Sunday, April 19, 2009

Chapter 12 - Respect Your Body

I'm going to go out on a limb here and assume that most of you reading this blog find the body acceptance part of this process a little difficult. Okay, maybe a lot difficult. An important thing to keep in mind as you read this chapter and ponder it is that this part of Intuitive Eating takes concerted effort for a long, long time, but is absolutely essential to becoming an intuitive eater. I can talk, because I've been working on this for years now. I've come a long way, but have a long way still to go. I can say now, with full confidence, that I feel better about myself and more comfortable in my skin than I have in a very long time.

A few weeks ago a cousin-in-law of mine posted on her blog about her experience of being a fat girl. She was a chubby kid and by high school was sixty pounds over weight. She lost the sixty pounds slowly over several years and has managed to keep the weight off for a long, long time now. I have a hard time even believing that she was once over weight because she is very small and her eating and lifestyle habits show no signs that they once were a problem. Her life has changed.

One thing she said in her post struck me very deeply because it was the first time I had heard anyone else express my philosophy of weight management. She said, speaking of her years of being overweight..." Most importantly, those years taught me an appreciation for my body, no matter it's size. I really had to learn to accept and acknowledge qualities that made me beautiful on the inside, until eventually, I felt beautiful on the outside. I had to accept where I was - and the frightening prospect that I might always be that way - BEFORE I could go on and change it." Thanks Brittany, I hope you don't mind that I quoted you.

In our book the authors quote another book, Body Traps by Judith Rodin. Here is the quote and I really think this is the magic key to learning how to take care of ourselves they way we should and the way we eventually get to a healthy and natural weight and stay there..."You don't need to lost weight first in order to take care of yourself. In fact, the process actually happens quite in the reverse!"

I really, truly believe that if we can learn to like ourselves first, before we are the size we think we should be, than we will start to treat ourselves right and that will mean eating right and exercising, giving our bodies what they need, but not more than they need. You see where I'm going with this?

I ask the questions again that the authors ask at the beginning of chapter 12. Has all the self-loathing because of your body helped you to actually make permanent change? Has dwelling on you imperfect body helped you make peace with your body and food? Maybe it's time to try something totally different?

It's true that it's hard to escape the body torture game when the whole country is playing it. This is why it takes so long to overcome, but that should make us even more determined not to play with the rest of them!

Keep in mind that body acceptance and respect for yourself are not the same thing as giving up or not caring about your body or health. I think we all picked up this book partly because we wanted to be more healthy, but, and I have to say this clearly, body acceptance may mean not being the size that you have dreamed about in your head. Sometimes the size we want to be is unrealistic, and not one that our body can sustain without major work and vigilance. The hard truth of the matter is that body acceptance will include for some of you, having to settle for a normal weight which might be somewhat more than your ultimate ideal?

I would love to hear what you guys think of this chapter and some of your ideas in the area of body respect. Any feed back would be great because I know all of us are stuggling with this.

It's very late and I've got to go to bed, but one last assignment. If you can find a way, I want you to watch a few episodes of What Not to Wear. This is a style show on The Learning Channel and was very helpful to me as I was working on learning to love my body. This show is all about loving the skin your in and learning to dress the body you have NOW, something the authors of Intuitive Eating suggest is very helpful. For those of you who have seen the show you'll know what I'm talking about. So whether you like clothes and style or not, I think you'll learn something from watching an episode or two. If you have time of course.

What I Learned in France

I just returned from an amazing trip to Paris France. Aside from all the wonderful things I saw and did, such as going to the top of the Eiffel Tower and seeing real Renoir's at the Louve, I learned some things that actually were very relevant to this blog and I want to share them with you.

I hadn't been in France long when I noticed an interesting phenomenon. There were no fat French people! Okay, maybe there were a couple chubby older ladies, but really, most of the heavier people I saw in France were Americans. It was weird. Almost everyone was thin! After talking with Emilie about this (Emilie is my cousin who has lived in France for over two years) I learned a thing or two about the french food culture and the reasons why most french people are thin. They are Intuitive Eaters!! Their food culture lends itself very well to this way of eating. I'll explain....

The above two pictures are samples of things we ate in France with almost every meal (notice how small the pastries are). Busy pastry shops are on every corner, and the french eat desserts and white bread very regularly, with almost every meal in fact. Dieting is a foreign concept to them, and even though they move their bodies everyday, they aren't generally regular exercisers. So why are they so thin?

They savor their food. Food that is made carefully and with fresh, real ingredients. They eat slowly, and their portions are much smaller.

Really? Is that all?

Yep, that's all.

