Stumbling towards ecstasy

Because of our delightfully stringent comments policy, most of the rants about fatties eating everything in a twelve-block radius never make it onto the site. Those “arguments” just aren’t worth thinking about. But we do see some genuine confusion from otherwise reasonable people who can’t see how non-restricted eating could possibly be compatible with health, or indeed with anything but disorder-level binge consumption. Of course, this is just as unfathomable to me as non-dieting is to the diet crowd — isn’t it obvious that Health At Every Size is a much more salutary way to live? — but I recognize that this is a diet-happy culture and going against the Prime Directive like that will always generate cognitive dissonance. So we do try to put some thought into where exactly the disconnect comes from, and we try to loosen some of the knots that keep people bound to a fat-is-bad pro-diet mentality.

To that end, yesterday as I passed by Starbucks I got to thinking about the four hot chocolates I’d thought about getting but not gotten in the last three days. I didn’t get them for various reasons — I was having fun with the person I was hanging out with at Starbucks and forgot to get in line, there were no comfy chairs available, it was raining and I didn’t feel like leaving the office for cocoa, etc. But I know there are people who would affect to be mildly scandalized that I thought with some seriousness about getting hot chocolate four times in three days — even though I didn’t actually get it once.  And that opened a window into the fear-of-not-dieting mindset.

See, eating what you want doesn’t mean eating everything you think of. I’ve decriminalized my thoughts about food — I’m allowed to consider getting hot chocolate, or having pie for breakfast, or taking second helpings, without any judgment or shame. But that doesn’t mean I always decide to do those things, and in fact, simply being allowed to think rationally about food means that I often don’t. (Starbucks’ Signature Hot Chocolate is amazing but tragic for my insides; breakfast pie is a brilliant invention but kind of a lot of sugar if you need sustained energy; eating too much food makes me uncomfortable.)

The point is, I think people may be terrified of unrestricted eating because they think “wow, there are so many times that I think about eating — just imagine how fat I would be if I didn’t control myself!” But you don’t have to eat everything that pops into your head, just because you may. As a non-dieter I routinely:

  • See a commercial on TV for something that looks good, and not only don’t buy and eat it right then but never buy and eat it.
  • Think about having a snack, but decide it’s too soon until dinner.
  • Have a sudden craving for something I don’t bother to scare up before the urge passes.
  • Want to eat a million Oreos, but do not eat a million Oreos because I don’t own a million Oreos and don’t feel like going to the store.
  • Think about buying something in the grocery store because it looks tasty, but don’t for whatever reason (don’t need it, can’t fit it in my basket, probably not as good as it looks, etc.).

And so forth. The point is that refusing yourself nothing is not the same as giving yourself everything. One thing, one crucial thing I do not refuse myself is the ability to turn things down. I don’t have to eat things just because I have a chance to or I have a notion to or nobody’s watching. Restriction makes you do that, not liberation. And once you’ve let go of the feast-or-famine mindset, it turns out that food is just like other pleasures and other necessities — often worth the trouble, sometimes not, sometimes foregone because it’s inconvenient or costly, sometimes overlooked out of preoccupation or stress, sometimes planned around and sometimes hampered by plans.

A few years ago, a fundamentalist Christian teen organization put out a Modesty Survey that was the subject of much mocking and some horror on the internet. The survey purported to feel out Christian teenage boys on what sorts of dress and behavior they considered “stumbling blocks” in girls — that is, what would tempt them unduly into sin. The picture painted is of a code of decorum so strict as to interfere significantly not just with sexual activity, but with any sort of activity at all. (Among the things found by the majority to be “stumbling blocks”: bending over, sitting cross-legged, lifting your skirt higher than the knee to step over something, showing any cleavage, unspecified “way a girl walks,” unspecified “attitude or behavior.”) Needless to say this was considered problematic for a number of reasons, not least of which is the implication that being reminded of an act that’s considered transgressive amounts to being tempted to do it. A heartening number of respondents said it was their responsibility to avoid lust, not the girl’s responsibility not to provoke it, but the very premise of the survey is that merely being alerted to the possibility of sin is effectively a call to sin, if not a sin in itself. Seeing a girl’s cleavage makes you aware that sex with her is possible, and once you know that, brother, resisting is going to take everything you’ve got.

People who assume that non-dieting is tantamount to wanton indulgence are applying the same non-logic to food that the Modesty Survey applies to sex. Both interpretations require the same unstated axiom: that thoughts about the object of temptation are enough to nullify all self-control, and that control must therefore be externally applied in the form of stringent rules. The ideal outcome is that you never think about the object of temptation in the first place. When you can be brave enough to face your stumbling blocks without a safety harness, though, it becomes clear that thinking about stuff is just thinking about stuff — it doesn’t open the door to sin, it doesn’t compel you to anything, it doesn’t enlist you in a fight you’re bound to lose. It’s not that people who don’t think in terms of “stumbling blocks” don’t think about having sex with every hot person they see — lots of them probably don’t, and lots of them probably do. But they know that thinking about it doesn’t mean they have to do it. All it takes to remain virginal or monogamous or disease-free or unrumpled, or whatever you goal is, is to just not go ahead and fuck everyone you think about fucking. (Assume, in this scenario, that everyone would give consent!) You don’t have to stop looking. You don’t have to stop thinking. You just have to not hump people indiscriminately. If you have a healthy relationship with sex, you probably weren’t going to, right?

Well, if you have — if you can develop — a healthy relationship with food, you’re not going to eat everything that crosses your mind. Forget being unhealthy; it’s not convenient. It’s not necessary. It’s not even particularly plausible. But I think this is where some of the fear comes from, the fear that letting go of restriction means embracing nonstop indulgence, and of course the assumption that that’s what we practice and advocate here. In fact, when you stop seeing everything as a stumbling block, you don’t automatically fall on your face — more often, you can pick your skirt up higher than your knees and just walk on.

316 thoughts on “Stumbling towards ecstasy

  1. *applauds* Brilliant – and thank you so much for posting this. It articulates so much, so perfectly. Thank you.

  2. This almost made me cry this morning. I am struggling with my eating disorder right now and I am ashamed to admit that it is winning. I want to be this person that you write about. Perhaps I’ll print this out today and read it a couple of times throughout the day.

    Thanks FJ.

  3. I have actually watched my caloric intake decrease (NB: with no subsequent weight loss), since giving up dieting. I do understand the fear that people have they’d eat the world; but there really is the law of diminishing returns, and eating, if it’s not fetishized, is awesome but not really THAT awesome.

    When I was dieting all the time I’d seriously rather eat something than do almost anything else and I thought about food almost constantly. Sucky way to live. Also, I tended to obsess only on “bad” foods, which is silly, because a salad with feta cheese does not need to be treated like a second class citizen.

    Actually, come to think of it, quitting smoking was sort of similar. The book I used (Alan Carr’s Easyway), encouraged me to Smoke A Lot right up to the point where I didn’t, and smoke while reading the book. (And it just asked a series of helpful questions and made a series of observations about what I was getting out of smoking and how it worked. Great book; after many years of quitting and falling off the wagon, I quit in the *middle* of a pack of smokes and haven’t smoked since.)

    Anyway, the point he was making was that psychological and physical forces meant that deprivation (ie: cutting down) would really marry you to the addiction and the habit. You’d quit when you were ready to quit, but all the moral restraint made things worse.

    Epic Repression Fail.

  4. Thank you for this. Kate you are a very good writer. I can’t wait to get your book. What you write here is so true also. Thinking about doing something is not actually doing something.

  5. Fantastic post. All too often, people fall into the trap of classifying everything as binary. You are EITHER a dieter OR a pig. You are EITHER a madonna OR a whore. I see this a lot with environmentalism and green living as well. I’ve had friends get freaked out because they think my advocacy of eating local, organic foods means eating ONLY local, organic foods. Orthodoxy is seldom attainable or desirable.

  6. For people who want more information on a non-dieting approach such as this, check out the books Overcoming Overeating and When Women Stop Hating Their Bodies. They’ve changed my life!

  7. Faith, you took the words right out of my mouth with that comment. I’m in recovery from an ED as well and it feels like a forever-long ebb and flow. Right now I’m going through a rough patch with other things in life and that is when it always flares up, when I feel like other things are out of control.

    Fillyjonk, thank you for posting that. I’ve read several intuative eating books on my road to recovery but that comparison you made with the modesty survey just made so much more sense than anything I’ve ever read.

  8. I’m so amused that you brought up the modesty survey. As someone who dresses conservatively (I dislike the term “modestly” because of what it implies about other people who don’t dress that way) for feminist and comfort reasons, I found that survey very frustrating. You’ve finally articulated why it bugged me so much.

  9. Thank you so much, Filly Jonk. The relationship with food you describe is what I am striving to achieve. I vowed to stop dieting forever in January. I was firmly entrenched in the Diet Mentality for 25 years, and I am completely disconnected with my body’s hunger/fullness signals. It could take years to get to a peaceful place with food. And I guess that is OK.

    I am still in the stage of diet backlash so I know I am eating more than my body needs right now. Because of some unfortunate personal circumstances, I am eating emotionally as well. In the past I would have jumped right back to dieting to assert some control, but not now. Never again.

    You post gives me hope that food will eventually take the proper place in my life, so I can be free to live my life to the fullest as I am today, in peace. Thank you.

  10. This is the best post on this site in a while. I think what helped me have a healthy relationship to food is the fact that I think about every possible scenario (hello, scientist) for almost every situation in my life. Breaking down what’s possible does not mean all those scenarios happen. They could happen. Many of them won’t. I could go down stairs and grab ice cream, but I probably won’t because I need to finish my lunch and go to class.

  11. Strangely, since I found out that I’m gluten-intolerant, the idea of intuitive eating has become much more clear to me. I do think about (and sometimes crave) glutinous foods. In fact, I’m still grieving that I can’t eat it. But the connection to intuitive eating (or unrestrained eating) is that I know that if I eat something with gluten, I’m not much going to feel like eating for a week. My body is sending me clear messages that I need to find something else. And I do and I can let go of the thoughts.

    By paying attention to my body in this way, I’ve learned to pay attention in others (like figuring out that I don’t like the feeling of being that full or that I really crave fruit when it’s hot out). Being in our bodies and paying attention to its signals is what it’s all about.

  12. Don’t forget, Stacia, that emotional eating in and of itself isn’t always a bad thing! Humans eat emotionally — we need nutrients to keep our minds sharp and our emotions stable, we take pleasure in eating and have evolved our food culture based on that, and we eat together to celebrate and establish bonds. Getting a handle on negative emotions and dealing with past traumas is a worthy goal, but stopping all emotional eating… man, who wants that?

  13. This is amazing. It clearly articulates what I feel about food but have never been able to explain. The sex analogy is perfect because I think our society treats both food and sex as something uncontrollable. The message is always “No!” instead of one that encourages us to develop healthy relationships with our bodies.

  14. Wow, you are just on a roll lately, FJ! Wonderful post.

    I think the parallels to sex are especially useful because, as I saw someone comment on another blog, in some ways ideas about sexual morality have, for much of the population, been replaced by ideas about the morality of eating. Whereas sexual desire used to be seen as a dangerous impulse that needed to be controlled, for a large number of people today, sexual desire is seen as natural and normal and okay to indulge safely whereas desire for food is seen as the dangerous impulse that must be reigned in.

    But, yeah, just like you don’t need to believe that sex outside of marriage is an abomination to God in order to not have sex with everyone in sight, you don’t need to believe that food is evil and to be eaten only when absolutely necessary (in the smallest amounts possible) to not eat everything in sight. I made two dozen cinnamon rolls for my students today (it was the last day of class), and I brought home about 10 of them and haven’t eaten any. I like cinnamon rolls, but I just haven’t been in the mood for anything sweet. Maybe I’ll have one later or tomorrow, maybe I’ll give them to the neighbors. I don’t know. Just because something sounds good doesn’t mean I’m going to eat it, or eat it at that moment. Lately I just haven’t been very hungry–a combination, I think, of a stomach bug in the house and the warmer weather, which usually makes me less hungry–and I’ll often think something sounds good but just don’t want to eat it right then. Plus, as I get older, I find that eating stuff with a lot of sugar tends to make me feel crappy, so it’s definitely more of a genuinely “sometimes” food than it was when I was younger. Like you said, it’s often just not practical to eat everything that you have a passing thought about eating. Having the thought doesn’t mean you must eat it, or that eating it right then is the most practical or best thing to do.

  15. Before, during my eating disorder and later on when I wasn’t “technically” eating disordered, but I was because I still ate like most women in this country ate, you could not leave an unguarded piece of chocolate near me. I’d inhale whole chocolate bars in a sitting.

    After giving myself permission to eat chocolate if I felt like it, sure the first few months I would still eat a whole Lindt bar at one go, but now it’s gotten to the point where I have two XOXOX Dark Chocolate raspberry bars sitting next to my couch, that have been there for nearly a month because honestly, now that I CAN have chocolate whenever I want, I just don’t want that much of it that often.

  16. Totally agree Filly Jonk…There is a huge difference between celebrating and enjoying food and anesthesizing (sp?) yourself with food….so yeah…I’m only trying to stop the latter :)

  17. Oh, thank you for this post. I’m about 2/3 of the way through Linda Bacon’s HAES book, and your post goes a long way to help me stay focused on what Dr. Bacon is trying to teach in her book. You’ve said so much which is true and to the point, especially about making choices. Spinsterwitch mentioned being gluten-intolerant, and how that informs food choices. Being lactose-intolerant, I’m learning to listen to my body when it comes to dairy-laden foods (which I love simply for their taste). I keep telling myself that if I can successfully guide myself through the minefield of dairy products, I can extend that success to listening to my body’s messages regarding other foods as well. Again, thanks!

  18. I still have issues with overeating because while I try not to put value judgments on food but I’m still dealing with the scarcity mindset of “I must eat lots of chocolate every chance I get because it’s forbidden” despite the fact that I live alone and who gives a shit. I’m getting better, but slowly.

    That’s really all I have. You’ve said this so well and simply I don’t think I can do anything but \o/ and say WORDY MCWORD.

    DRST

  19. Yes! Thank you. I stopped giving myself hell for the emotional eating or the not emotionally charged but I just feel like eating this whole damn pizza moments and it wasn’t long after that I realized I just don’t have those desires as much as I used to. I still do indulge in overeating for no reason other than I just feel like it right now but it doesn’t happen that often and when it does happen it changes nothing about how I feel about myself.

    Very recently I had an encounter with a person who made the assumption that I must eat every thing I want all of the time because I said I don’t diet and will never again diet and all I could come up with in response is NUHUH NO I DON’T. Articulate, right?

  20. I think I’m going to borrow this post next time I need to explain to someone why dry houses have this horrible habit of producing alcoholic kids, because it explains the restriction/allowance stuff far better than I’ve ever been able to.

  21. I have definitely found that allowing myself ready access to all types of foods lessens both the frequency and intensity of my cravings for them.

    Thanks for the very well written post on this, FJ.

  22. What a fantastic post, Kate. You’ve articulated a healthy, reasonable way of thinking and of approaching life, not just food or sex.

    I’m 10 weeks pregnant, for the first time, and this experience is helping me see a whole new side of intuitive eating. For four weeks I was sick and could pretty much eat (a) crackers or (b) whatever my body told me it wanted– which was often things you wouldn’t suspect, like tacos. And now that I’m finally (phew!) over the nausea, I am eating whenever I’m hungry–no more skipping meals because I’m too busy or lazy!– and trying to balance nutrition and cravings. It’s forcing me to think about eating in terms of nourishing myself and my baby, period.

  23. This reminds me of a segment on Talk of the Nation the other day. Allison Aubrey, NPR’s health reporter had an awesome comment about listening to your body and I was on board. Then Mark Bitten (a food blogger for NYT) had to go ruin it by saying, “One of the things we’re most neurotic about in the U.S. is food. We’re neurotic about sleep, we’re neurotic about sex, but we don’t go off having sex and falling asleep every time we feel like it, but we do go off and eat every time we feel like it.”

    I think this post really disproves his point and I really appreciate you doing this for me. Because ever since I heard the aforementioned asshattery I’ve been unwinding my HAES success by questioning my choice to eat when I’m hungry. Thank you.

  24. Thanks for this post, Kate! I mean..uh…Sweet Machine. Right?

    Seriously, fj, intuitive eating is a struggle for many of us. It’s always good to be reminded of others’ progress.

  25. Yes! My relationship with food and my body has completely changed since I stopped dieting, stopped calorie counting, stopped vilifying foods and obsessing about weight and exercise. Now I enjoy my food. I love walking my dog and doing yoga just for the joy of it.

    When I no longer HAD to eat a salad, I found that I really like salads. Sometimes with bacon. In the past, I’d be choking down 20 cardboard Snackwells when what I really wanted was one delicious chocolate chip cookie, with walnuts and real butter. Eventually I’d drive to the store and binge on the nearly as unsatisfying bakery cookies on top of the Snackwells. Then I’d hate myself. Then I’d start the cycle again. It seems so insane to me now.

    Last night, I was talking to a newish (thin) friend on the phone and she started talking about how we should do a “cleanse” together to lose weight, and how it could magically “reset” my faulty brain signals that were keeping me fat. I think she was stunned when I told her that I had no interest in making attempts to lose weight. I could just feel her mentally going, WHAAAT? These ideas are so rigidly ingrained in people’s minds that they never even consider alternatives.

    Thank you for this awesome article, FJ. It’s posts like this that I come back and read over and over again to remind myself I’m on the right track.

  26. I actually think that getting rid of the “bad food” mentality actually helps me to eat healthier, because I think about what I want rather than what I can’t have. It’s also helped me quit smoking.

    It’s really an eye-opener to get in touch with your desires. After a month of “quitting smoking”, I decided that abstinence didn’t work for me. I made it my policy that if I really, really, really wanted a cigarette? I’d just have one. But I’d have to really want it. And that in general, I don’t smoke.

    It’s been about 4 months since then, and I think I’ve had 2 or 3 cigarettes, hardly anything worth worrying about.

    Same thing with food. I know that if I really, really want fried chicken, I can eat it! If I really, really want cake, I’ll eat it! Most of the time focusing on what I really want leads me to eat far more fruits and vegetables than I was eating before i adopted this mentality. Because I want vegetables now, I don’t have to take the opportunity to eat fried chicken now. I can just wait until I want it more than I want vegetables.

    It’s very liberating, and I feel great.

  27. Am I the only one amused that apparently Christian girls are not tempted by boys? I just have this visual of girls in long-sleeved long dresses robot walking in circles whilst the boys cavort nude all around them.

    Where’s the modesty survey for boys? No tight jeans or muscle shirts please. Take off those cutely geeky glasses too! And no kilts either!

    Am I allowed to be pleased that FJ’s whole article makes perfect sense to me? It seems like such an improvement that it’s not difficult or strange anymore.

  28. .5) Um, That was AWESOME!
    1) Fillyjonk wrote this NOT Kate, right? Right.
    2) I would totally read the book you haven’t wrriten!
    3) I used to go to Target and freak out because I wanted EVERYTHING but only had 60 dollars and I left feeling all upset cause I had to pass on the cute melamine plates UNTIL, I made a little more $ decided to go to Target and buy ANYTHING I wanted and voila…the cute melamine plates were less cute…AND I only would spend $60 max (it was my set point expenditure) SO interesting and parallel I think.
    4) Spinsterwitch – I had the same experience when I found out I had celiac disease (gluten-intolerance) I have to say though, it SUX when gluten finds its way into my foodstuffs anyways…it just sneaks in…it’s SO annoying.
    5) That’s all for now.
    6) Oops, another thought, I was so nervous about posting for so long and now that I am posting, I am having such fun. Yay.

  29. Too true, FJ!

    Nearly two weeks ago, Mr. Twistie and I went to the grocery store to load up the larder. When I spotted a box of quick-cooking grits, all I could think was ‘cheese grits for breakfast, yum!!!!!’ AND it was on sale, so I bought a box. I couldn’t wait to have cheese grits for breakfast.

    Except for the part where today was the first time I actually ate them. The box sat virginal and unsullied in my cupboard for nearly two weeks waiting for my body to want cheese grits.

    Still, when I wanted them, they were there and they were satisfying, and they were delicious. And when I want them again, they’ll be there, whether it’s tomorrow morning or sometime next month…or for dinner tonight.

  30. This article brilliantly points out the huge problem our culture has with “middle ground” – we are one thing or the other and there’s nowhere in between. We’re either virtuous dieters who never eat anything wrong no matter what our horrible thoughts are or we’re overindulgent slobs who mindlessly eat whenever a stray thought crosses our minds.

    It’s almost as if people don’t trust themselves. (Ya think?)

  31. The spending parallel is interesting, but I think ultimately a bit different…something along the lines of an intolerance. There are things that some of us honestly can’t have (gluten intolerance, food-controlled diabetes, etc…) and things that we tell ourselves we shouldn’t have (chocolate, fried chicken, pick your “poison”).

    I’m trying to figure out a way to teach this distinction to my little girl, actually. I have a hard time refusing her ANY food, because I want to teach her that all foods are equal, but sometimes, we just don’t have something she wants and I have to say so. Intuitive eating doesn’t require being so privileged that everything is available all the time. Right?

    There is a real and important difference between the things we tell ourselves we “can’t” have and the things that are honestly out-of-reach.

  32. Stacia,

    I would also add that “emotional eating” as meant by therapists and such is not always the same as “eating when upset”…. if you’re in the middle of a seriously stressful day at work, say, and you’ve been surging on adrenaline for hours, and it’s 5 hours after breakfast? You may be upset, and you may be eating, and it may calm your emotions, but that’s because your body needs fuel to replenish itself from the emotions you’ve been dealing with. :)

  33. Wonderful post, FJ. =3

    I’m only 16, so a lot of the girls (Even “skinny” girls. I swear they can’t weight much more than 100 pounds) are going to extreme measures to diet. It seems like it is ingrained into girl’s minds.

    Even my parents are diet inclined. I don’t eat a huge amount of food, so I don’t know where people think I must eat 10,000 calories a day.

    It’s so much easier to eat right when you’re not dieting because you’re not focusing on food all the time. Exersising for fun is well… fun when you’re doing it to make your body feel good.

    Sure there have been days (Especially when I have my period) when I want to eat everything in sight. Do I? No, because if I do it’ll make me sick. I don’t like to be sick.

  34. Wow. This is really, really, really, really good. Thank you for writing this, fillyjonk!

    I wish there were a clean version for my very religious inlaws.

    Perhaps I’ll paraphrase for them. ;)

  35. I’m struggling with this in a big way, so thanks FJ. I’m eating right now because my job BORES me (thankful I have one, unlike a lot of people out there right now.) But, I feel completely unfilled at my job, so I eat crap to make me feel better. Restricting seems like such a good idea way too much of the time.

  36. A Sarah, while I love the salty language used on this site (in fact, in day to day life I tend to swear in ways that would make my sailor father blush!), it’s not that hard to clean it up for those offended by four-letter words: just because you can doesn’t mean you will.

  37. Although I’ve been following HAES/intuitive eating (as best I can) for a while now (more than 1 year, less than 2), you said something in this post that I had never considered, something which does still give me problems: allowing yourself to eat whatever you wish also means allowing yourself to turn down things. Not in a restrictive, punitive way, but in the sense that, for myriad reasons, a particular food might not be the best choice at that particular time.

    I still catch myself thinking that choosing to not eat something is tantamount to dieting. And since I definitely do not want to slide back into a diet mindset, then I get stressed about choosing to not eat the Oreo/last biscuit/homemade quiche, even if I genuinely don’t want it, because I’m afraid that’s stealth diet-think.

    I never considered that the ability to eat whatever I wish also means I have the ability to turn down whatever I wish, because just as eating whatever I wish isn’t “bad,” neither is choosing to not eat something.

    It’s so simple — just as simple as intuitive eating — when I look at it that way.

    Thank you so much.

  38. lol Twistie. But what if cleaning up the language becomes SO APPEALING that I just go around doing NOTHING BUT CLEANING UP PEOPLE’S LANGUAGE all day long?? I’d better just make sure I watch three hours of David Mamet and Quentin Tarantino every day to keep myself in check. Sure, it will take discipline, but what’s the alternative?

  39. Sticky,

    The thing about the “cleanse” made me laugh because right now the spamtrap on my site is full of comments pushing them. Either they’re talking about how to do it, OR they’re posting things like “this is a really cool site” with with coloncleanse.whatever as their website.

    *headdesk*

  40. A Sarah, just repeat to yourself “What am I, your fucking toaster?” whenever you start to feel to proper in your speech. It usually leads to other cursing, like “What the fuck does that line even mean anyway?”

  41. I’ve been having my own struggles with eating lately and that was exactly what I needed to read right now. Thank you FJ.

  42. Rebecca: I have no idea who that is, but it’s aimed at people who could benefit from it and it sounds like zie could benefit from it, so… I guess? That’s an interesting post anyway, and I appreciate that a lot of the comments I saw were saying “speak for yourself, dude, I love veggies.”

  43. I love this post. Well, I love almost every post here, but this is exactly where I’m aiming with my own relationship with food. It is amazing how much easier things are when I give myself permission to enjoy what I really want, rather than trying to suppress every craving for a non-vegetable.

  44. “Where’s the modesty survey for boys? No tight jeans or muscle shirts please. Take off those cutely geeky glasses too! And no kilts either!”

    Women are the keepers of modesty, doncha know? Men simply can’t control their sexual desires so women are responsible for not arousing desire in men. Women are able to supress their sexual feelings, so men don’t need to worry about modesty.

    /sarcasm.

    Seriously though, great post. As someone who has been recovering from an ED for the past ten years or so, the cycle of restricting and then binging is a powerful one. What has helped me is to try and keep lots of really good foods around and not to attach any morality to eating other than satisfying my hunger. If I pick up an apple, eat half and then I’m not hungry, its OK to discard the rest. In the same way, if I’m eating a piece of pizza and I’m still hungry afterwards, its OK to have another.

    The only big problem for me is that I tend to have big blood sugar swings; so when my glucose is low, I’m really tired/unmotivated and I’ll be temped to eat something sugary that won’t really satisfy my hunger/will make me feel really ick afterwards (eating a big dose of sugar on a low glucose system = ickiness!). In those cases I have to steer myself away from cookies/ice cream/what have you and towards something substantial. But I don’t think that’s a problem.

