Am I the only one who has wondered which is harder: to stop eating your favorite foods once you start, or to just avoid them altogether? For me, it seems much easier to totally abstain from certain foods than it is to control myself around temptations. Yes, I have always had an all or none mentality when it comes to eating.
On October 18 of this year, we celebrated my younger son's 18th birthday with the tallest, richest German chocolate layer cake I have ever had. The coconut frosting was piled high, and the chocolate buttercream frosting between the layers of chocolate cake was so rich. As I was scraping the last of the chocolate off of my dessert plate, I remember feeling just slightly sick, and I realized I probably should've stopped eating three bites ago. But it had been so good, I just couldn't stop.
That night, I made a hasty decision to avoid any of my trigger foods for the next 30 days. My 55th birthday was one month away on November 18, and it was my hope that in forgoing cookies, ice cream, sugar, and processed foods, I would give myself the gift of a ten pound weight loss. I wanted so much to lose the ten pounds I had gained after Chuck and I got married.
During the month before Bridger's birthday, I had noticed my jeans were tighter. My wedding ring no longer slipped around my finger, and I was having frequent issues with an itchy rash under the wedding band and engagement ring. My last doctor's appointment revealed my weight was up, and so was my blood pressure. Something had to change.
Giving up my trigger foods made sense to me. And it was pretty easy. I was able to bake cookies for Chuck, without sampling any of them. I simply said "no, thanks" to sweets and goodies when they were offered. Whenever temptation reared its ugly head, I looked the other way, distracting myself with frozen grapes, or a small tangerine. Yeah, I ate a lot of fruit that month.
Saying no was easy. Would I ever be able to just eat a normal size portion of a food I loved, and then stop? What would that even feel like? Most of my life I have struggled with my relationship with food and exercise.
I have overeaten, and undereaten. I have WEIGHED TOO MUCH, and I have weighed too little. I have ignored the scales, and I have weighed obsessively eight times a day. I have been a couch potato, and I have run four miles every single morning for months on end, trying to beat my weight into submission.
Have you read this quote?
"With addiction, you figure out how to lock the tiger in its cage and keep it there. With an eating disorder, you have to figure out how to take the tiger out and walk it three times a day." (Tennie McCarty, eating disorder expert)
Do you think with time, the tiger gets easier to walk? Do you think the tiger ever gets any smaller; any less scary? Could the ravenous beast I have been fearing be reduced to the size of a purring kitten?
It is an uncomfortable feeling to not trust yourself to stop eating at one cookie. Or to doubt that you have the willpower to put the rest of the brownies away after eating one of them. Or to be afraid that if you have a scoop of ice cream, the rest of the carton will not be long for this world.
I took very small bites, and savored the flavor of fudgy chocolate, and the cool, moist texture of the refrigerated dessert. After each bite, I set my fork down. I smelled the cake. I chewed the cake. I smiled. So this is what intentional eating felt like.
The wind had been building all day, and looking through the dining room's lace panel curtains, I watched the branches of the pine tree beyond the deck sway back and forth. After I swallowed the last bite, I realized I was glad I had not taken a larger piece. It wasn't as wonderful as I had imagined it would be, although I did enjoy eating something sweet. In contrast to the brewing storm outside, I felt remarkably calm. As I put my dishes in the dishwasher, I no longer felt like I had been tempting fate.
During the rest of the week, I practiced my intentional eating with a single chocolate chip cookie, and another time, I had a sample of chocolate covered peanuts at a confectionary shop on our date night. Each time feels a little easier, and a little less anxiety-ridden.
I am doing it, slowly but surely. I am taking my tiger for a walk, and finally, the tiger is not in control of me; I'm in control of the tiger. And that feels pretty darn good.