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Intuitive Eating, Continued

            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.

“Sure you are, Mommy.”

            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?

            Oh Lord.

            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.

“We’re ready whenever you need us.”

            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.

“I love you, Mommy, but I’m still hungry.”

            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.

            Fingers crossed.

“Our fingers don’t cross, Mommy.”

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?

About rachelmankowitz

I am a fiction writer, a writing coach, and an obsessive chronicler of my dogs' lives.

68 responses »

  1. I look at Max and wonder what it must be like to always be hungry and itchy. Then I look in the mirror and understand. Here, Rachel, have a nice slice of cheesecake…

  2. Intuitive Eating sounds really interesting. I’ve found that I eat less if I feel like I’ve gotten enough ‘flavor’, so I use different sauces on each food on my plate.

  3. What a cool experiment! I’ve found if I take less than I think I want, it’s often enough. Then I quickly put the leftovers away!

  4. Maybe using smaller plates, too? I nutritionist spoke to us at work once, about healthy eating, and suggested putting down your fork while you chew. Supposed to slow you down and savor each bite.

  5. Pingback: lifestyle: Intuitive Eating, Continued — rachelmankowitz – The Urban Fishing Pole: Cigar Blogger, Lifestyle

  6. I should try this, I think I over eat too much.

  7. I’m so glad you are continuing with this experiment, and sharing how it is going for you.

  8. Our relationship with food is so complicated its like a romance novel written by Stephen King. The fact that you are willing to go there and tackle this is remarkable. Keep it up!!! Taming that relarionship IS possible. Love your writing!

  9. I find that when I try to eat without the TV, I reach for a book. Bad habits die hard. It is rewarding to hear that you have the strength and wisdom to continue with and even lose weight with this new lifestyle change. 👍👍

  10. Love this. Thanks for sharing your journey! I should look into something like this — – signed: always hungry!😎😏

  11. I’m glad your journey is going well so far!

  12. I think it’s awesome that you’re trying a way to learn what your body wants versus what your body needs! Remind yourself, as needed, to enjoy the learning in your journey and that you’re in no rush to get to the ‘destination’. As I told you before, I use the “I am no longer hungry” cut-off as opposed to the “I am full” technique. I now end up feeling bloated if I eat too much, and remind myself of how I used to be a two-full plates person at a buffet who truly feels like I’ve overeaten if I finish one full plate! At times, I only end up eating because I have medications that need to be taken with food! Keep at it, Rachel! You’re doing great!

  13. Dogs are a good way to save on waist, I mean waste. I still find myself putting a little by for Maggie when I prepare a meal, or a titbit on my plate when I’ve finished. It’s a hard habit to break.
    Sounds like it’s all going well though Rachel. Keep going!!

  14. Its true that there is so much more than just ‘eating to to nourish our bodies’ involved in eating. Good luck with it all.

  15. I enjoyed your intuitive eating story, and I wonder if maybe Max would eat less if you taught him to eat with his opposite paw! Also, your book sounds really good! It’s nice to meet you!

  16. Julia Tannenbaum

    Thank you for posting an update! I’m glad to hear you’re making progress, although I understand from years of trying to get the hang of intuitive eating myself in ED recovery how very challenging it is!

  17. Thanks Rachel… our relationship with food is so complicated and challenging. Thanks for diving deep and sharing.

    On a completely random note — my blog didn’t have staying power, but I’m trying this now — “photo-poems”:

  18. I confess that my main meal in the evening is almost always too large. That may not be a good thing, but it is deliberate, as it stops me snacking later on. As for leaving food on the plate, I can hear my mum speaking from the grave. “There’s a starving child somewhere in the world who would be grateful for what you’re leaving”. 🙂
    Best wishes, Pete.

  19. Learning the ‘fullness’ step is huge in my opinion From experience I can say that it does get easier. For me now it’s automatic. As soon as I ‘recognize’ I’m getting full, I can stop eating and just toss away the food (which I agree is the hardest thing. Isn’t that WASTEFUL? At least it’s not ‘waist-ful’. 😉 ) Best wishes for your success, you’re doing GREAT!