  45. Carla, yeah, that’s exactly the point in fact. Sometimes you want to eat cookies and you don’t eat cookies, because you actually have higher brain functions that step in and say “whoa whoa, cookies are not what I need right now.” You don’t need Dr. Atkins to tell you to do that, nor are you some kind of failure simply for thinking about cookie-eating.

  46. A Sarah:

    I’m a massive David Mamet fan! We did a scene from Glengarry Glen Ross in one of my college classes and I got to say “cocksucker” in front of the class, which was really enormously satifying.

    The idea of a “cleanse” just totally feeds into the food as morality thing. Its the same concept as baptist. But with food, its a matter of you’ve corrupted your body through the eating of sinful foods and now you need to be cleansed through a painful/self-denying ritual that must be adhered to strictly.

  47. I love this post, because I live with a man in possession of a fully-functional penis who has never – EVER – sexually assaulted anyone or even wanted to. And I eat whatever the hell I want to. When I want to. And I’m not dead yet – I’m not even ill.

    I shall have to think about the spending thing a little harder, but I’m optimistic that it will feel just as reasonable when I’ve thought about it.

    (People Can Be Trusted To Look After Themselves Given Half A Chance – Nation In Shock).

  48. I’ve been lurking here for a few months after I followed a link from another blogger. (I can’t even remember who it was.)

    I’m de-lurking to say that I LOVE this post. I want to forward it to everyone I know. Every word of it resonated with me.

    I’m somewhat new to embracing living HEAS, and have found this site to be empowering and liberating. Y’all rock. I can’t thank you all enough.

    There, cherry popped! Yay me!

  49. Fillyjonk,

    That’s why I never understood the diet tips that tell you basically to keep any “tempting” foods out of the house. Its like…you’re going to encounter a chocolate chip cookie at some point; might as well learn how to deal with it now than end up eating a whole batch later and feeling sick.

  50. Is this aimed at The Ferrett?

    Huh, that was an unexpected amount of sanity in both the original post (though, obviously, I think he missed the mark on IE) and in the comments. I am . . . not used to this feeling. I think I need to go lie down.

  51. I think that … when we cede control to external authority, it … stunts our growth, prevents us from learning the skills we need to live on our own — like critical thinking, reason, and risk estimation — and … neotonizes us, if that’s a word — encourages the retention of childlike traits.

    It also seems to impair our ability to learn through observation and experience, so that even if something contrary to accepted wisdom is right in front of us, we either don’t see it or can’t accept its veracity, or even see something else altogether. Which is one reason fear mongering works so well, I think … it makes it easy to scare people, because they believe what they’re told rather than what they see or experience.

  52. @living400lbs: I know! Like I never tried starving myself before. Oh wait, if I add cayenne pepper and maple syrup (or grapefruit juice, flaxseed oil, green tea, ginko, meth) that will make ALL THE DIFFERENCE.

  53. @Piffle, yeah that frustrates me too. I think it’s either because as girls/women, we’re supposed to be completely pure and unsexual, so it really doesn’t *matter* what guys wear, or because we’re such Jezebels that we’d be tempted if they wore potato sacks.

    I do give credit to the guys who said “Wait, why is *my* temptation the girl’s problem?”

  54. Am I the only one amused that apparently Christian girls are not tempted by boys?

    No. ;) It made me giggle a lot too. It reminded me of a satire piece a friend sent me about little Christian boys collectively wanking while watching the womens’ soccer finals and a church parish deciding that SOCCER. MUST. BE. ABOLISHED!!11 (this was all made up of course, but I suppose I shouldn’t put it past some people)

    Where’s the modesty survey for boys?

    Don’t you know? That’d just be pointless. Girls obviously aren’t as tempted by sex because boys are the only ones who want to have sex for the fun of it, girls just have sex because the boys want it. I’d be saying this with less biting sarcasm if it weren’t for the fact that I just realized while typing that, that it pretty much sums up what they preached in every middle school and high school health class I took. And how it was preached in the dress code. Gah.

    Anyway, this is really excellently put FJ and sums up the way I’ve been noticing my trends in eating headed since I’ve tried to adopt HAES. It’s been hard and at times I think I still revert back to old tendencies of eating in secret but I’ve really moved forward from before. Example, a bag of sun chips now can last me four nights instead of two. Eventually I’ll make it to up to a week I’m sure, but if not, that’s ok. That’s really important for me to remember, that there is no set way of measuring how “good” or “not good” at practicing HAES and therefore setting a goal for it is just as futile as measuring self worth on a set goal of looking a certain way.

    Also, I just wanted to note that it’s important not to beat yourself up for reverting to old “must diet” or “must eat all chocolate” tactics, at least for someone like me who has a tendency to beat myself up about everything. It doesn’t help and in reality is just a throwback to beating yourself up for eating “bad foods” only instead it’s beating yourself up for “not eating intuitively” or for “thinking about the calories”. For a while I was beating myself up for considering the amount of calories in something before consuming it or for having days where I really did have what I felt like was a binge day. But I’ve recently wrapped my head around the fact that just because I chose something with less calories doesn’t necessarily mean I’m choosing it because of the calories, that I can be trusted to choose something just because it sounds good and like something my body really could use in much the same way I could allow myself to choose something more traditionally “bad” because allowing myself to eat it didn’t mean I was going to become some uncontrollable glutton. I realized that when I was beating myself up for thinking about how “good” or “bad” something was I’d just found a new venue for my pointless self torture. No, classifying foods (specifically on calorie counts) isn’t a very good thing to do if you’ve been doing it all (or almost all) your life, but you aren’t a terrible, horrible person for falling off the track from time to time or for being on it but not moving as quickly as you want to be. So anyway, the whole point of this I guess is to thank you and Kate and Sweet Machine for continuing to tout the benefits of adopting an HAES/intuitive eating approach and going the extra mile of explaining why and how (brilliantly I might add) this approach can make for a much more satisfying (and usually a much healthier ) way of life.

  55. Sticky:

    Anyone who would willingly drink a mixture that involves lemon, cayenne pepper and maple syrup needs to be committed. Bleck!

    It reminds me of when I used to do “salt water cleanses” (aka, inducing diarrhea to lose weight). If you’ve ever consumed 16oz of salt water, you know that there is NO worse feeling in the world. NONE. I’m actually gagging now thinking of it.

  56. I also find that when I have cyclical thinking about food – four chocolate thoughts in three days – that wouldn’t necessarily correspond to drinking all that if the circumstances *were* right. Maybe one chocolate was all you wanted, but you kept wanting it. (And maybe you will still want it until you get it.) And desires change. (Sometimes as soon as you bite into that scrumptuous-looking but dry birthday cake.)

    It’s one of the things I’ve rediscovered since I’ve embraced IE – that when food cravings are just desires, and not threats to my personal worth as a human being, I’m able to evaluate them and respond to them more appropriately. As an ex-fundamentalist, I definitely see parallels between dieting and the way sin is treated in the church; that an action is not merely a bad idea or a poor response to a situation, but something that makes you a different sort of person – weak-willed, weak-souled, vulnerable, evil, possibly even demon-possessed.

    Look at the language around diet, and you’ll find the same judgments, and the same language. I’d really like to read a study of language surrounding fundamentalist Christianity and dieting. (Of course, the irony is that Southern Baptists have *really* *really* good food, like warm peach cobbler with shortbread crust and homecranked vanilla ice cream, and fried chicken and potato salad and fried okra and turnip greens with bacon grease and grits with about twelve sticks of butter and cheese, and fresh watermelon cold as ice. Man, I miss church pot-lucks.)

  57. Carla, no!
    Those are the ingredients to a kick-ass homemade cough syrup. Lemon + hot water + maple syrup/honey with a little cayenne? It’s good with chicken broth instead of sweetener and water, too. But grapefruit juice? Man, that’s *gross.* (I kid!)

  58. Anita:

    I think the real turn-off for me is that its served cold/chilled. Its like gaspacho…could never do it.

  59. Atiton – re: spending parallel – I think that more than anything else I was referring to the psychology of wanting what you ‘can’t’ have. I feel that as a culture our approach to consumption(food, shopping, clothes) is often either overindulging in it or restricting it. Where is the healthy balance between both?

    I know I have historically struggled to simply be satisfied with what I have…always searching for MORE! When I finally gave myself license to THINK about having what I WANT or desire, my desires felt so much less overwhelming. They could be just that – a desire. In fact, when I take a moment to really look at said desired object, food, skirt, I realize I don’t want it that much after all.

    Spending is obviously limited by how much $ you actually do, in fact, have. Similarly, eating is for some people limited as you pointed out by food allergies, intolerances, etc…but I notice when I let myself fantasize about life with those melamine plates or –for me as a Celiac — having a gluten-filled cinnamon sticky bun, then I give myself the space to realize that I already have enough plates and if I eat that sticky bun I will feel like complete HELL for days…thus, I walk away from both – not feeling deprived but rather feeling happy that I am taking care of myself. When I believe that I am ‘allowed’ to want something but I don’t necessarily ‘need’ it, things come back into balance for me.

  60. Carla, yeah, okay, eeww. Hot is definitely the way to go. Then it’s like a hot toddy, especially once you add the whiskey.

  61. Anita – haha alright. I like how you make your own caugh syrup. Reminds me of the episode of The Simpsons where Homer makes his own prozac (which needed more ice cream, according to him).

  62. @Ailbhe: People Can Be Trusted To Look After Themselves Given Half A Chance – Nation In Shock)

    OK, I have to tell you, Ailbhe — I just loved this, and I have to thank you, because it made me for a split second there feel pretty good about what kind of a parent I am (which as you’ve probably guessed is not exactly my default).

    This is sort of unrelated, maybe, but: Around when our older son turned four, we started letting him decide for himself whether he wanted to brush his teeth before bed. (And truly, I mean that we let him decide for himself: we explained how brushing teeth keeps them healthy, and why it’s particularly useful before bed; but we didn’t say, “We’ll let you decide for yourself BUT WE’D BE SOOOO HAPPY IF YOU BRUSH YOUR TEETH THAT WE’LL CHEER AND WHOOP but it’s your decision.”)

    Anyway, this is not something I usually admit to other parents because… well, I don’t know, I guess I’m scared of being judged. It probably wouldn’t be right for every theoretical four-year-old in every possible world, but this four-year-old seemed able to handle it. And guess what? Nearly all the time he does brush his teeth. Because teeth feel better when they’re brushed, and he gets that. And, yeah, sometimes he forgets or doesn’t bother, but those times don’t end up being a Road To Perdition.

    So, yeah: Some four year olds have vested interest in their mouths not feeling gross; nation’s shock deepens. Heh. So much shocking behavior all around.

  63. Lurker finally posting. Fillyjonk, you are amazing. I’ve always been an intuitive eater, and never restricted, but have felt guilty because I’ve never really felt the need to restrict, and in our diet = morality encased culture, that means I’m EVIL! So thanks for reiterating that I’m not in fact evil, just a machine.

  64. Okay, and I haven’t read all the comments yet, but I gotta say in regards to that stupid modesty survey that I wish people like that would take a more HAES-esque approach to sex too!

    Think how many “distracted” (tempted, whatever) youths would be able to finally concentrate on schoolwork or whatever again if they could just feel okay masturbating (or even having sex) and take care of the damn urges so their hormones aren’t setting their pants on fire every time they see a freaking skirt or pants bulge or whatever. JEEZ.

    This post is brilliant. BRILLIANT I SAY.

  65. It’s reassuring to see quite a few celiacs around here. Sometimes it is SO easy to feel like The Only One.

  66. re: Christian girls being tempted by boys… you know, I’m thinking of evangelical and fundamentalist circles I’ve observed, and I seem to recall more than one instance of adolescent girls tearfully “confessing” in a very public and theatrical way either to masturbation, a same-sex relationship, or sex before marriage. And I recall no instances of boys doing so — possibly because of those types of sessions/testimonies not being mixed-gender, except that I do distinctly remember two such tearful public confessions-by-females to have taken place before a mixed audience. (Gee, I wonder if that incited lust in any of the Christian boys present. Nah.)

    Anyway, it’s just interesting, the seeming double standard. If a girl is part of a boy’s sexual fantasy, she’s placed a stumbling block before him. If she lusts, it’s her fault, nobody made her do it.

  67. Really, really interesting and thought provoking, FJ.

    You’ve hit upon how people make inroads into our heads by undermining our faith in ourselves.

    If we cannot trust our instincts, we must look to them for guidance.

    You’ve linked to this being used by religion-using sex instead of food to gain control of other people’s thinking.

    This is all sold to us as getting control, when we are actually abandonning it.

    Women’s bodies as triggers for temptation is reminiscent of those people who blame food for their eating problems. Some even feel that food, calls them in some way and entices them to eat it by looking and tasting so good.

    See, eating what you want doesn’t mean eating everything you think of.

    The thinking that tends to occur when you let yourself be is different to that which tends to occur when you try to enforce stringent restrictions.

    You explained how your thinking about food, is just that, thinking. It’s intelligent, varied and above all, ever responsive.

    The thinking that was indicated by the survey and the fears of the people you speak of is caused by restriction. It is generated in response to that and not to your actual needs, it is therefore essentially defensive , it is out of control, because it tends to deviate increasingly from relating to your actual health needs, being replaced by the need to stave off the ever present threat of famine.

    It is these kindsof feelings around thinking about food, that people correctly identify as out of control and untrustworthy, because in a sense, it is.

  68. FJ, you are on a serious roll.
    (Everyone here is lately. I feel inarticulate and lazy.)

    Way to hack up the grinding cultural binaries (ALL or NOTHING, or “either Now OR Later” as the divine Conjunction Junction puts it) and remind us all that we have choices.

    Thank you.

  69. If spending doesn’t work as a parallel, what about alcohol? OK, we’ll leave aside for a moment that for some people it is seriously addictive, but… Do all the people who say “Oh, I could never just eat what I want, I’d live on ice-cream” never drink alcohol – or indeed coffee, another addictive substance – without downing the entire bottle of whisky? Or drink it to the total exclusion of water, tea/coffee, fruit juice, soft drinks. I doubt it. In places where alcohol is legal and affordable, the entire population of non-teetotallers is not out on a constant binge. Sometimes we do have too much and regret it, but hell, it was fun at the time, sometimes we don’t think about it for ages, and sometimes we think “I’d like a drink” and decide not to have one because we have to drive/can’t afford it/need to go to bed soon/drank last night and don’t want to now, and often we fancy a drink, have a drink, and then don’t down the entire bottle of whisky not by some superhuman effort of self-control, but because we don’t _want_ an entire bottle of whisky.

    A Sarah, that sounds like great parenting for your son. The only time in my life I didn’t religiously brush my teeth? When a school healthy teeth project told us that we have to keep a record for a fortnight of brushing our teeth twice a day for at least ten minutes. It absolutely terrified me into thinking all my teeth would fall out because my existing tooth-brushing was inadequate and so I couldn’t bear to do it at all, despite the fact that if I had done as they recommended I’d have scrubbed my gums off. Happily my mother worked out something was up.

  70. A Sarah,
    When I was in one of those circles, there was a tremendous pressure to come up with something to repent, but it had to be something somewhat safe but also out of the norm – titillating and (hopefully) escalating from the testimony given before you. For boys, there was an assumption of ongoing temptation and occasional failure, so that stuff is pretty low-key, likely to be glossed over in favor of something more shocking, like theft or setting a trash can on fire or hanging out with the atheists. Same-sex for boys is shocking, but a much higher danger level, so I’m not surprised that younger men weren’t doing it (the only same-sex male confessions I’ve seen first hand are from men in their 40′s and up). For girls, there was a presumption of purity, so anything crossing that line was more taboo, but also relatively safe – *as long as that relationship/behavior is convincingly denied in the present*.
    Different fundamentalist circles are different, though. (Shocking!)

  71. lilpeadot (way upthread), thanks for bringing up the spending parallel! I read personal finance blogs and they make me RAGING MAD when they bring up the “budgets are like diets!” and “put your money on a diet!” bullshit. NOT A HELPFUL METAPHOR.

    When I look at it as “OMG I ONLY HAVE THIS MUCH!” I’m more likely to freak out and buy more crap because — just like a diet! — the restraint makes me panic. Way easier to think “I have this money, and I can buy *anything* I want,” then look at what I really want to fund. Sometimes the cute melamine plates are exactly what I need. Usually, like you mention, I find that they’re much less cute than before.

  72. Wow, the sex side of this post hit home for me –I have an exfiance who didn’t see the difference between thinking ‘oh, she’s attractive’ and actively wanting to do something about it (if you know what I mean); something I found out shortly before he broke up with me.

  73. “Anyone who would willingly drink a mixture that involves lemon, cayenne pepper and maple syrup needs to be committed. Bleck!”

    On the other hand, keep the cayenne to a pinch, add walnut oil, some cumin, and some herbs and you might have a great salad dressing! (I’m thinking spinach, red onion, green apple, and some candied pecans on top…)

  74. Actually, maewyn, what I think when I see “budgets are like diets” is yes! Budgets are like diets in that neither of them work.

    I follow a financial plan outlined in the book Your Money or Your Life that involves tracking spending and deciding via a few specific questions whether I really got fulfillment out of my purchases. If not, I end up reducing spending in that category. Or if I find out that I’d in fact like to spend more on that category, then I do so. It is actually a LOT like intuitive eating in that respect.

  75. This post might just resonate with me more than anything else that’s been written here. I really struggle with the balance between eating healthfully and not restricting what I eat. There are a lot of unhealthful foods that I find tempting, and when I give myself permission to eat them, I tend to just eat them, rather than feeling empowered to decide not to eat them. It’s something I’m still working on.

  76. Sometimes as soon as you bite into that scrumptuous-looking but dry birthday cake.

    Oh God YES Anita. At work people will be doing the diet guilt “Should I or shouldn’t I?” talk over cake. And I’ll usually look at it and not be interested. Or, if it looks appetizing and I’m not full, I’ll ask “Is it moist?” Because I’ve had so many dust-dry pieces of cake that I assume cake is garbage unless I’m told otherwise.

  77. Thanks for writing this, fillyjonk. I’ve never commented here before, but I’ve been reading Shapely Prose for about a year and its been great for me, helped me feel better about myself, my fat body, and food.

    The time I’ve been reading has also coincided, more or less, with the time since I’ve moved out of my parents’ house, and consequently get to buy, prepare, and consume my own food, with no one watching me with raised eyebrows or commenting critically on what I eat.

    And it’s true, after the initial excitement of cookies and pop, whenever I wanted, it turns out that I don’t really want them all that often. Eating whatever I want turns out to mean, lately, tons of eggplant and avacados and cashews. (In high school health class, I remember vividly being told I must never, ever eat nuts or avacados because they were so terribly fatty. There was a little quiz to fill out in the textbook, according to which, nuts and avacados were “bad” food, diet cola was “good”.)

    Living alone, I’ve discovered, also means not eating when I’m not hungry, just because its meal time.

    Anyway, this makes so much sense, I feel like printing out a ton of copies and handing it out to people who comment on what I eat!

  78. Excellent post, FJ.

    What happens to me when I’m restricting myself is that if I have an encounter with a bad food, I go into crazy mode. The mode that says, “You must eat all of this cheese dip because there is no more cheese dip in the world ever!”

    I actually had cheese dip at a Mexican restaurant today. I shared with a friend and half the bowl didn’t get eaten. My relationship with food is getting healthier thanks to SP!!!

  79. Eh. I still have a lot of difficulties with this concept, even though from a brain-only standpoint it seems clear as crystal to me the way it is explained in the post. My main issue is, why isn’t “because I [shouldn't eat/don't need] more calories a day than the [average woman/recommended quantity for the average woman]” a legitimate reason (among the “it will make me feel bad,” “it’s too close to dinner,” “I don’t really want it that badly” etc.) not to eat something? I mean, I don’t want it to be a legitimate reason, but it seems as good as anything else. Hunger is sort of elastic; if I eat less for a while, I’m hungry less often. (To a point; this does not include very low-calorie diets sustained over a very long period of time.) So it’s not like the amount I am hungry for right now tells me anything permanent about myself (within a range).

    And even if you could tolerate Starbucks hot chocolate just fine and really wanted it, wouldn’t a lot of people here be totally OK with permanently denying it because it’s really really bad for you, or what kind of crazy person would ever ingest refined sugar/dairy/artificial additives, or what have you? It seems any reason is OK as long as it’s not “because I want to lose weight.” (I mean, I know any reason truly is “OK” because everyone has the right to eat or not eat as they please, but aren’t some of these still a bit of a slippery slope to disordered eating/dieting behaviors for some people? Especially the reasons that are sort of like “if I want something sweet REALLY REALLY badly I’ll have it, but I can almost always withstand the craving.”)

    In other words, I still feel like HAES as practiced is often, in reality, “go on a diet [e.g. feel bad about yourself if you don't always eat healthy foods and exercise] forever but don’t expect to lose any weight.” Which does not sound super pleasant to me.

    I know this is just me and my little dramatic struggles, but I’m having a lot of trouble with food lately, so bleah. I’m sure there is a clear distinction that I’m just too oblivious to understand at the moment.

    I will say that once I internalized the whole “you don’t have to eat everything you think of” concept as it relates to Overcoming Overeating specifically, I was a lot better off. I have OCD and a lot of my “mouth hunger” was just intrusive thoughts, and/or thoughts that just naturally occurred because I was so used to thinking about food all the time anyway (whether in the context of a diet or out-of-control overeating). For a while I felt like I was doing it wrong if I didn’t eat every time it occurred to me to do so, and I was miserable. I know that’s 101, but it still took me forever to catch on.

  80. Hmm. Actually Nineveh’s comment about alcohol that went up while I was dithering is quite illuminating from this standpoint. Maybe it’s just that I don’t think of myself in relation to food in a normal way. I do have a slight fear of alcoholism (because it’s been known to occur on my mom’s side, and because I have convinced myself over time that I have an “addictive personality” so I’m paranoid that I will do everything bad ever if I’m permitted to), but on the whole I drink moderately and don’t worry much about it. As Nineveh mentioned, I sometimes decide not to have any alcohol when others are (maybe I just don’t feel like it, maybe I’ve had it the previous night or two and don’t want any, maybe something else would taste better, or maybe I think it will give me a stomach ache and don’t want to deal with that). Other times I drink too much but the next morning I deal with it and move on. Most of the time I’ll have a beer or two on a weekend night, about the same as everyone else, and again, not much thought goes into it. Sometimes I do want a beer in the middle of the week to “reward” myself for hard work, or just because I feel like it (an “emotional eating” parallel); sometimes on these occasions, I do decide to have one, and other times I don’t bother.

    Very interesting. I wish to god I thought about food in this way. It would reduce the stress in my life by about 95%.

  81. @A Sarah….my younger brother was notorious for NOT brushing his teeth. My mom told him to do it, but he just blew it off. He also drank juice like it was going out of style and ate tons of candy, not to mention my dad’s family has horrible teeth. So, tons of cavities. BUT. His brilliant non brushing teeth theory came out one day. Only the dentist ( the only doctor we loved) was privileged enough to hear it the first time: when you don’t brush your teeth, the tartar builds up around your teeth and protects them from cavities! The dentist’s response (brilliant): Don’t worry mom, you wouldn’t believe how many adults have the same idea.

  82. Eh. I still have a lot of difficulties with this concept, even though from a brain-only standpoint it seems clear as crystal to me the way it is explained in the post. My main issue is, why isn’t “because I [shouldn't eat/don't need] more calories a day than the [average woman/recommended quantity for the average woman]” a legitimate reason (among the “it will make me feel bad,” “it’s too close to dinner,” “I don’t really want it that badly” etc.) not to eat something? I mean, I don’t want it to be a legitimate reason, but it seems as good as anything else.

    For me, at least, I see a huge difference between the calorie thing and the other reasons you cite.* Mainly, those other reasons make a tangible difference in my life (saves time and money in finding and preparing food, for instance, or means I’m not eating something that makes me feel sick). Calorie counting, on the other hand, has brought me nothing but obsessive craziness, even when we’re talking about a supposedly reasonably number of calories.

    So I guess what I’m saying is that for me it’s not some arbitrary set of rules; I can feel a real difference in the two mindsets in my day to day life. The same may not be true for everyone. But this:

    Especially the reasons that are sort of like “if I want something sweet REALLY REALLY badly I’ll have it, but I can almost always withstand the craving.”)

    Isn’t really part of how I do things, so I guess that helps.

    * Incidentally, I have not found my hunger to be elastic in the slightest. If I eat more than usual for a while I tend to naturally compensate by eating less later; if I eat less, I’ m ravenous until I “catch up.” Obviously, YMMV, just wanted to mentio that it’s not universal.

  83. AWESOME POST, KATE! Oh, wait.

    Seriously, FJ, as others have said, you’re on fire these days.

    And as others have also said, smoking’s a similar parallel. What I found so unbelievably brutal the last time I quit was that I went from having about 20 (satisfied) cigarette cravings a day to, like, 200 (unsatisfied) cravings. Since I didn’t nip the first craving in the bud with a cigarette, buying myself 60-90 minutes before I started to think about the next, I would have ANOTHER craving like 2 minutes after tamping down the last one. Which meant I was pretty much constantly tormented by thoughts of smoking. When I let myself smoke, cravings were just an incidental thing that didn’t interfere much with my life. (Which is, uh, why I eventually started again.)

    Of course, the big difference is, quitting entirely is still something I really want to do. (I should pick up the book Arwen mentioned.) But it is another perfect illustration of the “restriction leads to obsession” principle.

  84. Spacedcowgirl, the thing is…your body needs calories to burn for energy, the same as it needs vitamins and minerals and protein and fat to work.

    But we don’t count every microgram of vitamin A and iron we eat, so why do we count calories and grams of fat?

    Look…take the meal I made two nights ago. Breaded chicken breast cutlets, noodles in alfredo sauce (made with 1% milk), and broccoli. Protein, complex carbohydrates, calcium, iron, fiber, vitamin A, Riboflavin, and (hooo boy!) a whole bunch of sodium (packaged alfredo sauce). And then free Ben and Jerry’s ice cream for dessert.

    And the only number I know from it is the sodium because my husband has a tendency toward HBP.

