the only eating I know how to do is dieting

Sorry for the hiatus, y’all. I’ve been showing my house and packing and etc. Oh, and going to the racetrack, but that was just for fun, not related to moving.

Anyway, the other day I read this post on Junkfood Science about BodyWorks, a government-sponsored anti-obesity program for teen girls. Check out the post. It’s comprehensive, as Junkfood Science always is. Among the problems with the program is this “healthy eating plan”, outlined in a BodyWorks recipe and menu planning book:

Breakfast recipes include those for cereals, egg white omelets, austere fruit dishes, French toast and pancakes, with an average 226.50 calories and 4.3 grams of fat per serving. Among 63 servings represented in the recipe choices, they contain a total of 5 tablespoons oil and 3 whole eggs.

Lunch recipes offer a range of vegetable salads, sandwiches and soups. Each serving averages 0.25 teaspoon oil and 0.02 teaspoon salt. Lunches average 227.25 calories and 8.2 grams of total fat per serving.

Dinner is an enormous collection of vegetable-intensive recipes dishes that are equally ascetic, with a mere 1 ½ teaspoons salt total for 191 servings and 0.07 tablespoon of oil per serving. The dinner recipes average 264.2 calories and 2.18 grams of total fat per serving.

The “healthy desserts” are fruit-based, averaging 1 teaspoon added sugar per serving. Desserts average 184.5 calories per servings, with 2.69 grams total fat.

Even if the girls are allowed dessert, a full day following this “healthy” meal plan would provide them with 902.45 caloriesabout one-third (37.6%) of the daily calories needed by girls this age and activity level, according the USDA/ARS Children’s Nutritional Research Center at Baylor, used by the Dietary Guidelines.

(Apologies for the long quote. There’s much more on Junkfood Science. You really should read it all!)

Reading this, I realized that I don’t really know how to eat; I just know how to diet – and I know how to blow off a diet. I’m guessing this won’t come as a shock to most folks out there in the Fat Acceptance world – I bet that’s true for a lot of women, and maybe men, too. I think I even knew this, intellectually. Yeah, yeah, I’ve basically dieted on-and-off for my whole life, I believe that pretty much all the eating that women do is disordered in its obsession with quantifying nutrition, etc., etc., etc.

But seeing that diet plan made me realize – again, and viscerally – how fucking crazy it is, and how fucking crazy I’ve been. Because that’s how I’ve eaten – or, more accurately, how I’ve tried to eat – my whole life. I’ve happily chewed on 180 calorie Luna bars and considered them breakfast. I’ve packed 270 calorie Lean Cuisines and counted that as lunch. On the flip side, I’ve eaten half a pizza at a time, gone through a half-gallon of ice cream in a couple of days, snuck down to the gas station to buy three candy bars.

I’ve dieted, and I’ve… well, I’m not sure if I’d call it binging. I don’t want to minimize Binge Eating Disorder by comparing it with my more generalized overeating. But the point is, I’ve never just eaten normally.

And maybe that’s why intuitive eating is so hard for me.


21 responses to “the only eating I know how to do is dieting

  1. That was a really eye-opening post for me, too. I still have times where that seems like the way I should be eating, if I were really “good.” Crazy to recognize that my ingrained ideas about a healthy diet is actually starvation.

  2. Oh, I hear you!

    I lived at home all through college. At home, I felt I had to “eat good”, aka diet, even if I wasn’t “officially” on a diet (and if I wasn’t, why wasn’t I?) If I had an opportunity to eat “bad” foods when I was away from home, I would – because I *could*.

    After college I got my first apartment. It was a big adjustment, living alone, and one of the biggest was that I could eat whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, and nobody else had to know. I ate Coco Puffs or cookies for breakfast. I got takeout. After the initial “bad food” honeymoon, I would find myself making the sorts of things I had made for my parents and myself in college – a salad or pasta or burritos.

    After a while I’d just come home and just have an apple or something. In the morning I’d be starving. One three-day weekend I didn’t eat at all – not because I wasn’t hungry but in rebellion over the whole “What should I eat? What do I want to eat? Good food for bad food?” I felt seriously ill at the end of that weekend, but it did, I think, get me to realize that food wasn’t a religion, it wasn’t a way to be “good” or “bad” – it was something my body needed to stay well. I do sometimes slip into “bad” and “good”, but I’m trying to make it about what my bod wants, not about diets.

  3. I was just realizing that exact thing. Every time I start over trying to eat normally. I start over and start over and wonder when or if I will ever be the way I was a child when issues like this never took up the brain space that it does now. Even if you take back your eating and your body image, you have to find a way to reclaim the time and space and energy you have always devoted (and still devote) to trying to eat normally. How do you evict such a long term tenant long after the party was over and the police left?

  4. It’s hard to do something normally when you have no personal template of what normal really is for that activity.

    The hardest thing about intuitive eating, I think, is learning to actually trust your body’s intuition. If all your body has ever known is feast or famine, it’s hard to know what a simple meal looks like and hard to hear your body calling for it.

