Devouring the World

Teppy wrote a great post yesterday about “demand feeding,” which is a really terrible name for “eating what you want when you’re hungry and stopping when you’re full.”

That’s something I recommend frequently, as it’s a key component of the Health at Every Size strategy. The problem with it, as Teppy points out, is a whole lot of people don’t know when they’re hungry, what they feel like eating, or when they’re full. Ex-dieters, especially, are so used to categorizing foods as “good” and “bad,” and having specific foods and portions dictated to us, the thought of really eating whatever we want — as opposed to the diet version of “eating whatever you want,” which means allowing yourself one bite of ice cream SO YOU DON’T FEEL DEPRIVED (oy) — can be overwhelming and frankly frightening.

This rang a really big bell with me:

I’ve always had this fear, which has been encouraged and strengthened by the many diets I’ve been on, that if I ate what I actually wanted, then I would devour the WORLD. Well, I already wrote about this. But to really embrace demand feeding, I have to face that fear. I know, intellectually, that my fear is unfounded. I cannot possibly eat my own weight in Little Debbie oatmeal cream pies. I *know* it, but I still don’t *believe* it.

That’s an important point not only because many of us trying to learn what healthful eating really means have to overcome that fear, but because I think the same misconception drives a lot of fat hatred. I really think a whole lot of thin people who eat restrictively — whether in a diagnosably disordered way or merely an “I AM GOOD! I EAT CELERY!” way — believe deep down that they are just barely keeping a lid on their own desire to devour the world. And they assume all fat people have just failed to keep a lid on the same desire — so if we go unpunished for that, we’re getting away with a “crime” they believe they work very hard not to commit.

Teppy points out that the marketing schtick for so many diet programs boils down to, “You can eat what you want! You won’t feel deprived!” Of course that’s a complete load of crap — either you can “eat whatever you want” except for certain foods (Atkins, South Beach), or you can “eat whatever you want” in gerbil-sized, pre-packaged portions (Jenny Craig), or you can “eat whatever you want” and then spend an extra hour at the gym and not eat anything else for the rest of the day in order to stay on your plan (Weight Watchers). But regardless, “We will give you permission — in some limited way — to eat ‘bad’ foods!” is a tremendously effective marketing strategy.

And that’s because so many of us really believe somebody needs to give us permission; simply choosing to eat fatty, sugary food because you feel like it is absolutely not an option. And then somebody also needs to put a limit on that permission, so we won’t go and devour the world. In this culture, most of us never learn to trust our bodies when it comes to eating, and we certainly never learn to trust our desires. Choosing what to eat is a daily battle between good and evil.

I mean, think about it for two seconds. People are selling plans that allow you to “eat what you want,” to the tune of billions. That’s lunacy. Because I love you, I shall offer you the Kate Harding Lifetime Diet Plan — which permits you to eat whatever you want — absolutely free! It goes like this:

DAY 1:

Eat whatever you want. It’s your body. You’re allowed.

DAY 2 THROUGH DEATH:

Repeat Day 1.

The problem with the Kate Harding Lifetime Diet Plan is exactly what Teppy talks about — figuring out what you’re hungry for and how hungry you are after a lifetime of being told you are always too hungry for the wrong foods. I still struggle with staying on my own plan, for exactly the reasons Teppy and her commenters describe. I have a major fear of deprivation when it comes to food, plus a whole lot of baggage about “good” and “bad” foods, so trying to listen to my body instead of the voices in my head involves a lot of conscious effort — which is exactly what you’re trying to drop by, you know, listening to your body.

But it does get easier all the time. Fillyjonk and I were talking yesterday about how, after being forbidden to eat sugared cereal as kids, we both made a beeline for the Lucky Charms in the college caf. But then we both got really fucking sick of Lucky Charms pretty quickly and realized we sincerely preferred Colon Blow. That was my first experience of learning that if I remove the prohibition on certain foods, I might just find out I don’t even want them. Or at least, I don’t want them every minute of every day, like I used to think I did.

Similarly, once I was out on my own, every time I’d go to a restaurant, I would end up ordering The Thing I Kind of Wanted that Came with Fries, even if what really sounded good to me was pasta or salad or even something that came with mashed potatoes, which I love. I got mashed potatoes at home when I was a kid. But fries? Were the rarest of treats, the whole goddamned point of going to a restaurant, if you asked me. And once my mother no longer controlled my food intake, I was on a mission to eat EVERY FRY IN THE GODDAMNED WORLD.

But you know what? I didn’t eat every fry in the goddamned world. And these days, I don’t have the same internal battle anymore — I order fries when I feel like it, and the Thing I Really Want That Doesn‘t Come with Fries when I feel like that — because I’ve now spent enough years eating at enough restaurants that I no longer feel as if there’s a worldwide fry shortage looming, and I need to act now!

So it makes a lot of sense that maybe the best way to stop feeling as if you’re going to devour the WORLD is to actually go ahead and try to devour the world. Because the first thing you’ll realize is that you can’t. And the next thing you’ll realize is that you don’t really want to. And once you get to that point, you might actually have a prayer of understanding your own internal hunger cues.

But for anyone who’s grown up in this culture, really — let alone those who have dieted, struggled with eating disorders, and/or been shamed for being fat their whole lives — taking that first step of “legalizing” all foods and eating without guilt, so you can actually pay attention to how your body feels when you eat, is incredibly fucking daunting. I’ve come a long way with that, but the conscious effort is still necessary, and the voices in my head are still there, trying their damnedest to drown out what my stomach is telling me.

Yesterday, I decided I really wanted an Italian sausage sandwich for lunch. I got one at Giordano’s, and of course it was HUGE. I ate about half of it and started to feel full to the point of sickness.

Then I ate a few more bites because this is really good and I’ve only eaten half and no one can see me and WHAT IF I NEVER HAVE ANOTHER ITALIAN SAUSAGE SANDWICH IN MY WHOLE LIFE?

And only after those extra deprivation-mode bites did I go, “Wait a minute. You are so full you FEEL SICK. Why are you HURTING YOURSELF over a goddamned sandwich? You can go to Giordano’s and get a dozen Italian sausage sandwiches any time you want! You can walk away from this particular one without necessarily diminishing your lifetime Italian sausage intake! You will not be thinking about the second half of this sandwich on your deathbed!”

That’s the kind of conscious intervention I’m talking about. It’s ludicrous, but it’s necessary.

So the bad news is, I ate myself sick yesterday. The good news is, a few years ago, I would have eaten that whole sandwich and a plate of fries before I even noticed I felt sick — and then let the resulting nausea serve as appropriate punishment for my gluttony. Then only eaten “good” food for two days to atone. Yesterday, I only ate myself a little sick, relatively speaking, and I wound up feeling proud of myself for stopping to ask the obvious question: Why are you hurting yourself over a goddamned sandwich?

And then, when I got hungry for dinner, what I really wanted was a big bowl of yogurt and berries, so that’s what I ate until I was full. I didn’t make that choice because it would balance out my earlier indiscretion; I made it because I opened the fridge and went, “I’ve got yogurt and berries! Hot damn!”

So sometimes it’s easy and sometimes it’s not. But the one thing I know for sure is that the more I eat what I want and just let it go, instead of moralizing about it — even if what I want is a gigantic Italian sausage sandwich or a plate of onion rings or a bag of Cheetos — the less I fear I am on the brink of devouring the WORLD. And the less I eat myself sick. And the more I eat nutrient-rich food because I crave it. And the more I can truly distinguish feelings of hunger from feelings of deprivation.

And the better I feel.

116 thoughts on “Devouring the World

  1. I’m still kind of rebounding from my (failed, of course and short lived) diet which means YAY! I’ve been eating a lot of the stuff I wasn’t “supposed” to eat like pizza (from Giordano’s, high five) and margaritas and Pad Thai and all the other foods I love. But then, the other day, I really really just wanted a big salad with a lot of veggies and some chicken. I can only eat so much cheese and sugar before my body’s like “Hi? Can we get some vitamins and stuff?”

    I think my stomach is starting to come back to normal territory where I sometimes do want pizza but other times I want strawberries or corn or whatever else.

    I think the body naturally seeks balance and when you fuck with it (through dieting) it gets all out of whack and wants the bad stuff because it’s forbidden. Or maybe it’s a brain thing, I don’t know. But I did learn a lesson – deprive yourself of anything and you’ll just want it more.

    And then you’re face down in a pizza with a margarita in your hand. Or maybe that’s just how I party.

  2. I can only eat so much cheese and sugar before my body’s like “Hi? Can we get some vitamins and stuff?”

    EXACTLY. And when you don’t let yourself eat the cheese and sugar, all you can think about is how much you want that, instead of how much you also want vitamins and stuff.

    And then you’re face down in a pizza with a margarita in your hand. Or maybe that’s just how I party..

    Hee! Why aren’t we partying together?

  3. There is that rebound period, though, which I think is a lot of what scares people. Because as their body adjusts from restricting eating, they may be eating differently as they learn to understand their bodies again. That’s okay, though. Its part of the process. I know I haven’t been eating a very rounded diet in the last year or so for a few reasons, but I also know that I’ve been wanting a better balance. Not to be “good”, but because I want it. I want brocolli. I want to grill fish. I want pasta. I’m about the most rut happy eater you’ll find, but even I’m tired of eating the same things over and over again.

  4. There is that rebound period, though, which I think is a lot of what scares people.

    Yeah, absolutely, BStu. What I’m trying to say here is, you gotta go through it to get past it. Which is definitely scary, because you can’t see the end of it when you feel like all you want to do is eat “bad” food by the truckload. But it does end.

  5. I’ve noticed that a lot of the people who cluck about fat people’s lack of restraint will go on to say “I mean, of course we’d all love to eat nothing but Butterfingers all day long.” (Direct quote from a coworker who called me “racist” for saying that there was a socioeconomic component to rising obesity, such as it is. Apparently it’s more acceptable to say that poor people who are buying crap food are just stupid.) Funny, I’m the fat one and I have absolutely no desire to eat Butterfingers all day!

    But I certainly did once. I just had to figure out that if I wanted to eat a Butterfinger, nobody was going to take it away.

    One of my recalcitrant disordered behaviors is that I feel much more secure if I have a stash of junk food, even if I’m not eating it right then. I like to know it’s there and hidden. The “nobody can see me” line in your post really resonated with me — so much of disordered eating is about secrecy and shame. Learning to eat normally means learning to eat based on your needs, not someone else’s potential judgment.

  6. But Kate! How will you turn the Kate Harding Lifetime Diet Plan into billions of dollars of profit? WON’T ANYONE THINK OF THE STOCKHOLDERS

    This is a brilliant post. The fear of devouring the world also reminds me of the post-diet fear of regaining weight–I remember a couple years ago I gained some weight (like, 10 pounds or something) and then was absolutely convinced that I was going to gain back 50 and then just keep going. It was a similar dynamic of fake permission–I was terrified that if I “let” myself gain 10 pounds, nothing would stop me from gaining as many pounds as there were in the universe.

