So, here’s the thing: I want to be smaller.
But I’m opposed to dieting.
It’s a dilemma.
Before my mom got sick (wow, nearly two years ago) I was strongly focused and centered on my intuitive eating, and as a result, I was steadily losing weight. Over the first two years of eating intuitively I lost nearly fifty pounds.
But that got lost. I stopped being centered, and the weight came back. Luckily – for once – I didn’t gain back the weight plus some, but about forty of the fifty pounds returned to my body.
And I hate it.
When a new season arrives, it means putting on clothes that you wore in seasons past. At the start of the summer I brought out a denim skirt I love but two years ago hung low off my hips and was dismayed to realize it was now tight in the waist. My response was to simply put the skirt away again and try not to think about it; but then fall approached and I found myself facing the closet with fear and trepidation. Will my comfy, baggy jeans still be loose? Will that shirt still cover my belly?
It was then I realized I had to sit down and do some hard thinking about my food and my body. How could I work toward being smaller but not make myself crazy with a diet? It was time to do some research.
I started by thinking about how my body reacts to various foods. I know for sure that my body has some sort of sensitivity to wheat and wheat products; I don’t know that I actually have an issue with gluten or not because I’ve never been diagnosed or even examined for it. But I do know that eating wheat causes bloating. So I put wheat in the “avoid as much as I can stand it” column.
Then I thought about sugar; I know for a fact that eating wheat products with sugar (sigh) cause me to feel like shit within twenty minutes of finishing them. It’s a clear cause and effect, but it’s a hard thing for me to let go of. I also know that eating things that are sugary but have no wheat can still cause me to have blood sugar plunges, but I also know that denying myself sugar – say, not having chocolate during PMS – sucks. If I was going to change my eating again, I had to be sure to make it a livable solution. So I put sugar in the “very limited” column.
I then thought about how great I feel when I eat low carb, for a while. The problem is that within ten days or so of eating reduced carbs – right after the fog lifts and I begin to feel clear and energetic – I begin having terrible abdominal cramping (like so many do) so badly that it wakes me at night. Even with extra fiber in my diet, the pain persists until I add carbs back in to my diet and vanishes within 24 hours of doing so. So I put carbs in the “what the fuck” column. (Yes, I have a WTF food column.)
Next up was admitting and coming to terms with my decreased consumption of fruit and vegetables. When I was doing a more rigid diet plan, I ate three pieces of fruit a day and two cups of veggies with both lunch and dinner, and when I was truly focused on intuitive eating I kept that practice up. But then… well, it vanished. I’d eat a banana with breakfast and a small amount of veggies with each meal, maybe. So I put fruit and veggies into the “step up and eat that shit” column.
Meat consumption has never been an issue. I love meat (yes, enjoy what your mind does with that). However, with our budget limitations I’d taken to eating crappy cuts of beef and nearly avoided fish altogether and having a lot of boring, bland chicken. I thought about how I could make this better and decided that I really wanted to add fish back in one or twice a week, eat better cuts of beef, and take the time to cook chicken in a way that was less bland. So I put meat in the “hell yeah, but eat higher quality” column.
Dairy and eggs were next. Here’s the thing: I fucking love cheese. LOVE IT. I also really love greek yogurt, sometimes enjoy cottage cheese, and other forms of dairy. But what I don’t really love anymore is just drinking plain milk, and I realize that dairy products actually. I do love eggs (scrambled, mostly) and can eat them daily. But both dairy and eggs are often full of hormones and other stuff. So I put eggs in the “hell yeah, but eat higher quality” column and put dairy in the “limited” column.
Corn; oh, this is a tough one. I think corn is likely the source of a lot of issues with weight in our culture; it’s usually highly genetically modified and it’s put into so much of our processed food in one way or another I think it’s a problem. But: I love mexican food. LOVE IT. So I put corn in the “limited” column. Which was hard.
What’s left? Well, nuts and seeds. I realized I needed to put these in the “hell yeah, but eat higher quality column.” I’ll explain why below.
So then I began to look at eating plans that fit into my columns, and I landed on a kind of weird one: paleo. The paleo diet is controversial; in fact, I know in my anthropology courses I learned that humans in the paleolithic era didn’t really eat this way. But nonetheless, it was intriguing. It’s described this way:
Paleolithic diet consists mainly of fish, grass-fed pasture raised meats, vegetables, fruit, fungi, roots, and nuts, and excludes grains, legumes, dairy products, refined salt, refined sugar, and processed oils.