    The good news? It is possible to break the cycle. The bad news? It might take a while and some very confused eating behavior during the transition.

    Just try to relax about it. One of the great things about intuitive eating is that there is no program to cheat on, no wagon to fall off of, and no failure if you do sit down and eat half a large pizza by yourself. If you’re listening carefully, your body will probably tell you quite clearly not to do that again. It will probably tell you it’s more than satisfied with something between one and three slices. But if your body is happy with half a pizza in it…then your body is happy with half a pizza in it, and that’s okay, too.

  5. Yep. Sounds about right. I find the hardest thing is to really listen to my body, and that’s what we really need to do.

    I’m finding that I really don’t like sweets as much as I thought I did, but that I like meat more. I did eat a whole lot of chocolate at first, but even that got boring. Watermelon has been my lust lately, good thing it’s cheap in the Summer!

    And setpoints must be true, I haven’t gained or lost significant weight, just bounced around in my normal 20lb range.

    And somedays, somedays a 200 calorie breakfast really is all I need. Other days, twice that.

  6. Thank you so much for this post, because you basically just described my realationship with food. I don’t know how to not be on a diet, I only know how to be on one, or blowing one. Intuative eating frightens me because when I allow myself to eat anything I want (I know that this is not what IE is all about), I tend to go overboard on salty crunchies and sweets. I also can eat copious amounts of food (half a pizza, no sweat) but am not considered a binge eater.

    Food is my friend, but I am in an abusive relationship and I don’t know how to change it.

  7. It takes time to listen to your body. If you listen, you won’t eat like a restricted eater. Eating more than you stomach can handle or not enough to feed a small child. It can take time to hear its voice. To know that there will be food to eat tomorrow.

  8. Oh sweetie, this is exactly what I’ve been trying to help young women realize. They are dieting. It’s understandable, as it’s amazing any young woman today can escape the incessant focus on dieting, weight and so-called healthy eating, to even understand what normal eating is. [Hint: your “flip side” is more normal eating and responding to hunger. ] Intuitive eating is not normal eating, either. It’s another way to control your eating. No one needs to think so much about eating, or worry about food, so much. Most of the scary information about our bodies, fat and food is driven by fears used to take advantage of people. [Health and wellness is huge business and they’ve especially targeted fat people.] No food will hurt you, and no food has magical curative benefits. It’s just food. It’s energy and nourishment for survival, and pleasure. It’s okay to love food. Relax, don’t even LOOK at a food label (counting grams, etc.), and if you don’t restrict the amount or variety of food you usually eat, you’ll prevent deficiencies and that’s pretty much all there is to credible nutritional science. It’s the food beliefs/fears and restrictive eating that get people into trouble. Humans thrive quite well eating all sorts of foods and different diets and the body still takes the same basic elemental nutrients it needs, regardless of the source. There is no one right way to eat or one way that’s healthier or will help you live longer. Nor will letting yourself eat normally cause you to keep gaining weight, as our bodies are designed to keep our weights in their genetic set point range. [That’s almost never size 2, though.]
    Trying to break through when people feel scared is hard, though, and people get mad, lash out and don’t want to hear. I wish I knew a better way to reach and help you all.

    I’ve thought about this post all day and it brings tears to my eyes and warms my heart. This is a wonderful post, beautifully written, and an amazing and empowering realization. I’m so proud of you. You go girl! Big hugs.

  9. Hi,
    I am the same way as you two. I have binged up to a very high weight and could never control myself around sugar and carbs. I have done all the diets. I was always the kid who couldn’t just eat one brownie like my thin friend. I was ALWAYS in a war with food… especially sweets.

    I tried intuitive eating for two years. It didn’t work. In 2006, I read Kathleen DesMaisons’ books, ‘Potatoes Not Prozac’ and ‘Your Last Diet’ and I understood myself for the first time. I am sugar sensitive or sugar addicted. I have a unique biochemistry that only some people have. My family is full of such folks. Diets don’t work for me… what has and is working is Radiant Recovery, Dr. DesMaisons’ plan,

    I hope you will check it out. It is about so much more than dieting and losing weight. It is about helping you regain your life… your peace, and a good relationship with food rather than being controlled by food. It is a plan that heals biochemistry… and helps us be the intuitive, free, and caring people we were made to be.

    Hugs and best wishes,

  10. For me I really believe that IE begins with allowing myself to eat whatever I want even if it is all sweets and salty snacks. I got started on IE years ago with a church based program called Weigh Down Workshop (WDWS) by Gwen Shamblin *. There were videos and workbooks etc and on the vidoes she used to say if you want to eat nothing but chocolate (or whatever food) all day, every dayt, it is fine, but she would bet you get tired of it in less than a day. For me I have to let go of fear of what I may eat and just eat whatever I want. And know what? I don’t eat snacky foods all day, every day. I think sometimes it takes a while to convince your self that you really can eat whatever you want when you are hungry and that it is ok, so you don’t have to eat half the pizza because there will always be more pizza. I think I can trust my body way more that I usually believe I can.

