Note: Learn more about the Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating program here or at www.amihungry.com.
(NOTE: This entry is longer than usual to make up for the fact that I will not be posting anything again until March 18, when I will be back from New Zealand! So you can look forward to notes about eating there.)
I’ve been working on my memoir recently, and now that I’m at the section on my weight loss, it’s fascinating to see echoes in my words of what I now teach through “Am I Hungry?”. (For more information on that, check out my website.) I wanted to share some of that, to show how the theory can translate to reality.
These are some of my comments and how they relate, from July 2002 to March 2003, along with some suggestions for support in putting this into practice for yourself.
When I eat well, I feel good, and when I eat too much unhealthy food I feel awful. I therefore eat well because it makes me feel good and I enjoy it. I don’t know if everyone who loses weight feels this, and I consider myself lucky that I do....
Relation to AIH: Trusting that when you don’t restrict yourself, your body will start to naturally gravitate towards balance, variety, and moderation, and making healthier choices that are nutrient-rich.
I have also become quite in tune with my body’s actual needs as opposed to my emotional or bodily wants, which helps.... I try to eat healthy snacks, like fruits, but depending on the time of month, my body demands more substantial foods, so I will sometimes have peanuts or chocolate or things like that.
Relation to AIH: The importance of asking yourself, “What do I want, what do I need, what do I have?” - and recognizing that this can change on a daily basis.
I keep thinking I should be eating more, so I try that (like yesterday), still eating healthy, and then I get upset when it doesn’t work. I have to keep reminding myself that I need to go by what my body tells me, not my head.
Relation to AIH: Consistently eating more than you need to be satisfied (i.e., to higher numbers on the hunger/fullness scale) will result in weight gain, regardless of what you’re eating. To avoid this, you need to be aware of the little voices that cause head hunger and listen to your body instead.
For special occasions - holidays, birthday cakes at work, etc. - I never really denied myself having small portions of things. And sometimes I splurged, eating far more in one day than normal, but I always found that if I got right back on track the next day, it wasn't too bad.... Just because I might not do well for a day, or even a couple of days, doesn't mean that I should give up.
Relation to AIH: All foods fit, and it’s okay to eat something if you really, really, really, really want it. If you get out of the instinctive eating cycle, remember that it’s about direction, not perfection! To avoid getting trapped in the overeating cycle, don’t beat yourself up, just get back to instinctive eating.
The other thing is I've just gotten to know my body very well through all this, and to eat to the point where I'm satisfied, and recognize when I'm actually hungry as opposed to just feel like eating something - [chewing gum or drinking tea has been helpful for this]....
Relation to AIH: Before you eat, ask yourself, “Am I hungry?” If you’re not, try to identify the triggers (environmental, physical, and emotional) that made you feel like eating, and find a way to distract yourself or meet your true needs. If you are hungry, eating to a 5 on the hunger/fullness scale will leave you satisfied and feeling great.
This is something I once never would have thought possible – for me to take pleasure in my physicality. This pleasure of course spills into other things, and it even loops back and nourishes itself. I actually enjoy certain exercise now, so I make sure to do it every day, which in turn helps promote weight loss and increased enjoyment.
Relation to AIH: We’re born to move! Too often we think of exercise only as a means of losing weight, when it is truly a goal in and of itself.
I never used to think about or pay attention to how my body functioned; I suppose I took it for granted, such as it was. But not anymore. As I’ve lost weight, I’ve started to notice the underlying structure – wrists and collarbones, the slowly emerging definition of muscles, the graceful play of tendons as my fingers move, the sense that beneath all the weight I have a body that is inherently as capable of beauty and grace as anyone else’s.
Relation to AIH: One of the often unacknowledged benefits of exercise is how it helps you appreciate your body more, and gives you confidence in it, knowing you can trust it to do what you ask.
I used to dread doing anything that would attract attention, positive or negative, because I was sure that anyone who actually focused on me would be disgusted. But I’m not really worrying about that anymore.... I find it’s actually rather pleasant, to be able to go through life without worrying so much about what people think of my appearance, and I think it’s freed up a lot of energy for other things.
Relation to AIH: Where do you spend your energy? Is it on worrying about how other people see you, or feeling guilty for what you ate, or worrying about what you’re allowed to eat? Or is it just living your life?
I don’t think [my younger self] would recognize who I’ve become.... And I don’t only mean the physical changes, but everything else that has come along with it: confidence, actual positive self-esteem, ability to look a stranger in the eye, and smile and say hello, willingness to try new things, sociability, etc.... So I wonder, have I finally, finally emerged from my chrysalis to fly free in the world...? I feel that the road to freedom no longer beckons me from some distant place, shimmering and enticing as a mirage of the sea, but rather that it has now deposited me at the next step on my path, a familiar and dear presence at my back, urging me on. Whence from here, I cannot say, only that my heart is light with hope, for I am once again, as in my distant childhood, exhilarated rather than frightened of all the possibilities.
Relation to AIH: When you learn to trust yourself and your body, you truly do find freedom, to be the person you have always dreamed of being.
To learn more about how you might put this into practice for yourself, some books you can reference are:
Even if you feel like you can do this on your own, I highly encourage you to consider these materials, the “Am I Hungry?” program, and other ways to embrace a no-diet mentality and lifestyle changes. I speak from experience when I say it is a lonely, hard road to go alone. Having some support and guidance will help smooth the way.