    And they assume all fat people have just failed to keep a lid on the same desire — so if we go unpunished for that, we’re getting away with a “crime” they believe they work very hard not to commit.

    This is very well-said, and I think that notion of “getting away” with a culturally-imposed “crime” has a lot to do with the public regulation/shaming of female bodies as well… But that’s probably another post’s worth.

  7. So so SO true.

    I started out in life terribly undernourished. I just had NO appetite. I would eat myself to the point of sickness just to stave off the accusations of anorexia and even then I’d only have eaten half the (small) plate. Then I got on a medicine that increases appetite and WHOA! Suddenly I had NO idea when to stop! I had to make a concerted effort over a year or so to determine when “full” was. And then stop. It’s ok if you spent $6 on that sandwich and fries and only ate 1/3 of it. It’s not going to be any better if you stuff yourself than if you save it for later or even just (gasp) toss it. You have to take care of your self, your own body, that has its own needs that are NOT what society dictates. It’s hard to throw off those rules…

    I’ve also learned that when I’m craving something, even if it’s something “unhealthy”? My body probably needs something that food contains. My body isn’t stupid. I listen to my body, though sometimes I step in and tell it what to do (I’m introducing more greens to my diet, for instance). But then again? If I gag at trying to chomp down on Green Veggie X, I’m not going to be able to keep eating it regularly. So I’m not gonna force myself. I’m going to have to find something else that has that nutritional value, but that I LIKE THE TASTE OF. That’s ok. And if I don’t get 100% of every nutritional category I’m supposed to — OH WELL. It’s not a moral failure, dammit. Nobody eats what the food pyramid tells them to. Who eats 7 servings of veggies a day? Most people don’t eat it in a week.

    I’ve been much healthier since I took up (what I didn’t know was labeled ;)) the Kate Harding Diet Plan, if nothing else because I’ve lost such a huge burden of stress. Like I’ve lost my own weight in anchors chained to my shoulders. I’m not tied down.

  8. It’s hard too because I like margaritas from one place and pizza from another place and sigh. Why aren’t there mexican/pizza restaurants?

    I’m remembering when I’d “allow” myself to have one “bad” meal a week while dieting. I’d eat an entire HUGE order of Pad Thai to the point of physical PAIN just because omg I was allowed! And I might as well eat an entire order of crab Rangoon because I won’t be allowed tomorrow. Then comes the food coma…

    I ordered Pad Thai last night and barely ate half of it before I was like “oof, I’ll eat the rest tomorrow.” My poor stomach.

    It was amazing to me how quickly I slipped right into that weird, pre-disordered way of thinking about food. I only ever wanted to eat everything in sight when I was dieting. I haven’t dieted much compared to a lot of other people but counting grapes and measuring my Kashi cereal? Can’t do it. I still like grapes and Kashi, though. Hrm!

    This is also making me remember something I did as a kid and I’ve never told anyone this…

    You know how the Budding lunch meat comes in those two serving packages? My mom would stock up on those for my dad’s lunch so we always had a ton of them. I’d sneak them into my bedroom, eat the meat, and stash the packages behind my bed.

    For some reason, I figured that if no one saw the packages, no one would think I was bad for stealing lunch meat and eating it in secrecy. My parents never, ever did anything to overtly shame me about my weight. I just knew that somehow, eating a package of lunch meat was bad.

    I have a feeling that if someone had said “Eat as much of that lunch meat as you want, no one cares” I wouldn’t have even wanted it.

    Here’s another one – my mom very rarely brought us to fast food places, if ever. It’s not so much that she thought it’d make us fat as much as we just didn’t have the money for it. And she did point out that it wasn’t good for you food, it was just fast food. The same goes for pop, it was a rare treat.

    When i got old enough to make my own money, a lot of it went to fast food. It took me a long time to realize that I don’t even LIKE fast food all that much and now that i can eat it whenever I want, I hardly ever do. The forbidden is always more exciting, I guess.

    Ok, that was long. I’m just remembering all this stuff and I’m starting to understand how I ended up fat. A lot of it was eating “bad” food out of rebellion, I think. This constant message of FOOD IS BAD FOOD IS BAD made me want the bad food MORE.

  9. I think the other problem I have, kind of related to this, is being raised with a “don’t waste food” ideology. It makes not clearing my plate very difficult for me, and not eating myself sick at an all-you-can eat brunch next to impossible.

    I’m getting better at recognizing that I will actually feel better long-term if I either pack up part of my meal, or leave what I don’t want, but it’s still pretty hard. I will do my best to adhere to the Kate Harding Diet Plan – do you give out stickers for good behaviour? (Grin!)

  10. Yeah, Fillyjonk, I know what you mean about the Butterfingers. I don’t want to eat candy all day. If someone told me I had to, I’d have a hard time choking it all down. Way back in my 20s, my coworkers and I had a “chocolate party,” wherein we (all restrained eaters then, I’m afraid) loaded up on all the chocky we’d been denying ourselves for so long…and oh boy did I feel sick the next day. Like my stomach had a hangover.

    Despite what’s commonly nattered about how Big Food would love it if we were all unapologetically unrestrained eaters, Big Food needs people to feel guilty about eating in order to make the money they do. How much extra does it cost them to make a “100 calorie pack” of Oreos or chips? Or a “fat free” or “reduced carb” version of something? Almost nothing. How much more do they get to charge for the same amount of food? A lot. And half the shit they make wouldn’t be half as appetizing to people if they didn’t think they weren’t “supposed” to be eating it, nor would nearly as many binge-sized portions of it be consumed.

    It takes me a good month to go through a bag of potato chips — and that’s with BF helping out — because I don’t fetishize them. It’s now August and I still have Thin Mints in my freezer that I got in March. It’s just food. No need to eat it all now, ust because it’s there. I feel like we’re in on something eating like this, don’t you, Kate?

  11. Oh man, I did the exact same thing last night, I ate myself sick on freaking Indian food. (I still feel a little nasueous.)

    There may have been some illicit substances involved in my gorging… but why I got to half way and was so full and decided I “had” to finish my food is completely beyond me.

    I don’t personally have a thing about other people seeing me eat. I DO have a thing about how much food I order, or what resturants I frequent. (Oh Steak and Shake, you are my doom.)

    Though I think my biggest problem is boredom eating. Like right now, I’m bored at work and I have these hershey special dark truffle things in my desk(If you haven’t tried them, they are amazing)… I am not even hungry, but I consider eating them just for something to do.

  12. “ust” = “just”, blergh. Caffeine, please.

    And amandaw:

    If I gag at trying to chomp down on Green Veggie X, I’m not going to be able to keep eating it regularly.

    Amanda, did you ever see Barry Glassner’s book The Gospel of Food? Right in the beginning of it, there’s a passage about a study involving nutrient absorption related to food enjoyment that’s an eye-opener. So I think you’re absolutely right.

  13. a few months ago, i threw out several boxes of samoas that i moved into this house. uh, this house that i’ve owned for over two years now. those are my favorite kind of cookies ever, and i ate one of the boxes i bought. (i think of it as a kind donation to the girl scouts, really.)

  14. Part of eating when you feel sick is the deprivation, but for me part of it is the terror of wasting food. I swear I don’t remember ever being beaten to a bloody pulp for throwing unfinished food away, but when I look at my inner terror of wasting food, I sometimes wonder if that wasn’t the case.

    I do sometimes find I can beat the terror by having a restaurant wrap up an unfinished portion. Then even if I don’t eat it, at least I’ve given it a decent grace period in the refrigerator that assuages the pain. It’s impossible, though, if it’s only a few bites. Then I usually have to eat them. Because I dunno, the giant Godzilla foot from the sky will step on me otherwise.

    Hate that fucking Godzilla foot.

  15. That fear of wasting food has got to go, too.

    I’m as unhappy with America’s excessive consumption as anyone, but… it doesn’t matter whether you eat, save or toss that 1/2 a sandwich, it’s not going to go to a starving kid in Africa either way, and if you’re that full, then the latter two options are way better for YOU. Same with that last bit on your plate.

    It’s really hard to get over, though.

  16. It’s impossible, though, if it’s only a few bites. Then I usually have to eat them. Because I dunno, the giant Godzilla foot from the sky will step on me otherwise.

    Oh, MAN, I hear that. But I’m so close to the end! There’s no point in taking it home! Then leave it there, Kate. You feel sick. But I, too, fear the Godzilla foot.

    Colleen, I spent a LOT of money on fast food at the first possible chance, too, for pretty much the same reasons. And I don’t really like it, either. If I’m going to eat a burger, why eat a shitty one, instead of one I’ll actually enjoy? (Mmm, Hackney’s.) But yeah, the FAST FOOD IS BAD FOR YOU YOU CAN’T EAT IT OR YOU’LL GO TO HELL messages made it awfully tempting for a long time.

    And we all know what Oscar Wilde said about temptation.

    And yes, Meowser, I think we’re onto something. Owning our decisions about what we do with our bodies! WHAT A CONCEPT!

  17. This is so great, Kate.

    When I stopped dieting (about 19 years ago now), it took me quite a long time to figure out how to eat. Like, years. I couldn’t do it right away: way too scary. I’d been on a diet — or had failed to be on a diet — for about 16 years at that point and there were So Many Rules. Plus, I knew that if I screwed up and got any fatter*, no one would love me. Mom said it, and I still half-believed it.

    So I started out on the right foot anyway — explored, learned what “full” and “hungry” and “want to eat” and “need to eat” actually meant. But for quite a while I had to do it in the context of some other set of rules: I was a vegetarian for years — a vegan sometimes, I was devoutly macrobiotic for a while, etc. etc. But the idea of absolutely unfettered eating was just more than I could get my mind around at first. I had to have rules, and I had to believe I was following them because they were right. Orthorexia, I think they call that.

    But then I noticed that I actually prefer shredded wheat to froot loops (most of the time); that broccoli is good; that I don’t even really like donuts; that I don’t have to eat the entire pint of haagen-dazs once I open it. And the planet did not stop spinning if I ate “too much” of one thing or “not enough” of another. Nor did it stop spinning when (long story) I had to at least try to eat meat after 20 years of purity. Who knew that bacon was so yummy??

    *I had doubled my weight in those 16 years of dieting, btw.

  18. There is that rebound period, though, which I think is a lot of what scares people. Because as their body adjusts from restricting eating, they may be eating differently as they learn to understand their bodies again. That’s okay, though. Its part of the process. I know I haven’t been eating a very rounded diet in the last year or so for a few reasons, but I also know that I’ve been wanting a better balance. Not to be “good”, but because I want it. I want brocolli. I want to grill fish. I want pasta.

