(If you haven’t yet read my introductory post about beginning intuitive eating, start there!)
In chapter three, Tribole provides five steps toward making peace with food, and encourages readers to take them on at a comfortable pace.
The first step is to make a list of foods that appeal to you. While I did this, I found that the list was not absurdly long, despite the fact that I used to think of food constantly. I had to consciously consider particular types of food, like pizza, soft pretzels, etc., because for so long I just decided that I didn’t like them enough for them to be calorically “worth it.” But because this list is supposed to be without limits, I wanted to make sure I broke through those constructed dislikes.
My list had twenty-five items. After the next step, which has you mark the ones that you actually do eat, I had eighth check marks. Eight safe foods that I felt comfortable eating and enjoyed. Some of these were general, like “fruit,” so technically there are more than eight, but you get the idea.
Steps three through five detail obtaining one food at a time, checking in with yourself while eating it, and making it readily available to yourself. This is a habituation process for forbidden foods. I didn’t rush this part, because by this point I was eating what I wanted most of the time and therefore didn’t feel desperate for “forbidden foods” as often. I didn’t want to eat them just because they were on the list; I wanted to wait until I wanted them naturally.
Because I worked on this part over the holidays, many of my forbidden foods were present anyway, and I had the chance to go through this process several times. One by one, frosting, french toast and frozen yogurt were checked off, indicating that I have made peace with them. The book notes that it is not always essential to do this with every single item, so long as you continue until you “truly know you can eat what you want.” I think this will be the case for me, but there are a few more foods I think I will have to work through before I am finished. Cereal, sweet potatoes, soft serve, let’s go.
At this point, I can’t believe the difference intuitive eating has made. Obviously, not everyone will see a change so quickly, but mine has been rapid and so so gratifying.
First- I’m not hungry all the time. Before, I woke up starving and had to eat as soon as I woke up. Today, I forgot to eat breakfast. I forgot to eat my favorite meal of the day. This isn’t the greatest thing either, and when I remembered, I made myself eat something because I planned to go for a long run and knew I wouldn’t be able to do it on an empty stomach. Tribole talks specifically about making sure to eat something in the morning even if you are not hungry.
Second- Fancy coffee drinks no longer appeal to me much. At some point over the past few years, when I was still restricting like crazy, I made these drinks a sort of ritual for myself. In the evening, after dinner, I would frequently go to a Starbucks, get a flavored latte or something else sweet and caffeinated, and do homework. It was a way for me to keep myself from eating more, and to get a lot of work done at once. This ritual continued into college, and I often devoted Saturday afternoons to the same thing. I would make sure to have hit the gym in the morning (still pretty disordered there) and then grab a coffee and camp out somewhere with my laptop. In this way I tried every seasonal latte at Starbucks before finals started. I was also done with most of my work before finals started, so it wasn’t all bad. Honestly, it doesn’t sound like a very unhealthy habit, which is why I didn’t realize what it was hiding. I craved these sweet, milky drinks because I had deemed them more acceptable than regular desserts because they were functional. The caffeine let me put in hours of work, which would have otherwise been broken up by snacks or exhaustion.
Now that I am eating to satisfaction and I have the assurance that I can eat more whenever i want, I’m no longer drawn toward a chestnut praline latte. By the time I went home for the semester, I was actually opting for plain espresso over a latte.
Third-I drink so much more water. I don’t exactly know why this is. I was always terrible at drinking water. I would get home from school and realize that all day, all I’d had to drink was a cup of coffee and a sip of water to swallow some pills. I never felt thirsty unless I was exercising. Now, I’m constantly thirsty and find myself chugging glasses of water frequently throughout the day. Who knew?
Fourth-I have so much more freedom. One Friday night, I had eaten dinner and maybe even another snack, I don’t remember. Normally at this point, I would begin to get into nighttime mode, thinking I’d be sleeping soon because if I stayed up, I might eat more. On this day, however, I texted a friend to see if she was free, and we ended up sledding with a big group of theatre students. This is the first time I can remember that I wasn’t worried about food or my body the whole time. I was with kids my age, bundled in winter gear, sledding down a hill in the dark, and I actually forgot to worry. I forgot to make myself go home so I wouldn’t be hungry again before bed. I forgot to compare my speed going back up the hill with the girl next to me to see who was more fit. I forgot to be anywhere except on that hill, and it was incredible.
This is all fantastic, and I am so happy to have gotten to this point already. There are, however, a few foods that still make me really mentally uncomfortable. They’re not things I particularly like, but things that are hard to avoid when others prepare a meal: Oils. Fried chicken, anything cooked in oil, pre-buttered bread. They mess with my head. I don’t feel like I need to go all out and eat these like I did the others, but I have to deal with it somehow. I think the vital thing here is learning not to freak out when oil is inevitable, like when someone else is cooking. I could do this by eating whatever my mom makes when I go home, or ordering something that other than salad the next time I’m in a restaurant. Still, as I write this I’m realizing how scary this is, even with all the progress in other areas. This one could take some more time.