Readers of the blog know that I’ve been struggling a bit with intuitive eating. First, I was worried that I couldn’t trust myself without limits. Then, after I started to loosen the limits, I caught myself using intuitive eating as an excuse to eat poorly.
Now, I’m coming to understand another difficulty: I’m having a hard time distinguishing between intuitive eating and habitual eating. What feels like intuition, for me, is often poorly concealed habit. A key element of intuitive eating, as I understand it, is conscious eating. Knowing what I’m craving. Acting on that craving. Paying attention to whether the craving has been met. Habitual eating – which can feel a lot like a craving, can even become a real honest-to-goodness craving – is the opposite of conscious eating.
Some food habits I have that I’ve just begun to notice:
- I eat dinner as soon as possible after getting home. I come in the front door, drop the bags, change into my loungey clothes and head into the kitchen. Doesn’t matter if I’m getting home at 5:30 or 8:00.
- I have a meal-sized sample of everything I’ve cooked. Doesn’t matter if I’m making risotto at 8:00 in the morning or muffins at 9:00 at night.
- When I shop for groceries, I buy myself a drinkable treat. Could be a latte (when I’m at the grocery store that has a coffee shop inside) or a diet soda or whatever else looks good, but I always get something.
- When I shop at the coop, I take a run through the salad bar for lunch.
- At restaurants? I always order the same damned thing. The Kurdish restaurant? Dowjic. Tex-mex? Chicken taquitos. Cambodian restaurant? Loth cha. Thai restaurant? Green curry. Chipotle? Burrito bowl, no rice, black beans, fajita veggies, chicken, tomato salsa, corn salsa, “just a little” cheese and sour cream, lettuce.
I want to get a handle on all these little habits. I want to recognize them as such, so I can call myself on them. That’s not to say that I’ll deny myself these pleasures, but I want to do so in full awareness of what I’m choosing – and why.
That actually reminds me of something else I’ve been noodling about lately. A commenter here keeps a food diary online. She takes pictures of her meals and posts them on her blog. I’m always interested to read it – in part because I’m fascinated by food in general (dammit! I’m a living fat stereotype), but also because I’ve been thinking about doing the same thing. Oh, I probably wouldn’t post it online – that’s not what this blog is about, and I certainly don’t want to start maintaining another one! – but the idea of capturing what I’m eating appeals to me. I like order. I like lists. I love to plan things. I would take some pleasure in keeping track of what I’ve eaten on a given day – not to see whether I’ve been “good” or “bad” but because I’m really, actually interested. And, while I’m no longer counting calories or fat grams, I do want to be sure that I’m eating a balanced diet generally, that I’m getting the nutrition that I need.
But where’s the line between a disordered obsession with food – an obsession with how much and how many and “good” and “bad” – and a healthy awareness and interest in what I’m eating? Am I kidding myself to think that I can have one without the other?