The french manage food and meal times much differently than we do here in the good old U. S. of A. Above is a picture of a typical French cafe. We would be seated for lunch and two hours later, finally be wrapping up our meal. Meals really took almost two hours to eat. It was wonderful! We would sit down, be served at drink, a little later, be served bread, a little later a meal, delicious, fresh, and smaller, but totally satisfying. No one rushed us through our meal. We would talk, eat, chat, eat some more. We enjoyed the meal, every bite. Then after having plenty of time to finish our food, we would order dessert. Desserts were amazing, but much smaller than the ginormous portions we are served here in America.

At my first dinner in France I ordered chocolate fondant for dessert. Chocolate fondant was exactly like what we would call chocolate lava cake here at home. I received my cake, which was only about the size of a racket ball, but presented very beautifully. I wanted to savor every delicious bite because it was such a small cake. Then it dawned on me. This was one big reason french people are small. They start with smaller portions and savor each bite because each bite counts. As I was enjoying the most amazing dessert I had ever had, made with the finest butter, cream, chocolate, and eggs, I couldn't help thinking about the huge, head sized chocolate molten cake I'm served at Chili's restaurant back in the states. I was more satisfied, slowly enjoying my little french cake, than I ever had been rushing through that chocolate monster back home at Chili's.

The french sit down to nicely set tables to enjoy their food. They wouldn't dream of eating in the car, having lunch working at a desk, or snacking while watching television. They set the table, sit down, and enjoy themselves at meal times. Emilie said she has carefully observed her french mother and sister in law. They don't nibble as they are preparing food. When preparation is complete and it's time to eat, they put what they want on their plates, sit down, and eat a leisurely meal, not going back for seconds, because they feel so satisfied.

French people rarely, if ever, snack, because eating food quickly would be a less than optimal eating experience. I don't know if I agree with the no snacking thing because it doesn't follow Intuitive Eating very well. Intuitive Eating tells to eat when we feel hungry, which is often between meals, but maybe we should make sure even our snacking is done in an optimal setting, not standing up at the counter or driving down the road.

Here's the new book I'm reading. I'll let you know if it's good. The author was born and raised in France, went for a year long study abroad in America and gained lots of weight. After returning to France she resumed eating in the 'french' way and lost her weight, keeping it off for the rest of her life. I'm about three chapters into it and their are many of the same things advocated in it that go hand in hand with intuitive eating. Mainly, savoring what you really want to eat, stopping when full, not dieting, and not restricting certain types of foods. When I'm done I'll do a review. I'm certain there are many things we could learn from the french way of eating because french women don't get fat!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Intuitive Eating Chapter 10

Oh boy, my favorite chapter...Coping With Your Emotions Without Using Food. This the the hardest part of intuitive eating for me, but reading Rethinking Thin helped me understand something that made me feel a little better. People who are over weight don't use food to cope with their emotions any more than thin people do. Science has proven this. It was good to learn that this was true. People everywhere use food to cope with life, but even so, even if you're fat or thin, using food as a coping strategy will sabotage your ability to eat intuitively, so it's something that needs to be addressed.

Something that I think most diets don't keep in mind is the fact the food has a huge emotional component to it and this is not something that can be escaped. Eating can be, and usually is an emotionally laden experience. We use food for all sorts of reasons and food has many functions in our society that have almost nothing to do with hunger or nutrition. We use food to celebrate happy occasions, to show love to family and friends, as tradition, to socialize, to reward ourselves or others, as a hobby (cooking, baking), as entertainment....and the list could go on. Like I said, diets don't take this into account and this is part of the reason why diets fail and are not usually adopted as a way of life.

Here's a list (from the chapter) of emotional reasons we eat:

Sensory Gratification
Boredom and Procrastination
Bribery and Reward
Soothing yourself
Frustration, Anger, Rage
As a way of connecting to others
Loosening the reins on a controlled life

I've eaten for every reason on this list. Some of them good, some not so good and some more than others. I can especially relate to eating out of boredom or stress, and having a need to connect to others. I know I eat the most when I feel like I have no freedom to do what is stimulating or fullfilling to me. When I feel this way I really crave those cookies! What are some emotional reasons you eat?

I'm facing the fact that eating for emotional reasons may never really completely end in my life, but I can learn (and have learned) to do it less often. As a result I'm also forced to deal with my stress, boredom, and other emotions in a better way (one good side effect of eating intuitively).

Even though I still eat for emotional reason, I do it much less than I used to and when I do I am very aware of what I'm doing. (I wasn't in the past) When I realize that I'm eating and not hungry, I recognize that I'm doing it and ask myself why. Then I try to think of other ways to deal. Sometimes I can't always find a healthier way to deal so I choose to keep eating, but just recognizing that I'm eating to cope results in much less over eating in the moment and in the future. Hopefully, with more practice, this will get easier for me.