    I’m having weird rebound eating right now, in that I want those Cheetos and I will by god eat them, but then around dinnertime, my stomach says, “Hey — remember those Asian veggies in the freezer? Wouldn’t they be good for dinner, with some chicken?”

    And I do a double-take and ask my stomach, “But….there are Cheetos! Don’t you want Cheetos?”

    And my stomach, to my eternal surprise, says, “Eh, maybe later. Veggies now.” Because it’s never done that before. It’s either said, “Oh. Veggies *again*? I’m so over veggies,” or has just chanted “Cheetos! Cheetos! Cheetos!”

    My stomach is actually acting — at least, some of the time —like it knows it won’t be deprived. Fucking revolutionary, man.

  19. Demand feeding was one of the hardest things for me to learn, and I’m still learning more about it every day. I’ve had to learn what it feels like to be hungry, had to learn what I do and don’t want when I’m hungry, had to learn the difference between my stomach actually needing food, and me wanting something in my mouth because I’m feeling bored, nervous, upset, miserable, or just stuck for something to do.

    Here’s a few tips I picked up:

    1) Keep the larder well stocked. I don’t know about anyone else, but if I can’t find anything to eat, I suddenly wind up absolutely and utterly *ravenous*. It’s a deprivation thing. Whereas if I’m suddenly feeling peckish, and I go to the pantry, open it up, and just look at the shelves crowded down with stuff that’s easy to eat, suddenly I don’t feel hungry any more.

    2) As an addition to 1), Make sure at least some of the stuff in the larder is healthy, and at least some of it is stuff that no dieter would be allowed near. For me, this wound up as a big plastic container (not quite the largest I had, but certainly close to it) filled with chocolates and lollies, until my subconscious got the hint that I wasn’t going to deprive myself of anything sweet ever again. I don’t need to do that all that often any more – but if I’m having a bad week, one of the first things I’ll do is head to the confectionery aisle in the supermarket, and plan on filling that container again. I also try to keep things like apples and other fruit on hand, because sometimes what I’m after is an apple.

    3) If you don’t want it, don’t eat it. This is a *hard* one. I grew up a member of the “clean plate club” – you know the one. “There are children starving in [COUNTRY], you know. They’d be glad of some nice food like that!” “If you don’t eat all your vegetables, you can’t have desert.” All those lovely things that parents say to children to make them clean up their plates. Just remember, you can say no. The children starving in [COUNTRY] won’t be any the less starved if you eat all of it, and they won’t be any more starved if you don’t.

    4) This is the corollary to 3): If you want it, you can have it. You’re a grown-up. You’re allowed to have whatever you like. If that means you have a week where you just slurp down ice cream, so what? If you want a salad, hey, go for it! But you’re not a good girl for eating the salad, or a bad girl for eating the ice cream. Food in and of itself does not have any moral value, although that’s the hardest thing to hold onto in our highly judgemental society.

    Like I said, I still don’t have this down pat. There are a lot of times where I lapse into “ooh, aren’t I saintly, I had a salad” (mainly because I can’t stand the lack of taste of lettuce… salad is what food eats, damnit!). There are times when I’ll get angry with myself for having something sweet, or try to excuse the sweet thing I’m having on the grounds that “oh, I’ll go for a walk”, knowing full well that as soon as I think something like that, my arse will stay in the chair in front of the computer as though I were glued to it.

    A big part of all of this is learning what you use food for. For me, food is partly fuel, but mostly comfort. I get reassured by knowing there’s a lot of food around. I feel comfortable if I can go to the cupboard and be spoiled for choice. Having that surplus is reassuring. So, I keep a surplus in the pantry, and it keeps me happy psychologically. Given I’m a diagnosed depressive, I figure these days happy is the thing to aim for, and if that includes fat, so fuckin’ what!

  20. I came across this blog at just the right point in my life. I was feeling really down about my weight, and I was unable to diet due to pregnancy. I kept thinking that I would be a bad, fat, mother. Then I realized that I need to nourish my baby. I eat what I want, and it is always something that is good for my baby. I don’t have any “bad” foods, so I find that I am not gorging myself anymore. I stop when I am full. Amazing. Kate, I know you aren’t giving “permission” for me to be me, but you are helping me see that I have had that right all along. Thank you.

  21. NameChanged, I’m so happy to hear that!

    Meg:
    So, I keep a surplus in the pantry, and it keeps me happy psychologically. Given I’m a diagnosed depressive, I figure these days happy is the thing to aim for, and if that includes fat, so fuckin’ what!

    Oh, HELL yes. I loved what Good With Cheese said here about realizing that allowing herself a Twinkie was arguably a form of self-care. Another big hang-up is feeling like you don’t deserve to eat “bad food” because you’re fat — and not only WILL someone take it away from you, but they SHOULD. Giving yourself a Twinkie (or whatever) can be a matter of taking care of yourself emotionally, announcing to yourself that you are NOT BAD and therefore may enjoy the same pleasures thin people are allowed.

    Which reminds me, I hate that we hear so much bullshit about “emotional eating” and making sure you’re not just eating to comfort yourself! ‘Cause god forbid you do that! Guess what, a Twinkie’s a lot cheaper than Lexapro. And even if that means you’re engaging in the dreaded “self-medication,” there’s a big difference between taking Aspirin when something hurts and ODing in search of the greatest possible rush, you know?

    But again, it all comes back to the fear that if you give yourself an inch, you’ll take a mile. You will LOSE CONTROL. We can’t have that.

  22. I’d like to make a point about eating “quality” too.

    I love chocolate, but as kids, we only ever got that crappy plastic-tasting chocolate. It was still a treat, and I’d eat it whenever it was available. Several years ago, some friends took me out for my birthday to a fancy restaurant and I had chocolate truffles. I had what could only be described as a “chocolate-gasm” right then and there. After that amazing chocolate (and I can still feel the rush just thinking about them!), I couldn’t eat and didn’t want chocolate for six months! Now, I refuse to eat crappy chocolate – even if it’s all that is available, and will gladly wait until I get some yummy good stuff.

    Because these yummy things were “forbidden”, I think we settle for less quality and more quantity. At some point though, it’s delightful to learn that I can go out and buy full-fat ice cream, and goshdarnit, it tastes SO MUCH BETTER than frozen pulped cardboard that it’s worth it.

    The added-value of this is that higher quality foods often have more nutrients in them than the over-processed crap. So bring me the real butter and the eggs and the artisanal bread! I will never put Wonder Bread past these lips again! Butter pats all around! Godiva for everyone! :)

  23. This post (and Teppy’s linked post) could not have come at a better time. I was *just* reading about demand eating yesterday, but it was older information, and I was feeling like maybe it was a vogue thing that was pretty much gone.

    But…there it was, waiting for me in my blog reader.

    I’ve actually been exposed to this idea before, but mangled into a diet–with rules about not being able to eat unless you really, truly were hungry…and you can guess how well that went.

    But yesterday, I was hungry, and I knew it would be at least a WHOLE HOUR AND A HALF (omg) before I could eat, and so I just took two minutes on my drive to where I was going and stopped and picked up some orange chicken at the grocery story. I ate maybe five or six pieces, and suddenly I didn’t want any more. And since I knew that food was going to be available later, I didn’t feel like I had to finish it. And at dinner, because I wasn’t *really* hungry, I ended up saving half my burger–which I never do. And when I got home I dropped the extra orange chicken in my fridge (I forgot the burger at the restaurant *facepalm*)…just in case I wanted any later.

    And today, although I don’t feel like I want them, I took my peanut butter cups to work with me…and gave myself permission to eat them when I want them.

    Of course, now I’m getting nervous glances from my friends who think I’m going to eat the world and end up a lazy slob. ;-)

  24. *grin* I’d been self-medicating with carbohydrate for years before I actually went on anti-depressants. It was one of the things I noticed when I started taking them – all of a sudden I didn’t need to eat so much, because I was actually feeling fine. What a wake-up call! I wasn’t craving chocolate, I wasn’t desperate for cake, and the profits for the local cheesecake shop must have dropped by about 10% each month.

    Then again, I also have issues with the whole “you’re not supposed to be taking medication for depression” thing. I figure it’s a biochemical imbalance, just like the hypothyroidism – I’m going to be taking medication for the rest of my life for one of them, why not the other? I tried toughing it out for 14 years. The 6 I’ve been on medication for have been a lot better, thanks.

  25. Meg, your expansions of the Harding Plan are excellent!

    I have to say, Weight Watchers did teach me a couple of useful things: how to put together a “healthy” (then, few points; now, won’t make me sick) meal even at a place that didn’t cater to that. I can go to a diner and not get sick on the grease, because I’ll put together a bunch of appetizers and side dishes. I can ask for what I want, basically — just now I’m asking for it because I want it and not because I think I should have it. And also, the beauty of taking half home. Turns out I find it really uncomfortable to be truly full, so guess what? Eating out may be overpriced, but (unless it’s sushi) my dollar goes twice as far. I also love going to a restaurant and getting dessert to take home instead of to eat there. I still get the dessert, but I don’t get uncomfortably stuffed, and as a bonus I get the comfortable hoarding feeling without really being compulsive. I felt weird doing it for a while, but got used to it while I was a dieter and now it seems almost normal.

  26. Penguinlady: You have a very good point there. If you want it, get the best you blinkin’ well can, and savour it. Get the maximum sensual enjoyment out of every morsel. Wallow in it.

    After all, if you’re going to commit what the wider society thinks of as a sin, it’s a shame to waste all that perfectly good sanctimonious disapproval on cheap shit. They’ll still disapprove (and let them; their loss, after all), but at least you’ll know you’ve enjoyed yourself completely.

  27. The rebound period after restrictive eating is scary, and you can feel out-of-control going through it. I went through it for, gosh, something like three years before I saw a dietitian about it. Demand eating is good, but people who’ve had their natural hunger/satiety signals messed up by the diet culture may find it difficult. I know I did. A bit of structure (not a diet, but say, a meal plan where you roughly follow the food guide and make sure to eat regular meals and snacks every few hours, paying attention to your hunger/fullness signals) can help people regain their sense of hunger and satiety, and eventually, I think people can get over their obsessive food thoughts and worries.

    At the time I was going through it, I could never imagine a time when I wouldn’t be worrying about what I ate — whether too much, or too little, or the wrong things — but now the idea of thinking in that way is completely foreign to me. It’s been a couple of years since I saw the dietitian. I still follow a roughly balanced diet (not by trying, but just by eating what I’m hungry for, and what I like to cook) and I eat when I’m hungry — which turns out to be every few hours, but I don’t think about it much.

    I always thought I would be tempted to gorge on sweets, because I adore sugary things. But I don’t, honestly, and it’s not because I try not to. I still love sweets…I just find myself hungry for ‘staple’ foods most of the time, but I order dessert whenever I feel like it. And I enjoy it completely without guilt. Yay for a healthy relationship with food!

