“When you look into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you ~ Friedrich Nietzsche”
As a psychologist, I practice mental health. That means that I rarely get it completely right. I am always learning and changing the way I see my world and the way I treat my patients or clients. A part of what we do, as professionals, is seek training. We are in fact required to seek a certain amount of training in order to keep our licenses. And so, I attended a symposium this past Friday. The broad topic was the treatment of eating disorders. The key presentation in the morning was by one of the two authors of “Intuitive Eating” (Elyse Resch, MS, RDN). This was an exceptional presentation and turned out to be an abyss of sorts for me. Merriam Webster defines abyss as: “a hole so deep or a space so great that it cannot be measured.”
You may be scratching your head and wondering what this could possibly mean. Don’t worry, I will explain. If you have read some of my blog, you will know that I spent many years in the obese to morbidly obese weight range. My relationship with food has been unhealthy from an early age. And then I found a way to take the weight off and keep it off. However, that method involved obsessively tracking everything I ate, monitoring my calorie expenditures (using bodybugg), and thinking more about food and exercise than anything else in my life. This went on for about 30 months until the issue of heart surgery came up and then I got distracted. Though I never totally let go of the fear of gaining weight or the beliefs that there are “good” and “bad” foods. Of course I made it through the surgery and busted my butt to get back to my previous level of fitness. Unfortunately, the stress proved too much for me and my cortisol cycle got out of whack.
As a result, I decreased the intensity of my workouts and tried to find a way to adjust my caloric intake to lose a few pounds that had crept on. Unfortunately, 1200 calories is very restrictive and I found myself in some old patterns. While it is hard to admit this, publicly, I know that it is important to me and to anyone who may read this. I found myself bingeing on occasion. Binges look different for different people. However, I am speaking generally about eating when not hungry, too quickly, and for no nutritional purpose. For me, binges weren’t about massive quantities of food, rather eating unnecessarily. I also found myself worrying excessively about getting enough exercise and feeling shame and dislike about my body. Last weekend, I decided to join Weight Watchers in an attempt to drop those pounds. And so I began tracking my food, trying to eat only “good food” and worrying about running out of points.
And then I went to the aforementioned symposium. And I learned. I learned a lot. I took the opportunity to really look into this abyss and it looked back into me. I realized that while my behaviors may not reach the severity of a diagnosis (though they may), my relationship with my body and food is unhealthy and must change. I learned about intuitive eating and making peace with my body and food.
Yesterday I began the process of change. Last night I dropped my Weight Watchers membership. Over the next few months I will blog about this process. It requires that I no longer step on the scale – the number on that scale does not say anything about my worth or my well-being. I found this cartoon on the web and thought it spoke volumes about the issue.
I do want to briefly explain intuitive eating (for more information on the topic and books – http://www.intuitiveeating.org/). Essentially, intuitive eating is eating when you are hungry and stopping when you are comfortably satiated. It is eating a balance of nutritious foods and play foods (those that have little nutritional value but taste good). It means trusting your body and allowing it to do what it needs to do. We are born knowing how to eat intuitively. Babies nurse when hungry and stop (turn their heads away) when they have had enough. Many of us forgot how to do this along the way. It means moving rather than exercising. It means not logging food, not worrying about how many calories you burned walking the dogs or playing tennis. Eating intuitively breaks the power of food and allows us to return our bodies to their normal homeo-flexibility (the size and shape range that is best for each of our bodies).
I will talk more about what this is and how it works as I work through the process and my own issues. I do realize that this may challenge the beliefs some of you hold. However, I am convinced that this approach will help me and will allow me to help many of my clients over the coming years.
Thank you for continuing to take this journey with me.