    Because kCal and all those other numbers are just numbers.

  85. I tend to find it hard to believe that “I don’t really want this right now” has a meaning except as an euphemism for “I’m not allowing myself to want this right now”. It’s interesting to hear it from somebody who I trust and who believes in fat acceptance, because from anybody else I would brush it off as stealth dieting.

    I actually got that can’t-breathe, itchy feeling of deprivation just from reading this post…but since the post makes sense, from a brain point of view, I’m attributing that to my own fuckedupness.

    Part of my reaction was that I’ll never be as virtuous and good as you are, because desire = bad, right? So being able to say “I don’t really want (whatever)”? An amazing, unreachable level of virtue. (I mean, the absence of desire, not the desire to avoid something. I have that aplenty.)

    I secretly want EVERYTHING ALL THE TIME. Or maybe not really, but at least a whole lot more than I think I can have. Perhaps I’m just terribly greedy, but I can’t imagine just detachedly thinking about stuff and not wanting anything in particular.

    This comment is all a big mess, but I’m guessing there’s a good feminist lesson in there somewhere, so I’m going to post it anyway.

  86. A few people have mentioned the parallel between food/money, food/sex, food/booze…and I can definitely relate on the alcohol thing.

    Several years ago I dated a guy who was Straight Edge. He eventually “convinced” me that I had a drinking problem (because, you know, I occasionally liked to go out to the bar with my friends). So I went to AA. But then that wasn’t good enough, because he was an atheist and the whole “God thing” bothered him.

    Yes, he was a control freak in every sense. He also told me that I had to eat at least one vegetable everyday. I couldn’t have cereal for dinner. He got mad at me if I neglected to recycle something (he tried to teach me what all the codes on the plastics meant). Among a gazillion other things. I finally came to my senses and dumped him.

    I spent 6 months in AA, and a few months trying alternative groups while I was with him. After I broke up with him, I was all “oooh, I can drink again” – but did I jump off the wagon and down an entire 24 pack? No. But I’ll tell you this – while I was on “beer hiatus” I thought about drinking CONSTANTLY. I wanted to SO badly.

    But once I gave myself the freedom to choose, it became a non-issue. I wasn’t obsessed with drinking anymore. I drank. I didn’t drink. Who cares?

    (Obviously, this isn’t the case for everyone, because alcoholism is a serious issue for many people.)

    But honestly, if I can take that same philosophy and give myself the freedom to choose, in regards to food…there might just be some hope for me after all.

    (sorry for the long, rambly comment)

  87. “(I mean, I know any reason truly is “OK” because everyone has the right to eat or not eat as they please, but aren’t some of these still a bit of a slippery slope to disordered eating/dieting behaviors for some people? Especially the reasons that are sort of like “if I want something sweet REALLY REALLY badly I’ll have it, but I can almost always withstand the craving.”)

    In other words, I still feel like HAES as practiced is often, in reality, “go on a diet [e.g. feel bad about yourself if you don't always eat healthy foods and exercise] forever but don’t expect to lose any weight.” Which does not sound super pleasant to me.

    I know this is just me and my little dramatic struggles, but I’m having a lot of trouble with food lately, so bleah. I’m sure there is a clear distinction that I’m just too oblivious to understand at the moment.”

    Honestly, I get what you’re saying because often I still find myself wondering over whether thoughts on not indulging certain cravings were a slippery slope to other reasons for not indulging cravings, particularly when you’ve been someone who’s fooled yourself in the past (and let’s face it, how hard is it to do that when so many others have fooled us to begin with?). I know because I honestly used to use HAES-like and logical sounding excuses for not eating as excuses for not eating, when in reality, ultimately I didn’t indulge cravings because I wanted to be thinner and I’d been told time and time again that perseverance in the face of temptation along with hard work(outs) was the way to do it.

    Heck, I still often wonder about my decisions to exercise. I love walking my nephew (sister’s ADORABLE dog) but I wonder about my wanting to walk him because for so long I used my walks with him to burn calories (to get skinnier) instead of just doing it because I loved the little fuzzball to pieces and really do like to walk. And for a while I often used my wondering over whether a decision was “purely” HAES to, yet again, beat myself up over my food choices. But again, as I took a lot more words to say in a roundabout way above, doing that is just another way of driving myself pistachios. Especially since ultimately the idea of HAES is to simplify food and exercise choices rather than obsess over them. So I can see where you’re getting that (it kinda reminds me of how a recovering anorexic friend of mine told me about all the ways she would trick herself into thinking what she was doing to herself wasn’t harmful or a form of restriction) and I think it’s a natural wonder to have.

    Also, if I’ve come to interpret Dr. Bacon’s book correctly, I think another important component of HAES and intuitive eating is to make it work for YOU. It doesn’t have to be what’s worked for others and it doesn’t have to be something others can even understand. It just has to make sense to you and make you have a happy, healthy relationship with your body. I’m reminded of a quote from her book where she said something to the effect of “collective solutions to individual problems don’t work”. Everyone’s different. It makes sense that everyone’s path to a healthy relationship with their bodies and what would constitute as a healthy relationship would be different to different people. I can see how it could be easily twisted for someone with disordered eating or a full out ED especially since the diet industry has started using intuitive eating as a means of weight loss as well (of course it’s “eat intuitively with the shit you buy from us”) and with the code term “healthy lifestyle change” polluting everyone’s brains, but the fact is, if it makes sense to YOU and doesn’t feel restrictive in any way, shape or form to YOU that’s all that matters.

    /end ramble

  88. Well said FJ. I will use this post next time I try to explain to someone about how eating whatever you want is not the same as eating everything you want.

    This is something I’ve been working on personally. It really takes a long time to deprogram all this stuff!

  89. eating whatever you want is not the same as eating everything you want

    Really? Because to me, “whatever you want” means pretty much “anything or everything you want”. It’s hard for me to see any difference.

    Or are you thinking in terms of having to choose one thing out of all the things you want, because of limited capacity, but being allowed to pick that one thing freely? I guess I find it hard to think of that as “whatever I want”.

  90. Mia, part of the idea is that you don’t HAVE to not want everything! Wanting it is not the same as having it. Not that there’s anything wrong with having food, except to uncomfortable excess, but setting aside all notions of “right” and “wrong,” there’s just an objective difference between really wanting a million Oreos right now and actually eating a million Oreos. Sometimes I spend all summer thinking about eating Blizzards. (I DON’T EVEN REALLY KNOW WHAT ONE IS. I just have the sense that it’s a lot like an amazing milkshake we used to get at college.) Most of the time I think “man, where the hell is there a Dairy Queen around here? Nowhere, so fuck it.” Sometimes I think “ooh, there’s a Dairy Queen… but we’d have to get off the highway, so fuck it.” Sometimes, theoretically, I just get a Blizzard (in this particular case I don’t think that’s happened, but really only because of the lack of convenient Dairies Queen). The point is, I don’t not want “junk” food! I just don’t think that’s a problem, or that it compels me to do anything about it, or that “lusting in my heart” after food is tantamount to a sin.

  91. And your next comment makes the disconnect a little clearer, but unfortunately my head is only half snapped on so hopefully someone else can pick up the ball.

  92. Also, I just wanted to say one more thing, to Mia specifically, but also wanted to note it cause I think it’s important.

    I too secretly wanted everything ALL the time it felt like for a long time and sometimes I still do feel like such a greedy fuck cause “seriously? I’m STILL hungry after the sun chips and want chocolate?” but learning to regard that not as “bad thinking” but as just something I want and something ok to indulge from time to time but also ok to not indulge if I want something else more, don’t have the money/time/etc is tough and even tougher when you regard reaching the level where it doesn’t become the ultimate obsessing factor in your life as “and amazing unreachable level of virtue”. Learning to trust yourself when it comes to food is great and a really healthy thing to aspire to, but it also is hard to learn to trust that you can trust yourself (if that makes any sense at all). As others have mentioned, you don’t just wake up one day and say “hey, I’m totally cool with food and my body” and suddenly just be totally cool with food and your body. It’s a long and sometimes very difficult process.

  93. Spacedcowgirl:

    I think you’re sort of “half-getting” the idea. The idea behind IE is that your body’s signals (rather than arbitrary numbers) should dictate how you eat. If your body needs more calories, you’ll feel hungry and you should eat. If your body is satiated, you won’t be hungry and you won’t eat. The overall theme is that you take the cues to eat from your body, rather than from external cues (books, people, whatever). You don’t have to sit around counting calories…your body is going to tell you if you need to eat more/eat less.

    The other thing is, your post had the underlying current of “eating less is better.” I don’t know if that was concious, but you brought up the idea that restricting is OK because it leads to a decreased appetite overall. HAES doesn’t view “eating less” as a worthwhile goal, unless, of course, that is what your body is telling you to do.

  94. There’s actually a Dairy Queen a few miles from my house. I could get a Blizzard every day if I wanted.

    Blizzards are tasty and delicious, and I get excited to have them, so I usually buy the mid-size. And yet, I can’t finish it. They’re so good, but at some point, I’ve had enough, and I can’t force any more deliciousness down my throat.

    I do not beat myself up for either a) not buying the small, or b) not finishing the big. I wanted what I wanted, and when it was enough, it was enough.

    *contemplates getting a Blizzard tonight*

  95. Dairy Queen hot fudge is really good. That on the plain vanilla soft-serve is the greatest thing in the world.

  96. I tend to find it hard to believe that “I don’t really want this right now” has a meaning except as an euphemism for “I’m not allowing myself to want this right now”.

    I think maybe some of it isn’t that you don’t want something, but that you want it but decide that fulfilling that particular want isn’t a good idea, maybe because it will interfere with another want. I’m somewhat lactose intolerant. I love calzones. When I’m in a restaurant and they serve calzones, I want one. But, I also know that calzones set off my lactose intolerance, and that I’ll be doubled over in pain on the toilet in a few hours. I also want to not feel that way. So I want the calzone, but I also want to not have terrible digestive problems in a few hours. I’ll usually decide that not having digestive problems is a better bargain (although sometimes I might have half a calzone and hope for the best).

    I think it’s rare that we just want one thing. Usually we want a bunch of things, often which conflict with each other, and we have to weigh our wants. I might decide that my want to feel energetic and calm today is more important than my wanting to eat 2 cinnamon buns for breakfast. I might decide that my wanting to not blow the budget for the month is more important than my really wanting to go to Red Lobster.

    And then there really are many times when I don’t want to eat something, even though it’s both there and delicious. I really enjoy sex with my husband, but it’s not like every time I see him, I want to have sex. I like ice cream, but it’s not like every time I see it, I want to eat it.

  97. FJ, thanks for explaining. It was a great post, even if I don’t completely understand it I think everything you’re saying makes sense.

    It’s not like I actually consciously think desire is a sin. That’s just some sort of mental virus that hangs around my brain without being noticed most of the time, and I thought it was interesting that these ideas brought it out so strongly.

    The idea I get from your examples is that you don’t need to worry about bottomless-pit type desires, because in the end, the practicalities of the real world and your own common sense and competing desires will keep you from making yourself sick and homeless spending all your money on Oreos. Huh, that almost sounds like it must be true. Good job explaining, if I haven’t completely missed your point.

  98. The idea behind IE is that your body’s signals (rather than arbitrary numbers) should dictate how you eat. If your body needs more calories, you’ll feel hungry and you should eat. If your body is satiated, you won’t be hungry and you won’t eat. The overall theme is that you take the cues to eat from your body, rather than from external cues (books, people, whatever).

    I do see, though, how IE can seem like a set of rules rather than a general philosophy. I’ve felt like I was doing IE wrong because I both plan meals and eat at set meal times. I’m not really like a stand in front of the fridge and think about exactly what my body wants before each meal kind of person. But, instead of being an IE failure, I just do what works for me. I eat as much or as little of what I have as I want, I try to work a variety of foods into our weekly meals so we can have some choice in what we eat, and I don’t make food choices based on calories. I don’t think it has to be done a certain way to somehow “count” as IE.

    I found attachment parenting to be a really good idea when I was pregnant with my son, but then once I had him and met some AP parents, I found it really stifling and oppressive. Suddenly it went from being a nice theory about doing what works for your family, to being a set of must and must nots that people were in some sort of contest over who could fulfill most perfectly. And, it went from being something you do because it just makes sense for your family to something you do because it will guarantee you a certain result (wonderfully empathetic, loving, and well-behaved children). I think IE has the same potential to turn into a set of musts and must nots, and to turn into some magic formula for a stable weight and good health, when it wasn’t intended as either.

  99. And not just FJ, everyone else who wrote great comments while I was thinking, too! Thank you for explaining. I just went from confused and upset to having a minor epiphany, thanks to you.

  100. I keep these posts on my iPod to read whenever I need a little reminding and support. This is wonderfully brilliant, and not only is this one going in my collection, but I just sent the link to two women I know who are struggling with learning to have a comfortable relationship with eating.

    Thank you!

  101. Lori:

    I suppose I should have stopped after “IE is about taking eating cues from your body.” The rest of what I said was more specific to me. I was just reponding to a post that said something to the effect of “Why isn’t counting calories an OK reason not to eat [even if you're hungry and ready to eat].”

  102. It’s just funny that you mentioned the million Oreos specifically :) Literally *yesterday* I woke up craving Oreos and thinking, “Oh my god, I could eat a million Oreos,” and then it occurred to me–I am a grownup with a good job and a car, if I want Oreos I can go to the damn store and get them!

    And then I didn’t want them anymore.

    Thanks for the timely reminder of why I really, really *don’t* want to try dieting again, just this once, just to lose a few pounds before my summer of much air travel.

  103. Another thing the HAES mindset can give you is a sense that disordered eating is not necessarily the end of the world. One episode of binge-like behaviour not that you’re a terrible person who will forever lack self-control, it might be anything, including a one-off episode of hunger or stress that meant that a huge amount of food in one sitting was helpful.

    At the moment, I am trying to debug some persistent binges (I’m not posting looking for advice by the way, just contributing a story) over the last three weeks or so, where I really have eaten a lot of sugary stuff to the point of not feeling well after. I think it’s a hunger-related problem: I’m not eating the right breakfast for me, or something similar. But part of this approach is that I get to do this from a fairly neutral emotional point. I’m eating in a way that does not satisfy me: how do I fix this? And I don’t have to be on an emotional rollercoaster while examining this.

  104. FJ, this drools with rooool. You’re gonna write a book too? Pinky swear?

    Yeah, the “eating whatever I want means I’ll be on a constant binge” really only applies in two circumstances. One, you have an organic binge eating disorder, or two (and much more commonly) you’ve been dieting for so long and that diet shit has burned itself into your brain so thoroughly that you have no idea how to feed yourself unless someone hands you a do/don’t list.

    I too am amused that for anyone but hard-core alcoholics, this doesn’t seem to apply to drinking. Just because you have champagne and orange juice in the fridge doesn’t necessarily mean you bolt down a mimosa before driving to work. Is that really because people think it’s “inappropriate” to drink then? Or because they know that driving on a mimosa and then going to your work station and trying to work is going to be, well, a little impairing? For me it would definitely be the second thing; if I thought drinking a mimosa before work would help me work better, or at least wouldn’t fuck things up too horribly, I’d bloody well do it.

  105. Yup yup and yup!

    I have never (and never will) been on a diet. That doesn’t mean I can’t be conscious about what I eat, and ask myself “do I really want this?” “am I really hungry?” If the answer is “hell yeah” then I eat it…

    I absolutely concur that restriction leads to obsession!

  106. Right now I have no idea what I want for dinner, and nothing sounds that great besides homemade guacamole, for which I don’t have any adequately ripe avacados. This, despite being mildly annoying, feels amazing compared to how I generally felt whilst dieting: obsessed with what the next bite of food I could have would be and hit with hardcore cravings for anything I thought about or saw. It’s nice to be able to be ambivalent.

    Also, FJ, I hear you on the gastrointestinal implications of the signature hot chocolate! So good, when I decide that the aftermath is worth it. ;)

  107. I think this is a great comparison. I do think one little thing is missing about the analysis, though I think somebody tried to express it upthread.

    Part of the issue with the “modesty/ desire” comparison is that though thinking about food and eating it doesn’t make you fat, to many Christians thinking about having sex with someone is the same as having sex with them, morally.

    I’m sure this sounds a bit crazy to many people. Remember Jimmy Carter- “committed adultury in my heart many times”.

    But, I totally agree with the analysis to food. I really like ice cream with whipped cream. Sometimes it makes me sick. Sometimes I eat it anyway, and other times I don’t. I really like lemonade. It (according to my dentist) is the cause of some teeth troubles. So, I don’t have lemonade every time I want it. I’m still rationally able to not eat certain things for many reasons.

    Your reasons for eating or not eating will still exist. You just remove one reason- the shape of your body. Every other rational reason (feeling, health in all its forms, nutrition, emotion, taste, time, money, energy) still applies!

  108. Part of the issue with the “modesty/ desire” comparison is that though thinking about food and eating it doesn’t make you fat, to many Christians thinking about having sex with someone is the same as having sex with them, morally.

    While it’s not an exact parallel, I’m sure there are people who think that really, really wanting to eat something shows just as much moral weakness as actually eating it. It’s not just eating that is seen as dangerous by many in our society, but the desire to eat. So while there isn’t the belief that thinking about eating something is actually equivalent to eating it (although I’d say that, despite the rhetoric, most conservative Christians don’t believe that, either, because if pressed they would not say that a spouse having adulterous thoughts is grounds for divorce the way that a spouse actually having an affair would be), there is the belief that the desire itself is bad.

  109. Speaking of committing adultery in one’s heart… I’m reading the comments to that modesty survey, and I’m horrified. Even more so because I do dress modestly, though I don’t think of it like that. I just wear what I want to wear, and it happens to be long skirts.

    Wow, that totally matches with the I MUST EAT STUFF TO PROVE I DON’T HAVE TO AVOID STUFF pressure (which I totally feel sometimes). Although, those wannabe patriarchs don’t make me feel like I have to run out and buy a bikini, so maybe I can translate that to the orthorexies not making me feel like I have to run out and eat an entire chocolate cake.

    (Did that make sense?)

  110. Mary: One episode of binge-like behaviour not that you’re a terrible person who will forever lack self-control, it might be anything, including a one-off episode of hunger or stress that meant that a huge amount of food in one sitting was helpful.

    Yes, yes, a thousand times YES.

    One of the biggest hurdles I’ve had in the process of divorcing food from morality (probably should have been annulled, but whatever) is allowing myself to do counterproductive things and not beating myself up for being a bad person because I “didn’t do it perfectly”.

    I prefer to think of incidents where I wasn’t happy with the outcome as really useful data points – hey, I know that didn’t work, so no need to try it again, let’s try something new and see if I like the results better. It’s not failure so much as eliminating non-productive paths.

  111. I have never (and never will) been on a diet. That doesn’t mean I can’t be conscious about what I eat, and ask myself “do I really want this?” “am I really hungry?” If the answer is “hell yeah” then I eat it…

    That’s me. When I’m hungry, I eat. When I’m not, I don’t. But we’re expected to not be hungry, and to act like that’s a good thing. I got news for ya: It ain’t!

    I absolutely concur that restriction leads to obsession!

    True! I don’t diet, so food is not on my mind 24/7, unlike most dieters, who wake up thinking about what they have to eat and go to bed thinking the same thing. And when they talk about their diets, it the most mind-numbing and boring topic in the world. Why surround yourself with that crap?

  112. Being someone who loves the HAES principles, I am completely aware of how the idea of “following a plan” can feel oppressive and annoying in a similar way to everyone telling you to diet. Health at Every Size, as a model, comes out of a naturopathic way of looking at life (the least invasive the better), but it still comes out of a health/medicine perspective.

    I find myself, often, getting fed up with the health/medical perspective being pushed at me, and this philosophy sometimes gets mixed up in that frustration. But I also know that this is about unlearning all those other choices that I also took on to “be healthy” which ended up backfiring on me in a big way.

    It’s been really helpful for me to start working on mindfulness as a way of moving through the world. In practicing mindfulness, I find that I have to be in my body to understand what its experiencing as reality in this moment to better make decisions for my future.

    And then sometimes I just have to give myself a rest and not think of any of it for awhile.

  113. Thank you to everybody who was so kind and thoughtful to read my crazy rambling and provide some insight in response. I have to head out now but I will read more carefully when I get back. Thanks again.

  114. Atheists run into a similar argument with religious zealots, mostly fundamentalist Christians, all the time: “But if you don’t fear eternal punishment from a mystical bearded sky fairy daddy, what’s to stop you from murdering everyone who so much as looks at you twice?” Umm, the fact that I’m not a crazy sadistic fruitbat stops me?

    Really, it says much more about them than it does about me.

  115. Oh, Fillyjonk, this was just SO good. I can’t fling this quote around enough:

    The point is that refusing yourself nothing is not the same as giving yourself everything.

  116. The anecdote I use to try to explain how not dieting won’t make you eat everything is this:

    I worked in a chocolate factory for four years when I was younger. When I first started there I was told I could eat whatever I wanted. I packed assortments all day long, and I popped as many candies into my mouth as would fit. Constantly. After about two weeks, I stopped eating the candy save for one or two pieces on occasion. The owner said the reason she tells everyone they can have whatever they want is that she knows that after a few weeks of constant chocolate consumption, you’ll stop eating the chocolate. It happens to everyone. Just because you can doesn’t mean you will. But if she said you must never, ever eat the candy, she knew people would be filling their pockets all the time.

  117. Ostara But I’ve recently wrapped my head around the fact that just because I chose something with less calories doesn’t necessarily mean I’m choosing it because of the calories, that I can be trusted to choose something just because it sounds good and like something my body really could use in much the same way I could allow myself to choose something more traditionally “bad” because allowing myself to eat it didn’t mean I was going to become some uncontrollable glutton.

    This. Exactly. I got so pissed at myself a few weeks back because I could’ve gone to Wendy’s on my way home but elected to come home and eat ravioli instead. I just really wanted the ravioli more.

    But I had this moment of residual smugness about deciding to eat “healthier” instead of cheap, fast and available. It wasn’t smugness over choosing what my body wanted, it was diet mentality superiority.

    The next minute I mentally slapped myself over the smugness but it’s so damned hard to pry the moral judgment scale of food out of your brain.

    SugarLeighThink how many “distracted” (tempted, whatever) youths would be able to finally concentrate on schoolwork or whatever again if they could just feel okay masturbating (or even having sex) and take care of the damn urges so their hormones aren’t setting their pants on fire every time they see a freaking skirt or pants bulge or whatever.

    YES YES YES A THOUSAND TIMES YES. This. When you make everything sex related taboo (while simultaneously living in a culture where sex is everywhere and is one of the most popular ways to sell every damn thing) it loads so much guilt and stress onto every sexual feeling that you’re left with no idea how to handle it maturely or even safely.

    Which, in a way, is what’s happening to food. We’re so imbued with the idea that the best eating is basically no eating (the less you eat the better because then you won’t be OMGFAT), then any eating or desire to eat becomes dangerous. And at the same time, people have no idea how to make mature decisions about their diets or their sex lives!

    But then the world would end. Or something.

    DRST

  118. this is amazing. thank you, thank you.

    i know people have already said this, but this is the type of post that gives me hope that someday i’ll be able to overcome my eating disorder. because i think you’ve identified what so many of us are afraid of in some way-that giving ourselves license to think about many of the foods we crave will open the floodgates and mean we can never again control ourselves.
    it sounds silly when you write it out, but it’s a very real fear, and i thank you for helping to dispel it.

  119. I’m not sure if this is a good place to ask, but I’ve been looking through the archives trying to find resources for Intuitive eating that aren’t necessarily slanted towards people recovering from ED.

    My other half has a reduced sense of smell, and has a tendency to eat so much he gets sick in an attempt to get the amount of pleasure out of the food that he expects. It’s not quite ED, but it’s not healthy either. Does anyone have any ideas for good books or specific posts I could point him to, that would help him come to terms with learning what his body really wants?

  120. lilpeadot, I think I understand what you mean.

    It’s like… 1 week before payday, when we’ve run out of money and are on rations, and I know the electricity will run out the day before I get paid, I find a £1 coin in the street and immediately WANT to buy myself some cookies, or some cute, cheap tac from one of the £1 shops. Or, I’ll find myself wandering around clothes shops after work, wanting, really wanting the pretty things and thinking how I will DEFINITELY get them on payday. Then, payday comes and I pop in there again… and those things suddenly look less pretty.

    Or, when I get a bill I can’t afford to pay, I get tempted to deal with the stress of that by spending frivolously, when I know I should save.

    If I could free myself of the feelings of guilt I get whenever I spend money on something just for my pleasure, I’d probably find the lean times a lot easier, and probably find luxury items far less tempting during those times.

    Same with food; once I stopped feeling the need to hide my feelings of hunger, and stopped feeling guilty for eating, or being seen to enjoy food, I found it far easier to being my path down IE. As much as anyone can in this culture, anyway.

  121. Intuitive eating didn’t really work for me until I gave up most processed sugar and learned how to eat appropriate amounts of protein and fat. I do think there are some foods (like gluten mentioned earlier) that will mess with your body’s ability to figure out what it wants.

  122. “See, eating what you want doesn’t mean eating everything you think of. “

    And this is apparently what people have trouble understanding. Which is so weird to me. But when you truly start to connect what you eat with how you feel afterwards, and throughout the day, it’s really not all that hard to eat a good balanced mix of nutritious + yummy food.

    “I don’t have to eat things just because I have a chance to or I have a notion to or nobody’s watching. Restriction makes you do that, not liberation.”

    And, yes, this EXACTLY. Damn, you really just summed it all up right here, fillyjonk. Especially the corollary with sexual urges — I remember once feeling really slimy and dirty, as a teenager, when I was nearly refused entrance to a religious dance (a friend had invited me) because my dress was not modest enough or something. The ironic thing is, big ole heathen agnostic me ended up living a pretty chaste/conservative life without really meaning to, and I think a large part of that was due to 1) my personality and 2) the fact that I wasn’t surrounded by adults who assumed I was going to run off and hump anything that moved if I was given the slightest bit of freedom.

    And it’s the same with food. The more I trust myself with it, the more I “allow” myself to have everything/anything I want, the more likely I am to eat closer to what’s considered the “healthy” standard (even though that’s not really what I’m shooting for.)