  28. I totally agree on the whole food as a comfort thing. There are times when I’ve felt really low, and have had lots of chocolate. Not a binge, just enough to make me feel better.

    There are so, so many other things I could have resorted to which would have been far worse for me. For me emotional eating wasn’t self destructive – it was something which helped me cope and kept me away from self destructive behaviours.

  29. I’m SO slowly learning demand eating. Last night, I was in too much of a hurry to get what I was craving (a mozzarella-tomato-basil salad), so I just jumped on my housemates’ pizza order. I was able to get a mozzarella-tomato-basil pizza, but so what? That wasn’t what I wanted, and I took one look at the massive melted goo of it and decided: no. Not going to do it this time. Not going to force something into me just because I feel guilty about the money, or because my housemates are eating it and it’s more inconvenient to get something else…just no.

    I’m trying to remember that I’m worth the effort, and the time, and the good stuff. And variety, for chrissake. I’m sick of using food as the measure by which I evaluate myself as a person. Gah!

    Great post. Thanks. :)

  30. This post really, really resonates with me. I am having a really difficult time not tearing into myself about my body, lately, but then I read things like this and I realize I’m not alone and then I get mad at the bloody patriarchy for keeping women so separate from each other. So much so that common struggles are felt to be completely individual and – in my case – completely one’s own fault. So paralyzing.

    *sigh*

    This is exactly how I feel – that if I don’t eat something right NOW and eat ALL of it, I will never ever have the chance to taste it again. I’m not too clear on all its origins for me, but I do recall a period during my childhood when I wasn’t allowed sugar. I was a depressed and anxious child – and I’m a depressed and anxious adult – and my parents were sort of stumbling blind, trying to figure out what was wrong. Food problems were raised as a possibility, and hence the sugar ban.

    It didn’t last long, thankfully, but I can still remember the disgusting sugar-free candy and cookies and ice cream I had to eat while everyone else got the good stuff. And today, that is the stuff that I eat like I will never be allowed it again.

    I’ve never really dieted, but I’ve also never really learned to trust my body. Especially when I’m in a depressed cycle – which is pretty much always. Yay. I forget to eat, even when my stomach is rolling in on itself and my head is hurting and I’m getting shaky and really tetchy, and then I check the kitchen and there’s nothing I want, but I’m too angry-hungry and sad and anxious to leave the house to find something. So I just stay hungry and sad and angry until my partner comes home and we get dinner. He eats, so it’s okay for ME to eat.

    Cripes, that is messed up. Lately I’ve just been trying to have something on hand for when I start getting hungry, and even that is really, really hard.

    A very long-winded and totally personal way of saying, “Thanks, Kate, for sharing your blog. You’ve really helped me feel less alone.”

  31. Currer Bell, it’s awesome that the dietician helped you, and I totally agree that it takes a looong time and is VERY difficult for someone who’s been a dieter to get the hang of demand eating. At the same time, personally, I feel like a structured eating plan — even a non-restrictive one — would trigger too many DIET neuroses for me, so I feel more sane pushing through on my own.

    Also, I can’t help worrying that a lot of people who become registered dieticians have eating disorders. It’s sort of like therapists — a good one can be wonderful, a bad one can be disastrous.

    But having said all that, once again, it’s awesome that it worked for you, and it might work for others here, so thanks for adding that perspective.

    Lucizoe, thanks! We love the long-winded and personal around here!

  32. penguinlady,
    If you ever see a Godiva store you should go there and get what is called a Chocolixer. (They come in iced and hot, white, regular and dark chocolate.) This is truly a chocolate gasm, it is like a frappuccino, except alll CHOCOLATE. Sooo good.

    (Though also a constant challenge to my diet addled brain, I have to focus on not thinking about the calories. There are no calories, only orgasm in a cup.)

  33. When I saw “demand feeding” I was wondering why you were writing about breastfeeding!!!

    And then after reading the post and the comments it occured to me to wonder why I am all for demand feeding my baby but I feel the innate need to restrict myself to times of day for eating and types of food to eat?

    I totally agree that after a certain period of time eating crap that the body just demands fruit, vegies and other more natural food. And to be honest I think the fat people I know actually eat more of those “good” foods than the thin people do. The thin people eat crap more because they dont think they will end up fat and because they arent “scared” to eat it. I know a lot of fat people who will not eat anything remotely junk-ish in public and won’t even buy it because of the looks/comment and general reactions they get. So its ok to eat crap all the time if you are thin because noone KNOWS (ie you arent fat because if you are fat you obviously DO eat crap all the time – didnt cha know?). Geez we live in a f**ked up world…

  34. Jessica, I totally agree with you about how demand eating can become a diet too. I even considered the Weigh Down Diet once, which is basically that with a side of religion thrown in. At least I had the sense to step away from that. For me that component of “there really are no rules” is necessary for this way of eating to work. If I’m having to do it all Gwen Shamblin-style, constantly checking in with myself to see if I’m hungry, carrying around little baggies of food, deciding exactly what I want and stressing if I don’t have it with me, eating only until satisfied, then doing it all again 1-2 hours later, to me that’s even more obsessive than a diet. I tried it on several occasions and felt like I was being slowly driven insane, thinking about food 24/7.

    At one time I found myself “losing control” after a diet where I had lost 40 lbs. and decided to try Overcoming Overeating because that feeling of being out of control all the time was too much to bear and I just wanted some peace with food. Unfortunately, I have OCD and didn’t know it at the time. So when they said “feed yourself whenever you experience hunger, whether it’s ‘stomach hunger’ or ‘mouth hunger,’” my brain went into this loop where it would constantly “occur to me” to eat whether I wanted to or not. I turned the book’s philosophy into an ironclad rule, ate constantly whenever the (OCD-driven) thought entered my mind, gained 75 pounds, and was miserable. It was just like a diet except the demons in my head were forcing me to stuff myself instead of deprive myself. Looking back (after 5 more years of age and some therapy) this seems pretty nuts and I could now probably distinguish between my brain conjuring thoughts of food just because I didn’t want to have thoughts of food, and then feeling like I “had to” eat every time that happened… vs. real instances of stomach or mouth hunger.

    Anyway, I am sure this is just me, but the fact that the process was much more complicated than I had hoped (on the surface, what could be simpler than eating what you want when you’re hungry?)–and mainly because of other issues I had that I didn’t even understand well–brings me to my next point.

    I am still technically a member of Weight Watchers and although I have a lot (a LOT) of disagreements with it and what it stands for, and although I still believe everything I ever believed about diets not working, honestly there are parts of it that have helped me. Since I have a history of compulsive eating, and what with the OCD, over time I actually found the “program” helpful in determining what the right amount of food is for me (I started out following the recommended points for my weight, then realized this was not enough food and sort of worked up from there until I was eating amounts most of the time that fill me up but don’t make me feel sick). They also encourage you to eat healthy foods so that almost accidentally helped me start to figure out which fruits, vegetables, beans, grains, etc. I enjoy and which I don’t, so I am incorporating those things into my diet now. On OO I hadn’t even started to consider that kind of thing, as I was stuck in a loop of existing on M&M’s, Lucky Charms, and jellybeans, and as a consequence I felt sick and dazed a lot of the time and I couldn’t figure out how to move on from it. Now I eat and like a lot of fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains, etc. and also enjoy the way they make me feel. But I haven’t choked down a baby carrot in months because I ate those fuckers every day for so many years (in an effort to “be good”) that now I never want to see another one. So I don’t eat them. I think I am moving to a more “demand feeding” model, and I would never have expected Weight Watchers to help me do that (and indeed I had no such lofty goals when I started… I just wanted to lose weight) so there it is. I am certainly not saying this would work for everyone, though. Come to that, I am not sure it has “worked” for me; I might just be deluding myself. But I prefer to think that I’m always sort of glacially moving in the right direction as far as normalizing my relationship with food.

    I guess what I’m saying is, depending on their historical physical and psychological experiences with hunger and listening to their bodies, I think different people may find different tools helpful in their attempts to arrive at a place where demand feeding is possible. The distance between where I was and being able to plunge directly into demand feeding without turning it into a diet was too great for me. That’s just me and my crazy issues, though. Tune in 10 years from now when I will probably be telling you all about how Weight Watchers ruined my life.

  35. I’ve been working on this for a couple of months. I read Rethinking Thin and abandoned Atkins within 48 hours. I spent a month eating whatever the hell I wanted. The amount of ice cream and pizza rolls I went through was astounding.

    I think the piece of advice to keep the cabinets stocked is a good one. At the moment I have two bags of potato chips and some crackers somewhere and there is a medium size bag of potato chips sitting on the counter that I got into a week ago. I think I’ll have to throw the rest out because they are stale since I’ve just been nibbling on a handful with a sandwich for lunch.

    Last week I ate half a pint of Ben and Jerry’s and put the rest back in the freezer.

    It’s weird, but that half eaten bag of potato chips and pint of ice cream represent such a huge amount of liberation to me I can’t even begin to express it.

    Also, despite the month of eating everything crap, didn’t gain a pound. Absolutely no detectable change in my body.

  36. And I should qualify that didn’t gain a pound statement – it didn’t matter that I didn’t, and it wouldn’t have mattered if I’d gained 10. The point was that I now believe in my bones, for the first time in my life, that I can’t just keep eating and growing. It doesn’t work that way, and while I’m still a long way from loving the body I am in, I don’t see it as the enemy any longer.

  37. Kate, I TOTALLY agree with your suspicion that a lot of dietitians have eating disorders or at least promote disordered eating. I think a lot of doctors are the same way. You only have to listen to the “obesity experts” on TV once or twice before you start to suspect that those professions tend to attract people who are a little wacko. But it’s so dangerous because they’re held up as the “authority” so people unreasonably assume they are totally sane and have no hang-ups or biases. On the contrary, I think many are as screwed up as the rest of us and some are bad enough that they are the last people we should be taking advice from.

    This is the minorest of minor examples, but it’s all I can think of at the moment. The nutritionist who consults on Elastic Waist recently said that you should limit coffee to one cup per day or something. I’m not even saying that’s a bad idea, but I don’t think there is any scientific basis for that recommendation. It’s probably just what she personally strives for (perhaps so as not to become addicted to caffeine/suffer caffeine withdrawal, or whatever). Which is again TOTALLY FINE and pretty harmless, but I still think it’s just her opinion and it illustrates where you start to get into a gray area–often the opinions being expressed are much crazier/more obsessive (800-calorie diets, etc.), but people still believe and knock themselves out trying to follow them because they’re coming from an “expert.”

  38. Right on Kate, as usual. Giving myself permission to eat whatever I wanted to is exactly the same way I stopped binging. I was bulimic, with anorexic tendencies and days and weeks of starving myself would always end up with a binge, usually of foods I never allowed myself to have: fruit (high carbs and sugar), sugary stuff, chocolate, and french fries.