    * I would NOT reccommend WDWS at all even though I did learn a lot because she connects overeating with sin and shame in a unhealthy way that ended up screwing up the whole IE thing for me. And I also kind of think she is nuts…..just my opinion.

  11. Wow. I’m so sorry I didn’t check comments until tonight – there were a bunch waiting for moderation and I wish they could have been out sooner. Everyone is so insightful and thoughtful and generous, and I’m so, so happy to be a part of all of this with you. Thank you!

  12. Oh, and:

    Lisa: My mother has always, even when she was helping me diet, believed that if it weren’t for sugar, which she sees as an addiction for most folks, we could all just eat what we craved and naturally get the nutrition we needed. A form of intuitive eating that sounds a lot like what you’ve settled on.

    I also want to especially thank Sandy for commenting here. I really appreciate hearing from you – your blog is really a lifeline for a lot of us, and a remarkable source of information.

  13. I think dieting stuffs your eating patterns up for good. Once you have dieted you are always going to obsess over food and want to horde. Remember that study on healthy men back in the 60’s who had never dieted. They put them on a diet of (I think) 1200 calories and voila they were swapping recipes, stealing others food, bingeing and if someone was cooking that night they felt immense pressure not to ruin the meal for anyone and some exercised just so they could eat more. In short they obsessed over food. In a follow up study later on they found that the men never recovered and still had fucked up thinking about food. Once a dieter your tarnished and thats why intuitive eating requires such concentration. It sucks and it is unfair but it is still the truth.

  14. I’m sorry if I’m repeating; I have to go put my broke-ass foot up and haven’t had time to finish – but not only are those diet choices EXTREMELY low-calorie (providing only about 1/3 of what a teenaged girl NEEDS every day) but last I read, teens need approximately 50-60 grams of fat per day – PER THE GOVERNMENT – (which is important for all your fat-soluble vitamins like D and A) and this shit recommendation provides like SEVENTEEN. WTF? And 900 calories???

    The GOVERNMENT is sponsoring this fuckery? Well, can you be surprised? The NIH declared war on us, and by God, they’re going to wage it. Someone scathingly commented on my blog about my complaint about what the government plans to do with fat people – I’m sorry, if this isn’t trying to actively HARM people, then tell me what is exactly?

  15. This post is…wow. You have described my relationship with food to a T.

    I forget that people are supposed to eat multiple times a day. I forget that people are supposed to respond to their hunger. I honestly, truly forget that. And when I remember to eat to satiety, I often end up stuffing myself, eating too fast, or picking the greasiest, fattiest, easiest, and tastiest food I can find to make up for the self-imposed deficit.

    I am a complete and total victim of diet culture. And even though I can see that as clear as day now, I still struggle with it every time I eat. Every fucking time. I’ve been dieting off and on since about age 11 or 12. I haven’t been on an official diet for about a year now, but dieting and all of its unrealistic tips and tricks are an intrinsic part of my self-worth and self-identity now. It’s maddening.

  16. This post rings so true. I have dieted/binged my entire adult life. I long for the days when food wasn’t an “issue”, I feel certain that I will get that back.

  17. Reading Sandy’s comment has really hit home with me. I thought I was the weird one who didn’t really understand intuitive eating. Its philosophy confused me- on one hand saying you can break all the rules and on the other handgiving you rules to live by. It was just too damn hard (well, impossible really) and I hated having to think about food all the time. Anyway, I ate ‘intuitively’ and put about 3 stones (42lb) so guess what, now I’m on ‘a diet’!
    I don’t know how to feed myself properly, or I’m scared of food, or I feed my emotions… all of these things apply to me. I am a victim of diet culture too, and guess what- I’ve always been fat.

  18. I really thin that its about taking the time and listening to your body to find that happy medium between dieting and over-eating. With time, you will grow to understand your body’s cravings but it definitely won’t happen overnight. It may take months or even years to really master this ‘intuitive eating’ that you are so keen on.

  19. fatgirlonadate, come back!!!
    i miss you and your posts terribly!
    annie (who signed up for eharmony because you gave her the courage, and she just had a bad date, but lives to tell the tale) g.

  20. I greatly appreciate the recent interest in BodyWorks and the conversations generated by the article. As a BodyWorks trainer and advocate for the past two years, and as a pediatrician in general practice, I would like to participate in these discussions. BodyWorks is not a diet plan and the concerns about inadequate calorie and/or fat intake are unfounded. The emphasis of the program is on small, sustained changes in diet, activity and lifestyle of the entire family. The materials are general guidelines for change, and provide families with a better understanding of nutrition and label reading. They are based on the Dietary Guidelines for America 2005 by the US Department of Health and Human Services. Journaling is useful because it helps the family get an overview of their lifestyle, set healthy goals and track their progress. There is no charge for materials or participation.

  21. Looks tasty…you said it easy to make right? Maybe i’ll give it a shot over the weekend.

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