    It’s kind of ironic how it works this way, and it’s also kind of maddeningly simple. I think it almost frustrates people, how simple the concept is, and yet how hard it can be to put into practice after being saturated by the feast/famine diet culture. We’re so used to having complicated systems and externally regulated portion-sizes and food pyramids and whatnots, that the idea of just giving yourself permission to eat whatever the hell you want is freaking SCARY. It can’t really be that simple, can it? Well, yeah, for a lot of people, it really is. And I wish it were that way for a lot more.

  123. When I finally started following *Normal Eating*, it was so freeing. When you can have whatever you want, then food becomes a nonissue and you don’t think about it all the time.

  124. oh my god i needed to read this today. i’ve been thinking a lot about myself, being fat, what i think it means to be fat and especially about letting go of the fantasy of being thin. one of the thoughts that crossed my mind when i first considered actually accepting myself was what i would eat if i never had to diet again. this thought kind of scared me. but then i realized that all the times that i ate and felt out of control was when i was dieting. dieting made me feel like i had to keep up a front and then it would force me to sneak food and to eat too much. i always thought that i was fat because i ate way, way too much food and all the other stuff people say about what fat people must eat. but recently i’ve noticed that i eat very “normally” – i eat when i’m hungry, i stop when i’m full and i enjoy my food rather than try to hide it. i’ve made the decision to never diet again and it’s because this site has helped me realize that i have that right – the right to just be me and eat a damn piece of cake if i want, lol. thanks.

  125. Thank you so much for this. I have been reading (lurking) this site for a year or so now and trying to get rid of the horrible, destructive attitude you describe here. Even though I think I’ve been treating/thinking of my body better, my brother died in a somewhat gruesome manner six months ago and I’ve had a lot more trouble with my weight and food since then. It is very hard a lot of the time not to beat myself up over it, but what you wrote in this article and a comment you made waayyyy upstream about emotional eating help. I’m not at a place where I’m totally okay with myself and food, but I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you FJ, and the other writers here, for letting me know it’s actually an option.

  126. Very well expressed. I find that it’s something of the same thing with exercise. If I tell myself that I have to exercise or do a certain thing every day I’m more likely to put it off or make excuses not to do it. It gets even worse when I try to set goals for how I should be doing.

    However, if I give myself permission to do what I want to do for exercise and when I feel like it, I’m more likely to get out and do something.

    Also, I took a look at that Modesty Survey you linked to and it’s pretty ridiculous stuff.

  127. StormFire, I think people try to stop just when they reach satiety, not satisfaction based on the pleasure of eating. I’m not sure how to translate that, though, or exactly how that’s related to smell for your s.o.!

    I think, spacedcowgirl, that in your comment I still hear an underlying assumption that less = better. But who cares if you eat more (or less) calories than average? (Other than asshats.) I mean, think about what that statistic means. It means that the [wide] range of caloric needs of the population is just centered around a certain number. Many people eat more, many people eat less; some people eat MUCH more, and some people eat MUCH less. Maybe only a small number of those people do so because they have an illness or ED. The rest just eat what they eat. If everyone ate less, the average would drop, and the situation wouldn’t change! Some people would still eat more and some people less than the new average. So there’s no better or worse about it. It’s just variation. I find it kind of academically interesting that I eat above “average” for women. But frankly, who cares?

    Vanessa, I’m glad that worked for you, and I’m sure other people would find the same thing… but not ALL other people. There are no real universal rules with this. Bodies are just so different in how they operate.

    In my own life, I try to think of IE as following some basic principles. These work for me, though they might not for everyone.

    * Eat when I feel physical hunger.

    * Stop eating when I feel physically satiated, or just not hungry.

    * Occasionally forgetting to eat or being too busy to snack or drinking my dinner is ok. Occasionally overeating a little because something is so fucking delicious that I want a little more is also ok. Neither of those things will hurt most people. Systematically doing those things, on the other hand, can be harmful. And doing either of those things systematically tends to involve a lot of thinking and deliberate self-controlling (and alternately self-flagellating and self-praising), so that can be the heads-up that it’s happening.

    * If you are sick to your stomach, or you can’t sense your own hunger signals because of years of disordered eating/dieting (or other reasons), maybe take a chance and test it a little. Maybe start by eating some average amounts and average distribution of food types if you can, maybe at normal-ish mealtimes, and see how you feel. Eat more if you get cranky midday. Eat fewer, say, carrots if you get really sick, because maybe they disagree with you. Eat two small lunches if one big one makes you sugar-crash. Just adjust accordingly until you feel as awesome as possible, and maybe eventually you’ll have trained yourself to sense the hunger again – it just might not feel like what you expect. Instead of thinking about the food, think about how you feel.

    * If certain foods make me feel sick, or would trigger an unpleasant reaction, I avoid those as much as I need to. If you don’t have to obsess about it but need to cut back on those to avoid getting sick, great. If you DO need to obsess a little because accidentally eating a bit of something could, like, kill you, well, do what you have to to not die, please! Since I have an illness that limits my dietary restrictions, I try to find ways to be satisfied and full and have energy and eat things I enjoy within those, as much as possible, so I can get past the stage of controlling and into a normal routine where it’s second-nature. (I KNOW how hard this is, from personal experience. Health problems complicate everything about how we relate to our bodies.)

    * Emotional health is really important, and includes things like the happiness or contentedness or basic sense of satisfaction that can come from pleasurable eating or satisfying a craving. Unless it’s going to kill you (see above), or unless it is going to very literally trigger a dangerous binging episode, cut yourself some slack and give in to those cravings. At the very least, you can try to let yourself seriously consider giving in, and maybe eventually you’ll stop caring. (Maybe you won’t, and you’ll have that hot chocolate, but okay, who cares? Some weeks one little piece of chocolate is plenty; some weeks I can – and do – eat a chocolate bar every day. It makes me happy, so I go ahead and do it!)

    * If you’re new to this whole concept of giving yourself what you want, and you are afraid you’ll never stop eating and you’ll devour the world if you give in even an inch… take a chance. (I guess that’s my theme.) Go eat that whole bag of cheetohs (uh, as long as they’re the crunchy ones. The puffy ones are gross!), or tub of ice cream, or can of lima beans. If you want to do it again tomorrow, DO IT. After a week of 3 meals a day of lima beans and ice cream, I’ll bet you’ll be sick of lima beans and ice cream, and you’ll see them on the shelf and not even care. Then maybe one can of lima beans a month will be satisfying; or maybe you’ll just want to do the lima-bean-week three times a year. Whatever!

    Sometimes it takes a little while (or maybe even a month or two or more) to regulate things when it comes to cravings. Maybe you’ll eat nothing but what you think of as “junk” food for a month or two. You WILL NOT die from that. (Important caveat: as with the alcohol and alcoholism discussion, if you have a binge disorder, this could be triggering behavior for you and you might need to find a different way to both stop obsessing about restrictions and avoid triggering a binge. My personal guidelines don’t apply as well to someone with BED, and I know this can be particularly hard to navigate if you have dealt with that issue.)

    * If following these guidelines feels like following strict rules, and I’m starting to feel like I’m a good person when I control my thoughts to obey the rules and a bad person if I don’t get it quite right… I’m doing it wrong, and I try to learn to notice I’m thinking that way. These are general guidelines, and messing them up is not about guilt, blame, or failure. That means not flagellating myself for feeling guilty, either – I just notice. Next time I might notice sooner.

    The goal, I think, is to just stop thinking about it much at all. I derive a lot of pleasure from food and enjoy thinking about food even when I’m not eating, but I mean… THINKING about it. Worrying, second-guessing, considering should vs. shouldn’t and good vs. bad, just thinkingthinkingthinking. To get to the point where you want a cookie, so you eat a cookie, where you really don’t want a square lunch, so you eat some crackers and hummus instead, where you want ice cream for dinner, so you eat ice cream for dinner, where you want a giant steak, so you have one. (Finances/resources allowing.) And if you do one of those things and then feel like shit, you shrug and say, oh well, guess I shouldn’t do that tomorrow, and then you have some pasta or pork chops or lima beans and watch some tv and it’s no big deal. The goal is to just live with food as a thing you interact with in the world, like cats and fishtanks and laptops and books.

    I know that’s probably a distant end-goal that might never be reached by a lot of people, but in the meantime, if now and then you can enjoy a meal or a snack or a dessert, for real without punishing yourself, that might lift your day a little. Mindfulness takes a while.

  128. OKAY I WROTE A WHOLE SECOND POST, SORRY FJ. Oops. I wrote it in parts and kept coming back, so I didn’t realize it got too long.

    And uh, spacedcowgirl, I am NOT calling you an asshat. That was directed at other people who might care how much YOU are eating, when it’s none of their business. :)

  129. Stormfire, wow, I was just thinking of writing a similar post, w/r/t to my sweetie. Both he and I were raised in a household where we were told to clean our plates. In the past few years, thanks to feminism and HAES-like ideas that somehow seeped into my brain, I’ve been slowly deprogramming myself from the “must eat it all” mindset and the related “feast or famine,” especially when it comes to free food or food someone else is paying for.

    He, on the other hand, eats until he’s physically uncomfortable, especially when we go to his parents’ house for the holidays. His mother prepares a ridiculous amount of food, and while I do eat more than I could regularly, I’m also able to take small amounts and leave food on the plate if my stomach tells me that’s what I need to do. It drives me nuts that he drives himself nearly to pain with this mentality, but I feel like if years of experience feeling horrible after eating hasn’t taught him to listen to his body, I have no chance at all.

    And then I feel bad (as I do now) about feeling so smug. But then again, I’m not one getting tummy aches (anymore).

  130. ALSO. I feel like a privileged asshat for dispensing advice on how to eat intuitively, because I know it’s super easy for a thin person like me. It took me all day to write the [stupidly long] comment. But at the same time, i feel like I really know what it’s like to be in that intuitive eating place, so I can describe it really well. Fwiw, my brain isn’t perfect, either, and the years of restriction for my illness definitely let me feel the obsessive side of this, but because I hadn’t internalized the good/bad thinking at a young age I could probably get back away from a lot of that thinking faster than most people. I’m really really conscious of that.

    So if you want to tell me to shut up, please do.

  131. This post is so well-written, but I’m afraid I just can’t wrap my mind around it.

    See, I crave carbs ALL THE TIME. I absolutely do NOT want to eat anything else. Whenever I’m alone in the house, I regularly order pizza and hide the boxes under my bed (I’m “Vegan,” but I’ve secretly fallen completely off the wagon). I’ve gone completely broke doing this. I take home bags of pastries from work and wolf them down at night. I just need bread and sugar and I need it NOW.

    Maybe I have binge eating disorder, maybe not—but if I always allowed myself to eat “intuitively,” I would literally eat nothing but bread and cupcakes. I’m not even joking. How do I fit in healthy foods without feeling like I’m forcing it? I don’t WANT vegetables. I don’t WANT well-balanced meals. I want cookies all day long! I

    I’m a fraud for advocating for HAES. A total fraud, and I fit every freaking “bad fatty” stereotype out there. I’m not healthy at my size. Every doctor tells me the same thing—I have to change the way I eat. I have to diet. I’m going to get diabetes. But DIETS DON’T EVEN WORK. So what the hell am I supposed to do?

    I really want some garlic bread right now. OMFG, garlic bread.

  132. My husband just waved a bag of some sort of yummy treats at me (this is how we offer each other food in my house, apparently), and while I’m sure whatever was in the bag was delicious, I’m still full from dinner, and eating something else, no matter how tasty, would end up making me feel yucky. Unfortunately it’s very likely the bag of yummy treats will be gone by the time I’m hungry again, but we’ll no doubt acquire other bags of yummy treats in the future, so that’s okay.

    Just as an aside, I really liked the point made above that IE isn’t about always eating the thing you most desire at the moment, because that would imply a level of economic privilege necessary to practice it that many/most people do not have. I’d probably enjoy eating shrimp every single night (at least for a little while), but that’s outside of our food budget (not to mention that my husband and son would not be particularly happy with that and unless you live alone or prepare separate meals, you have to work what others in your home like into it). So, sometimes rice and beans will do.

    Tonight, I wasn’t craving spaghetti with sauce, but I also wasn’t looking to spend a lot of time making something and didn’t want to make a meal that required a lot of clean up, so spaghetti it was. There are so many just practical considerations–cost, ease of preparation, clean-up, what others in your home will eat, access–not even mentioning things like how different foods make you feel, that I think it’s unrealistic for most people to always eat what they most want/crave, and if IE is presented that way, it might seem unworkable to most people.

  133. Raven, do you feel okay eating that way? Does the doctor say your bloodwork and organs and everything are functioning fine? Because if so, okay, eat the pastries and cookies and garlic bread! If not, you make adjustments – just like anyone else whose health needs require it. I love bread and still sometimes crave it, but I make myself forego it because I’d be on the fucking toilet all night if I didn’t. If you don’t feel great and only feel better if you eat some fibery vegetables, maybe HAES (that’s the “health” part) means you need to eat a bit of those every day. But not obsessively because you’re a bad fatty if you don’t. Just because that’s what you need to feel good.

    Weight, however, is not one of those health needs (in part because it’s not going to be affected by food except in the short term, anyway).

  134. Real life example of HAES/IE in action!!

    I waited a bit too long to start cooking dinner, because I live alone and can’t often motivate myself to cook before I start getting hungry (and there’s usually very little time lag between a little hungry and fucking starving for me). So I’m eating like 3 pickles while the water for my rice pasta boils. yum!

  135. @volcanista — it’s hard to tell. I feel okay disgestively speaking, but is my perpetual fatigue/lack of motivation due to the foods I’m putting in my body or just part of depression? As far as bloodwork goes, I’ve known for years that what I’m eating is destructive. I’m insulin resistant and I have PCOS. Not to say that my food choices have caused those conditions, but that they are definitely exacerbating my symptoms.

    I don’t have the answers…I just know my desires for bread/cake/doughy, starchy things are beyond overwhelming at times. Anything else repulses me. So that’s why I can’t really get on board with this IE thing, because I know what I’m doing is wreaking havoc on my pancreas, but I cannot stop. I really think there is legitimacy behind the idea of being physically addicted to high-sugar foods, at least in my case.

  136. Well, can’t insulin resistance cause some of that? So I think this is where some of the IE and HAES principles can contradict each other a little. The name “intuitive eating” implies that you should be able to INTUIT all of your body’s needs, which is often but not ALWAYS true. If you’re bloodwork indicates insulin resistance, eating in a way that limits blood sugar spikes will probably help you feel less tired. And that insulin resistance can cause massive cravings for foods that quickly raise blood sugar. That has nothing to do with your size or weight, though. If you had to change your eating habits to manage an illness, and a side effect of the illness is weight gain, you aren’t doing it because of the weight; you’re doing it to manage the illness.

    There can totally be legitimacy to the idea of physically craving foods that aren’t necessarily good for you because of an illness like PCOS or diabetes is like an addiction, I agree. I don’t think it’s the case for MOST people (because most people don’t have those illnesses), and I think people involved with FA resist that as a cure-all for all fatness because it just doesn’t apply to everyone. But can it ever apply? Sure! Managing your illness is important, but it isn’t because it’s a weight-loss diet. It just might make you feel less sick.

    As for managing cravings caused by an illness, there I can’t help you, and I worry that a lot of the literature and nutritionist-support otu there is just fat-shaming and not helpful. Anyone know of better resources that could help Raven, guys?

  137. This sounds a lot like what I read in a Geneen Roth book… I think Breaking Free from Compulsive Eating. Take off the restrictions, the “taboo” around certain foods, and try to listen to your body. She reported that even though she let herself eat cookie dough for dinner when she wanted to, she still lost weight. Because, when you give yourself that *freedom* to eat – not everything you think of – but what you desire, you naturally gravitate towards moderation and what the body needs.

    I did this experiment, and changed my whole mindset to NOT thinking of certain foods as bad or forbidden. I tried to eat reasonable portions of what I truly wanted (but again not everything that crossed my mind) and I gained a LOT of weight… 40 pounds in 3 or 4 months.

    And I totally agree with you on all of your points *except* as it appled to someone with a binge eating disorder. Thing is, I get ultra-strong urges to eat just about everything I see/think of. In huge quantities.

    Not sure what the answer is, but thanks for the thought provoking post.

  138. From Stormfire:
    “My other half has a reduced sense of smell, and has a tendency to eat so much he gets sick in an attempt to get the amount of pleasure out of the food that he expects. It’s not quite ED, but it’s not healthy either. Does anyone have any ideas for good books or specific posts I could point him to, that would help him come to terms with learning what his body really wants?”

    From volcanista:
    “StormFire, I think people try to stop just when they reach satiety, not satisfaction based on the pleasure of eating. I’m not sure how to translate that, though, or exactly how that’s related to smell for your s.o.!”

    I’m the significant other Stormfire is talking about :)

    My sense of smell is very diminished, and along with it my sense of taste is too. So often I smell something that smells good and tastes halfass, but I want the taste that goes along with the smell. I almost never experience alot of pleasure in the taste of things.

    A recent article I found (that I cannot find now of course..) explained how many people overeat because they think they will find a good taste in something if they just have more of it. The craving isn’t being satisfied because the tongue isn’t getting much satisfaction out of the food.

    I must say I don’t usually look forward to eating, and certain things like US breakfast foods I find little better than cardboard. The one thing that I can taste well is sweet, so for example I put 3 tablespoons of sugar to a cup of tea.

    Your idea of “feed the craving until it’s satisfied” doesn’t work because I will eat the same thing over and over and over and over again looking and hoping for the taste i’m trying to find in it (I mean just look at Pavlov’s dog)

    This all has nothing to do with hungry, it’s all about the brain/nose/tongue craving something that it knows is there and it can’t find so it keeps going and going and going. If not for my high level of willpower i’d probably weigh 400lbs now. But that certainly doesn’t make things any easier.

  139. Part of intuitive eating — and it’s one that frequently gets lost — is instinctively knowing how certain foods (or certain amounts of foods) are going to make you feel and function after you eat them. I passed up doughnuts all the time at my office even when my officemates were eating them, not because I didn’t think I’d enjoy the actual eating of them, but because I know I can’t sit down and concentrate on detail work after eating them. I feel foggy, almost like I’ve been drinking. Weirdly enough, though, I don’t have that problem eating cake for dessert; possibly that’s because I already have things in me that counterbalance all the sugar.

    And yeah, I don’t think everyone can follow IE principles out of a book, some people will need extra help. If only more good help existed.

    Raven, are you on any kind of insulin sensitizers? Because if you’re not (or you are, but your dosage is too low), that might explain your cravings. I’d make sure all physical causes were ruled out before you started clobbering yourself for “doing it wrong.”

  140. Lasivian, that’s kind of fascinating! If you don’t mind my asking, did you lose the sense of smell at some point, or has it always been diminished? I ask because I have met people who don’t derive much pleasure from food, but it tends to translate into just not caring that much about eating or flavor. They eat, but it’s not an intense experience the way it is for some of us. But I could see how if a person used to feel pleasure from it, and then that changed, they might keep looking for it, you know?

    You probably wouldn’t weigh 400 lbs. unless you already weigh 400 lbs. anyway, though. But you might have been sick to your stomach a lot.

    Fwiw, I think the craving advice might be more helpful for people who have cravings because of self-denial of things they actually find pleasurable, not because of an unusual situation like what you’re describing.

  141. I tried to eat reasonable portions of what I truly wanted (but again not everything that crossed my mind) and I gained a LOT of weight… 40 pounds in 3 or 4 months.

    I’ve heard that that happens sometimes when somebody first stops eating restrictively. Then, when they have been doing it for longer and have let go of the dieting mindset, they settle at their natural setpoint.

    I think the idea that you’ll somehow lose weight if you listen to your body is probably not true in most cases, unless somebody is consistently overeating. Since we know that most fat are not consistently stuffing themselves, most fat people are not going to become thin if they eat intuitively.

    I still don’t think I necessarily eat intuitively, though, and I’m okay with that. I don’t count calories. I don’t worry about the calorie or fat content of food. But, I also plan meals with an eye to making sure we get a reasonable amount of fruit and veggies and protein, I limit red meat (for health rather than moral reasons, although I’d like to say it’s the latter), and I limit the amount of dessert-type foods I eat, because if I eat too much of them, I don’t have room for other, more nutrient-rich foods.

    But I also try to listen to my body, even while being more structured in how I eat than a lot of HAES proponents seem to be. I haven’t been very hungry for about two weeks, and haven’t eaten anything between meals, but yesterday I walked for four miles (I love to exercise because it’s really good for my emotional well-being), and around 3 p.m. I was suddenly famished. I wanted protein. I stopped to think if I could wait until dinner, but that was not going to happen without my feeling really crappy. And, we’re kind of limited in the food we have, because we skipped grocery shopping this weekend because we were all sick, and haven’t gotten around to going yet, so my protein choices were pretty limited. I finally decided on a couple of spoonfuls of peanut butter out of the jar, and that was apparently just what I needed, because then I felt fine. Ten years ago I would have had all sorts of “OMG, I’m such a pig for eating peanut butter!” feelings, but now it’s just what my body was asking for, and I accept and respect that. I’d spent an hour walking: no wonder I wanted protein.

  142. I agree with Meowser. I don’t think you CAN “do it wrong.” No matter what the cause of cravings, there’s never any blame to assign, whether you resist cravings or try to satisfy them. Your body feels the way it feels and that’s no one’s fault.

  143. Raven, this may not be helpful at all and I know I’m picking up on a tangential part of your post (because other people have already picked up on the physical parts), but this made me think:

    Whenever I’m alone in the house, I regularly order pizza and hide the boxes under my bed (I’m “Vegan,” but I’ve secretly fallen completely off the wagon).

    During the process of shedding disordered eating, I also kind of had to come to the conclusion that I couldn’t manage to be a vegetarian at that point (or perhaps ever). It was just one extra food related proscription that was going to drive me absolute nuts at that point in time. And I felt a lot better once I acknowledged it and realized that what I could do is try to eat as ethically as I felt I could without absolute prohibitions, which works for me. In a perfect world, I’m not sure I think it’s the most ethical course, but it’s also the one that keeps me sanest in this imperfect world and thus more useful in other arenas. Being vegan might be something that’s uncompromisable to you and that makes total sense, but if not, would it help, at least with some of the guilt and cognitive dissonance, to “come out” about it now and say that it’s just not something that’s working for you at the moment?

  144. Meowser, I’m the same way with donuts, especially for breakfast. I like the taste, but I feel like crap if I eat them for breakfast. I’m fine with them as a snack between meals or for dessert, but I can’t eat sugary stuff as a meal or else I feel really foggy and out of it, too. I tend to be really sensitive to things–I get a little buzzed from a glass of wine, and just a small amount of caffeine makes me agitated–so it doesn’t surprise me too much that I’m sensitive to sugar, as well.

  145. I think there are ethics involved with how we treat ourselves, too, LilahMorgan, so maybe that IS the most ethical course for you. And I think it sounds really sensible.

  146. This is an interesting conversation. I had to cut out maltose and lactose because they make me really fucking sick, but I was able to reintroduce sucrose with basically no problems after a few years. But if I eat a date I will fall asleep at my desk. Sometimes I eat them anyway, though, because DELICIOUS.

  147. That was incredible to read. Thank you. I don’t know why it seems so clear when you say it, but there is something really important to “refusing yourself nothing does not equal giving yourself everything.” As someone who’s been severely eating-and-body-image-disordered for a long time and has had really pathological anxieties about eating everything in my sight and feeling like some kind of insatiable pig, I was glad to have read this post while I was eating some strawberry milkshake Oreos. (Limited edition, I couldn’t believe it either.) The thing is, I felt kind of guilty about having bought them, thinking, “Maybe I really don’t need these, I had dinner already, etc.” Luckily they are everything I thought they would be and more, so I ate most of the first row in the tray while reading the post. And just as I finished reading, I realized that I had just allowed myself to eat something I wanted, and that now I’d had enough of it, and right now I don’t feel bad about it. I stopped. Maybe it’s a good thing that I allowed myself to have them after all. Maybe if I’d restricted myself from buying them in the store, I might have held onto the feeling of wanting and it might have come out in another way later on, one that involved redirected the wanting in a hostile way towards myself or even someone else, and made me feel even worse than just eating a few too many Oreos.

    It’s so strange to think that eating can just be eating for its own sake, because you’re hungry and you want something in particular, and not necessarily driven by emotion all the time.

  148. LilahMorgan, that’s a good point. We’ve gone through periods where we’ve tried to be vegetarians, and it just didn’t work for us. My husband, who usually doesn’t have issues around food, found that as soon as he made meat off-limits, all he wanted to do was eat meat. He’d be sneaking burgers at lunch, which is just silly, because he’s an adult who can eat whatever he wants, and because he never gets burgers for lunch when meat isn’t off-limits. I think that just goes to show how food restrictions can often cause cravings in otherwise-reasonable eaters. I should say that neither of us is strongly morally convicted that eating meat is wrong: we have moral qualms about it, but not really more than we have around a lot of issues of food production. If we were truly convinced it was wrong, I imagine it would have been a different experience.

  149. “If you don’t mind my asking, did you lose the sense of smell at some point, or has it always been diminished?”

    I broke my nose at some point when I was a child, I don’t remember when.

    I think part of it is that my sense of smell is less diminished than my sense of taste. Something smells better than it tastes most of the time.

    “You probably wouldn’t weigh 400 lbs. unless you already weigh 400 lbs. anyway, though. But you might have been sick to your stomach a lot.”

    My stretchmarks would disagree with you. I weighed a great deal more than my “normal” weight many years ago. I also have strong cravings for food as an “escape”, having nothing to do with nutritional value. And my life has often been very stressful.

  150. I’m another one on the wagon of “great timing with this post”!

    Since I started reading SP a few months ago I finally gave myself permission to give up the dieting thing, and my brain feels so much healthier for it (although I still have a long way to go!).

    One of the things I’ve been struggling with recently which I haven’t seen mentioned is what do you do when you’re hungry but nothing really sounds good? I’ve had this a few times in the last week, and to be honest I never ever thought that could happen! There have been days when I’ve gone to get lunch, because I’m hungry, but I just can’t think of anything that sounds good to me.

    Does anyone have any thoughts on when this happens?