    Once I gave myself permission to eat what I wanted, when I wanted, the binging stopped nearly overnight. Sure, I gained some weight back, but I reached my body’s setpoint and have been stable since.

    Anne Lamott speaks of this in one of her books too, I remember. Her therapist asked what the one thing is she liked to indulge in and it was M&Ms. So, the therapist said to buy a bag of M&Ms and keep them around the house and indulge whenever she wanted to. She found she didn’t eat the entire bag like she expected, but learned to self-regulate herself because she knew they would always be there for her.

  39. Spacedcowgirl, my understanding of Overcoming Overeating is that they specifically recommend that you not eat from “mouth hunger,” only from physical hunger. They do say that if you happen to eat from mouth hunger it’s not a crime and nothing to beat yourself up about, but the goal is to eat from physical hunger only.

    I never had much truck with the “carry around lots of bags of food” aspect of that book and think it’s possible to get a little neurotic about the approach (and it sounds like Gwen Shamblin’s approach owes more than a little to the OO one), but the basic advice — eat what your body is asking for when you’re hungry, stop when you’ve had enough, and let your weight fall where it may — is pretty solid, IMO. As you said, though, someone with OCD or a similar condition probably shouldn’t try it without the help of a therapist who understands that condition.

  40. lucizoe, I do the exact same damn thing, though for different reasons. It drives my partner crazy because he doesn’t want to be responsible for BOTH of us eating fo rthe rest of his life. *laugh* I don’t blame him!

  41. It seemed to me like they took a lot of pains to “decriminalize” eating from mouth hunger, like it was no more “wrong” than eating from stomach hunger and you would naturally move more toward eating just from stomach hunger, but to let that process happen rather than trying to force it. I also got the impression that they generally thought that forcing yourself not to eat from mouth hunger could actually hamper your progress. I’m not sure that’s all that different from your interpretation but there we are.

    Unfortunately it was not even really mouth hunger I was feeling, just a “blip” in my brain that I had convinced myself I had to “obey.” Weird.

    “As you said, though, someone with OCD or a similar condition probably shouldn’t try it without the help of a therapist who understands that condition.”

    Yeah, that’s all I was really trying to say in my overly wordy manner. I hope I didn’t give the impression that I considered my specific experience to be widely applicable… just that there are those of us for whom the process is going to be pretty complicated, and awareness of how other aspects of your personality might come into play can help.

  42. Oh, and sorry to keep double-posting and gasbagging around but I would say Gwen Shamblin is probably more in line with Geneen Roth as far as philosophy is concerned. Though that pains me a bit because Geneen has done so much to advance understanding of compulsive eating, whereas Gwen is kind of a wackadoo. IMO only of course.

  43. “You will not be thinking about the second half of this sandwich on your deathbed!”

    I think I love this sentence most of all. And already today, I didn’t finish a quarter of my breakfast pancake (though I did polish off the turkey sausage that came with it) and didn’t finish the last quarter of my personal pizza — not to prove a point, but because I really wasn’t hungry for it.

    I too have a neurosis about “not wasting food,” I have a hard time getting it through my calcified skull that food wasted inside the body is no different materially from food wasted outside of it. There are very fupped-up things about how food is distributed both within this country and throughout the world, but my eating an extra slice of pizza I really don’t want is not going to come close to solving that problem.

  44. kate,

    i totally agree with the nonresistance idea. that which you resist persists. give in to your biggest fear — let it happen and then you realize it’s unfounded, and you survive. this also frees up your energy to focus on the things you want rather than on avoiding that which you fear.

    - zen col

  45. Absolutely brilliant post, Kate. It should be required reading for anybody who has the slightest compulsive relationship with food.

    I haven’t read all the comments so I don’t know if anyone else has mentioned this, but this approach is very similar to that of Overcoming Overeating, which is the book and philosophy I used to finally escape my years of disordered eating. Part of the process for me in legalising my desire for food was also bound up in exploring my sexuality – once I realised that I was afraid if I let go I would devour the whole world also applied word for word to my sexual desires. Women are so successfully socialised out of having any desires (unless they are sublimated into shopping!).

    Also, as a parent, I try to apply this approach to my kids. We don’t buy a lot of “junk” food on a regular basis, but that’s a budgetary constraint not an issue of morality. When we’ve got it we share it. My eldest spent several years under strict dietary controls and reacted by eating bowls of 100s and 1000s for breakfast when she could truly eat anything she wanted. Exactly the same process as I went through, except shorter. My 2yo has never been restricted and never binges. Now if I could only get my 10yo convinced that there is not a Great Vegetable Conspiracy aimed at killing her, I would be happy…

  46. I had what could only be described as a “chocolate-gasm” right then and there. After that amazing chocolate (and I can still feel the rush just thinking about them!), I couldn’t eat and didn’t want chocolate for six months! Now, I refuse to eat crappy chocolate – even if it’s all that is available, and will gladly wait until I get some yummy good stuff.

    Yes, exactly, Penguinlady! A typical binge used to be a family block of Cadbury’s chocolate and a tub of ice cream. Now my DH works across the road from a fabulous chocolate importer and about once a week or a fortnight indulges me with the kind of handmade Belgian chocolates which come in their own little padded boxes *g* A couple of those keep me going for a long time because they are so GORGEOUS I don’t want to adulterate them with anything inferior.

    I find if I eat more than that amount of sugar I start craving sweet things again, which makes me think that at least part of it is a biochemical reaction to an unexpected hit of simple sugars because I simply don’t crave sweet things when I don’t eat them. But I find it’s quite useful thinking of it as a biochemical rush because then I know that if I eat bread and honey or have a cup of hot chocolate it will subside by itself and then I can go back to my normal state of eating. Removing the element of morality means I can think about chocolate like anything else I eat – I’m not “out of control” if I occasionally have a sugar craving, but I don’t actually have to rush down to the shops to satisfy it either (although sometimes I do). Neither reaction is “good” or “bad”, just a matter of practicalities.

  47. *goes to sit over by penguinlady* Hey, if she’s gonna be handing out Godiva and real butter she is my new best friend!

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  49. This post: exactly!

    I still struggle with this stuff. Getting better, but having “bad” food restricted *plus* the clean-your-plate thing since I was very young takes a lot of getting over. My grandmother would tell me cordial was “poison” because of all the sugar and sadly shake her head with a “Well, if you want to kill yourself…” dismissive gesture. For example. (Cordial = cultural equivalent of Kool Aid but a syrup instead of a powder.)

    See also: the Margaret Cho Fuck It Diet.

  50. I’m glad to see someone else brought up breastfeeding. I fed my daughter on demand and you wouldn’t believe the crap I took for it. “Put her on a schedule, it’s easier for you” people kept telling me. Well, hell, if I wanted things to be easier for me I would have skipped the whole parenting thing. ;) But it seemed to make sense to me – why not start her in life with permission to eat when she wanted to? And stop when she wanted. She’s nearly six now and I still work very hard to keep the whole “finish what’s on your plate” out of her life. She continues to eat when she’s hungry. Some days she’ll sit down to a plate of baby corn and broccoli for dinner. She also has the ability to take a bite or two of a cookie and say, “Okay, done. Save the rest for later.

    I could learn a lot from my kid.

  51. Once in a while, when I’m in the area, I get some Home Run Pies from Safeway because that’s where they are the cheapest and the best. I grab between 4 and 6 of my favorite kinds, and that’s about it because the Safeway in my city is terribly expensive for everything else. Today is the first time that I have actually thought about saving these pies for more than one day. I can look on the package and see how much sugar and fat they have in them–doesn’t persuade me, just makes me feel bad. I finally remembered that I ate a big burrito earlier, and WOULD FEEL SICK if I had more than one.

    But I think I need to read your post again once a day for awhile.

  52. WHAT IF I NEVER HAVE ANOTHER ITALIAN SAUSAGE SANDWICH IN MY WHOLE LIFE?

    This is exactly what led me to make whipped-cream-and-sprinkles-topped monstrosities every single damned Sunday for a while after starting college, because Sunday was Belgian Waffle day, and what if I never got another chance to put ice cream and sauces and crap and stuff all over a delicious chunk of doughy goodness ever?

    I had the “aha” moment when I was looking at my plate one Sunday and I thought “I don’t even WANT this.”

    But that was 16 years ago and it still takes a lot of work to be mindful enough to evaluate “do I want to clean my plate? do I want seconds? do I want an appetizer?” and so forth. Fortunately I declared years ago that there are no forbidden foods, because it had become clear to me that the only time I ever wanted, for example, a Pop Tart, was when you forbade me to have them.

    I also have figured out that if I have a craving, eat the thing I crave. I realized in college that if I craved ice cream, but first tried eating an apple, then I would go on to a buttered English muffin, and then maybe crackers and cheese, and then perhaps a glass of chocolate milk, and etc. etc. etc. and eventually I would just have the ice cream, but the other stuff as well. Two spoonfuls of ice cream = craving solved.

    Now that I always have 3 or 4 really good chocolate bars in the cabinet, I can savor them one square at a time, instead of wanting to wolf down the whole thing.

    Still fat, though.

  53. Oh, I should have mentioned she was a fat-friendly dietitian. She treats people with eating disorders, and she was trained by Ellyn Satter, who wrote “How to Get Your Kid to Eat…” which a lot of eating-disordered adults have used to help themselves learn to eat normally. It is a demand-type of feeding theory, but yes, there is structure involved (as in, make sure to have a meal every 3-4 hours, not as in EAT THIS but NOT THIS.) And yeah, the structure part was fuuuhreaky at first, but the demand-feeding aspect alone was not working for me.

  54. The first time I dropped dieting and started a demand feeding approach was in 1980 after reading Susie Orbach’s “Fat Is a Feminist Issue”. What really blew my mind were two things a) how much bigger my world got when I wasn’t obsessing with what I wanted to eat but was denying myself/what I had eaten that made me “bad”/my weight and b) that even though I still wasn’t able to stop until I was a little overfull, I was still eating less than my still dieting friends who were exclaiming “ooh I shouldn’t be eating this I’m so BAAAAD” while snarfing down the nachos.

    I “lapsed” back into diets off and on, but finally comitted to a demand feeding approach several years ago. With a little “food anthropologist” tweaking (experimenting with eating more of this or less of that) I’ve managed to get my sometimes-low blood sugar stabilized, and am at a point where I rarely think about food unless I’m physically hungry, and rarely eat past the point of a comfortable fullness. I consider it nothing short of a bloody miracle.

  55. Oh, and my ten-year-old has that Great Vegetable Conspiracy paranoia too. I find that vegetarian lasagne is good for getting at least a couple servings of spinach into him.

  56. I’d also like to mention, just to get it off my chest, that I buy ice cream and forget about it in the freezer for months. I forget I have chips in the house. I literally eat about one square of chocolate a week. I find unopened boxes of Girl Scout cookies months after the sale seasion.

