The next section I worked through is all about challenging beliefs about food, both internal and external. At first, I didn’t think much about this concept. I figured I knew all about thoughts warning against “unhealthy” foods. But this section really highlighted how easily an encounter with a well-meaning “food police” could throw me off.
I’ve developed a fairly strong identity as someone who eats very healthily. My family knows that I will usually have to make my own dinner when we eat together. Friends ask me about the nutritional attributes of certain foods. In my college dining hall, people always mention my “healthy eating” when they see my plate full of vegetables and grilled chicken, and gasp if I pick up anything from the dessert table. I’ve grown comfortable with this persona, with being considered a conscious eater.
I know it will be hard for me to continue to eat intuitively at school when I am always surrounded by others, for fear of sacrificing that distinctive image of myself. But I also worry about the other comments that come up. The ones that say “a moment at the lips, a lifetime on the hips,” or “another?” or “wow, someone is hungry today.” Even when these comments are meant as jokes, they immediately put me on edge and make me want to throw away all the food on my plate. I hate that this is my response, but that’s where I am right now.
As I continue to eat what I am hungry for, I feel good. However, I am finding it difficult to stop the part of my mind that says it is not healthy. I know that I am eating a lot of sugar. Way more than I’d like to imagine. Not just in desserts but in regular foods, too. And that makes me really nervous. I’m trying to remind myself that right now, the alternative is bingeing on sweets, therefore eating even more sugar and feeling much worse. Still, I keep thinking, once I’ve got this intuitive eating thing down, I’ll really cut back on sugar. I’m hoping that some of the later chapters, which address nutrition, will help ease my mind here.
So far, intuitive eating hasn’t challenged me too much, and I think I know why. I’ve been feeling okay with how my body looks lately. I’m not in love with it, and I still have bad moments, but for the most part, I feel good. I find myself forgetting to worry about my stomach folding into itself or the tightness of a shirt. I still body check frequently, but I usually pass my own tests. I know this is progress, because the body I’m in now never would have fit the crazy standards I had for it six months ago, but I recognize that it’s still dictating my mood, and also that I’ve had an easier time with intuitive eating because of it than someone very unhappy with their body. Now, whether or not my new contentment is a result of the mindset shift required for intuitive eating, I’m not yet sure.
I recently had a well visit with my doctor. I asked to not see my weight because I knew it could set me way back into disordered habits. My doctor, who knows all about my weight/food/mental health history, mentioned how proud she was that I’d maintained a stable weight through my first semester of college. She said I really seem to have found my body’s equilibrium, which honestly almost made me cry, because I’ve been desperate for just that. A year ago, if I knew my body was fighting to stay so “big,” I would have been devastated and fought like hell to change it. But now, I’m content to live in this healthy body that can regulate itself without me stressing about it. I feel capable and strong, and sometimes, even beautiful.
My exercise habits are still a bit compulsive, but have certainly improved. I tend to get pretty anxious after a day of not running, but I am able to stop after just a few miles, rather than fighting for more and more. I feel a lot of guilt for skipping strength work, but I am able to forgo it for more important things, like spending time with friends. I sometimes feel the need to walk after dinner, especially if I was sedentary during most of the day, even if I did work out. Still, I managed a few days without my fitbit on without feeling too crazy, and that is progress.