Intuitive Eating, part 1.

[Editor’s Note: I am writing this both because food is a big topic on the Gaming As Women blog this month, and because food and body image tend to be big things for women.  If you want to talk about this, feel free to leave a comment or come over to my G+ where there’s some discussion going on.]

To start with, if you’re not familiar with the concept of intuitive eating, go check out http://www.fatnutritionist.com/index.php/what-is-normal-eating/.  I’ll be here when you get back.

…Back?  Okay.  So.  How this works for me.

When I get hungry, a lot of times I’m on auto-pilot.  I want to go to the fridge/local food place and eat something and be done with it.  Because of this I have a range of foods I eat fairly often, and if I just get a hunger signal with no accompanying information, I will pick one of those items or meals.  They are foods I know I find non-triggering with regards to my eating disorders (ED-NOS and Orthorexia), easy to digest, and fuelling.  That’s sort of stage 1 of intuitive eating.

Stage two is when I get a cue along with the hunger cue that I would like $thing.  The first thing I do is sit with it (this isn’t like a huge meditation or anything, just a few seconds of quiet thought) to ask myself if $thing is actually the thing I want.  If it is, and my body is convinced it is, then that’s what I eat and I’m done figuring it out.  (This is often the answer to mouth hunger, and occasionally I will get two bites into $thing and be satisfied.  That is totally okay.  It’s also okay if I want a whole snack or meal of $thing.)

If $thing is not what I want, the next thing I do is ask myself what about $thing brought it to mind.  I am trying at this point to separate emotional cues from body cues.  If what brought it to mind was that I’m having an emotional need for something filled by a food, I need to separate those things and deal with the emotions independent of what I eat.  Often, to reset to neutral, I will eat something to take the hunger edge off like a cracker or two because they have no emotional value to me, and then I’ll try to get at the emotion.

If $thing is not what I want, and the cue is not emotional but body hunger, I will try to figure out what part of $thing I am hungry for.  I will start by thinking of a food or two that is similar, and work on narrowing it down.  One of these that tends to be common in my life is sour cream and onion potato chips.  There is something about that combination of salts and fats that brings them up as a craving any time my body wants salt or fat for any reason, even if I don’t actually want the chips.  (I’ve learned by trial and error of eating it and being dissatisfied when the hunger for chips actually isn’t a hunger for chips.)  Usually what that craving means is that my body wants some kind of dairy like a cheese or a yoghurt or a sour cream, and something salty. 

These are some pretty advanced intuitive eating practices, IMHO.  One of the important things for me about this deductive process is that I am consciously giving myself permission to mess it up.  If I get it wrong, that’s okay.  No one is going to die, no one is a bad person, I’m not going to Hades.  I was wrong about what I wanted to eat, and next time the feeling comes up, I’ll do the process again.  If I keep getting it wrong over and over, then what that flags for me is not that I’m a bad person, but that I probably have some baggage over a food item or an emotional cue that I need to deal with before I can deal with the part of the process I’m messing up.

(Next time I’ll talk about the “how much” part of eating, and how I took a long time to get there.)

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