    But when I tell people this, I suspect most of them don’t believe me. Because I’m fat, you know. So in their minds, I deep-fry my own Snickers bars for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

  57. I follow the Demand Feeding philosophy fairly well, but there’s still part of it that I have trouble with– That, despite all I know and understand about eating mindfully and stopping when I’m full and blah blah blah, there may STILL be times when I will plow through a mountain of cookies or an entire bag of potato chips AND THAT IS OKAY. It doesn’t make me a weak-willed fat slob with no self control who can’t do anything right. It doesn’t mean I have to kill myself in the gym or eat nothing but carrot sticks for the rest of the week or inflict any other kind of “punishment” on myself. As long as I don’t make a habit of it, occasional bouts of reckless eating won’t kill me.

  58. It’s like hearing my own thoughts and issues – which I had previously considered unique and not a little freakish – coming out of fingers on keyboards all over the world, drawing me out of lurkdom.
    Wonderful post – I’m going to DRAG my sister to it.

    Namechanged wrote: “I was feeling really down about my weight, and I was unable to diet due to pregnancy. I kept thinking that I would be a bad, fat, mother.”
    When I had my baby I was feeling the same way, and then I considered it from his perspective and asked myself which kind of mommy would feel better to a baby – the big soft warm kind, or the anxious, boney, Oh-no-FOOD!-Must-look-away kind. Years later he echoed my thoughts, saying that he really thought he wouldn’t like it if I was thin – he wouldn’t feel as safe or as comforted by my presence.

    Meowser wrote: “food wasted inside the body is no different materially from food wasted outside of it.”
    This was another big realization for me – one that it took me about 40 years to reach. In fact, I take it one step further, telling myself that if the food in question isn’t the kind that would actively help my body (or might actually hurt me), it’s much more wasteful to eat it without wanting it than it is to throw it away.

    Elusis wrote: “I buy ice cream and forget about it in the freezer for months. I forget I have chips in the house. I literally eat about one square of chocolate a week. I find unopened boxes of Girl Scout cookies months after the sale seasion.
    But when I tell people this, I suspect most of them don’t believe me. Because I’m fat, you know. So in their minds, I deep-fry my own Snickers bars for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.”
    I so second this! Lately I’ve been taking perverse pleasure in breaking stereotypes right and left. Yesterday I was to meet my advisor at Panera. I got there early and felt that I should purchase something, but all I wanted was ice water. So I paid for a soft drink cup and filled it with ice water, realizing fully as I did so that anyone looking at me would assume that I was drinking a soft drink. Because fat people don’t voluntarily drink water, do they?
    A few days ago, I had a meeting at another coffee house. They have a bread ‘n’ spread special, so I got it with veggie cream cheese. It was delicious, with 2 big hunks of sourdough bread. Also, an unsweetened iced tea. Hours later, long after the meeting ended and my friends left, I was packing up to leave and threw away about half of it. Didn’t want or need it all, and had forgotten it was sitting there on the table next to me as I worked. But fat people NEVER forget food, and certainly could never ignore it or turn it down if it’s RIGHT THERE, could they?! I smiled, as I left, thinking about stupid stereotyes.

  59. Thank you so much, Kate. This is one of the best fat acceptance – or food acceptance? – posts I’ve ever read. I recognized myself from it and it really made me think. Today I decided to go on the Kate Harding diet, so I bought myself a nice package of bacon and just enjoyed five strips with creamed potatoes, soda and Oreos. It felt really good. I’ve always eaten whatever I wanted, but I’ve still felt guilty about it, which is probably the main reason why I crave fatty and sugary foods so much. We think guilt comes from overeating, but maybe it really causes it. Maybe “letting ourselves go” is exactly what we should be doing.

  60. spacedcowgirl, I did EXACTLY what you did. I decided to eat whatever I felt like whenever I felt like it. It was after a really frustrating two years of gaining ten pounds, then losing ten pounds, then gaining ten pounds, you get the drift.I really don’t think I was eating from “mouth hunger”, I would only eat 3 times a day but the problem was that at lunch time I would feel like KFC or a steak sandwich, not a salad.

    I gained about 70 pounds in six months after just snapping and letting go. At a certain point I was having trouble doing my shoelaces or exercising so I just had to go back to restricting myself.

    The problem for me was that it is so EASY to go through Jack in the Box and get a couple of Jumbo Jacks and two tacos for $3 and change. When I didn’t spend time worrying about what I was eating, I would gravitate to stuff like that. I know a lot of people will disagree but I think there really ARE “good” and “bad” foods. With all the crap additives the corporations are putting into the foods it’s just impossible for people like me to do the demand feeding thing once they get my ass hooked on high fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated oils.

  61. Thank you, thank you all. I saw the beginning of this thread on Friday, and finally decided I had to stop restricting. I’ve been trying to find a balance in what I needed and what I ate, but was still scraping off perhaps a hundred calories to try to lose some weight. It didn’t work, hunger was catching up with me.

    As I’ve been working on liking myself the way I am *right now*, by reading this post (and Teppy’s and some earlier ones by Kate and by Good with Cheese), I realized I really had to “let go” – of issues.
    Issues like you’ve covered: “finish your plate”, “don’t waste any food”, and, big one: “don’t eat in public” (well, I dare to eat in a restaurant, because heck, everyone’s there to eat, right? But while walking down a street, with people gazing? No way!)

    So, this Saturday I finally gave myself “permission” to eat. I started the day with a couple of spoons of cereal and a banana covered in a fine layer of yogurt. In essence: I had no idea how many calories were in it, so I could in no way figure out how much calories I’d be consuming that day. Mind you: I’ve been eating this type of breakfast for a long time, but only after weighing *exactly* how much I was allowed (200 ml of non-fat yogurt, 200 ml of full-fat yogurt, 25 grams of cereal, get the picture?), which kind of took the pleasure out of eating it (I used to like this food!)

    Second thing I did: I put my scales on top of a closet, completely out of sight, both the personal one and the kitchen one.
    Now I feel like quoting Martin Luther King.

    The idea of stacking my kitchen cupboard with goodies – like some of you recommended – is still far too scary for me, maybe in the future. For now, I just pack my daily lunch of (lots of) bread and fruit (which I like) and decide during the day what I would perhaps like to have for a snack in the late afternoon and what I would like to have for dinner. No more restrictions whatsoever. On Saturday and Sunday I ate everything I wanted, in the amounts I desired, at the times I felt hungry for it. I ended up eating quite balanced meals, with a couple of treats. This happened not because I felt the need balance out, but because I felt like eating this food. And yes, my body is telling me it likes nutritious foods. But for now, it also likes chocolate in large quantities, and lots of baked potatoes, and … well. That’s really scary, because deep down there’s still this voice whispering: OMG, what if you gain weight, one or maybe even hundreds of pounds? So I keep telling myself *that’s not important*, whichever way it goes. That’s why getting rid of the scales was terrifying, but very neccesary, I guess.

    I intend to never use the word “calorie” again. Ever. I think this decision might give me something very important: Freedom. Freedom to have creative thoughts instead of counting and obsessing and craving.
    So thank you all.

  62. “I’ve come a long way with that, but the conscious effort is still necessary, and the voices in my head are still there, trying their damnedest to drown out what my stomach is telling me.”

    This statement really brings home my feeling that stomach surgery is not the answer for most people. The problem is very often north of the neck, not south. It seems just crazy to fix something that isn’t broken –especially if you haven’t tried to fix what really IS broken.

    JonahBGood and I share the same response to demand eating. I guess it would really help me if I desired different food. I can’t figure out how to make that happen, though.

  63. YES! Yesyesyes! This post is entirely too brilliant! The first time I ever “let go” was as a sophomore in high school. My roommates and I (I lived in a five-person suite) had all had a really bad week, and we decided to go on a snack run to the 24-hour drug store. This was the first time I’d ever bought junk food, except the occasional midnight trip to the dorm vending machine when no one was looking. I got a “family sized” bag of Doritos, and when we got back, started eating them with no intention of rationing. We were all sitting around with huge bags of “junk food” in the common room talking. I was sure I would eat them all. And how many did I eat? Maybe a serving and a half. At home once, we’d gotten Doritos for my birthday (my parents literally never bought “junk food” apart from special occasions). I would measure out a small bowlful, then another and another. When I knew I wouldn’t be able to get them for a year, I just kept eating them; but when I knew I could head down to Wallgreen’s any time I wanted, I only had a few before they took a back seat to the fruit bowl and good conversation. Why must we be taught to mistrust our bodies so?!

    I will not be thinking of those Doritos on my deathbed. ^.^

  64. Also, I can’t help worrying that a lot of people who become registered dieticians have eating disorders. It’s sort of like therapists — a good one can be wonderful, a bad one can be disastrous.

    On what are you basing this? Personal observation or actual research on the subject? I’m not a registered dietician, but I did go to one because I wanted to break free of my emotional issues around food. She was incredibly helpful basically because she was so ,knowledgable about food. she didn’t have the kind of good/bad associations with it that I did. She also suggested a really great therapist who helped work on my food issues too. Together we are a great team.

    (My background: always a big girl. Not as big now and just kind of eh about it. Like my body most days and strive not to compare myself to others or focus on their bodies regardless of shape. I don’t believe in body acceptance so much as body resistance. I resist any and all message about my body that don’t come from me. Or at least that’s goal. I mostly gauge my response to my body in terms of whether or not i’m able to do with it want I want. It’s hard work at times and it took me seven years to get to this place where I can both type it and mean it.)

    Even some of the responses here still sound a little triggering and disordered for me. Like I just don’t spend as much time thinking about food anymore. I don’t gauge my emotions by what I’m eating and I NEVER eat to do anything other than fuel my body.There are a lot things I do to deal with emotional crap.. I guess what I got from working with my dietician was just a total awareness about how much time is spent talking about food by women and often that is just a subsitute for eating it. I rarely discuss what I eat. I just don’t think it’s important. I love talking about all the things I do, all the people I love and all the experiences I have.

    I hope this doesn’t sound rude. It’s not my intention. I just wanted to offer another perspective.

  65. Jules, what I said was based primarily on a gut feeling and a point Paul Campos makes in The Obesity Myth — which, as I recall, was primarily anecdotal, but it made a lot of sense to me.

    I’m sorry if you found the post or the responses triggering. A lot of us — probably most of us — are still working through disordered eating and thinking; few have made it to the other side. But even though I still struggle with developing a healthy relationship to food, I don’t ever want to get to the point where “I NEVER eat to do anything other than fuel my body.” To me, that’s like saying, “I NEVER have sex except when I’m trying to get pregnant.” I think being able to enjoy the sensual pleasure of food for its own sake — without guilt or shame — is part of having a healthy relationship with food.