    I’m mostly getting over my need to eat the world, although chocolate is something I still struggle with, but I have noticed that even this is improving. I sometimes still feel the need to sneak food while I have the chance, or eat something just because its there, but I’m starting to see that this will all pass.

    And it’s all thanks to Shapely Prose! Has anyone ever told you (plural!) that you are full of win?

  151. Lesavian, since you taste sweet relatively well, would it be helpful to suck on a teaspoonful of good honey or real maple syrup or a piece of dark chocolate when you’re full but still searching for that elusive flavor?

    It may short-circuit the craving that you CAN’T fulfill by giving it a strong alternate flavor.

  152. “Lasivian, since you taste sweet relatively well, would it be helpful to suck on a teaspoonful of good honey or real maple syrup or a piece of dark chocolate when you’re full but still searching for that elusive flavor?”

    Oh if only it were so easy. I am very much a “chew it up and swallow it’ kind of person. Hard candy and I don’t get along well.

    I limit my intake to about 6 tablespoons of sugar a day in tea (when I have tea) I can keep sweets around the house and limit their intake, but it has to be a conscious activity, if I sit down with a tin of butter cookies i’ll eat the whole thing before I realize it, and not because i’m at all hungry.

  153. Thanks for this. Stuff has been difficult for me, and I just needed to read something like this.

  154. SugarLeigh and DRST, I totally agree re: HAES-style philosophy and masturbation! I didn’t comment about my agreement re: “So what if people nip off to a bathroom stall to get off, provided they wash their hands? Won’t they be happier or more productive at school / work?”

    I think I would have concentrated better in high school if I had any clue it would be ok for me to spend one minute in the bathroom taking care of those needs. Instead of a tug-of-war between “focus on the discussion about existentialism” and “no, sex!” I could have actually focused on existentialism.

  155. Lasivian (I’m sorry I misspelled it earlier) it sounds like a really hard thing to live with. To be honest, I’d get in touch with a physiological psychologist or a physical therapist who specializes in eating issues to see if there is anything they know of that might help.

  156. The fear of a slippery slope works really well for weight gain, too. If you can gain 5 pounds, then you can potentially gain 50 pounds too, right? You just need to gain those 5 pounds 10 times over! So if you have gained said pounds, then you need to go back and do a complete forensic reconstruction of all your eating and movement for the period in question. (Unfortunately, it’s really hard to know exactly what your body chemistry has been doing in the meantime, but you work with what you’ve got, right?)

    And I think about half the weight-loss testimonials I’ve read seem to have the person just being so busy and not noticing the weight “creeping up” (love that verb), and then one day seeing a photo of hirself, or just waking up and randomly stepping on the scale, and OMG. It’s like those old temperance posters that start with a timid sip of whiskey and lead to suicide and a wife and child weeping at the grave.

  157. @fillyjonk: Wow, I was not familiar with free-range kids, but thanks! That’s sort of how we do things; I didn’t know I could find others on the interweb. (Well, that’s how we do things, except that I’m truly phobic about fire and tornadoes and airplane crashes so I definitely insist on way too many precautions there. But… eh, I figure, hey, I’m giving my kids training in compassionately living with someone with a phobia. As long as I’m honest that that’s what it is, right?) I shall make that a regular blog that I check now. Thank you for pointing me to it.

    @peggynature: When you wrote this awesome bit:

    It’s kind of ironic how it works this way, and it’s also kind of maddeningly simple. I think it almost frustrates people, how simple the concept is, and yet how hard it can be to put into practice after being saturated by the feast/famine diet culture. We’re so used to having complicated systems and externally regulated portion-sizes and food pyramids and whatnots, that the idea of just giving yourself permission to eat whatever the hell you want is freaking SCARY. It can’t really be that simple, can it? Well, yeah, for a lot of people, it really is. And I wish it were that way for a lot more.

    …it made me think of how I described to my former therapist what I got out of our work. I told him that it was as though I’d been convinced early on that the floor couldn’t be trusted, so I rigged up a set of pulleys around my house to go from room to room. But then the pulleys chafed, so I needed padding for them. But then the padding shedded, so I needed a special padding sweeper, etc… Point being, every “fix” or “improvement” I would enact would be something to correct for the previous one, creating a very complicated system indeed that could be brought down by one tiny malfunction that would gum up the whole works.

    When all I REALLY needed was to just realize that the floor could be trusted, and it really is just as simple as friggin’ walking around. I didn’t need to pile on yet more self-improvement to fix my defective self. I just needed to realize it was never defective in the first place, I could trust it, and it was the system of so-called improvements that was crippling me with anxiety and depression because hell, who can live when their life is that complicated?

  158. Richelle, it’s like “Reefer Madness!” only with food. (“Twinkie Madness!” maybe?)

  159. DRST:
    Word.

    TG:
    Yeah, seriously! In high school I was soooo screwed up with the sex thing– can’t think about sex because I’m not allowed to want it and that would make me slutty and bad, but fuck, I did want it, kind of a lot actually… my brain ended up going, “oh for fuck’s sake, I’m sick of this argument, here!” and solving the problem by providing me with a lot of graphic rape fantasies, which opened up a whole new world of shame and fucked-up-ness for me! :P

    In completely unrelated news, I really need a new nickname. At least for FA and HAES circles. Because every time we talk dietary stuff Sugar is mentioned, and I think I’m being addressed. XD

  160. LilahMorgan – I also gave up vegetarianism when I gave up dieting, but am happy with vegetarian *foods* – and so I try to do what I can, without meat being a “never” food.

  161. A Sarah — that’s an awesome analogy. I’m sure I will steal it and use it at some point. Thank you.

  162. “And yeah, I don’t think everyone can follow IE principles out of a book, some people will need extra help. If only more good help existed.”

    I’m working on it, Meowser! BWAHAHAHA *evil gleeful hand-rubbing*

  163. “but if I always allowed myself to eat “intuitively,” I would literally eat nothing but bread and cupcakes. I’m not even joking.”

    Wow, Raven, I have to say, your comment really struck me, especially the “fraud” business. First of all, you’re not a fraud advocating for HAES even if you have difficulties. Everyone has some kind of difficulties, and a lot of us have difficulties with eating. Even freaking DIETITIANS have difficulties with eating and end up going to see other dietitians. How’s that for a mind-f*ck?

    Second of all, I really think if you feel like your cravings are bizarrely out of control, something else medically might be going on. I don’t know anything about your situation, so feel free to tell me to stuff it and shut up, but you maybe should get a check-up with your MD, and maybe with a specialist beyond that if you have any particular conditions, and maybe with a dietitian or therapist who deals with eating troubles. Because having really super intense cravings for stuff probably signals an underlying problem — it is not proof that you’re a “bad fatty” or any of that horseshit.

    I hope you figure it out, really. It sucks to be in that place. I remember buying boxes of truffles (on sale for $2) and eating them while sobbing, wondering if I would ever feel normal around food again. It was miserable.

  164. Johnny B. Average, I can totally picture that movie. It would have lots of lurid, slow-motion shots of food disappearing into mouths made into gaping black holes with fisheyes lenses and rapid zooms. It would feature a party of obeses laughing the laughter of the damned as they rummage through mounds of food observed in lingering, almost pornographic shots featuring dripping grease, oozing, semi-liquid cheese, and spurting chocolate sauce. And, of course, it would have the Innocent, who would begin with a reluctant nibble, undergo the process of corruption (depicted with distorted and out-of-focus shots and also some creepy music and sound effects), and end one of the hopelessly degraded, a slave to unspeakable appetites. Cut and print!

  165. “To be honest, I’d get in touch with a physiological psychologist or a physical therapist who specializes in eating issues to see if there is anything they know of that might help.”

    Not meaning to be overly rude but what is a professional really going to be able to accomplish?

    I’ve lived with my issues for decades, I know what they are, how to deal with them, and I do deal with them.

    If you know what to do, and you can do it there isn’t much need to pay someone else to tell you how to do it. :)

    (But that’s getting into one of my big pet peeves so i’ll leave it at that, heh)

  166. Woo, lotta stuff happened while I was out. Two things I want to say quickly:

    volcanista, it’s not like thin people are barred from intuitive eating or anything! (If you’d written that much without playing a move in Scrabble, though, I would have been pissed.) And your perspective on it is really lucid because you’ve had to think so hard about everything you eat. I think you should probably just make that whole-other-post comment into, you know, a whole other post.

    To nobody in particular: I was thinking about this post on my way home from work because I passed the bakery and thought about getting two brownies for after dinner. Because I pass the bakery and think about getting two brownies for after dinner EVERY DAY — I do this because I work near a bakery that has really amazing brownies. I end up getting them, I don’t know, every couple of months on average? Sometimes the bakery is closed, sometimes we have other sweets in the house, more often I just make a split-second decision as I pass the bakery not to go in for no particular reason at all. My point is I can think about eating brownies EVERY DAY and not have a problematic relationship with food, not be obsessed with food, and not, y’know, eat brownies every day. In fact thinking about eating brownies every day is perfectly normal… it’s just one of the many decisions I think about for a couple seconds each day. Here’s an analogy: every day lately I think about wearing this one teal shirt I have, because I really like it. I don’t wear it every day — fucking duh! Sometimes because it’s dirty, sometimes because it’s not that dirty but I just wore it, sometimes because I decide to wear something else. Just because it crosses my mind does not mean I have some kind of hygiene problem.

  167. Thank you!!!!!!
    For the past couple of years I’ve been re-learning how to eat, how NOT to diet, and to make peace with food. And it’s a struggle! I think I’m going to print out this post and carry it in my wallet. ‘Cause , ya know, sometimes I just make things SO MUCH harder than they have to be!!!!!

  168. Random Quorum~

    You said “One of the things I’ve been struggling with recently which I haven’t seen mentioned is what do you do when you’re hungry but nothing really sounds good?”

    When that happens, I just eat what I think would be beneficial to my body. Some protein and a vegetable. An omelet often hits the spot.

    You also said, “I’m mostly getting over my need to eat the world”

    Wow, yeah. That is where I’m at too. Where does that feeling come from? I hope it will fade over time. It’s like trying to fill a black hole. Never gonna get filled. Whatever it is, I am never going to fill it by eating. So I guess I better fill it with something else.

  169. @peggynature — Thanks for the sympathy. :)

    Unfortunately, I’ve seen more specialistis than I can count, and they always reach the same conclusion: GO ON A DIET. I’m already on a really high dose of Metformin. Medically, there’s nothing wrong with me…I just don’t have any self-control when it comes to carbs.

    Sometimes I wish I was an alcoholic—at least I could cut that out of my entirely. It’s kind of impossible to just cut out food completely!

    But yeah, logically I understand that I’m not a “bad fatty” and I shouldn’t hate myself. It just hasn’t really been sinking in lately. Oh, well. That’s why I read SP every day! It’ll sink in eventually!

  170. fillyjonk said “In fact thinking about eating brownies every day is perfectly normal… ”

    Oh my gosh. Serious? Is it?? Have I felt like a total freak all these years for nothing? Honestly it would mean a lot to me if this is true. Anyone else… do you think about brownies (or cookies or a Big Mac or whatever) every day (but not eat them every day?)

    I think about eating pizza, cookies, candy EVERY day. I thought that was abnormal. I’d love to know that other people have these thoughts, and that it is not my *thoughts* that are abnormal, but maybe just my response to them (actually EATING pizza, brownies and cookies every day until I am miserable).

  171. “I’m already on a really high dose of Metformin. Medically, there’s nothing wrong with me…I just don’t have any self-control when it comes to carbs.”

    Yeah, I get what you’re saying, Raven, and it’s totally unfortunate that that IS the advice you’d be likely to get. Which is stupid. Clearly, something is going on. And the Metformin (and didn’t you say earlier PCOS?) likely has a lot to do with it — not your lack of self-control. Seriously. I don’t believe in self-control when it comes to food. It has nothing to do with self-control, it has everything to do with how much your brain and/or body makes you want to eat, of what types of foods.

    Food is hard, because even when it feels addicting (and it’s true that, for whatever reason, a lot of people have trouble with certain types of foods) it’s really not something you can cut out entirely. That would almost be EASIER than having to face it every day.

    And carbohydrates are especially funny, because, according to all the current thinking and whatnot, nutrition recommendations are such that you should be getting something like 55-60% of your daily energy intake from carbs. That’s not small change — it’s the vast majority of your food intake.

    Linda Bacon has some interesting things to say in her book about insulin resistance. I think I also heard her mention a book once called “Diabetes: Sugar-Coated Crisis.” I haven’t read it myself, but I really want to, and maybe it would contain some usable information for you.

    Anyhow, feel free to email me if you ever want to talk nutrition. I’d be totally interested in hearing more. I’m peggynature at the gmail.

  172. I’m working on it, Meowser! BWAHAHAHA *evil gleeful hand-rubbing*

    WELL HURRY UP MICHELLE PEOPLE NEED YOU.

    I’ve always thought a good rule of thumb when trying to figure out whether your eating habits are really fucked up or not was to ask yourself, “If I was thin and I ate like this, even if I felt and functioned the same way after doing so, would I have any problem with it?” My boyfriend eats a diet that’s very carb-centered, but he’s also very thin and doesn’t have any major health problems, so nobody’s going to question him if he eats an order of fries and calls it dinner (which he will do on occasion). I sometimes wonder how much binge eating in fat people has to do with the idea that it’s bad and we’re not supposed to, and that only fuels the desire to do it even more.

    And Raven, that completely sucks that you’re being given “go on a diet, stupid” as an answer to your problems. That’s totally unacceptable.

  173. I loved this post! Like many others here, I’m also struggling with overeating and binge eating. I think I’ve finally getting to the point where I’m letting go of the shame and allowing myself to really and truly not diet. It took a long time to give myself permission to eat without judgment and it is still a bumpy road. Reading your post really helped, as does reading all the wonderful comments. Thanks!

  174. Raven, I’m wondering too if perhaps the restrictions of being vegan, as LilahMorgan pointed out might be what is making you crave the foods made with lots of animal products. Again, veganism is certainly your choice but if it’s making you crave “forbidden” foods to the point of where it’s obsessive it might be time to rethink that choice. About 10-5 years ago when low carb was still somewhat newish and really popular I often berated myself for being such a self proclaimed “carbaholic”. It seemed I craved carbs ALL THE TIME and whenever I broke down and decided I wanted to just give in I’d do a lot of the binging in secret just as you described and would eat just about every carb in sight. I didn’t want meat. I didn’t want protein. I didn’t want veggies and I very, very rarely legitimately wanted fruit.

    Though my step to incorporate more varied foods in my diet was diet induced, I think it’s important to note that when I actively sought to eat more fruits and veggies I came to crave more fruits and veggies. No, often I still don’t want veggies or fruits over carbohydrates and unless it’s bacon, seafood or a very well prepared piece of chicken or a souped up burger when I’m really in the mood for it I’m still pretty “meh” about meat – and that’s ok. Sure, sometimes I still eat fruits and veggies for the sole purpose of them being good for me but for the most part a meal just isn’t a meal for me if I can’t get a substantial amount carbohydrates. And honestly, I don’t think there’s a dang thing wrong with that. The food pyramids recommend you get carbohydrates and/or grains more so per day than any other group. What’s recommended (assuming it hasn’t changed since I was a kid) is double that of what’s recommended for fruits, veggies, and meats. Sure, it’s also recommended you vary your carbs, but if your body wants garlic bread I say have the garlic bread. If you feel like it’s not giving your body enough energy then try to make changes and make them based on how the foods will make you *feel* after eating them if basing it on craving alone at this point doesn’t seem to work. I don’t know much about your conditions, but it isn’t necessarily far fetched to think underlying health issues might also be responsible for the cravings.

    I know I personally love broccoli with cheese but this past fall when I caught my mystery illness honestly the thought of any veggies repulsed me sometimes. So I pretty much relied on whatever bread the occasional applesauce I could keep down for two months. I know it was an unhealthy experience, but I honestly think it was a great way for me to be “primed” so to speak for HAES. I was sick and I couldn’t eat anything else BUT carbs and couldn’t even MOVE without feeling dizzy and headached and fatigued and nauseous times eleventybillion if I just tried to not eat (even when my body “wants” to throw up I have to eat – sometimes I even find I want to eat even more just to get the nausea over and done with already). So I finally submitted and just ate a lot of bread. And eventually I finally got better.

    Sometimes your body just WANTS stuff for no readily explicable reason and the fact that you crave it as much as you do is indicative of the fact that the restrictions you may have on those foods get in the way of you giving your body what it wants when it wants it.

    However, I could be wrong, but I remember once someone mentioning something (I think it may have been Sweet Machine) to the effect of noting that some certain conditions can make your body crave more starchy and sugary foods – I could be remembering wrong, but I thought depression was one of them. Also, I think it was something Linda Bacon mentioned – again, I could be remembering things wrong though.

    Anyway, the point of this is just to get you thinking about how to examine why you want these things and how they make your body feel. A big part of HAES is (I think) yes, giving in to cravings, but it’s also analyzing how you feel after eating said craved foods. I think FJ’s mentioning of how she loves hot chocolate but feels crappy often after eating it is a great example. Often she opts not to go for it because it can make her insides feel like crap but because it’s not forbidden and because every so often she says “meh, I’ll have the hot chocolate anyway” and therefore it isn’t forbidden it’s less of a gut (ha) “OMG MUUUUUST HAVE IT but NOOS IS FORBIDDEN!!!” reaction to said craved food.

    So maybe just looking at how you feel after eating might help… I dunno, I’m fried and I’m sorry, I’m derailing.

  175. Raven, I’m going to chime in here, because I also have PCOS, and I recognize those cravings. You don’t say if you’re on medication for it — I have never been on Metformin myself, but I have been on and off BCPs as a treatment strategy, and I know that can change the cravings.

    I’m going to agree with LilahMorgan that being vegan may not be a realistic eating strategy for you right now. With PCOS and insulin resistance, I often find I have more energy and fewer cravings if I’m NOT eating a low-fat diet; I’ve heard people suggest the 40-30-30 (carbs/protein/fat) ratio from the Zone diet, but I am not obsessive about it. Since eating vegan often becomes low-fat without trying, it might not work best for you, or might take more conscious menu planning.

    I wouldn’t necessarily try to stop eating the delicious carbs, but you could think of ways to add more fat and/or protein to them, to keep you feeling satisfied longer. My emergency food is often honey roasted peanuts — instant sugar for the craving, plus some protein and fat to hold me until I can have a meal. So, if toast sounds good, does peanut butter toast or cheese toast also sound tasty? Want chips? How about some guacamole with them? Or whatever works along those lines. . Then, once your pancreas has stopped sending the “CARBS NOW” red alert, you can listen to other messages your body may be sending.

    It might not work for you. I have a pretty mild manifestation of PCOS and can control it through food choices (and a really good pair of tweezers), but you might need medication to get your insulin response behaving at a level where you CAN trust your cravings.

    Above all, don’t despair. It’s a pain in the ASS, but it’s real and it’s treatable.

  176. RandomQuorum – I’ve been having that feeling lately too, but I think it’s just getting sick of cooking. Where I used to live I could nip over to Boston Market every few weeks and buy myself a meal that would last a couple dinners so I’d get a break from cooking (not to mention a Toll House cookie *drools*). Now I live in the middle of fucking nowhere so I have to cook all the time (and I have health restrictions that limit what I can eat comfortably). I’ve made everything I know how to make and I’m bored with it all.

    I actually apologized to my mother for every single complaint or unpleasant comment I ever made about the food in our house. The woman made 3 meals a day for 8 people for decades. I don’t know how she didn’t smack us all silly. Or let us starve.

    *sigh* I wish I had better advice to offer.

    DRST

  177. Oh my gosh. Serious? Is it?

    Thinking about tasty food is normal! I meant to make more of a point of this in the post, I guess. I can’t say that everyone thinks about brownies every day, because some people don’t care for sweets (and most people don’t work near a Firehook bakery!), but everyone with average food availability probably has multiple decision points every day where they consider eating something that’s generally coded as “bad” and then decide whether they will or not. Maybe they don’t consider it seriously, maybe it jut flits across the mind, and some people have more decision points than others, and they’re about different foods, but whatever — the point is that the supposed ideal, where you just never even think about brownies (or Doritos or whatever) is totally spurious. Probably some people never think about them, but why is that the ideal? Because we think that merely thinking about food will make us powerless against it. Realistically, though, people think about food (and other nice things like sex and sleep and my teal shirt) a lot and that’s okay!

  178. FJ, get back to the keyboard! You are on a roll, and I don’t want to see it stop.

    WOW. Every word was wow.

  179. Medically, there’s nothing wrong with me…I just don’t have any self-control when it comes to carbs.

    Wait, but what about the PCOS and insulin resistance you mentioned? I don’t want to tell you there’s something wrong with you, but aren’t those usually considered health problems or illnesses? Not “having any self-control” is possibly a sign of a problem, and not one you are to blame for. Maybe it means the meds are the wrong ones for you, or something else, but I’m hardly a doctor. I just know enough to know that if a patient with PCOS is being told they just need to lose weight, they need a different doctor, because that’s bullshit.

  180. As far as the modesty thing goes, I feel the most comfortable dressing modestly, in my own way, and it pisses me off that a patriarchal society encourages women to show more skin, makes it difficult to find modest clothing, and then tells us that we are tempting men. As for guys who actually think that women should cover up so that they don’t get distracted, I always used to say, “I can change every article of clothing on me, but it won’t change the fact that you’re a jerk”.

    @ Lori, or whoever referred to this earlier: http://adayinthefatlife.wordpress.com/ linked to an article called “Is Food the New Sex?” at http://www.hoover.org/publications/policyreview/38245724.html …. seriously thought-provoking, as was this post. Thank you!!

    @ Raven: you mentioned that you are on Metformin. I was on it for three weeks, and I turned into the UberBitch — it was like I turned into a PMSy nightmare — I was miserable and depressed and ate like crazy and cried for hours on end (I don’t know why it reacted like this). I finally persuaded my endocrinologist that it was not working for me (am now looking for new endocrinologist :D). According to my med school friend, Metformin actually causes some people to lose weight, and some idiots actually take it specifically to lose weight. I know that when my medication changes, a lot of times my appetite changes. I also know that sometimes all of the specialists get me really stressed and body-negative, and it can be really difficult for me to feel comfortable with healthy behavior sometimes because of all of the scrutiny.

  181. Augh, crossposting! In the time it took me to type that, Raven, you mentioned the Metformin, which you hadn’t before.

    Seriously. Ignore the “go on a diet” advice. Your weight is a symptom, not a cause. Work on learning what foods calm the cravings for you instead of building into a craving cycle. Then go from there.

  182. fillyjonk~

    thanks. I’ve read the post a couple of times. You *did* make a point of it, I am just such a hardhead about food ideas. It is so foreign to me to believe that NORMAL PEOPLE pass by the bakery and think about brownies but don’t have a complete breakdown/battle every day. I figured they either didn’t think about brownies, or they thought about them once in a blue moon and then indulged. I think I am building new neuron pathways as I think about these new concepts…

    Thanks. Even though I’m a “weight loss” person at this point, I am also not a “diet” person and trying to be more of non-self-loathing person as well. Trying to disassociate guilt from food. Which is why I enjoy this blog so much, even when I don’t agree with every opinion.

  183. DRST, I’ve actually just started a new job and my building has a food court on Level 1 (OMFG) and I was wandering around the food court trying to find something to eat. I was seriously like hello wtf? I’m in a food court and I can eat whatever I want – but I don’t want ANY of it what is going on?!

    Lyn, I like your suggestion of eating whatever will be good for my body – I have no idea why but that simply didn’t occur to me LOL. If you haven’t found it yet you should totally read Kate’s post on Devouring the World – it’s one of the first things I found here at SP and it was a total epiphany for me. Turns out it was also true.

  184. Lyn, as out of character as this is I really did not mean that as a “god, didn’t you even READ the POST” thing. :) I did mean to go on at more length about how completely normal it is to think about food and how wide the gulf is between thinking about it and obsessing about it. But women and especially fat women are more likely to assume they’re obsessing because they “shouldn’t” be thinking about food at all, just as (as someone pointed out above) they’re more likely to think they’re binge eating because they “shouldn’t” be eating anything. If the ideal is zero, every amount looks abnormally high.

  185. I haven’t had a moment to read the comments (200+! I’ll get to them, I always learn something) so I just wanted to say:

    Eating what I want has involved a lot of not eating what I don’t want. I probably eat less now than I did when I felt I had to eat what was in front of me because “ZOMG we can’t waste food!” Giving myself permission to pass on meals, or pass on leftovers, and let my husband eat it has been a big step for me. There’s still a lot of retraining that’s going on to get over all the BS with which I was raised, a lot of “clean your plate” that leaves me feeling over-full and grumpy, but I’m getting better.

    I’m not going to devour the whole world. Most of the time I barely make it through half a sandwich.

  186. And with PCOS (or adult-onset diabetes), the IE thing can be tricky, because if you have some kind of insulin-related problem you DO need to make sure you’re having protein, and fat, and fiber. Except that that’s more a matter of adding things than subtracting them (and not going apeshit with numbers so much as remembering to have them at all). Instead of it being, “I’m eating too many carbs, bad me,” it’s more like, “Hm, how am I doing on that fiber thing today? Could I use a little more, maybe?”

    In your case, Raven, since you seem to have an actual aversion to those kinds of foods, maybe the thing to ask is, “What’s the least noxious way to get that stuff into me right now? I kind of need it. Could I deal with a protein shake? A Balance Bar? Some flaxseeds mixed in my juice? Some kind of supplements that are giving me what I’m not eating at the moment?” I don’t think it’s “cheating on IE” (gads, what a concept) to do that at all. I do it all the time.

  187. Awesome post! I haven’t read all the comments so this might have already been covered, but whatever.

    I never really got the fat = bad, diet = good thing drummed into me when I was younger, so instead of thinking, say, ‘salad is diet food so I must eat it even though I don’t like it’, I’d think ‘salad? That shit is DELICIOUS.’

    So when I’d go to a restaurant and order the salad, my friends would automatically say things like, “Why are you eating that? Are you on a diet or something? You’re not fat.” Never mind that I was eating it because I enjoyed it. You eat salad when you are dieting. Not being fat, I was ‘allowed’ to eat the other things on the menu because I’d somehow proven that I could control myself around food. And ‘allowed’ apparently translated to ‘had to’.