How do you guys feel about Chapter 10?

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Rethinking Thin Chapter 8 and Epiloge

The war still rages about what makes people fat. The debate is still on about how unhealthy being overweight (within a range) really is. There is no doubt that Americans are fatter than ever before, but nobody seems to be able to find out exactly why this is so or even if it's really such a bad thing (health wise) unless your're extremely overweight. There are a million theories though. I suspect that there are hundreds of factors that contribute to America's growing girth. I've decided, after closing the cover on Rethinking Thin for the second time, that it's unwise to single out any one, two, three or more of the theories and assign them to ourselves as the reason(s) were not the sizes we want to be. There's just not enough solid information to chalk our weights up to any one reason.

Considering all the information that's out there, all the the things that have been discovered and all the things that have yet to be discovered I keep coming to the same conclusion. It's best to find a balance, to use common sense. We need to listen to our bodies, to how they feel. Learn to eat when we're hungry and stop when we're full. We should eat a variety of foods and choose foods based on how they make us feel. It's always good to move our bodies. Remember to always take into account the mental factors of eating such as the power of pleasure, the problems with deprivation, and the psychological dangers of dieting.

We should do a better job of accepting ourselves for who we are. Genetics are part of our size, there's no getting around that. The fact is...there is no one standard size that is right for everyone. We should be good to ourselves. Remember that diets very rarely result in permanent weight loss! And something else important. It's very unfair and unwise to judge people who are fat. Even ourselves!

I hope you enjoy, or have enjoyed reading Rethinking Thin. My main reason for wanting to have every one read this book is to help you understand how sound science can shake up some possibly wrong ideas we might have in our heads about fat and introduce us to other ideas that may be helpful to consider. Ideas about people and fat, about our environment and fat. To see that here are no simple answers.

What did you learn from the book? Did you discover anything that helped you?

Which Diet is Best?

Vicki, a member of our group who found the blog and joined awhile ago sent me this study. Vicki is a dietitian/nutritionist (sorry Vicki, I can't remember which one). This study proves irrefutably, that no one diet is better than any other. All diets result in weight loss. Why do I say this when I'm doing my best to convince you to abandon dieting? I think this idea will help you in the future if you decide to commit yourself to intuitive eating. There are, as of yet, no magic bullets for weight loss. If you decide to never diet again, you won't be missing anything. In fact, it's necessary to drop the idea that somewhere there is a diet that will result in permanent weight loss for you. The fact that the last diet didn't work, but the next one will be different is a notion that is best dropped in an intuitive eating lifestyle. No one has discovered the magic pill for permanent, easily maintained weight loss!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Chapters 9 and 10 of Intuitive Eating

Intuitive Eating Chapter 9 - Feel Your Fullness

I tend to be one who cleans her plate. After becoming aware of this fact and trying to break myself of the habit without much success, I now start out with less food on my plate to begin with. I've gotten pretty good at judging how hungry I am and deciding how much food it will take to feel satisfied. I also tend to be a fast eater so learning to slow down and savor has been something that I've had to work on and am still working on. I find I'm much better at this if I don't wait until I'm famished to eat. There are so many factors that condition us to eat more than our bodies need. I know some of you have mentioned that you don't like to waste food. What are some other factors that cause you to eat more than you need?

The most important part of learning to stop eating when your full is to know for certain that you can have any food you want again, when ever you want it. If you don't truly believe this then it's really hard to listen to your body. When I eat at a restaurant that I know I can't eat at everyday, I tend to over eat. So, for my day to day living, I find it critical that I truly believe that I can have access to any food. Do you believe the principle that nothing can be off limits or Intuitive Eating can't work? Explain why or why not.

Feeling your fullness is where the rules come in for Intuitive Eating. This way of eating does not promote eating until you're sick (although they allow that sometimes this will happen). The key is to listen to your body and act accordingly. To do this you must learn what it feels like to be comfortably full and then STOP! This will be different for everyone. The amount of food that fills up one person may not fill up another so don't compare yourselves. Just listen to your stomach.

We all know there are foods that won't keep you full for long. I don't cut those foods out of my diet, but I do keep in mind, when choosing what to eat, that certain foods will keep me fuller, longer. Have you ever told yourself "I shouldn't be hungry" and then not allowed yourself to eat? It's silly, because when you're hungry, you're hungry. Eat something and move on. I find that some days I'm very hungry and other days I don't eat much at all. It all seems to even itself out over time.