    Personally, I believe eating can and should be fun. We are lucky to have such abundance. And as much as I want to entirely stop overeating out of a sense of deprivation, I also want to stop thinking I’ll go to hell for enjoying my food. It’s a difficult balance to achieve.

  66. But even though I still struggle with developing a healthy relationship to food, I don’t ever want to get to the point where “I NEVER eat to do anything other than fuel my body.”

    Y’know, I don’t want to do that, either. It seems so austere and joyless to me, as if each day I’m preparing my body for strenuous physical labor and I must only address my most basic biological needs. I’m not an elite athlete, and food is more than fuel to me, as well as to almost all of society. Honestly I think food has been more than fuel since the advent of agriculture (and culture).

    That’s not to say I don’t understand that “food as fuel” may help someone recover from disordered eating and dangerous emotional triggers and attachments to food; I really do understand. And how we treat and perceive food is definitely personal. But I think food can and should be savored and appreciated and delighted upon, at least to an extent. Food is one of life’s bright spots.

  67. The problem with nutritionists/dieticians – I still cannot tell the difference – is that although they could be an important corrective to the food industry, their growing influence has coincided with a growth in disordered relationships with food, yes I know correlation is not causation, but how else do we judge them? I’ve head it said many times that a lot of them are failed anorexics, I heard this said before they gained the influence they have today. Their influence although many people say it’s v.good, has not lead to a more healthy and balanced view of food overall.

    Variety is the key, we are all individual’s there is no right or wrong way to eat, as long as it doesn’t damage one physically or mentally. The conscious mind is part of eating, that’s the uniqueness of it, a necessary bodily function that requires conscious input. There are generalities, certain things that contain a broader range of essential nutrients etc., but there is not one size fits all, that is what is so telling about dieting, it pretends that we are all the same. Yes, I do know that diets have changed over the years, if you notice the way they’ve changed, they have drifted closer and closer to a more natural form of eating, I admit this tickles me.

    If treating food as fuel works for you fine, if worshiping it as a spiritual entity, a bit like the French! is more your thing, great, I don’t think one or other guarantees anymore pleasure or quality of intake than the other. I find, to my surprise that I don’t have the interest in food that I’d previously assumed, i.e. whenever I go to my fave Chinese restaurant, I almost always order the same one or two dishes, yes it sounds tragic, but whenever I order other things, I regret the lost opportunity to enjoy my favourite, It’s actually hard for me not to feel cheated, if not angry!!

    As for emotions and eating, your emotions are part of you, how could they be left out of the body’s calculations of what it needs?. To pathologize this in and of itself is incorrect, the issue is to deal with what’s bothering you, or get help if you can’t, whilst you’re doing that, your body will attempt to keep you stable. Symptom is not cause.

  68. One quick comment before I delve into the 78 before me:

    AMEN. ABSOLUTELY. 100% AGREEMENT.

    I’m doing this too, and I feel sexier and more beautiful at 30 years, 205 lbs, and a size 18 than I did at 18 years, 129 lbs and a size 8.

    It’s still a struggle, and eating is still very much tied to my emotional well-being and self acceptance.

    So much so, a ‘quick comment’ is threatening to turn into a post now. I’ll include the link next time I comment (since I have a ton of comments to read first as well!)

  69. Part of me resents the demand feeding thing, b/c it removed food and body fixations from their formerly central role in my life. Sometimes I feel almost wistful for the time I was sure my life would be good if only I were thin. Now it often feels like my life SUX and I get no sympathy ’cause I look “good” the way society defines that.

    @spacedcowgirl – yeah, demand feeding is many-faceted. Like swimming, there’s SO much to fine-tune! but a few basic movements and simple breathing is enough to survive.

    I understood OO’s ideas around MH/SH exactly the way you explained. Eating from SH remains a valuable member of my toolbox. And if I ate purely from body signals, I’d be leaner than I’m ready to be right now. OTOH, it feels like I’ve become closer to neutral about body size. Like you said, so many aspects!

    @ Dutchy – re “chocolate in large quantities”, bar chocolate was the first thing I stocked. Besides the stash at home, I kept about 5 lbs of it in the back compartment of a desk drawer at work. I maintained the stock with military dedication, and sewed a drawstring-waist black silk skirt that would have permitted me to double in circumference.

    @Sharn – as I understand demand feeding, at least in the OO approach, there are indeed times when food in general or a given food can start to feel forbidden again. That’s a heads-up to stock up on that food and to re-legalize. The out-of-control aspect disappears. My most devoted re-legalizing consumption is a pathetic laugh when measured against what I used to consider “kind of overeating.” Byt your pace, your time!

  70. I pretty much do the “intuitive eating” thing anyway. I’ve never really been on diets, but I know that when things aren’t going well mentally, one of the sure signs is that i don’t know what I want to eat. All food is “meh”, and whatever it is gives no satisfaction whichever way.

    Apart from those times, I find that I’m pretty well able to sense what my body needs and when I’ve had enough of the right thing, and can stop. In my case, with GERD, there are definite physical signs if I do eat too much – and by “eat too much” I often mean half or less of what those around me are eating (and I eat much more slowly anyway).

    I’ve never been really happy about being fatter (along with shorter) than everyone else, but that’s mainly due to the overwhelming cultural environment. But within myself I know that I eat sensibly and exercise well – probably much better than a lot of those naturally skinny people. It’s in the genes, stoopid. I can no more be skinny than I can be a foot taller than what I am. And it isn’t a moral failing to be either. If only other people would realise that.

    I find that keeping a well-stocked pantry is definitely a very good move, as various people have said above.

    One other thing comes to mind: if we feel compelled to finish everything on our plate, then we’re letting other people dictate what we “should” be eating – whether literally, as at a restaurant, or in the recommended portions, or whatever. Who says that a whole burger, of completely arbitrary size, is what my body needs right now? Who says that 50 or 100ml or 500 grams or half a packet or two packets or a super-sized bucket or whatever is right? It’s all marketing anyway.

  71. I would agree with you and would add, who says a diet portion or a tiny bit of what’s on your plate is right either? Some of us are hearty eaters and I think that’s fine too. I know many of you don’t eat much because your bodies don’t need much, and it is awesome that you are in tune with that. But I feel like there is a fine line that can sometimes turn into “As a fat person I haven’t earned the right to be treated as a human being unless I live a far healthier lifestyle and eat far less than the thin people around me.” Screw that. I think men are also intimidated by women who eat heartily and enjoy their food, for many of the reasons being brought out in the post about why women seem to want to get smaller and smaller. I certainly try to eat a healthy diet and am interested in continuing to learn more about that. But I don’t HAVE to do so in order to earn the right to feel OK about myself. I can order a burger if I want one or a salad if I want one or eat more than everyone at the table or eat less than everyone at the table. I can eat dessert because a great dessert with a cup of coffee is one of life’s great pleasures, not just because the dark chocolate in it has antioxidants or whatever. I guess I really am just agreeing with you that it is not good to allow outside influences to dictate how much you eat or what is right for your own body.

    (Incidentally, I agree that most restaurant meals are way too big and all that stuff–many are designed in such a way that they would be too much food to be appropriate for most people at one sitting–I’m just throwing this out there as a general comment.)

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  73. Thank you for this post! I never used to worry about weight, calories, anything. Somehow, over the past couple of years, that has changed immensely. And the part that kills me is it’s not all bad… the major changes – the (now up to) 15 miles of running a week, and the learning to say “wait, not hungry anymore” knocked off a size or two at such a ridiculously slow pace that I’m guessing it’ll be permanent.

    But in the meantime, I’ve become OBSESSSED with proper portion sizes and eating “healthy.” I feel guilty if I eat two cups of wheaties instead of one. Dammit, I like Wheaties and get hungry without breakfast. Yet there’s always this guilt that I’m eating too much, that I’m not eating out of true hunger… it’s to the point where I have a lot of trouble differentiating between hungry. It also leads to less during the day and more at night, and being so hungry by dinnertime that I miss the “no longer hungry” cue entirely.

    Despite the fact that I’ve never been on any sort of diet-in-name, I find it VERY hard to eat without rules. I was vegetarian from 13 to 15, vegan from 15 to 20 (am 25 now), spent three months eating no simple carbs whatsoever because of blood sugar issues, only started eating red meat again in the past few months. Despite not wanting to lose weight and not restricting any major food group besides lactose, I’ve divided the world into good foods and bad foods, and god forbid if I have too many bad foods in a week. God forbid if I eat more than a tiny portion size, even if I’m still hungry when I finish.

    I definitely feel like I border on some sort of orthorexia mentality. I’m the healthiest eater I know and there’s always something wrong – some white flour in the multigrain bread, too much sugar from fruit, only five and a half servings of vegetables, too much fat today or maybe not enough.

    You’ve pointed out what I really, at the heart of the matter, need to realize for myself: I do not need the world to validate my food choices. I eat because that’s what human bodies run on, not because it makes me a better or worse person to do so.

  74. I wish I had time to read all the responses. I completely relate to everything in this post, have struggled with and am recovering from the same issues and conditioning. The crazy thing is that this attitude is culture wide and cross-issued. You find it in *everything*, not just eating. It is the basis for all dysfunctional relationships with things, for all non-physical addictions and obsessions. We live in such a psychologically sick culture. What’s amazing to me is that it took me so long to begin to perceive it. Frightening.

  75. After reading this post and all the comments, I’m feeling encouraged at the way we handle meals and snacks in our house. I’ve never really put restrictions on my now 5-year-old son. He doesn’t have to clean his plate. If he doesn’t like something, he doesn’t have to eat it. If he wants a PB&J instead of the meal I cooked, so what? It takes me one whole minute to fix a sandwich and then we can have a peaceful meal together. We keep junk food in the house. I let him eat candy. We take him out for ice cream and fast food. He is the perfect weight for his size. He’s a very adventurous eater and will try anything once. He eats fruits and vegetables without a squawk, but if he doesn’t like it, I don’t force him. Many times when we’re getting ready to make a fast-food run on the weekend, he will ask for chicken and broccoli from the chinese takeout place instead. Most of the time he will grab an apple or a banana for a snack instead of the processed junk – not because I’m coercing him; it’s just what he wants. I hope he manages to hold on to his healthy attitude toward food and I wish I could do the same.

  76. Ginny, it sounds like you’re doing a great job! I honestly can’t imagine how different things might have been if I’d grown up without learning to simultaneously demonize and fetishize certain foods.

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  83. Thanks for writing posts like this one. Maybe if a different woman writes this sort of post every day then eventually we will all treat our bodies with the respect they deserve!