    Pretty sure I wasn’t being very eloquent just now, but I hope you get my meaning :)

  188. This post is amazing!!!!

    Like the person who worked in chocolate factory, my first job was working at Bruster’s, an ice cream store, and we were allowed to have a “treat” at the end of our shift. Most people that heard that would exclaim, “Oh, but I would gain so much weight!” I didn’t though, because even though I would always have a treat on my way home, it wasn’t always the most high-caloric flavor-sometimes it was a sorbet, or an ice, or a very small scoop of ice cream, because since I was allowed any flavor I wanted, I didn’t feel the panic I feel when visiting now, because I don’t have to pick out the very “best” flavor.

  189. To Lori WAAY up there!
    You’re right, I’ve been preserving my sanity points so sometimes I forget all the morality related to food. Hurray!

    Also on the sex thing, when push comes to shove it’s true that most people don’t ACTUALLY believe thought and action are the same. But, that’s the rhetoric especially towards high schoolers/ younger adults (ask me how I know!)

  190. Re: diets and budgets…

    Having been on several super-strict diets and super-strict budgets, I think they’re very similar! Both made me kind of an outcast among people who weren’t dieting/budgeting. Both made eating at restaurants difficult or impossible. Both made me cranky and obsessive (and BORING, since I spent so much time talking about my totally awesome new lifestyle change!). Health/financial experts love to say, “Diets/budgets don’t work, but THIS plan is all about CHANGING YOUR RELATIONSHIP with food/money, and it WILL work!” In both cases, I was very diligent about sticking to the plan for a few weeks or months, but then I’d get discouraged because I wasn’t seeing results fast enough, so I’d give it up. In both cases, I’d go on a massive eating/spending binge as a reward for being “good”, then spend the next few days completely disgusted with my lack of self-control. Both made me feel like I had to lie to myself and others about what I was really doing. And every time I’d start a new one, even though I’d never had any kind of long term success, I’d swear that this time would be the time I got it right, this would be the time I broke free of my old habits and learned all-new behaviors and change my destiny and never ever go back… and of course, it never was.

    Oh, and I’ll never do either of them ever again.

  191. @Lyn

    Oh blimey, I hope it’s normal to want to eat food like brownie, because actually if I’m honest, there are very few days where I don’t eat some sort of sweet , usually baked – brownie sometimes, carrot cake sometimes, apricot slice or something with tart fruit another day. I love it. I also tend to have a VERY low point around 3 if I haven’t something with pretty easily accessible sugar after lunch, unless lunch itself is very calorie-dense. On the other hand, I very rarely have a craving for sweet food later in the day (which doesn’t mean I won’t have dessert when I’m at a fabulous restaurant, because dammit, I love me a fabulous restaurant dessert).

    I think it’s not only normal to think about sugar-and-fat-filled food (because our tastebuds and brains love it), it’s normal to actually eat some of it somewhat regularly. I opt for baking (cake or muffin) and don’t have much desire for candy, which is handy because baking has more nutritional value, but for all that, sugar IS a nutrient. Our brains need it. Our muscles need it. The same goes for fat, and the combination of the two is not inherently a bad thing. There’s this weird, widespread dieting mindset that says that anything sweet or fatty is always in excess to normal caloric needs. It’s a load of crap – our bodies take nutritional value, where nutritional value exists, from all food, whether it’s a sweet cake or a piece of wholegrain toast and peanut butter at breakfast. I don’t have a big appetite, so something calorie-dense in the middle of the day is almost a necessity to give me enough energy to get through a day. If that’s a brownie, so be it; egg, flour, fat, sugar – it’s not a perfectly balanced diet on its own, but there’s some damn good nutrition in that sweet!

  192. I should add – eating sweet baking regularly STILL doesn’t mean I eat sweet food every time I think about it. As a bit of a foodie I love looking at wonderful recipes, but I still don’t rush off to make every dessert I see.

  193. I have so much to say about all this, and I’ll try to distill it down to my most persistent thoughts:

    A couple of years ago I got into giving up things for Lent, because, though I’m not a practicing Catholic, I was raised Catholic, and I like the ritualizing of different times of year, and, well, it just gives me a little nostalgia kick. Anyway, but, it’s also kind of a joke, because it always backfires badly, one way or another.

    Okay, so, one year, I decided to give up cigarettes for Lent, because I don’t really smoke. At the time, I was smoking maybe one cigarette a month. So, I figured, in forty days of Lent, I’d be giving up, what, maybe one and half cigarettes? Easy peasy.

    Well. Not so much. During those forty days, I think I must have had about ten cigarettes. I was totally obsessed. If I passed a smoker on the street, I would inhale deeply and I would want to follow the person so I could sniff them and just inhalllle the ambient smoke. In fact, I think the one thing that could actually turn me into a ‘real’ smoker would be if I tried to not smoke at all, ever. So, I don’t do that. And I currently smoke one cigarette about every two or three months… but the thing is, I really enjoy and even crave that ONE. And then I’m done. Very simple, and I have no problem at all saying no to all those cigarettes I could potentially be smoking, as long as I don’t set out with the idea of being a 100% bona fide non-smoker and never having ANY. That will screw me up bad and quick.

    Hmm, that’s a pretty good analogue to what you were saying, actually, FJ. Now, why do I find it so much more difficult to accept when it’s about food? Well, not difficult per se… I did think it was a great post, and I do get it and I agree with all of what you’re saying, and it’s much like what I do too. Actually, yes… I just realize, as I write this, that I have been walking by Dairy Queen on an almost daily basis for a couple of years now, often thinking briefly of going in, then deciding that, nah, I don’t really want to for whatever reason, and moving on. So that’s the same as what you were saying, essentially, and yet…

    I did have a little disconnect. It went something like “Okay, so FJ is saying that she’s GOOD because she didn’t have the four hot chocolates. But what if it was me, and I DID have the four hot chocolates, does that mean that I would be BAD?” Okay, and, I know that has nothing at all to do with what you were saying.. and, in fact, I am really amazingly much like you in behavior… I’m just realizing, too, that I have my favourite Starbucks treat, a caramel macchiato, about three or four times a year, even though the option exists every day, but.. but but.. why can’t I get that good/bad thing out of my head?

    See, now, with what I just wrote about the Dairy Queen and the caramel machiatto, I feel like it looks like I’m trying to prove that I’m ‘good’ too! My baggage.. not yours, FJ… I’m just observing that this is what it brings out in me. Even though … okay, it’s like, when I don’t think about it… when I get the whole eating/deciding to eat process out of my head, and into somewhere more instinctive, I am… very happy with how it all operates, actually. Yes, I am. But as soon as I start thinking about it, that good/bad construct comes rushing in and … I just …

    want…

    it…

    to leave.

  194. Raven, I know you’re already probably overwhelmed by comments, but one thing that struck me in what you wrote is your feelings of repulsion at foods other than carbs. I can remember feeling like that when I was pregnant–it wasn’t just that I thought graham crackers or creamed spinach or whatever else I was craving was the tastiest choice, but that the thought of eating anything else turned my stomach and I really felt like I just could not do it–and it was very different from the sort of “cravings” I get now, where I want something because I sounds good but I find eating other things possible and satisfying.

    I hate to just repeat what others are saying, but if you are having those sorts of cravings, where you don’t just really want carbs but feel actually repulsed by other foods, I would look into a physical cause, and try to find a fat-friendly doctor who would be willing to work with you on doing that. I just have a hard time thinking that self-control is at the root of cravings like that. I know that, when I was pregnant and having those sorts of repulsed-by-all-other-foods cravings, it wasn’t a self-control issue that caused me to only want to eat spinach in my fifth month or only eat graham crackers in milk in the eighth. Something else was going on, and I could have mustered up the “self control” to eat differently as much as I could muster up the “self control” to eat feces right now.

  195. mara, hey, the good fatty/bad fatty mindset is really hard to break out of. Recognizing that it’s a con job is an important first step! (And I think getting over it means being able to talk neutrally about the things you do eat AND the things you don’t eat — and, I suppose, listen neutrally when others do. I finally got my hot chocolate yesterday, by the way.)

  196. You know, for the longest time, I acted on my id. I’d go with whatever the first instinct was that popped into my head, whether that meant eating a donut when I wanted one, sleeping with someone on a first date because I wanted to or buying clothes because I liked them. The problem was that I did those things every time.

    In a lot of ways I was like a child, but with an expense account. Every time I had an urge, I satisfied it. The problem with satisfying EVERY urge you have as an adult is that you’ll end up heavier and poorer and dissatisfied in the long run.

    I don’t think “not dieting” means giving in to every temptation. I think it’s more about treating your body and yourself with respect and love.

    I was lamenting to my therapist the other day about how hard it is to love yourself. People are always telling you to do this, but they so rarely give you actual steps to accomplish it. “What am I supposed to do? Make myself a sandwich?” I replied, in frustration.

    She laughed, of course, and explained that one way of loving yourself is to think of yourself as a separate person who you love and care about. For example, would you give your sister or your husband or your daughter forty double-stuffed Oreos to eat? And if not, why would you do that to yourself?

    I’ve done a lot of self-destructive things to myself over the years that I would NEVER consider doing to others, even my worst enemies.

    Dieting is about denying yourself, but not dieting isn’t about allowing yourself every desire. It entails making adult decisions about what you and your body deserve. Do you to deserve to be starved? No. But do you deserve to stuff yourself until you’re sick? No.

    This a great post, Kate. Thanks so much.

  197. Lyn, I’m not sure what “normal” is for thin people. I like sweet food, and eat dessert most days. But I think about it more often, because I like food, and I think thinking about options in general (ie should I plant one pack of peas or two? Should I put more money in the market or not?). But for example, last night after class, I thought about eating: red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting, chicken, fish, lemons and black pepper on fish or chicken, fresh spinach, chocolate ice cream, vanilla ice cream, ice cream and pears, chips, figs, tuna on crackers with sriracha sauce, tacos, pizza, beer, brandy, tea, licorice, asparagus and tofu, and cheddar.
    What did I eat? A mango, two small bean and green chilli burritos, a diet vanilla coke, and tea. Some of the things I thought about weren’t real cravings – just “oh, figs, mmm, figs” – and most I didn’t have – but I could have gotten them if I *really* wanted to.
    I have ice cream in my freezer almost all the time, and I’d say I eat around a pint every 4-6 weeks. But I think about it in there quite often, and will often have a couple spoonfuls. Sometimes I eat more. Every time I go to the grocery, I get a pack of anise bears, and eat them all, usually on the same day or over two days. I love them, but don’t feel too deprived when I don’t have them, so I don’t go special between trips. But I love them, and think about them often. On occasion, I’ve eaten most of a pint. The same’s true with most foods. I can, and do, eat an entire pizza on my own sometimes. Usually I don’t, but one of the lovely things about living alone is I don’t have to worry if other people will have enough, or worry about judgment from fellow eaters. In that sense, living alone has really helped my food journey, as I feel more able to eat what I want when I want it.
    I think some of a flickr “what normal people eat” project, in addition to the BMI project, would be incredibly wonderful. I’m certain that skinny people sometimes eat a whole pizza, just as I’m certain I’m not the only fat dessert-lover who doesn’t devour every sweet thing in the house every day.

  198. Alison~

    I think it is GREAT you can have yourself a sweet thing and then stop and not want more and more and more. And that you think about food often without going nutso. That’s my goal, really, is just to be able to say, “hey, I feel like having a slice of cake on my birthday” and eat it and not have it lead to an avalanche of overeating. And I like how you un-demonize the brownies :)

    Anita~

    that would be a great project. Now I am curious as to whether thinner people eat a whole pizza. or a whole pint of ice cream on occasion. I’ve confessed my binges on my blog, but I stay very anonymous because I worry about what my colleagues would think about me eating that volume of food. Hmmm, nore to think about.

  199. I have an IE story to share from last night.
    I was waiting for my laundry to dry, fooling around on facebook, and opening my mail. In that mail was a coupon from Publix ($5 off a $30 purchase). I got one of those I-want-cake moments, got in my car, and drove to Publix. They were closing in 15 minutes, so I had to spend my $30 pretty quickly. I had something I wanted to look for in the pharmacy area, which brought me near the produce. I thought, “oooh veggies,” grabbed a bag of baby carrots, swung around to get some peanut butter, then headed for the bakery. Disappointing cake selection, but I did buy a carrot cake and a tiramisu. I also bought some of that Alouette cheese w/ sundried tomatoes in it from the deli area. I was almost to my $30. Went to frozen foods and got a couple pints of Haagen Daaz. Now, I never expected to eat ALL this sweet stuff when I got home, but I kinda wanted it on hand.
    Well, do you want to know what I opened and ate the minute I got home? The carrots and Alouette cheese. All that sweet stuff is still in my fridge and freezer. Funny, that. I gave myself permission to eat what I wanted, had lots of sweet stuff on hand, and still went for the carrots! Maybe I’ll magically become a thin person now! Ha!

  200. Now I am curious as to whether thinner people eat a whole pizza. or a whole pint of ice cream on occasion.

    When I was a size 8, I would totally do that. Huh, I wonder what changed to make me a fatty fatty 2×4? Could it be that I’m 15 years older now?

  201. This a great post, Kate. Thanks so much.

    Ok, so are we all really Kate Harding? ’cause FJ and SM sure get that a lot.

  202. Carla,

    That’s why I never understood the diet tips that tell you basically to keep any “tempting” foods out of the house. Its like…you’re going to encounter a chocolate chip cookie at some point; might as well learn how to deal with it now than end up eating a whole batch later and feeling sick.

    That suddenly reminds me of something I’ve been learning in my karate classes. You cannot actually be ready to fight/exchange blows/defend yourself if you have never actually fought a bit/taken a hit/learned what to do. I’ve heard lots of stuff about “aliveness in martial arts”, and how it’s super-important that you get the chance to trade a few smacks with your classmates to toughen yourself up and hone your reflexes. No simply moving through the paces doing katas.

    How can you make a good choice in a critical situation, when you’ve never had to make that choice before? Giving yourself the chance to actually eat a damn cookie or not, it builds character?

  203. There was a discussion I had on a forum once that involved people talking about eating a pint of ice cream. Honestly, I don’t know anybody, fat or thin, who hasn’t eaten a whole pint of ice cream at one time or another. Doing it every night probably isn’t the healthiest option, but I wouldn’t even necessarily consider that binge eating. While I’ve never eaten a whole pizza–although my husband has, and he used to do it a lot more when he was younger and thinner–I have eaten whole pints of ice cream, and I don’t think my behavior was either compulsive or disordered.

    Like I think I said on here before, I lived with a friend who had bulimia for a while, and my idea of a binge changed dramatically. Eating a pint of ice cream because it tastes really good and you’re kind of distracted because you’re watching a movie while you eat it is so massively different from somebody eating everything they can get their hands on and consuming it in a very joyless, compulsive way. I think a lot of time we consider enjoying food thoughtlessly to be “binging,” because we often eat more than the recommended serving size or more than we think we should, but I really don’t think people who truly have binge-eating behaviors are either enjoying the food or eating thoughtlessly. From what I observed, there is joyless, focused, and compulsive quality that goes along with true binges that distinguishes them from the kind of normal overeating that pretty much everybody engages in from time to time.

    As an example, I went for a long walk with a friend yesterday, and when I go for long walks in the afternoon I inevitably find myself really hungry around 2 or 3. I got really hungry around 3, and decided to have one of the cinnamon buns I’d brought home from my class. It was really good, and not very big, and I was still a bit hungry after I ate it. Now, at that point, I could have waited until dinner without feeling really crappy, but I decided to have another one. And, I ate it while I was using the computer, so I wasn’t really thinking, and by the time I finished it, I felt uncomfortably full. Did I overeat? Yeah. Was it a binge? No. My friend with bulimia would laugh at me if I told her that eating two small cinnamon buns was a binge. Was it compulsive? No, just thoughtless. And, I ended up eating about half as much of my pasta for dinner as I’d usually eat, so I figure my body worked it out, calorie-wise. Now, it would have been healthier to have eaten less cinnamon bun and more pasta and tomato sauce, but I don’t think I did any harm or that it’s really going to matter to my long-term health. I did realize that 2 cinnamon buns = me feeling icky, which is a good lesson for next time I make them.

    I think there’s a tendency for fat people, especially fat women, to pathologize all of their eating behavior, because we’re assuming that if we ate “normally” we’d be thin, so we must be eating abnormally no matter how we’re eating. But most of the time we’re eating in exactly the same way as thin people, who I’m assuming occasionally eat two cinnamon buns, feel yucky because they really were satisfied with one, and then just go on with their day, eat a bit less at dinner, and don’t often give a second thought to it.

  204. Ok, so are we all really Kate Harding? ’cause FJ and SM sure get that a lot.

    Ha! Actually, my rubric for the success of a post is how many times people assume Kate wrote it, so I don’t really mind. It’s nice to get credit, but when people like the blog it benefits all of us, and it’s not like SM or I have books out right now. :)

    Also, Lori, great comment. The distinction between thoughtlessness and compulsion is so important and so overlooked.

  205. The point is that refusing yourself nothing is not the same as giving yourself everything.

    This is the most stunning piece of insight about intuitive eating I have ever, ever seen.

    I am going to print it out on little cards and give it to every single person I know who bemoans their “bad eating” because they want a cookie or a big bowl of potato soup with bread or whatever. Including myself. Yes! I still catch myself doing it! But not as much.

  206. Lori: Well said.

    As for binging, I know “they” say you only binge on “junk food” however, I can tell you that most of my binges were with “acceptible foods”.
    I could tear through bags of raw vegetables, fruit, please I could eat pounds of fruit at a sitting and I even binged on the exhalted chicken breast. I cooked a whole package so they would be ready and I ate all of them.

  207. FJ, thanks so much for this post! You’ve articulated something I knew intuitively but hadn’t been able to put into words. Like someone else way upthread, pregnancy has really helped me with intuitive eating. When I was in the nausea stage, it was a struggle to get enough calories in a day to not feel terrible and exhausted, and it completely changed the way I eat. I’ve never been a serious dieter, but I have in the past gone through diet phases and for most of my life, food has been at the top of my mind.

    Pregnancy changed that for me because for the first time in my life, gaining weight has been seen as a good thing and I’m being encouraged to eat and eat plenty. Also, I feel entitled to indulge – after all, I’m doing something hard, why shouldn’t I be able to have that frappacino? The end result, though, is exactly what you described in this post – now that I feel like I can indulge, I usually don’t! I’ve got chocolate sitting around in my school bag, something that would never have lasted long for me when chocolate was a forbidden pleasure. Now, it’s like, yeah it’s there, I can have some if I want…but I haven’t really wanted it in the last couple weeks. Eventually, I’ll want some and there it will be, but for now, because it’s not restricted, I think I’m craving it less.

    I came to this blog right around when I got pregnant and the reading experience coupled with my new lived experience has convinced me that I am never going back to a dieting mindset. I’m excited to have my body more or less back to normal (I’m due in a few weeks, but since I plan to breast-feed, I guess I won’t really be back to normal til the baby is weaned) so I can see how intuitive eating works for me then!

  208. First time commenter, I thought the post was very interesting. Believe it or not, wanting to gobble up lots of high fat, high calorie foods is both natural and evolutionary. Humans are wired to crave, seek, and consume energy-dense foods which – at least until a few generations ago – were relatively hard to come by. The big challenge we face as humans is that we no longer have to deal with scarcity when it comes to these types of foods. Don’t get me wrong – we’re still responsible for our choices. But it helps to understand what’s going on at a primal level within our bodies.

  209. fillyjonk, on April 23rd, 2009 at 7:23 pm Said:
    A Sarah, I assume you’re familiar with the Free Range Kids movement?

    Ooo, fillyjonk, thanks ever so much for that link. I remember the hullabaloo when she let her kid ride the subway but I never knew she had a blog!

  210. The problem with satisfying EVERY urge you have as an adult is that you’ll end up heavier and poorer and dissatisfied in the long run.

    People keep saying things like this, but no, you won’t end up heavier in the long run. Maybe briefly, in the short run, but you can’t make someone permanently fatter by feeding them too much any more than you can make them permanently thinner by starving them. If you gain weight over the long run, it’s probably because you’re getting older and your body is just changing with age, not because you ate too much.

    And I would totally hand other adults 40 Oreos to eat if they wanted them. What do I care if that’s what they want? They can make their own decisions and I’m not hurting them by giving them options.

    Do you to deserve to be starved? No. But do you deserve to stuff yourself until you’re sick? No.

    I want you to notice the change in voice here. No one deserves to be starved, absolutely not. But everyone deserves the right to make their own choices. If you want to starve YOURSELF or stuff yourself until you’re sick, yes, you TOTALLY HAVE THAT RIGHT. And you deserve it! Should you do either of those things? Maybe not. Should society and doctors and every message you see everywhere you look from the time you’re an infant push you mercilessly to do either of those things? Big fat NO to that, too.

    Lyn, I’m not sure what “normal” is for thin people.

    I have a pretty good idea of this – and it’s very similar to what you described. Sometimes I do eat a whole pizza and a whole tub of ice cream myself. Sometimes I don’t. I think about food a lot when I’m not eating, but not obsessively – just like oh hey, remember you like cookies. Sometimes I decide I want something, so I either have it or I don’t or I plan to get it sometime soon, or something. And occasionally eating a whole lot because you want to and it’s tasty and satisfying isn’t really what I think of as a “binge,” so it’s really interesting to me that you guys are using that word for it. I actually hadn’t considered it before, but I guess I think of a binge as eating so far past being full that I have considerable pain and discomfort and get really sick. It’s really extreme in my head. Like what I did at Halloween some years as a kid (oh god, that’s not a pleasant memory). (When I overate at almost every meal for most of a year as a kid, though, that was less pleasant, and it felt desperate, and maybe that was more like what BED is like for some people?) I mean, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, always was and still is. I LOVE feast holidays, even if I tend to overeat a little at them.

    Eating a pint of ice cream because it tastes really good and you’re kind of distracted because you’re watching a movie while you eat it is so massively different from somebody eating everything they can get their hands on and consuming it in a very joyless, compulsive way. I think a lot of time we consider enjoying food thoughtlessly to be “binging,” because we often eat more than the recommended serving size or more than we think we should, but I really don’t think people who truly have binge-eating behaviors are either enjoying the food or eating thoughtlessly.

    Or what Lori said! This is what I get for composing comments as I read. But I’ll let it stand. :)

  211. I’ve scrolled through and read most comments, but apologies if someone else has said this before!

    One thing we don’t mention too often about *why* we might suddenly desperately want a particular food is advertising. Often a have a really desperate craving for a McDonald’s. I KNOW I don’t really like the taste and it makes me kinda sick, but I really want it. Nine times out of ten, this is because I’ve just walked past the McD or seen a TV ad. I hate that I’m such a sucker for it!

  212. volcanista said “you can’t make someone permanently fatter by feeding them too much any more than you can make them permanently thinner by starving them. If you gain weight over the long run, it’s probably because you’re getting older and your body is just changing with age, not because you ate too much.”

    Have to disagree here (although I do agree with other parts of your comment). I was a “normalish” weight and then I started eating tremendous amounts of food. Over a ten year span I went from 165 pounds to 280. And I wasn’t even 30 yet. Had I not stopped eating that volume of food, I most certainly would be 350+ by now (which is not bad or wrong, in and of itself, but hey, I have 5 children and I was to the point I could barely walk or function because of the weight and aggravated knee problems). When I stopped eating so much food (and I did NOT start “dieting”… I started changing the food types and amounts I ate) then my weight came down to a more comfortable 220ish pounds. My weight was and is directly related to the amounts I am eating.

    Now, I don’t aim to be thin or anything. I mean, I just want to be comfortable and pain free and be able to play with my children and function. That’s why I am making these changes.

  213. Had I not stopped eating that volume of food, I most certainly would be 350+ by now

    a) You’re assuming that, but most (though not all) people have a physical upper limit just as they have a lower limit. It’s easy to say “yeah, but I don’t, because I totally would have gained another 100 pounds,” but what evidence do you have?

    b) Scientific evidence points to weight gain from extreme changes in eating habits being temporary weight gain. And, in fact, your anecdotal evidence points there too — when you stopped eating so much food you returned to somewhere closer to your original weight (obviously there are metabolism changes and aging in there, plus one’s “natural” weight is usually a range with upper and lower limits of its own). That’s not getting “permanently” fatter. If you consciously dieted you might get thinner — “diets don’t work” doesn’t mean “diets won’t make you lose any weight,” that would be insane — but you wouldn’t get permanently thinner.

  214. Mary, on April 23rd, 2009 at 9:20 pm Said:

    At the moment, I am trying to debug some persistent binges . I think it’s a hunger-related problem: I’m not eating the right breakfast for me, or something similar.

    I think one thing we forget is that there often IS a period where we desperately want junk food (or any food) after a fast (or a long period of dieting). I think it’s compatible with HAES to try to steer that outrageous appetite toward healthier choices, but OTOH sometimes ice cream or whatever is the only thing that shuts it up.

    Remember that in the Minnesota starvation experiment, on recovery the guys went through a period of eating twice what they normally would have prior to the experiment. But gradually their appetites go back to normal. I tend to consider a strong desire for junkfood as an indication that I haven’t been eating enough calories. myself.

    I think the point of HAES is to respect your desires, but respecting them doesn’t mean you put them completely in charge. Dieting is when your desires have no rights and deserve not consideration. :p

  215. I was a “normalish” weight and then I started eating tremendous amounts of food. Over a ten year span I went from 165 pounds to 280.

    Lyn, things like this make me wonder if some people just have a really plastic or labile set-point. Or perhaps a really high set-point that initiates a really intense drive to eat and gain weight to meet that point.

    Anyway, I find it fascinating, the differences in everyone’s experience with food and weight. For a lot of people, weight remains basically stable, if everything else is functioning normally. But there are also people who have really extreme weight changes — and whether that’s related just to food intake (which, to me, is ALWAYS mediated by the drive to eat, an internal mechanism that can only be *somewhat* influenced by environment — but it’s not just a simple choice one makes) or to some other, underlying process that we can’t see, I don’t know. But it’s fascinating, all the same. And morally neutral.

