I’m making progress on my journey to Intuitive Eating. I’ve tried a bunch of different exercises in the Intuitive Eating Workbook, with varying levels of success. The first really helpful exercise was keeping a Hunger Journal, which I did for a few weeks. I was often at “desperately hungry” before I would let myself eat, but the nutritionist said no, eat sooner, eat before the hunger becomes unpleasant, because if you wait too long you’ll be so distracted by the intensity of the need to eat that you won’t notice when you start to feel full.
I still struggle with this, because it feels like a competition, and if I eat before I’m starving to death then I lose. But I’m getting a little better.
The biggest challenge after that was figuring out when to STOP eating. And I hadn’t reached the chapter on fullness yet, so I had no idea what to do. The next time I had a Zoom meeting with the nutritionist she said, if you’re struggling to figure out fullness then why don’t we just jump ahead to that chapter in the book?
Jump ahead? Skip a chapter that an author put in that exact order for a specific reason?
Yes. Of course, the nutritionist said. This is about your journey with food. If fullness is on your mind, then that’s what we should turn to.
Sometimes being a compulsive ‘A’ student gets in my way. Who am I kidding? It always gets in my way. And even after I jumped ahead in the workbook, only skipping one chapter, I felt guilty and worried. What if, without that missing chapter, the whole experiment falls apart? What if everything is riding on the specific magic of the order of the exercises and I’m ruining it?
But, I took the risk and started the fullness chapter anyway. The first exercise asked me to stop each meal with one or two bites of food left on the plate, to check on my feelings of fullness. A few times I waited ten minutes, to see if I was still hungry, and then ate the last two bites anyway, but most of the time I found that I didn’t need the last two bites as much as I thought I did (the dogs really enjoyed this exercise!). I told myself that if I was hungry again in half an hour, after giving away those last two bites, I could eat again, and most of the time I didn’t need to.
The next exercise I tried was eating with my left (non-dominant) hand, to see if that would help me slow down and pay more attention to my fullness signals along the way. It was an interesting experience, but mostly it just made a mess and strained my left wrist, so I moved on.
Then I read the section about removing distractions while eating, and found that my most persistent distraction during meals is TV – because I always eat in front of the television set. And when the book told me to try not eating with the television on, I rebelled. I was just not ready for that kind of horror, and since this is my journey I get to decide what I’m ready to try, and that is not it.
The next exercise I chose to do was another journaling exercise to chart fullness levels, every half hour after eating (lasting two hours overall). The goal was both to force myself to check in on my fullness levels throughout the day, and to pay attention to how long the feeling of fullness lasted after different meals. I discovered that the full feeling I got from salads doesn’t last long at all, but trail mix lasts for hours. That doesn’t mean I’m going to stop eating salads, but I’m going to think about how to fill out the meal with more protein and fat next time, so that the feeling of fullness can last longer.
I still feel sad when I realize that I’m full before I’ve finished eating everything on my plate. It’s disappointing to find out how much less food I need to eat than I want to eat. I’m discovering that the distance between emotional satisfaction and physical fullness is still a pretty big gulf, and I’m not sure how to fill it.
Ellie has a similar issue, but she relies on me to limit her food intake, so that she doesn’t eat something that makes her feel sick, or she doesn’t eat so much that she can’t fit through the door. She always thinks she needs to eat more than I think she needs to eat, but once she can shake off the emotional hunger, she’s ok. She just needs my help. Most often that means some belly scratches, or a walk, or some time spent playing or napping. I need to figure out how to take as good care of myself as I take of Ellie.
There’s still a lot more to learn about Intuitive Eating and how much and what kinds of food my body needs, but it’s a relief to have made some progress and to see a path forward. I even managed to lose the two pounds I gained during the first part of this experiment. We’ll see if that trend continues.
If you haven’t had a chance yet, please check out my Young Adult novel, Yeshiva Girl, on Amazon. And if you feel called to write a review of the book, on Amazon, or anywhere else, I’d be honored.
Yeshiva Girl is about a Jewish teenager on Long Island, named Isabel, though her father calls her Jezebel. Her father has been accused of inappropriate sexual behavior with one of his students, which he denies, but Izzy implicitly believes it’s true. As a result of his problems, her father sends her to a co-ed Orthodox yeshiva for tenth grade, out of the blue, and Izzy and her mother can’t figure out how to prevent it. At Yeshiva, though, Izzy finds that religious people are much more complicated than she had expected. Some, like her father, may use religion as a place to hide, but others search for and find comfort, and community, and even enlightenment. The question is, what will Izzy find?