Learning to eat intuitively during social events has was the hardest for me. I'm was so busy jabbering, listening to others jabber or sitting around the table too long picking at the food that I'm wasn't as tuned in as I should have been. Being with people seemed to be a cue for me to eat. Over time, I've gotten much better with this. I just remind myself to be aware. Also, eating intuitively is becoming more and more automatic for me. Do social situations cause you to eat more? I know for some people they eat less in social situations because they don't want others to think they're pigs. Which of these problems do you experience?

Intuitive Eating Chapter 10 - Discover the Satisfaction Factor

I love this chapter because I think the satisfaction factor is critical to a person's mental health when it comes to a relationship with food. Diets very rarely take into account the satisfaction factor. I believe this a huge reason they fail. There is something very powerful in feeling happy and satisfied when you leave the table. So many other cultures around the world seem to remember this. The Japanese promote this as one of their goals for healthy living and many people believe that this is why the French are much healthier than Americans even though their diets contain much richer foods. They're just satisfied with much less because they are taught to enjoy and savor their food. Meal times in France are slow and leisurely. Americans are so concerned with health and eating quickly, that they sometime forget that food is supposed to taste good. We don't take time to enjoy and savor!

I know that some of you are saying, "I always eat foods I love and enjoy and I'm fat." But ask yourself if you are really thinking carefully about what you really, truly want, and then savoring each bite, stopping when you're full? Sometimes we just plow through our food without really even tasting it.

I had so deeply bought into the idea that I must deny myself tasty food because it made me fat that I had a hard time believing what the authors say, that if you allow yourself pleasure and satisfaction from every possible eating experience, your total quantity of food will decrease. When I tried this principle out for myself, I found it to be amazingly true. Now I try to get the most out of every eating experience. Sometimes this isn't possible, we all have to eat on the run sometimes, but I do this whenever I can. And yep, I eat much less than I used to! Not only that, but I think I'm a happier person in general and I don't obsess about food. My favorite result from intuitive eating! How do you guys feel about the principle of pleasure and eating?

And remember, when you're digging into that favorite package of cookies make sure you're checking in with yourself to make sure the third cookie is still tasting as good as the first one did!In my experience, they usually don't.

One slice of apple pie has got to have less calories than that package of Graham crackers and can of applesauce you ate instead of pie, not to mention the satisfaction factor that is almost absent in the Graham cracker scenario! Just savor the pie and move on. I think you'll find that you eat much less pie than you ever thought you would.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Rethinking Thin Chapters 6 and 7

I'm going to do these two chapters together because the information in them is very closely related. The chapters are a little longer, but we're going to have two weeks this time to catch up on reading.

Remember the super fat rat from the study?

The science of weight has made leaps and bounds in the last decade or so. One monumental finding was by Mr. Friedman with the help of his fat rats. Together they tracked down the the hormone called leptin. Remember leptin... that little hormone that resides in your fat cells and tells your brain when you've had enough to eat? Turns out leptin is only one hormone in a complex series that effects our weight and appetite.

Then there's Mr. Rozin and his scientific studies on the psychology of eating. What are the tricks our brain plays to cause us to eat? What are some visual cues that help us eat less or cause us to eat mindlessly and more than we need? We do so much eating that we aren't even aware of, yet our body weights tend to stay steady over time. So much at work in these bodies and minds of ours!

Turns out, our bodies are incredibly complex when it comes to eating, appetite and weight. It seems silly that any one diet or eating plan would actually work for just anybody, thus more evidence that we can blame the process of dieting and not ourselves when our weight loss efforts fail in the long run. Dieting seems like a fruitless effort to outsmart a very, very complex system. It's seems were doomed to lose, most of the time, when we play the diet game. It makes more sense to me to work with the system that God put in place instead of trying to fight it.

I might be a little naive here and probably simplifying too much, but after reading these chapters and all the different scientific findings, I've decided that Intuitive Eating is more sound than ever. I think these studies reinforce the fact that our bodies know what they need. The best way to maintain a healthy, normal weight is to listen to our bodies, tune into them, and respond to what they tell us. Rid yourself of all those outside messages and let your body do the talking. It seems to me that if you can allow your body and brain to subconsciously do the work of controlling your eating, you'll naturally gravitate towards your ideal playing weight (unless there is something distinctly wrong with your system, such as the girl with no leptin). Intuitive Eating is the key to helping you learn to let you body and brain do the work. Of course nutrition plays a part in this (certain additives can contribute to the drive to overeat and things like that) and we will get to that later, but I think our bodies can even help us know what is good or bad for them if we just listen.

What did you learn from chapters 6 and 7? Do you agree or disagree with my little assessments above? Why or why not?