Then, one day while lazily reading the Sunday papers with a friend outside a pub, I read an article about Paul McKenna. If you don't know about him, I'm not going to repeat it here, just Google him. He has a book called "I can make you thin" (known to Mr. Spouse as "I can make myself rich") and as it is a very slim volume, the article gave pretty much all the text plus commentary. It is an idea that I had come across before, in various guises, including "Fat is a Feminist Issue" (Susie Orbach), "When you eat at the refrigerator, pull up a chair" (Geneen Roth) and "Beyond Chocolate" (Sophie & Audrey Boss). I had to some extent tried and not really understood the whole concept - which is generally known as "intuitive eating" - but somehow I knew I needed to try it again.
The main things that make me feel this approach is worth trying are that
1) Diets don't work in the long run. This is partly for physiological reasons - eating too little can make your body go "hey, starvation alert, quick, don't burn any fuel" but properly managed, this shouldn't happen - eating a reasonable amount to offset any exercise should help.
But it is also, probably mainly, for psychological reasons. Denying yourself - being a "restricted eater" - has been shown to make people eat more in the long run, more when they are no longer "denying themselves", and is probably a major cause of yoyo dieting. For the 90%* of women who have dieted and failed, it is not that YOU are a failure. It is not that you don't have the will power. You cannot possibly have that much will power. You are not designed to have that much will power.
2) This approach seems much more sustainable in the long run and also much more amenable to working with kids - especially kids who haven't had a very reliable food supply at points in the past. It's also much more home-life friendly, or at least in some respects it is - I was getting a bit fed up of telling Mr. Spouse I didn't want to eat his favourite dinner because it was too calorific.
However I have kind of half-heartedly tried this approach before and it didn't really work. And you know, I think it may be that I needed to try "proper" dieting first. First of all to appreciate the process:
- no more "I've got to eat this, it's what I planned, I've got to eat all of it too"
- no more "I'm starving but I've got no calories left for today"
- no more "ooh, how many calories in that, ooh I really really want it but I can't have it, oh I'll eat it anyway, I feel so guilty, I'm a real weak-willed ninny"
But also because I learned a lot and also I think because my physiology needed a bit of sorting out:
- I actually have a clue what portion sizes will fill me up, I have tried more recently to eat slowly, and with the WLR emphasis on eating enough fat, I know that reasonable levels of fat are also quite filling
- Losing the first chunk** of weight seems to have sorted out my blood sugar so that I actually feel hungry a lot more often
- I am much more able to exercise now - although I was quite active before, I can do much more now.
- The confidence that Mr Spouse gave me to lose the weight has also helped me think of my body more positively
So, long story a tiny bit shorter, I have lost another stone by dint of:
- Eating when I'm hungry
- Eating what I'm hungry for
- Eating slowly and mindfully
- Stopping when I'm full
- Paying some lip service to meditating on body image and listening to relaxation tracks (actually, the former has been of more help - although I thought it wouldn't - I think the confidence being with Mr. Spouse has given me has helped me see something more positive in my body).
All this type of thing is pretty much proven to work - "tapping", hypnosis etc. hasn't. So, on the Beyond Chocolate principle of "be your own guru", I'm taking what works from each of the approaches.
I'm not very good at all of this and I have to remind myself to remember to focus on the positive. I'm getting better at noticing whether I'm really hungry, or thirsty or sometimes just bored. I was never a huge emotional eater - things have to be really really bad for me to need food and it's almost always chocolate on CD1.
Slowly and mindfully is generally OK, and I have a much better place to eat lunch here than back in the UK. My crunch points are 10 minutes before I leave the office for a gym visit/long route home via lots of places, and I realise I'm starving plus I have to do an emergency email; and the more prosaic sitting-on-the-sofa-can't-be-bothered-to-turn-off-the TV. That of course combines with eating only when hungry as it's usually after a meal (though sometimes early evening before we've cooked dinner/if Mr Spouse is still out).
Stopping when I'm full is better at home than when out, but my portion sizes are decreasing, definitely, and I don't always feel the need to eat all of what I bought. This does mean several days a week I really really want dessert but have no room. I should probably persuade Mr. Spouse we need to have a dessert-for-dinner day, but I do have a smoothie-plus-pastry lunch day most weeks, and unless it's a very small pastry again I don't feel the need to finish it if I'm full. So this one kind of combines with "eating what I'm hungry for".
I think, just to go on a bit, that the real confidence booster has been realising that I - and everyone else, yes really, you are NOT a fat pig who will eat chocolate till the world ends - do naturally gravitate towards a somewhat balanced diet.
Generally I want to eat more breakfast than I used to but less lunch and dinner - in particular, I don't feel I have to have sandwich plus fruit plus crisps or biscuits for lunch, I feel satisfied after most of a sandwich plus a drink some days, sandwich plus some fruit others, very much depending. I don't have to eat loads after exercising - I notice I eat a little more but not necessarily proportionately. I also notice that although some "healthy" type foods fill me up quickly (fruit in particular) I get hungry again quickly, but other things that are sometimes termed a bit less "healthy" keep me going a lot longer. I had a chunk of cheese as part of my lunch at about 2pm and it's now 6.30, I've only had a skim-milk*** latte in between and I'm not really ready to think about dinner yet.
I'm not fully there in what I do nor in what I want to look like/weigh. I'm not sure I ever will be - but I'm at a holding level and a much more healthy weight (BMI about 27-28 at the moment - I think I've gained about 3lb in 5 months in a pretty overweight culture).
Diets beckon - they are very well marketed - lose some weight quickly and go back on a healthy eating plan - but I get a reality check pretty often from some of the ladies on my favourite message boards - how many times have they yo-yoed, there are some much more long term dieters than I am, and so many women who are much thinner and have horrendous body image issues.
This has got SO long but I just wanted to get it all off my chest. If you want some real inspiration, check out everdecreasinggirdle.
*figure plucked out of hat
**term used advisedly
***I have noticed I go for skim milk when I don't want to be filled up for long or am not at all hungry, and sometimes I deliberately go for full fat when I know it's a long time till dinner.