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  85. Kate,
    I know this is an old post, but I am just thrilled with its content.
    I sort of adopted this kind of “diet” or I’d say “mindset” a while ago, instinctively.
    And of course, against ever possible recomendation, from my doctor, my mom, my cousin who is (oh lord!) a nutritionist, and basically everyone I work, hang or have a relationship with, except my husband and my kids.
    It happened around the time I lost my faith in all of them (and gosh I should’ve lost it looooooong ago, LOL) concerning their opinion about what is going to make me feel good or live longer, healthier.
    Anyway, it is kinda refreshing to know that it IS POSSIBLE to actually “listen” to your body, That I am not crazy. That one can actually be that tuned in with one’s own body as to actually know what it needs, even if it is a so called “bad” food.
    And I am not crazy when I say some “good” foods make me feel sick.
    Here’s the thing:

    I keep the one and only Brazilian blog (so far, unfortunately – my dream is that one day we will have our own brazilian blogroll) about size acceptance, and my message there is pretty much like yours and all the other fatosphere bloggers. I’ve been following you and several others for almost a year, and I’ve learned so much from all of you! I mention, link and cite some quite often, I am always bugging one or another for the right to translate/reprint this or that post…I am a true pain…You are all my heroes :)

    I’d love to know if is there a specific book on the subject you’d recommend? I’d like to bring this idea to my readers. I know a lot fo them will flip. Things are bad for us fatties all over, but you can’t even begin to imagine how bad it is in a country where the “rule” is to have a g-stringed “perfect” beach body and any one, (especially women) who doesn’t fit the mold, is relentlessly persecuted, by the society, by the media, and worst of all, by doctors.

    And they are so damaged by this whole propaganda, their self esteem is gone, They are so desperate they are being mass enrolled for bariatric surgeries paid by the state funded health care system. (I need to mention that the vast majority of fat people in Brazil is poor, uneducated with little access to information). And they are dying, even children. It is heart breaking.

    To date, all I could tell them is: stop buying into all this stuff, it is a scam. But had no other alternative. Nothing I could say : “try doing this instead”.This listen to your body, feed your need, pay attention to what your body is trying to communicate approach, is something so fantastic, but since I was the only one talking about it and guided solely by personal experience, I was “just the crazy bitter whale who gave up on herself” and is “eating herself into an early death”, just because once in a while I dared to eat a piece of brownie after a very healthy, balanced and sensible meal.

    It is kind of nice to realize that might be actually literature supporting what I thought was just my personal view. I want to bring more of this to my readers. Any tips you can give me, will be helpful.

    And once again, congratulations for your, intelligent, inspiring, lucid blog.

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  92. Hey,
    I was pointed here by pearlandopal on Livejournal. I know this post is old bu thank you. It made me realize a lot of things relating to control and “goodness,” extending beyond, but also including food. It is really revolutionary to me that if I give myself what I want in unlimited quantities I will not destroy/devour the world.

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  94. You know what? You’ve made me realise that I’ve fallen so much into the “eat 4-6 meals a day in order to avoid bingeing” that, sometimes, I eat when I’m not even hungry, thinking “it’s time to eat. If I don’t eat lunch RIGHT NOW, I’ll eat three times as much in a couple of hours”. Isn’t it silly?

    I really need to work on that “I eat this now in order to avoid feeling really hungry later”. Wow, eating-when-hungry-and-enjoying-it is much harder than I thought.

  95. (Click the link to “my” site, which isn’t.)

    Has anybody else seen this project? It’s marginally interesting to me, but the “Not so Little Riding Hood” shot and the ignorant comments that follow do a lot to take away from the photographer’s proclaimed goal.

  96. Commenting to an old (but great) post to say that this guy has a whole new book out about how OMG WE ARE GOING TO DEVOUR THE WORLD if we don’t remain CONSTANTLY VIGILANT against anything delicious, ever.

    I’d write more, but oops, I think that’s the sound of some chips rattling around in the back of my cupboard, and lord knows I can’t sleep at night if there are chips in the house.

  97. I noticed something about my cat a while back that lead to a major realization about myself:

    I have had my kitty since before she was completely weaned (a rescue). She knew what to do with kitty kibble, but she couldn’t quite bite down on it correctly, so the whole first week she was with me, she licked wet kibble off my fingers. After that, she managed kitten kibble pretty well, so we made sure to keep her bowl filled and let her eat as she was hungry.

    At first, she’d gorge herself whenever I filled her bowl. Then she began to feel more safe in the idea that food was always there for her, and she wouldn’t go hungry. So she’d eat a couple of bites after I filled her dish, then a little bit here and a little bit there throughout the day as she was hungry. Now she’s gotten to where she will wind herself around my ankles when I fill her food dish (she clearly likes the idea of getting her dish filled), but she might or might not actually eat anything then.

    I wondered why her habits had changed. Was it just a product of her getting older? Then I realized — she had moved toward eating only in response to her hunger. As a starved kitten, she glomped down food out of fear (borne out by experience) that the food might not be there later. After that, she felt compelled to eat when the food came, but didn’t necessarily eat much right then. Now, when the food comes, she thanks me for putting it in her dish, but feels no need to actually eat unless she’s hungry.

    The funny thing is, when her eating was more disordered, the vet was very worried about her weight. She was either too thin or too fat, and seemed to never find a point of equilibrium. The vet warned me about not letting the cat have “free choice eating”, because it would lead to a tubby tabby with health problems. I figured she was still growing, and kept on letting the cat eat whenever she felt like it. Now, her health and weight are just fine, due (IMHO) in no small part to having her choose when to eat and how much.

    So whenever I get that OMG BAD FOOD craving, I think about my cat. If that cat were a person, she’d have no problem eating half an Oreo, or half a dozen –depending solely on what she was really hungry for. To a cat there is “food” and “not food” — the idea of food carrying moral freight would be absurd.

    Maybe its silly, but I find that my eating habits are less disordered the more I try to emulate my cat.

  98. Actually, that’s not really what that book is about. I just finished reading it, and yes, there are parts of the book that are annoying (he believes that fat people underestimate how much they eat, for example), but there are also parts of the book that talk about how a lot of foods are carefully manufactured to make sure that the customer never really feels full. He also talks about how what a person eats can change his or her brain chemistry. It’s pretty interesting and didn’t really strike me as having the same tone of panic that you thought it did.

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  100. Found this old post in my bookmarks and have been thinking about it a lot.

    Love this comment from @Meowser:

    “I too have a neurosis about “not wasting food,” I have a hard time getting it through my calcified skull that food wasted inside the body is no different materially from food wasted outside of it. ”

    I don’t need to clean my plate? What? Wish someone had told me that when I was a child.

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  102. Yes yes yes! I am not all the way there, but I’ve come a long way, baby. I started the “demand eating” way of life about two years ago, after I ate a few Jenny Craig meals along with a bunch of regular snacks, didn’t lose weight and said F this expensive, depriving (it was supposed to deprive me, even though I didn’t follow the plan), bullshit and just said “I’m going to do that intuitive eating thing.” One thing went wrong: my intuition was completely screwed up. Long story short, I ate and ate and ate and sat and sat and sat, completely ignoring my body, and went up three sizes. But that wasn’t intuitive eating’s fault: it was my dumbutt’s fault. Recently I became ill with some kind of stomach flu up top and down low (you figure it out) and my tummy was very tender for two weeks. Translation: soft diet, meaning Coke and buttered bread was the majority of what I ate. I tried eating fried foods, and it made the down low blow. This happened the next few times I ate fried foods, and then something clicked in my mind: DUDE I THINK FRIED FOODS MAKE MY IBS GO APESHIT! This was the first time I had ever really listened to my body instead of listening to my emotional wants and needs when it came to what I ate. I’d always gotten the down low blow out after eating fried chicken, but that didn’t stop me from eating it because I’d always excuse it away. Now, its not like I’ll never eat fried chicken again, but at least I know whats coming, and am likely to pick a non-upsetting food, like a delicious, grilled cheeseburger, over greasy, delicious fried chicken. Also, I’ve always been told things I “should” eat. For example, if you have the option between a salad or a steak, eat the steak. So I would usually get the steak, even if I craved the salad, because my mother would goad me into it. But now, if I want a salad, I’m getting that gosh darn salad. Eating too much to make myself sick has only been a moderate problem, but now since I eat different (slower? multitasking? slower because I’m almost always multitasking when I eat?) I can listen to my body and realize when I’m full. Its like a sixth sense you slowly develop, and eventually you are able to look at that last dab of mashed potatoes or pad thai or whatever and say “I’m done” with no guilt, shame, or even a second thought. Because thats how your body works. Your body’s not stupid, you are, well, you’ve been conditioned to be by dieting, by your family, by the media, by everything. And thats hard to undo. But you just have to tell all of that to shut up and tune into your body. For four months, I devoured the world, and I gained three sizes. It can happen. But don’t blame that on demand eating- blame it on one helluva sucky and life changing semester in tedious, boring law school far away from my family where the only place I felt at home was on the couch watching TV, blame it on bad coping mechanisms after the first death of a loved one I had ever experienced hit me like a ton of bricks at the tedious and boring law school far away from home, and blame it on the period of utter loss and hopelessness I felt after deciding I definitely and utterly did not want to be a lawyer, nor do anything in the legal field. That the dreams I had pinned my entire future on were bullshit. That at that time, I was wondering in panic if I could even get a job at McDs with a summa cum laude BA. I was eating on the couch up to that point, and after I was eating and drinking on the couch, depressed by my stretchmarks and failure. Its taken a while to get over that, (I still feel most at home in bed and on the couch) but my relationship with food has transformed within the last few months. I was up to a size 22 for a bit, but now I’m in between an 18 and a 20, not because I dieted, not because I restricted myself in any way, but because I have begun to listen to my body(I still have to work on being more active, but now I at least get up and do chores). Now, I am sure my journey won’t be a typical one- you might not be “blessed” with IBS and that lava cake might sit just fine with you, and thats ok. Because even with the foods that I love and make me feel great, I don’t go bananas when it comes to eating them. If I want them, I eat them. Then I stop eating them. And thats it. Theres no excuses, no emotions, nothing more than a cheery “mmm, that sounds good, thats what I’m going to have” in terms of obsession or longing. The same goes for drinking. I don’t feel like it most of the time. And the times I do, I have a few, say “this is OK” and then I don’t feel like doing it again for a while. Like, weeks, if not months. Because drinking gives me a headache and bloat and it limits what I can do- drive, appear normal, go to a job interview, not smell like alcohol, wake up fresh as a daisy the next morning. I have realized that if I am to have a life, I can’t drink as much as I did in college: its practicality, not morality. And no remorse if there’s something left on my plate, or in the bottle, box, or bag. If I’m out, it gets taken away, and if I’m at home it gets put away. And, most amazingly, I don’t come back 15 minutes later and reopen whatever I was eating and start eating it again. Why? Because I’m satisfied. And thats major for me. I can’t wait to see where this journey goes once I start demand exercising proper. Thats going to be a whole new hill to climb- figuratively and literally :) Sorry for the rambling rant! Love you girls!

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