  216. Right, shiloh, and even wanting that much “junk” food will probably be a temporary thing as you come out of a starvation period. Eating nothing but junk for a month or three won’t HURT most people. After a few months when most people start experiencing more average appetite levels for more varied foods, then you’ll return to more “normal” eating patterns. It’s totally OKAY to do the junk food thing while your body is recovering, and to trust the cravings sometimes. (As before, this is particular to the person who has done a lot of dieting and does not tend towards BED. But again, eating a tub of ice cream or a whole pizza is not a binge.)

    Lyn, what FJ said. There is a very small number of people out there who seem to lack a “setpoint range,” whose weights fluctuate very widely and do not seem to have any equilibrium. But the vast majority of people have metabolisms built to work with their inherited body size, with some variation over the course of a lifetime (generally people get fatter and metabolisms slow down, which is normal and okay). And in that case, you just can’t make a thin person permanently fat. As with everything, there are the rare exceptions, where other factors must be coming into play (maybe thyroid issues, maybe something else, who knows) – but that means that everyone who is trying to permanently lose weight by changing eating habits is hoping they are that tiny percent of the population. And in almost every case, it’s simply not true.

    (Fwiw, also, most fat people don’t have joint problems. But it makes sense that with a very short-term weight gain where your muscles and joints don’t have time to adapt, you might experience that.)

  217. I have a pretty good idea of this – and it’s very similar to what you described. Sometimes I do eat a whole pizza and a whole tub of ice cream myself. Sometimes I don’t.

    Yeah, that sounds right. I should have clarified – instead of not knowing what “normal” is for thin people, I’m not sure what’s “normal” for anyone outside my immediate family, and less so my immediate coworkers. But we don’t talk much about the “private” eating that happens, so I’m always unsure. (I mean, I don’t mention to my coworkers or dad or mom that I ate an entire pizza over the course of Saturday.)

  218. btw, I got curious and checked out Free Range Kids, even though my kid is now 17 and the physical free-ranging is a moot point by now – or is it? Or are there 17 year olds out there who still don’t have freedom of movement? Anyway, I was fascinated to find a term for the very thing that I had instinctively always done. Only – and I didn’t read enough of the blog to know if this is inherently a part of the concept, and all the posts I did read were about physically allowing kids to go places on their own – I would argue that the ‘free-ranging’ is mental, too. Along the lines of what you were describing, A Sarah, about letting your son decide if he wants to brush his teeth. I mean, teeth are physical, obviously, but the freedom of choice is mental.

    I’m just realizing that, yes, I have successfully almost finished raising a free-range kid. Yay me! I didn’t have a term for it, but I always knew that what I was doing was a bit different.

    In case anyone here with younger kids is interested in that perspective – honestly, as far as basic philosophy goes, I would not do a single thing differently. And my daughter has given me very little cause for worry, over the years, about her physical safety. Really, almost none. She comes home when she says she will. She tells me where she is. SHE TELLS ME WHAT SHE’S DOING… even when she knows I won’t like it. That in itself is remarkable. I’m just remembering what an accomplished liar and double-life liver I was by her age.

    As of the past few months, she doesn’t have a curfew, which was an instinctive decision based on where I feel she is in terms of maturity and responsibility and the choices she makes while she’s out. And it’s not that she’s never done anything ‘bad’.. no, I’ve seen her drunk once or twice, I’ve seen her come home with multiple hickeys on her neck from multiple boys.. after one community dance which was more or less a sexual free for all – most of those explorations happened when she was around 14 or 15 – and I know some of the things I could tell you would sound.. well, distressing, from the point of view of some parents, but the thing is, they’re really not. Because I could always connect with the same person – the same reliable personality – underneath all the teenage madness, and in an essential way I always trusted her, because I always HAVE trusted her. And now, at 17, she is someone whose company I genuinely enjoy. We are edging closer toward having a roomate-type relationship, which feels.. almost dizzying in the speed at which it arrived, but nevertheless, that is where we are, and I’ve never seen any particular merit in denying or squishing down the consciousness of where a person intrinsically IS, in their mind or abilities or desires or development. I have occasionally felt very inadequate as a parent, but that’s almost always during the times when I fall into thinking “but what would people THINK?” As long as I can keep that amorphous blob of ‘people’ out of my head, I do fine.

    And, FJ, I didn’t say this before, but thank you for your post. It really opened my eyes to what I actually already do, and what blocks I still have. The truth is, once I let myself be ‘free-range’, mentally, I mean, I don’t really have very many compulsive behaviours, and that includes my eating, which is, for my body and my life, sane. Truly sane, and connected to what I intrinsically need and want. But when I start externalizing it, or measuring against what someone else thinks is okay, that’s when the whole fabric of my sanity feels threatened, and I want to clutch it tightly to me! But really, I don’t need to. I just need to be wherever I am in the moment with it all.

    I read the Geneen Roth books about a decade ago, and I liked the concept of intuitive eating, very much, but I also felt a judgement from her. Maybe it was my own lens that I was bringing to it. I felt her saying: Eating when you’re hungry is GOOD. Eating when you’re not hungry is NOT GOOD (Geneen is too gentle to actually say ‘bad’, even in my head). So the, because that felt like a prohibition, I naturally wanted to test it. I wanted to eat when I wasn’t hungry. A lot.

    And I still do a bit. I mean, I love the feeling and yumminess of eating, and I don’t like getting hungry, because I go really quickly from slightly peckish to nauseous, and I’d rather not get to that point. So.. well, I just like eating, period. But, yes, there are many, many things I choose not to eat, and I don’t really, in theory or practice, eat the whole world, and I just hadn’t noticed that till now. So, thank you!

  219. I am a thin person (now a US size 8, possibly the largest I’ve been when not within months of childbirth) and I have definitely eaten pizza and icecream by the whole, large, pint, tubful, box or planetload at various times in my life, usually when thinner than I am now and occasionally when pregnant.

    But that’s ok because I’m naturally thin. It’s only fat lardy folks who have to feel bad when engaging in behaviours I’m allowed to take for granted. Well-known fact.

    (I should go take my PMS medication. Really.)

  220. Over a ten year span I went from 165 pounds to 280. And I wasn’t even 30 yet. Had I not stopped eating that volume of food, I most certainly would be 350+ by now (which is not bad or wrong, in and of itself, but hey, I have 5 children and I was to the point I could barely walk or function because of the weight and aggravated knee problems).

    Lyn, while consistently overeating could temporarily push you past your set point, I would also imagine that having 5 children would have a huge impact on somebody’s weight, probably more than eating habits would. Women tend to be heavier after having a baby than before, and women who have more kids tend to be heavier than women with less. I think we have this cultural myth that somehow it’s because women with children (and particularly more children) are lazy, stupid, or “let themselves go,” but it seems more reasonable to me to imagine that there are real physical changes that go along with pregnancy and childbirth that result in the weight gain. The idea that women should return to their pre-pregnancy weight after having a baby is so common, and yet seems to be the experience of very few women, most of whom find their set point goes up at least a few pounds. So I’m not sure where we’ve gotten this idea that women should somehow be sure to not carry any evidence they had a child–either in stretch marks or “extra” pounds or both–on their bodies, or why women have been so willing to buy into it.

    Certainly a lack of exercise and consistent overeating can lead to some weight gain, but most people cannot eat themselves up to 350 pounds. I have and have always had a hearty appetite, and if (when I’m not nursing or pregnant) I’m consistently eating past fullness and not exercising, I might get up to 215 or so, and then my body stops me. Seriously, I cannot keep it up. My appetite massively decreases, and I just can’t keep eating like I was, even if I wanted to. And, if I’m eating very little and exercising a lot, I might get down to 185 or 190, and then my body stops me. I suddenly find my appetite increasing a lot, and I need to eat more than I had been. I tend to stay pretty steady around 195-200 pounds, despite the fact that I actually eat more than several people I know who are significantly larger than I am. I tend to be pretty active so that’s no doubt part of why I tend to have a big appetite, but I just don’t believe that somebody who weighs 200 pounds more than I do is eating twice as much as I am. They didn’t eat themselves up to being 400 lbs. any more than I could eat myself to their size.

    I think one striking example of this is how few people become thin after WLS. Even after having the amount of food their body can consume and use slashed drastically, many people remain officially “obese” after WLS. If we can eat ourselves very fat and diet ourselves very thin, that wouldn’t be the case. I think it just shows that for people genetically destined to be very large, even when they are on what amounts to extreme deprivation diets, they can’t get their body to move that far past their set point.

  221. Very interesting points and insights, all. This discussion has been thought provoking.

    fj~

    You’re right, who knows what would have happened in reality if I’d done something differently? I am assuming, I guess, because when I was eating that way I was gaining. And now, on rare occasion when I go back to eating that way (which I have done for a week or two here and there), I gain weight rapidly. As much as 11 pounds in a week (which yeah, I know is partly bloating, but still. It only comes back off if I work hard, and takes a couple weeks to get it back off). The set point/natural limits thing is interesting. And I wonder if there ever IS such a thing as a “permanent weight” for anyone?

    volcanista~
    true on the joint problems. I am pretty sure I would have this severe degenerative arthristis no matter what I weighed, even if I was thin. My mother had it (she was obese too though but again, I think the weight just brought it on sooner). Now that I have it, even though the weight isnt the cause IMO… the weight affects my mobility because of my pain levels.

    Every day I think about foods and want them. I want more food than I could possibly ever eat. I am trying to learn to say NO to myself… not all the time, but enough of the time that I do not cause myself health problems. And whenever I say no to myself, I want the food even more. This is something I am constantly working on and trying to figure out!

  222. Lori~

    That is fascinating how your body regulates itself through appetite, etc. It makes me wonder if something is broken inside me. (Not being down on myself, but just wondering why I don’t seem to be able to self regulate like that!) It certainly sounds normal, to have a set weight range that your body “likes” and tries to stay at.

  223. I just wanted to add, lest what I said sound all, “This is my experience and so it must be true for everyone!,” I realize other people have different experiences. I do think, though, that part of why I tend to stay around a stable set point is because I haven’t dieted in earnest for probably 10 years, at least. I do know that my set point is higher than it would be otherwise because I take Zoloft (when I’m not on it I tend to hover around 175 lbs.), but I’ll take fat and not panic-ridden over thinner and having debilitating panic attacks every day any time.

    But obviously a lot of things mess with people’s set points, especially medications and dieting. As has been said on this site a number of times, one near sure-fire way to make people fat is putting them on diets. For most people, dieting seems to push their set point up, and each weight-loss/weight-regain cycle tends to push it up a bit more.

  224. Lori said:
    But obviously a lot of things mess with people’s set points, especially medications and dieting.

    In both the Minnesota Starvation Experiment and in another experiment where volunteer prison inmates deliberately overate, attempting to gain weight, most of the men (and in both cases it was all men) returned to their normal weight in the long run (the MSE guys gained ten percent first, while they were eating twice their normal calories). So I would argue that most people do have a pretty solid set point.

    But in both cases, there were a couple of exceptions. I don’t know or don’t remember with the MSE how many, but with the prison one there were two guys (out of about twenty, I think) who did not easily drop back to their normal weight after the force-feeding, or who hadn’t when the study was declared finished.

    Maybe there was just a delay; maybe the force-feeding got them into a diet-mentality and so they were over-restricting and their bodies were hanging onto the weight thinking they were in a famine-prone environment, or maybe there’s a small but significant percentage of people whose set points are rather easily knocked off kilter.

  225. Going vegan (gradually) was totally a part of intuitive eating for me. It’s been six years and it’s a lot *less* stress for me not to have to eat foods that I’m not comfortable with–I used to have to pretend I didn’t know where it came from, and that didn’t feel good. Foods in line with my values and taste buds are totally where it’s at. But transitioning was, like six years (so yeah, six years transition+six years vegan=12 years of vegan-ish experimenting).

    Plus, fat, salt, sugar all have lots of vegan forms :)

  226. Oh – for some people, pregnancy does an absolute number on all the joints and connective tissues. Tapdances on them. I should think five pregnancies in a row would have a non-neutral effect on the skeletal structure, relaly.

  227. @Raven – Some of your talking about craving breads/cupcakes/pizza reminds me of how I was constantly craving meat, fish, eggs, and cheese for a couple years. Turns out I have a vitamin B12 absorption deficiency and those foods HAVE it!

    Once I started getting B12 supplements I found myself wanting things like FRUIT for breakfast. Is weird.

    You mentioned depression – Could your body be using wheat to plump up your serotonin stores? I’ve been diagnosed with depression a couple times, and usually craved breads/noodles/etc less if I was on an antidepressant….

  228. But obviously a lot of things mess with people’s set points, especially medications and dieting. As has been said on this site a number of times, one near sure-fire way to make people fat is putting them on diets. For most people, dieting seems to push their set point up, and each weight-loss/weight-regain cycle tends to push it up a bit more.

    This is one of the toughest things for me to grapple with in FA and also ED recovery. I believe it to be true (finally) and it upsets me deeply. Just thinking about it overwhelms me. I try not to. All I can think of is if I’d never been put on a starvation diet at 11 years old and subsequently developed an ED that eating normally now wouldn’t make me as fat. It’s frustrating beyond belief and I don’t know what to do to get over it.

  229. How big is a pint of ice cream again? I’m in Canada and we’re all about the liters here. Growing up, the house always had a 2 liter bucket of bog-standard ice cream in it, and I remember getting a scoop for dessert sometimes. As a kid, that was the most awesome thing ever, having ice cream. And when I’d get ice cream cake on my birthday? BLISS! …and those are still good and tasty things now, sure, but I don’t buy 2 liter buckets anymore because there is no way I could ever eat it fast enough before it all goes frosty. Hell, I can’t even make it through those wee containers of Ben and Jerrys without wasting some. I feel really virtuous about this sometimes. Oh look at me! I don’t eat much ice cream, woo! I’m a good fattie, honest! Pfft, I just don’t want ice cream. It should be a morally neutral thing.

    I am SO glad to hear others comment that Intuitive Eating can be hit and miss. I AM allowed to buy the wrong sandwich for lunch, eat it and feel lousy, and go “eh, better luck tomorrow” rather than agonize that I’m a bad person with no concept of what’s good for her. I am! I totaly am! Thank you!

  230. Aibhe~

    true, but my mom was walking with a cane by the time she was 50 (due to arthritis) and I’m an only child. In my case I think the genes just said I was going to have major joint issues. I’m trying to delay it with supplements, exercises, weight loss… (delay my total knee replacement surgery that my ortho recommended when I was 38).

    The pregnancies definitely did push my weight up. I was 140 until I had kids. Then my body settled around 168 for years, even after having 4 children and a miscarriage. The stress eating/binge issues started mostly after I was divorced with 4 little kids. I went from 165 to 245 in under a year. Then spent a decade at 245-280… and yes I was dieting on and off, and every time I dieted down to 235, I’d flip out, and regain all the weight. Diets definitely do NOT work.

    No more pregnancies for me, so maybe now my body can calm down a bit and settle back to a lower point. I hope anyway.

  231. If not for my high level of willpower i’d probably weigh 400lbs now.

    Lasivian,

    I realize you were probably joking, but in case you weren’t: most people don’t have the genetics to weigh 400lbs. (It also helps if you’re tall and yo-yo diet a LOT) If you have parents or grandparents who weigh or weighed above 300lbs, then you may have cause to worry. But otherwise? Probably not.

  232. -oh, and another interesting thing. When I had my fifth and final child, I lost weight naturally from stress (she was critically ill) and then when she came home I GAINED like no tomorrow.

    There is nothing wrong with finding comfort in food. I get that. But when does it BECOME wrong? Or does it ever? Is it wrong when it affects your health to the point you’re immobile or dependant on others or can’t work? Is it wrong if you find comfort in food so often and in such volumes that it’s like an addiction? I am trying to find a place where I feel like, “Okay, I want a scoop of ice cream and THAT IS OKAY. It is not wrong or bad to eat for comfort.” But is it, if I eat a half gallon, and then eat poorly for weeks and it hurts my body? I need to find the place of balance.

  233. Hell, I can’t even make it through those wee containers of Ben and Jerrys without wasting some.

    Those are pints.

    I find that nowadays I can’t get through a pint of ice cream like I used to. In my teens and twenties, I could eat a pint of ice cream and still have room for more food. Now, if I’m really hungry, I might get through half a pint, but even that tends to leave me feeling kind of icky. I like ice cream enough, though, that I do sort of miss the days where I could eat a whole pint and not feel sick to my stomach or end up with digestive problems.

  234. Thanks, Lori! I had a suspcion that those were the fabled “pints” that everyone talked about. A tiny pint of ice cream wouldn’t have flown in my home growing up. My mom and dad would have had to have a throwdown over who got to eat it.

    My first pint of Ben and Jerrys was devoured as fast as I could manage. Oh man, it was great. But now, a good 9 years later? …eehn, I buy a pint, eat a few spoonfuls, call it a day. I know what you mean about the digestive problems. Pizza does a number on me these days. No more extra cheese, can’t eat the garlic fingers that come with it, stuffed crust is ENTIRELY out of the question… and even that might wind up putting me on the can for a few unpleasant hours.

  235. But in both cases, there were a couple of exceptions. I don’t know or don’t remember with the MSE how many, but with the prison one there were two guys (out of about twenty, I think) who did not easily drop back to their normal weight after the force-feeding, or who hadn’t when the study was declared finished.
    Maybe there was just a delay; maybe the force-feeding got them into a diet-mentality and so they were over-restricting and their bodies were hanging onto the weight thinking they were in a famine-prone environment, or maybe there’s a small but significant percentage of people whose set points are rather easily knocked off kilter.

    Perhaps their starter weight was not their “set point” for those participants at all – perhaps they’d been dieting, or hyperexercising, or malnourished, or whatever just before the experiment started. With a prison population you’re not exactly starting out with folks who have been across-the-board optimally nourished from birth. And I wonder how stringent their consent and ethics procedures were; experimenting on incarcerated folks is one big slippery slope.

  236. There is nothing wrong with finding comfort in food. I get that. But when does it BECOME wrong? Or does it ever?

    I’m not sure that “wrong” is the right word to use. Personally, and without having really thought through this, I think I’d make a distinction between deriving comfort from food and seeking comfort in food, if that makes sense. I guess, while I think alcoholism is a very imperfect analogy, it can be like alcohol. Having a glass of wine is relaxing. And, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying the nice, relaxing feeling you get after having a glass of wine. But, if every time you start to feel stressed, you’re reaching for a glass of wine to relax, that’s probably not a very good situation. But there’s nothing wrong with the wine, or with being relaxed by wine, or even, I don’t think, with the desire for the wine, since it’s just a desire to feel less stressed, which is normal and understandable. There are just problems that are going to develop if somebody is always turning to alcohol when they need to relax, and so developing a wider range of coping skills would probably be a good idea, so that they can enjoy having a glass of wine with dinner and feeling relaxed afterwards without feeling like they need to reach for a glass of wine every time they are stressed.

    But, again, I think it’s important to determine if it’s really a matter of comfort eating to a degree that is damaging a person’s health, and assuming any comfort eating is too much because a person is fat. I know I’ve had the thought that “I always eat when I’m bored!” before. It’s not true. I actually do a whole bunch of things when I’m bored: knit, go online, play video games, go for a walk, read a book, cook, etc. But, occasionally I will eat when I’m bored, because eating can be fun. It’s been so ingrained in me that eating because you are bored is a huge, absolutely no-no that any eating out of boredom seems not just wrong to me, but immediately turns into an “I always.” When I think about it, though, while I think it would indeed be a problem if I always ate while I was bored, I don’t think occasionally having a cookie because the cookie is there, it will be fun to eat, and I’m not doing anything else is a bad or damaging thing.

    I think maybe rather than thinking of eating for comfort being wrong, it’s better to just think that having a wide range of coping behaviors is better. Because, really, I think any time you are turning to the same behavior for comfort, it’s going to lead to problems. I like to walk to relieve stress, but I went through a period where I was walking every time I felt anxious, and it was not good. I was probably walking 6-7 miles a day, I would get cranky with my family if they interrupted my workouts in any way, and I started feeling very dependent on exercising for emotional stability. If I couldn’t walk as much as I wanted one day, I’d feel much more anxious. Even though walking is in itself a healthy behavior, I was using it as my only coping mechanism for anxiety, and that wasn’t good. I had to consciously decide that I was going to limit my walking to 2-3 miles a day for a while, and then look for other ways to deal with anxious feelings I had. Now it’s one of a variety of ways I cope, and I don’t freak out if one day I can’t exercise. There was nothing “wrong” with exercising or even, I don’t think, with my using it as my sole coping mechanism for a while, but there were also healthier and more productive ways for me to deal with life.

  237. I always get a little twitchy in the eye when vegetarianism/veganism comes up in these kinds of discussions.

    So I’m going to put my polemical, essentialist argument out there and let the chips fall where they may. Honestly I don’t even need to hear about all of the exceptions and ‘but my body x,y,z… so I can’t be vegetarian.’ I’ve seriously heard it all but haven’t ever really come out and said what I really wanted to say.

    The truth is that I don’t care if you eat meat or not. I do care WHY you chose not to eat meat. I see absolutely no reason whatsoever for someone to refuse to eat meat unless it has something to do with concern for animal rights and or welfare. Invariably every person I know who ‘used to be a vegetarian but…’ went veggie for reasons like health or environment. (Incidently they’re usually the same people who try to claim they’re vegetarian even though they eat chicken.) Those issues can be solved by buying locally grown and organic. And any vegan or vegetarian worth their weight in dark chocolate knows how to make a very unhealthy diet fit within the cruelty free rubric.

    But, the ONLY way that animal welfare issues will be truly addressed in our society is when enough people stop eating animal products so that it hurts Tyson, Smithfield, et al marketshares. The truth is that I don’t think there’s anything wrong with eating meat. I just think there’s something wrong with eating meat within the current paradigm of agro-industry and at the current levels we do in post-industrial nations. I’d rather hear someone say ‘I feel bad for the bigs but I love bacon’ than ‘I tried vegetarianism but….’

    I don’t care what PETA says- the animal movement needs
    more people who say no to meat because an animal dies a brutal, horrible death not more people concerned about cardio vascular disease etc. The biggest meat eaters I know have LOW blood pressure, no diabetes, and are on the low side of BMI sized.

    So if not eating meat causes you to binge, or restrict or whatever and the thought of a chicken being kicked to death or a lame pig being hoisted by a chain or a forklift doesn’t deter you from that OR you’re not willing to accept your role in that process and think buying locally slaughtered meat is a solution (its not) – then eat the fucking meat and stop beating yourself up. Life is too short to torture yourself. Life is certainly too short to torment yourself because you’re worried someone is going to know you’re eating cheese. And if anybody criticizes you for making decisions based on what you need-fuck ‘em and spare everybody the psedo- activist apologies. Its your body.

  238. Lyn, I think the idea is that eating habits are never “wrong” in the moral sense of the word. I hate using that word, along with “bad,” because even though something can be “bad for you,” or “wrong for you,” i.e. toxic to your well-being, the shorthand of “bad” and “wrong” most commonly refers to some kind of value judgement.

    Certain eating habits can definitely harm you and be contrary to your well-being. And that is where you should pay attention and express concern — not because you’re being BAD or WRONG, but because you want to take good care of yourself. And if something is harming you and making you feel rotten, it’s obviously not working for you. And you deserve attention and care in order to figure out what’s going on, and what IS going to work.

    What you don’t deserve is a lot of judgement and self-flagellation.

    I hope this makes some kind of sense.

  239. Lyn, I just want to point out your use of the word “wrong” in your question! i don’t really have answers to those questions, but I just don’t think of it as being right or wrong, period. Eating foods that make me sick makes me shake my head at myself the next day and be like, damn, volcanista, that was dumb, though it was tasty. But it wasn’t immoral. It was just a dumb move.

    So I just don’t think that’s the right question. Possibly harming yourself in the long run for temporary pleasure is a very understandable thing to do, and if the alternative is to maintain long-term health at the expense of ANY enjoyment now, well, I don’t always fall on the side of long-term health there. If the alternative is easier than that, then maybe it’s the right move. But the difference between finding comfort or enjoyment in a scoop of ice cream and addictive binging is really a huge one. Those things aren’t even really comparable. I don’t think anyone but you and maybe a (not fat-phobic!) professional could really help you navigate that line, though.

    For those of you who are lactose intolerant and have trouble handling ice cream, there are some really good soy ice creams out there now. They aren’t nearly as rich as regular ice cream, but if you don’t expect it to be exactly the same food it can be really enjoyable! Also, since it’s not as rich, you can eat a whole pint REALLY easily. and yummily.

  240. And peggynature!

    Though I want to add that because of that distorted perception of what amounts to “always,” it can be hard to figure out on your own what is and is not healthful behavior for yourself. I sometimes eat or have a drink for comfort. And I think it’s totally okay. Do I do that whenever I am anxious? No way. And if it were but I just did it for a high-stress month or two, that would also be pretty okay in my book. I think people are pretty different on this front in terms of what amounts to too much coping in not-great ways.

  241. I’m glad Lyn spoke up, because her experience is a lot closer to mine. I’m a compulsive overeater. Until I went away to college, I was average, that is overweight, according to BMI charts–I weighed 150 pounds my senior year in high school. In the next two years I gained 80 pounds. How? From eating large amounts of high calorie, fat laden food with little nutritional value.

    Obviously there were underlying problems, which I wish I had dealt with earlier. Eventually I did have therapy and medication, which were helpful in a lot of ways. I continued to binge and sometimes purge for years, although not nearly as much as in college. Sometimes I could go for months without bingeing. But anytime something went seriously wrong–job loss, bad living situation–I went back to excessive amounts of food to deal with it.
    The idea that all people deserve to be treated with dignity and respect is what brought me to read FA blogs and websites. But I find it kind of alienating, as a fat person, to keep being told that fat people don’t eat anymore than thin people, that people are fat because of genetics not behavior, etc. when that is not true for me and many others.

  242. But Heather, you’re saying that you find statistics alienating. It’s not personal. The amounts of food that fat and thin people eat are statistically indistinguishable.

    There are thin people with overeating and binge eating disorders, who do not gain weight. There are fat people who purge and have anorexia who do not lose weight. That doesn’t mean there aren’t ALSO fat people who have BED and thin anorexics, so it isn’t meant to make you invisible. It’s just that it’s not the rule.