  20. Sounds as if you are making real progress, Rachel. Be patient w/ yourself. ❤

  21. Sounds like you are doing all the right things. I feel guilty when I don’t clean my plate, so I’d rather eat smaller amounts mindfully than throw out food.

  22. Yeah, dieting is not easy. I kept an entire blog on dieting when I was doing it. Keep it up! You can do it.

  23. This sounds like a really interesting way of eating. I think I’d like to find out more about it.

  24. This is a great post! It reminds me that I can pay attention to my feelings even when I’m eating. I don’t think we as people realize sometimes how out of touch with our feelings and senses we are unless asked to tell someone what we’re experiencing.

  25. livinglifethebestkind

    Great post and your babies are gorgeous! 😍

  26. the worst is realizing how little food you need when you LOVE something and want more. I will tell you after years of teaching Diets don’t work, my program 12 stars to a slimmer you and incorporating the life skills, I don’t have any energy on food anymore which is a godsend. I now forget to eat which is what naturally thin people do and I have to make y self eat to keep my blood sugar levels optimum and nutriets up.
    The key things I tell people are

    Eat when you’re hungry: Start eating when you are a 2 or 3 (out of 10 .. 10 is thanksgiving full)
    Stop when you’re satisfied: Stop at a 5 (satisfied).

    Are you hungry?
    if it’s not food and you still want to eat…
    ask: what are you feeling ( coverning emotions) and give what you call, walk, water etc

    If i am hungry.. what am I hungry for? hot, cold, crunch, soft, spicey, mild etc

    Great introspection Rachel..

    Such cute dogs..
    xo ❤️🤗

  27. I read this post with fascination. As a Registered Dietitian, I work with patients on the intuitive eating principles of honoring hunger, and staying in harmony with our natural hunger and satiety cues, (which most of us have learned to override for a variety of reasons, including social programming). You mentioned that the salad was not filling at all, ( most would agree, including me), but adding protein and/or fat may help. In order to prevent your hunger score from plunging to a “1” right after the salad, try also adding either a high fiber whole grain ( such as barley) or beans/lentils to that salad, in addition to 4 oz. protein and fat ( as you correctly indicated), such as a slice of avocado. This completes the meal, “hits the spot” by providing macro and micro-nutrient adequacy, your body gets what it’s looking for, ensuring lasting satiety and a pleasantly hungry sensation by the next meal vs “I could eat my own hand” /uncontrollable hunger that some of us experience, derailing all efforts to stay in control. Kudos for integrating this “non-diet ” approach to health!

  28. I always eat in front of my Kindle!

  29. Is the TV on when you eat? Or is that the most comfortable spot? I have a dining table in the kitchen and almost all meals are eaten there. It is mainly to avoid the mess of clearing up food from the sitting area. I realise that most households no longer have one.

  30. Do you find that there’s a heavily visual component to eating? If something looks good to me, the more I tend to eat of it. Maybe it makes sense to not even show eye contact with the food I am eating. .

  31. Ok, you’re getting a bunch of opinions from me as you’re hitting all my buttons tonight.

    While I’m actively eating junk food to keep on the weight my medication is causing me to lose, one of the key triggers to portion control is to use smaller plates.

    My eyes are always bigger than my needs, and I can’t be satisfied unless the chips or other sides which accompany my meals fill the bare spaces on the plate. Rather than an 8 or 12 inch plate, I try to use a 7 or 6 inch plate so that whatever’s on the plate doesn’t look skimpy or insufficient.

    I also tend to grab two (2) 16 oz bottles of water and fill up on that vs. feeling deprived because I didn’t get enough protein or carbs.

    I’m glad you were able to skip ahead in the book and see if the chapter on knowing when you were full was helpful. If no one has discussed plate size for tricking your eye, check the index or ask the nutritionist if there’s a chapter on that tool, too. Good luck.


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