I have a few disagreements with this diet; first of all, I can’t see how on earth legumes can be harmful. The theory is that they contain lectins (just like wheat) which is designed to fight off insects, which means they are mildly toxic. I think this is bullshit, and there was no way I was eliminating legumes from my diet.
There are branches of paleo that are pretty strongly anti-carb, and there are branches that believe in “safe” carbs. I find this kind of amusing; root vegetables like yams and turnips and plenty of wild versions like jerusalem artichoke and day lilies were eating by paleolithic people. So the safe carb list is a good bet.
So I took a bit from the paleo to come up with something that is working for me: limited carbs.
Here’s how I eat now. A typical day looks like this:
• Breakfast: greek yogurt + blueberries with stevia and some added fiber
• Lunch: eggs with fresh spinach, some lowfat bacon, and fruit (usually a banana)
• Dinner: all the meat I want, lots of veggies, and a small amount of carbs including potatoes (less than a cup’s worth), rice (even smaller amount, around 1/2 cup) or a big ol’ sweet potatoes.
Snacks include fruit and good cheese, apples and peanut butter, extra fruit, nuts in reasonable portions, and occasional treats like popcorn. In cooking I’ve switched almost entirely to using coconut oil (I love it so; it doesn’t burn like other oils).
I’ve been doing this for about a month now, with the last two weeks being very clearly similar to the above diet. I’ve had zero abdominal cramping.
Yes, I’ve lost some weight, and my belly has decreased in girth (primarily due to the bloat caused by wheat). I’m also sleeping better, more energetic during the day, and generally in a better mood.
Does this mean I’m dieting? I’m not really sure. Diets to me are constrictive to the point of pain. Nothing out there is on a strictly forbidden list for; I just want to be more aware of the choices I make when it comes to food each time I eat. For me, that awareness was key in intuitive eating; I think for a long while now I’ve confused “not thinking about food” with being intuitive about how I ate. The awareness factor was what was missing.
So dieting? I guess. Mostly not. But I am interested in losing weight. Ultimately, I’d like to get back to the weight I was prior to infertility treatments and pregnancy. I have no idea if I’ll be able to do, or if this current eating method is sustainable. But it’s what I’m doing now, and I feel pretty good about it.
When Charlie and I were recently discussing the stress level in our house and how we could change it (stress is a major contributor to my disordered eating, leading to binging) we realized that there was a huge thing that has been a chronic issue since my mom moved in: the dinner hour.
Dinner has always been weird with me and Charlie; I have lots of foods I love such as salmon and soups and stews that he just doesn’t enjoy at all. Plus he likes eating by 6 PM each night, and I much prefer eating around 8 PM. Years ago – back when I was rigidly dieting, and had odd hours at my job – we coped with this by eating dinner separately about five out of six days a week. Admittedly, when we did that, we often ended up at diners with friends from recovery meetings at night so we were at a table together quite often.
But my mom also has her personal food preferences, and then there’s Tori who only eats about five things in total. So dinner was basically a NIGHTMARE or trying to figure out what we could eat, who was in charge of cooking it, and what time it was happening. For over a year we’ve been trying to force the family dinner. So what ended up happening? Entirely too much takeout.
It wasn’t working.
Charlie and I spent a long time talking on Friday about this, and decided that the best thing to do is let go of family dinner. I know, it doesn’t make sense in a lot of ways, but we have GOT to eliminate some of the stress in the house. This way I can work through the regular dinner hour if I need to without guilt, and no one is in charge. Budget wise it actually works out better because it will (hopefully) eliminate takeout entirely. Best of all, I can eat the foods I love.
We have to restructure the evening so that we still get our Tori time, so there are kinks to work out. And we’ve decided to still have a family dinner on Sundays.
It’s only been a few days, but HOLY GOD the relief of not having to make dinner happen is amazing.
Oddly, this fits well into my new eating plan because I get to make the food that works best for me. It’s amazing.
I hesitated to talk about this because I know I’ve made such a huge deal out not dieting – plus, I’ll confess, some of the inspiration to get smaller has come at the hands of the “harasshats” that discuss my body size on various places on the web. As much as I work to avoid letting what they say get under my skin, it still does. Besides: lots of criticism actually comes with a bit of truth, even when it’s said cruelly and unkindly. I did need to change my eating; it wasn’t clean or right. So this is me, eating some humble pie. And I know you’ve all watched me cycle through this time and again; I don’t know if this time will be different; but I do know that I needed to be more flexible in my no-diet stance, and that’s the first time I’ve done that in almost five years. So maybe it will. We’ll see.
The search for smaller is on.