  243. @Lyn
    Just wanted to comment on your reply;
    I think it is GREAT you can have yourself a sweet thing and then stop and not want more and more and more. And that you think about food often without going nutso. That’s my goal, really, is just to be able to say, “hey, I feel like having a slice of cake on my birthday” and eat it and not have it lead to an avalanche of overeating. And I like how you un-demonize the brownies :)

    You know, if I theoretically only ate cake on my birthday, I too would never be able to stop eating sweets when I started. I’m lucky in that I didn’t come to HAES with a bunch of dieting baggage – I wasn’t fat growing up, I was downright thin in my early 20s, and so I never got told I wasn’t “allowed” certain food or was a bad person when I did eat sweets or fried food. It made it a bit easier to take those first steps into HAES instead of starting the dieting hamster-wheel when I put on weight, and I’m eternally grateful that I got off without having those messages aimed directly at me as a kid. All of that is an attempt to say that it’s not some super-human skill that allows me to stop eating sweets – it’s simply that a) I’ve never fully internalised the message that some food = bad, for which I am extremely thankful and b) because I let myself eat the sweet food I love fairly regularly, I always know I can get more, so I feel no need to fill myself on it to keep me going “until my next birthday”.

    If you haven’t read this post about “devouring the world”, do, it’s excellent; http://kateharding.net/2007/08/03/devouring-the-world/

  244. I really don’t think we can underestimate the impact of a diet mentality on food cravings and overeating. I think I’m usually a person who is relatively sane and balanced about food. I didn’t grow up with parents who criticized my weight or put me on diets, I’ve always been somebody who, while larger than average, is still within the “typical” range and so haven’t put up with abuse from family, friends, and strangers, and I’ve never suffered from an eating disorder. And yet even now if I get into a mindset where I tell myself something as minor as “I’m just going to eat a little less/a bit healthier so I can lose 10-15 pounds,” the next thing I know I’m eating five brownies in one sitting, getting mad at my son and husband if they eat “my” ice cream, and eating half a box of angel hair pasta with butter and parmesan cheese for lunch. Now, there’s nothing morally wrong with any of those things, but those are not normal eating behaviors for me. I don’t eat those quantities of food, or act that possessively about my food, typically. But, the moment I tell myself I’m going to cut back “just a little,” I find that soon I’m eating in ways that don’t feel healthy or comfortable for me.

    And, it makes sense. The mind-body connection is extremely strong. If I start telling myself that I’m in danger, my body starts shooting off adrenaline as if I’m really in a crisis, even if nothing is wrong. So, it makes sense to me that, if I start telling myself that a famine (self-imposed or not) is coming, then my body is going to respond as if a famine is coming. That’s my body taking care of me. If I’m telling myself that there’s a famine around the corner, I can’t turn around and get angry at myself for eating in a way that makes total sense if there is indeed an impending famine. And, if I don’t want to eat as if a famine is coming, then I can’t tell myself that it is.

  245. I really don’t think we can underestimate the impact of a diet mentality on food cravings and overeating.

    This is really true. I am not a sweets person. Never have been. I don’t like sweet things for breakfast, I can hardly finish a dessert, I just generally don’t do them. The only time in my life I have been able to voraciously devour sweets to the exclusion of all else? When I was eating criminally few calories a day. Suddenly they became all consuming. And this continued for two or three months after I resumed eating a more or less normal amount of calories. It’s kind of amazing how much dieting can both psychologically and also, I think, biologically/chemically alter your eating patterns and cravings.

  246. I am in awe that you found this path on your own, Fillyjonk. I have gone through a similar process but used a supportive website, NormalEating.com, to work my way back from years of dieting.

  247. What a great bunch of comments. Really. I appreciate everyone being so open, honest, and CIVIL in sharing all of their various experiences.

    One thing came to mind as I was reading about reactions to deprivation. Oftentimes, when I was walking through a grocery store buying stuff, I’d see some dessert in the bakery. I’d see it and WANT it. I’d want it like a toddler wants her cookie. NOW. Have to have that dessert, don’t care about anything else and will kick and scream til I get it. So sometimes, I’d just say, ok. And put the dessert in the cart and decide I would have some when I got home. And you know what? A lot of times… maybe 75% of the time… within 15 minutes, I’d not want it anymore and would go back and stick it back on the shelf.

    So maybe, maybe I am reacting to the subconscious forbidden labels on food even though I am not really aware of it.

  248. “I realize you were probably joking, but in case you weren’t: most people don’t have the genetics to weigh 400lbs. (It also helps if you’re tall and yo-yo diet a LOT) If you have parents or grandparents who weigh or weighed above 300lbs, then you may have cause to worry. But otherwise? Probably not.”

    I think you need to look at certain populations that have a history of being very thin that are now extremely overweight on our poor US diet.

    Such as the Native Americans. The Salt River Pima tribe has among the highest obesity and diabetes rates in the USA.

  249. Oh gods, not the Pimas again.

    The Arizona Pimas are fatter and get more diabetes than the Mexican Pimas, yes. They also live A QUARTER CENTURY LONGER than the Mexican Pimas (75 years versus 50 years).

    Die young, stay pretty, huh?

  250. This is one of the toughest things for me to grapple with in FA and also ED recovery. I believe it to be true (finally) and it upsets me deeply. Just thinking about it overwhelms me. I try not to. All I can think of is if I’d never been put on a starvation diet at 11 years old and subsequently developed an ED that eating normally now wouldn’t make me as fat. It’s frustrating beyond belief and I don’t know what to do to get over it.

    Yorke, this is me too.

    At 41, I’m finally at the point where I’ve wholeheartedly owned that further dieting is absolutely unacceptable, and I’m working with a therapist specializing in IE. But at the same time, I admit to sadness and fear about my body’s rapid rebound weight escalation. I need to get to the point where my set point weight, as well as my food choices, is morally neutral. I try not to get on the scale at all, because for me, the numbers aren’t helpful. They send me into an emotionally charged body- loathing mode.

    I trust that when I can normalize my relationship with food, my weight will settle to where it is supposed to be, at this time in my life. But yeah…the fact that that my set point weight is significantly higher than it would have been without my 25+ years of dieting/diet pill abuse/bulimia etc….that is a hard realization. Really hard. But I have no choice but to let it go and move forward.

    Yeah, I’m pretty fucked up with all this stuff….really working on it, though.

  251. Lasivian, you were let through as a first-time commenter because you were the husband of another commenter who was talking about you. Not so you could Trojan-horse our policy of NOT waving around pat claims about the Evil American Diet. Okay?

  252. I adore this post! The alternative viewpoint you suggested (a Pandora’s Box of gluttony) makes *enjoying eating* seem parallel to the Victorian-era view on sex.

    Thank you for getting into my head and heart, lovelies!

    Personally, after years of self-loathing I learned how to become a normal eater–someone who has the healthy relationship with food via the amazing network over at http://www.normaleating.com. Check ‘em out.

  253. Oh gods, not the Pimas again.

    Indeed :) Love how people wave the Pimas around and forget they’re a relatively closed *GENE POOL*.

    This also reminds me of a discussion about how “If diabetes isn’t genetic, how come it’s more prevalent in Western societies than China / India / Japan / Africa?” I had this week. A dietitian / diabetes educator talked about her client from Somalia who was the only one in his family with diabetes….well, but his dad did go blind in his late 40s, got very sick, and died shortly thereafter. The dietitian points out that his dad hadn’t seen a doctor and wasn’t tested for diabetes. Doesn’t mean he didn’t have it. And she says this is NOT uncommon for the immigrants she treats….

  254. Thanks so much for this post! I’m recovering from an eating disorder, and it’s such a struggle to establish a healthy relationship with food. For a long time I did have that fast-or-feast mentality and it really frustrated me. I eat enough now and I eat healthy, but I’m really trying to stop counting calories and obsessing about everything I put in my mouth. So this really came at a perfect time for me.

    Thank you!

  255. On the subjects of do most people think about eating specific foods all the time/do thin people sometimes eat a lot at once, yep on both counts. I’m fairly thin and in my case I typically wouldn’t eat a whole pizza/tub of ice cream at once, but I would eat half of it, put it aside, and eat the other half an hour or two later. This is nothing to do with calorie counting, restriction etc, it’s just that I’m naturally prone to grazing. Over the course of a day I eat a lot, just broken up into multiple meals.

    Intuitive eating is pretty much what I’ve been doing for the last 10 years or so, which is a massive improvement over the constant compulsive calorie counting I did as a younger person, where I monitored every single piece of food I put in my mouth and obsessed over fat, carbs, protein etc. Ironically enough I actually lost weight when I stopped banning or attempting to regulate “bad” foods, precisely becase as soon as I stopped forbidding myself to have them I stopped craving them. It turns out that yep, I still have a sweet tooth, so I eat chocolate every day, but I don’t really like salty snacks like chips, crackers etc when they don’t have the lure of being “bad” attached to them.

    My own intuitive eating anecdote/illustration of how it works for me. Last week I was up late writing a review of a concert, with an 8 AM deadline. At about 2 AM I started really craving one of these awesome blueberry bran muffins that my local bakery sells. I didn’t have one because, well, it was 2 AM and the bakery was closed. I did however figure out that part of the reason I was craving one was because I was hungry and hey, brain runs on glucose. So I made myself a sandwich and also had some chocolate covered cherries. Couple of hours later, the craving came back, and I contemplated waiting till 5 and walking over to Pete’s Coffee and getting a bran muffin. Thing is, I didn’t want just any bran muffin, I wanted that particular one that the bakery makes, and I know from experience that substitution does not work for me. Also it was cold and dark outside and I didn’t really feel like walking over to Pete’s anyway. I contemplated just staying up till the bakery opened at 7, but by 6 I was done with my review and really sleepy, so instead I decided to just go to bed. So I never got my muffin that day. BUT, a couple of days later I had the same craving again, midafternoon that time, so I just walked over and got the muffin and ate it. Relevant point – the reason I didn’t choose to satisfy the craving the first time wasn’t anything to do with internalised diet talk, it was because doing so would have been inconvenient. Next time the same craving came up it wasn’t inconvenient to fulfill, so I did. That’s pretty much how it always works for me now. So really, not eating whatever random thing pops into your head isn’t doing it wrong, a lot of the time there are other reasons why you don’t end up eating that particular thing at that time. As long as you know you can have that food whenever you feel like, not having it right then turns out to not be such a big deal.

  256. The dietitian points out that his dad hadn’t seen a doctor and wasn’t tested for diabetes. Doesn’t mean he didn’t have it.

    Oh, no shit! My grandmother was never diagnosed with PCOS, because they hadn’t named that particular symptom complex yet. But she still had all the symptoms.

  257. Did anyone see the interview with Monica Seles at the NY Times Well Blog? The headline is “Monica Seles Talks about Binge Eating” — she has a book out — but it could easily be called “Monica Seles Stops Dieting and Now Has A Healthy Relationship With Food and Her Body.”

    So, FJ and Kate, would you consider possibly writing (or having a guest write) a post about how eating in an intuitive way helps with body acceptance. I definitely feel the two are connected — and Monica Seles seems to think so.

    In the interview Tara Parker Pope keeps framing the questions in the expected, dieting framework way, and Monica Seles keeps reframing the answers in a non-dieting way. It’s cool to see, but a little annoying, too. And I lost all of my sanity watchers points reading the comments (when will I learn? When?!)

    FJ, this post is grand.

    Once I have a bit more experience with eating in an attuned way under my belt, I might write about my experiences with diabetes and intuitive eating. Right now, I’ll say this, having diabetes doesn’t physically stop you from eating anything, so if you don’t address or sort out your feelings around and relationship with food, it’s going to be hard or harder to manage diabetes in any case. A strict, restrictive, depriving set of rules around food usually don’t work better for someone with diabetes than they do for people without diabetes. When I eat in a way that’s tuned into what I want to eat, how much, how often, and in amounts that match my hunger, my blood sugar tends to be better than when I don’t do that. What’s hard for me is sticking with hunger, eating when I’m hungry, stopping when I’ve had what feels like the right amount. That takes more attention and energy than I sometimes have (and I’m not low energy because I have type 2 diabetes, I’m just flat-out exhausted working full time and being a mom and the other responsibilites I manage).
    Like many others here have commented, it’s very freeing for me to think about whatever I want to with regard to food and not worrying that the mere thought of it is going to make me want to eat it.
    I had donuts twice this week. One of those times, it was awesome (until about an hour later when it wasn’t). Oh my god, the diabetic is eating donuts! Suicide! The reality is, my blood sugar after two donuts isn’t necessarily going to be all that different from a breakfast of oatmeal with apples and a glass of milk. I’ll probably feel better with the oatmeal, because it won’t cause me to rise and fall as high or low, but if once every couple of months I have a couple of donuts, I will be okay. Normalizing all foods is just as important for me as it is for someone committing to this process who doesn’t have diabetes. Having a couple of donuts and noticing my reaction is going to benefit me in the long run, because the next time I feel like having two donuts, I can remember that the fleeting pleasure will not likely be worth the yucky feeling half an hour later.

  258. Also re wellroundedtype’s point about diabetes, I’ve found that eating more intuitively has gotten my hypoglaecemia under control to the point where it’s almost like I don’t have it any more. Once I started paying attention to how different foods make me feel, physically, I automatically started adjusting what I ate to keep myself feeling good. I think that’s a really big part of the whole intuitive eating puzzle, observing you how feel depending on what you eat and choosing what to eat based on how various foods make you feel rather than calories, fat grams etc.

  259. The Arizona Pimas are fatter and get more diabetes than the Mexican Pimas, yes. They also live A QUARTER CENTURY LONGER than the Mexican Pimas (75 years versus 50 years).
    Die young, stay pretty, huh?

    Yeah, it’s funny how the massively increased lifespan of the Arizona Pimas always gets left out.

  260. Also, on the Pimas… anyone else find the reference to Native people getting fat on the current American diet to be a little essentializing?

  261. Fuck, FJ, this was wonderful.

    This is exactly, exactly the problem I’ve been having — the idea that if I think I want to eat something, I should eat it, ’cause otherwise I’m dieting!!!1 I hadn’t realised how much that thought had taken root in my brain. And the comments make me want to sing. People are so smart.

    Also, mara, man that is an awesome way to raise a child. It is much how I was thinking of doing it (if/when it arises) but I didn’t know if it was Doomed To Failure or whatever, so it is REALLY REALLY GOOD to hear that trusting your child to be the person you know they are, you know, works.

  262. RE Native people and American diet and diabetes

    There’s a segment of the documentary Unnatural Causes: Is Inequality Making Us Sick that talks about the overall impacts inequality and the tolls on the health of O’odham Indians, living on reservations in southern Arizona, in the form of chronic stress and poverty. This is a much broader view than simply “American diet” — it’s a diet rich in processed, subsidized food rather than foods chosen because of a preference for fat or sugar. And the ability to grow traditional foods is thwated because of water being stolen for keeping lawns and golf courses green in desert cities.

    If the conclusion drawn about the Indians in southern Arizona is that if they just ate better, they would be healthier is, as FJ says, essentialist, but the reasons behind the composition of their diets isn’t preference as much as poverty, US food policy, and the quality of land and quantity of water and the history of being manipulated and lied to and marginalized and I’m not finding all of the right, strong words here.

    If there is anyone here able to put this into better words, please do.

    I have seen some amazing presentations at diabetes conferences from native people working in their own communities on the power of returning to traditional farming practices and traditional games for turning things around, health-wise — but these efforts are coming from within. At one panel, I asked as sensitively as I could, how did they keep from marginalizing the fat children in their activities (like a running club) and they answered sensitively that they made sure it wasn’t about what anyone looked like, it was all about whether they joined in or not. There was a great deal of sincerity in the answer, and I can’t verify it, but I did get the sense that being fat wasn’t being made to be “bad,” but that being active and participating in traditional activities was for everyone, regardless of size.

  263. I finally checked out the Free Range Kids site, and it is great. Very comforting. I was just recently treated to a reaction of absolute horror by another mom when she learned that I allow my almost-five-year-old child to walk to and from his friend’s house which is two houses over from ours on his own. There are no streets to cross, and I can literally hear him the entire way, but apparently “anybody could take him!” Well, I suppose. I suppose lightening could strike him, too, or a wild boar could appear and eat him, but none of that is very likely, and I’m not going to organize my child’s life around things that are most likely never going to happen. Plus, if anybody did snatch him, I’d give them about 10-15 minutes before they brought him back.

    Anyway, thank you very much for the link. It’s very easy to feel like you are completely and totally insane for NOT believing that it’s irresponsible and wrong to not have your child under 24/7 surveillance.

  264. Raven, there are only two things I can recommend that might help you with the carb cravings, which do sound like a classic symptom of difficulty metabolizing the carbs you eat. They are both based on scientific studies, and neither requires a prescription.

    1) Get more exercise. Even ten minutes’ brisk walking a day. Mildly aerobic exercise has been shown to help keep blood sugar more even.

    2) Eat more cinnamon. Put it in your coffee, or use cinnamon sugar on your toast, or whatever works for you. Cinnamon has been shown to—if I recall correctly—help the body use insulin more effectively.

    Best wishes.

  265. I think a lot of the problem is we’re not taught as a society how to deal with desire. We demonise it, we make it an evil thing, we see it as a cause for anxiety; mostly, I suspect, because our consumerist society has conflated desire with action, wanting with having. One of the things I’ve been teaching myself over the years is that wanting something doesn’t necessarily mean having to have it. Instead, wanting something can be a nice dream of “someday” – a little fantasy to allow me to wander off somewhere else in my own head and have a look at the type of person I’d be if I got it. Often, that person isn’t me, and I’m quite content to just accept it as a dream.

    One of the things intiuitive eating teaches (and one of the things about it which makes it so subversive in our consumption-driven society) is the truth that “I want” doesn’t have to mean “I need”. Neither does “X looks interesting”, “I’d like to try Y” or “Hmmm, I’ve never tried Z before; wonder what it’s like?”. Instead of those thoughts becoming imperatives to try X, Y or Z (not to mention A, B, C and another several alphabets plus entire systems of kanji) immediately and devil take the consequences, they’re just thoughts. A vague curiousity doesn’t have to mean taking the first method to satisfy same.

    Another thing which is taught by intuitive eating is that “once” doesn’t mean “always, inevitably”, despite what our culture appears to project. Think about the messages you hear from the more extreme end of the prohibitive scale, the ones which tell you just one sip, just one bite, just one hit is enough to drag you down into the depths of depravity. Intuitive eating challenges that thinking. Rather than saying “I have to restrain myself constantly or who knows what I’ll do”, intuitive eating challenges us to find out what will happen if we don’t restrain ourselves, and most of the time we find it isn’t as bad as we think it will be. It often isn’t as good as we thought it would be, either, because intuitive eating takes away the thrill of transgression from things like eating an entire container of ice cream in one sitting. Instead of feeling naughty because we’ve broken the rules and having that little feeling of bravery about having been naughty to sustain us, we get the full joy of the ice cream headache, or the pain that goes with feeling bloated, or the realisation that we’re really not overwhelmingly fond of the brand or flavour we’ve chosen in large quantities. We’re not going to rush out and do the same thing tomorrow unless there’s a pressing emotional or physical need to do so.

  266. One of the things intiuitive eating teaches (and one of the things about it which makes it so subversive..

    It interests me that you use the word, ‘subversive’, because I think you’re on to something there.

    I believe in normal eating, that is the body is designed to measure it’s own needs.
    The average person puts on between 20-30 pounds between the ages of about 20 and 40.

    That is prescision.

    We’ve come to have a very limited reading of enlightenment thinking, that conscious logic is the seat of all reason and human agency.

    Therefore what suggesting that you can gain more ‘control’ by relaxing conscious control, hurtles a lot of people into mental oblivion.
    Seriously people often cannot grasp what you are actually saying at all. It’s like a dog whistle completely outside their mental frequency.

    I think this is why people have been able to generate such anger towards fat people, and why people often take our fatness as some kind of personal insult/ affront.

  267. So very well done, FJ. Also, I saw a commercial last night that demonstrated your point embarrassingly well. It was an ad for Extra brand gum’s Slim Pack (*massive eyeroll*) that featured the inner monologue of a woman passing some fresh-baked cookies.

    The text was something like: “OMG what is that wonderful smell?! I have to have one! I HAVE TO! *pulls out gum and chews* No, no I don’t. *self-satisfied smirk*” This was followed by an announcer saying something about how chewing Extra is *massive airquotes* “proven” to help fight “cravings”.

    If you walk around all day so hungry that every passing food-like smell is a massive internal struggle to prevent binging, maybe your body is TELLING YOU SOMETHING. GAH. Only someone so deeply entrenched in the chronic dieting mentality that you’d need a backhoe just to find their hat would seriously believe that every encounter with something appetizing is an eating-the-world disaster in the making.

    Also, your million-Oreos line is hilarious.

  268. One thing, one crucial thing I do not refuse myself is the ability to turn things down.

    Fillyjonk, it’s too soon to say, but I think you may have just given me the piece of the intuitive eating puzzle that I have been so desperately missing. I think I’ve expected myself to want cookies or ice cream or chocolate milk or whatever for so long that I can’t admit when I don’t want it, because it’s kind of a piece of who I am. I’m going to bookmark this.

    This post is really a gift, a magical moment on par with the first time I decided to have fruit because I genuinely wanted it. I cannot thank you enough.

  269. Thank you, fillyjonk, for this wonderful piece. And thank you to all the commentors for the additional insights. I have been lurking for a few months and I must say this blog is amazing and I am so glad I landed here somehow (can’t remember for the life of me how I found you all).

  270. One of the things I’ve been teaching myself over the years is that wanting something doesn’t necessarily mean having to have it. Instead, wanting something can be a nice dream of “someday” – a little fantasy to allow me to wander off somewhere else in my own head and have a look at the type of person I’d be if I got it. Often, that person isn’t me, and I’m quite content to just accept it as a dream.

    Totally. I’ve also learned to look at, say, a painting, or beautiful vase, or earrings, and to be glad that it exists even if it’s not coming home with me. Sort of a “I really like you (even though I have no room / too many others / no money) and I’m so glad I got to see you, I hope you find a good home” feeling. I find that makes it a lot easier to walk away without purchase.

  271. I read a lot about intuitive eating many years ago, and somehow or other I managed to start doing it, and now I have it down. It took a long time to learn that just because I could have something, I should. I also used to interpret the legalizing food business as getting comfortable with anything to not eat it if it’s in front of me. After realizing that I was comfortable with the ice cream cone, or a few handfuls of chips at a party, but still ate them all if I had in the house, I just don’t keep these things in the house. Thanks for this, it’s very easy to have strange interpretations of what in theory should be simple concepts.

  272. I think this post really articulated the kind of relationship I’m trying to develope with food, and the reasons I’m frustrated when my mom comes over all concerned because of how many calories were in those cheesy crackers I ate. If I want some cheesy crackers I’m gonna eat them, and not feel guilty about being omgfat.

    It also works the other way though. Now that I don’t see salad as something that I, as a fattie, should be eating, I’ve descovered that it’s one of my favorite foods and eat it all the time. The same goes for a lot of healthy foods that I enjoyed less when I was eating them because I was “supposed to” and I’m actually eating a lot less junk food than I was before, which is again why I refuse to feel guilty when I eat foods I “shouldn’t.”

    Maybe I’ll send this to my mother…

  273. I haven’t read the comments yet, so I apologize if someone’s already made this point.

    Your analogy of eating to the Modesty Survey is flawed in one HUGE area — for conservative Christians, especially of the fundagelical variety, ~thinking~ about a no-no IS a sin. You are “charged” with committing that sin just as if you actually had ~done~ it. Ergo, thinking about having sex with that pretty girl you just ogled IS THE SAME THING as actually jumping her right then and there.

    I forget the prooftext Bible verse, but fundagelical teens get lectured on it quite often. it was also in the very first Chick tract I ever saw, back in my pre-teens.

  274. This is a week old, and no one will read this far down in the comments, but I love this:

    “I don’t have to eat things just because I have a chance to or I have a notion to or nobody’s watching. Restriction makes you do that, not liberation.”

    I was put on a very restrictive diet as a child by my well-intentioned (?) fat-phobic mother. I was always hungry and developed the habit of sneaking food, every chance I got. I am thin now, and have a healthy relationship with food (post-hospitalization for severe bulimia), but I still can’t hear the word “diet” without heading to the fridge.

  275. With regards to the Pima Indians, other indigenous groups, and diabetes, I believe there was a recent news article linking instances of type 2 diabetes to exposure to arsenic in the water – why is that angle not talked about?

    Just as intuitive eating seems to really clash with our cultural understandings, so much so as to be incomprehensible to most people, I find the idea that disease could possibly come from somewhere other than individual behavior to be so foreign to most people – it’s amazing we have any environmental justice at all.

    It’s despicable, really – during the asbestos trials in Libby Montana (miners and their families dying of mesothelioma right and left), the company accused all of them of inducing lung cancer in themselves through smoking – that was the very first tactic they employed to discredit the people they sickened. It says something.

    We are being sold a bit of goods, and the abysmal way fat people are treated is only part of the picture, unfortunately.

    Anyway, I applaud SP for asking these questions and delving into these cultural patterns. Someone has to keep track of the horseshit we have to shovel out of our minds on a daily basis.

    This process is difficult – Understanding helps! Many thanks!

  276. To Amber de Katt:
    It is Matthew 5:28 “But I say to you, anyone who stares at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
    It is followed immediately by: “So if your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your body parts than to have your whole body thrown into hell.”
    The preceding and following verses in the chapter are about taking responsibility for oneself and ones actions – the responsibility of looking and thinking is on the one who is looking and thinking they may look away, which is the choice aspect that I believe fillyjonk is talking about. If food had the free will to tempt an individual and did so maliciously, it would have the responsibility to make reparations (Matthew 5:23-4 “”So if you are presenting your gift at the altar and remember there that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and first go and be reconciled to your brother. Then come and offer your gift.”), but as it does not, the onus is on that individual who, through their free will, succumbed to the temptation recklessly, again, the point that fillyjonk seems to be making.
    (In short, your basis of argument is placement of blame; fillyjonk’s argument is based on responsibility for oneself. You are both correct, but it is apples and oranges.)

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