night for St. Patrick’s day (I had to debut my awesome O’bama t-shirt!), and ran into a friend who confessed that he had been reading my blog. He said it was good, but, “I just can’t do that right now.” I asked him what he meant, and he said that he couldn’t eat whatever he wanted whenever he wanted it, because he would eat crap all the time and be enormously overweight. I think that’s a common misconception about intuitive eating, and one that I hope to dispel in this blog. I’m realizing that it’s quite difficult to explain the entire philosophy in short blog posts (you really should read the book or listen to the CDs in order to truly get it!), but I suppose I can be more clear about this particular issue.
So let me say this once and for all: intuitive eating is not just about eating whatever you want! It’s about giving yourself permission to eat anything you want, whenever you want it. Allow me to explain the difference: by giving yourself permission to eat all the “bad” foods you’ve never allowed yourself to eat (without enormous guilt or a promise to run 5 miles the following day), the food no longer has control over you, and when you encounter a previously forbidden food, you may find that you’ll be more likely pass it up or only eat a little bit of it, rather than go on an all-out binge, because you’ll know that you can have it whenever you want. Sure, maybe in the beginning when you give yourself permission to eat any food you want, you might find yourself eating cupcakes and pizza all day every day, but after a few days, these coveted foods won’t excite you as much. It’s called habituation — repeated exposure to a “forbidden” food item eventually causes you to grow tired of it, and you no longer desire it as you did before.
A great example of habituation happened in our household over the holidays. A friend of mine gave my husband and me an enormous block of really good quality chocolate as a Christmas gift. I’m not joking when I say this thing was huge– it literally came with a little hammer to crack pieces off of it! During the first couple of weeks of having this thing on my kitchen counter, we would crack off pieces of chocolate every day, often more than once a day. After a couple of weeks, it came to the point where a day would go by without having a piece, and then sometimes a few days would go by without any chocolate consumption. Eventually, a couple months later when we were about two-thirds of the way through it, the size of the remaining chunk of chocolate seemed to remain constant for a few weeks. The chocolate was still really good, but it no longer held any power over us. We would only have a piece when we really wanted it, as opposed to just eating it because it was there. That’s what habituation and unconditional permission does.
The other thing that I perhaps haven’t been clear enough about on this blog is that intuitive eating isn’t just about eating whatever you want…it’s also about listening to your body to see what makes it feel its best, and eating accordingly. If you only ate what you wanted based on taste, you might think that you would eat hamburgers and cookies all day every day. But the truth of the matter is, if you listen to your body, after a few days you’ll be begging for a salad or some steamed veggies, because you won’t be feeling too hot if your main source of fuel comes from these high-fat high-sugar foods! Once you’ve given yourself unconditional permission to eat these foods and experimented a little with varying amounts of them, you’ll very likely find that you can still feel good while enjoying them on occasion and perhaps in smaller quantities, and maybe paired with something not quite so rich in fat and/or sugar.
I hope that clears things up a little. I know that the idea of “eating anything you want” is completely foreign to most people, and it seems pretty counter-intuitive as a way to achieve a healthy lifestyle. But within the context of the entire philosophy of intuitive eating, it really does make sense, and I truly believe that adopting this way of thinking can help you to achieve a balance in your life that will ultimately lead to improved physical and psychological health. It certainly has for me!
Now that I’ve clarified things, do you think this could work for you? I’d love to hear what you think!