Learning to say Yes or why saying No doesn’t work

While I am still working to listen for my hunger cues, eat when I am hungry and stop when I am comfortably full (old habits are proving hard to break), I am also allowing myself to let go of dieting. This is proving to be difficult, mainly because of Chatty Kathy and the unhelpful messages she incessantly provides. This week brings another challenge – making peace with food.

I have a friend – I have known her for about 52 years – who is a devout Catholic. I remember during our childhood that each year she would give up something she really loved – like chocolate. So for roughly six weeks each year, she could not eat chocolate. And because she couldn’t have it, that’s all she wanted. By the time Easter rolled around, the deprivation had taken its toll and she ate more chocolate than she even wanted.

During my childhood, my parents rationed my Halloween candy. I would get 2 or 3 candies per day. I am certain this was done with the intention of keeping my sugar intake to a reasonable and healthy range. But what did I do? I would find the candy and then sneak pieces or I would go to my grandma’s house around Halloween and eat an amazing number of miniature candy bars.

When I was in the Navy and then later as a civilian working for the Navy, I worked with a security clearance. That meant that I did all of my work in vaults. They were windowless, double door, combination locked spaces with no fresh air. It was sort of like a sterilized version of a casino. Without looking at the clock, there was no way to know what time it was or what the weather was like. I worked in those environments for 6 years (over 10% of my life!). And now, I seek windows. One whole wall of my office is windows. Our home has lots of light and windows. And, as long as the weather permits, I even like to sleep with at least one window open.

“Absence makes the heart grow fonder” and in this case makes the stomach growl louder!

Perceived deprivation often leads to a greater than expected desire for that from which the person has experienced deprivation. Think about the saying – ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’ – same thing. Perceived deprivation of food (as in a diet) frequently leads to cravings and subsequent rebound eating. Theoretically, this tendency to crave food and rebound eat becomes stronger each time we diet.

Tribole and Resch (Intuitive Eating) talk about some different forms of rebound eating: food competition (trying to make sure you get your share); returning home syndrome (reunited with favorite foods that you haven’t been able to get while away); the empty cupboard (pretty self-explanatory); captivity behavior (unable to access food for some reason – e.g. marathon meeting, camping); depression-era eating (‘clean your plate’); once in a lifetime (special meal); and one last shot (similar to once in a lifetime – tasting cookies you were given, dinner at a friend’s home).

So what are the first steps to saying yes (Tribole & Resch)?

Give yourself permission to eat without condition. Throw out that good and bad food list – you know the one. You either have it pinned up somewhere or have memorized it, or both. Food is food. It has no power. It is not animate. It alone can neither make you fat nor thin. Recognizing that, eat what you really want and without penance (penance meaning – exercising it off, dieting tomorrow, skipping a meal even though you were hungry). When you eat what you want, without conditions, there is no drive to eat in excess. There is no deprivation or impermanence. And all foods become equal.

Of then Chatty Kathy chimes in with her fears – but if you eat that…you’ll get fat. Yes, I’m still working on trusting myself and my body and yes, it is scary.

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