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Intuitive Eating is Scary Sometimes

I know that an important part of overcoming disordered eating is feeding my body when it tells me it needs food–even when my disordered eating brain tells me it’s not “time” or that I’ve already eaten “enough.” My disordered eating brain tells me, “This can’t be right. This feeling must be a lie,” even when I’m sitting there unable to concentrate with hunger.

But man, that can be easier said than done. Especially since, the last couple of nights, I’ve been getting really hungry late at night.

I got back from swing dance quite late on Wednesday night, and I shouldn’t be surprised that I was hungry. I ate a bowl of Mesa Sunrise cereal with banana, thinking that would surely tide me over, and when I was still hungry, a little bit of leftovers from supper.

“Okay,” I thought, “So I’ve eaten more than I normally would at this hour, but I’ve been out dancing for 3 hours, plus it’s been 6 + hours since I ate. No need to freak out.”

Thursday I didn’t restrict, despite what felt like a big late night snack the night before. I had a couple of flourless chocolate zucchini muffins and kefir for breakfast, a mid-morning snack of crackers, a late lunch of egg salad sandwich and banana, and a big serving of pesto chicken spaghetti squash casserole for supper, followed by ice cream, and about an hour later, the last zucchini muffin.DSCN1865Still, at about 10:30, I found myself anxiously hungry. After some debate, I went back to make myself a couple of quick microwave quesadillas with corn tortillas, cheddar and chopped roasted Anaheims from the farmers’ market. Because I figure as long as I’m going to snack, I may as well get some veggies in. 😉

IBS didn’t help my anxiety in that the snack made me feel very bloated and uncomfortable even though I could have sworn I was quite hungry before I ate.

I feel like I’ve been eating a lot lately, especially in the evenings: eating richer foods, going back for seconds, eating two snacks instead of my usual one. We’ve so trained and internalized in our culture that that’s the wrong thing to do–not only could eating more calories lead to the tragic impending destruction of our health and figure, magazines and websites and even major news sources predict, but if you do, it’s a sign that you have no self-control. A sentence from Avocado a Day Nutrition has been on my mind a lot lately: “I’ve heard recovery described as trying to survive in a society that has its own eating disorder.” Such a wise sentiment. Even as I choose to intuitive eat as best I can and surround myself with people who believe in intuitive eating (even if it means going back for a 10:30 snack just a few hours after dinner and dessert), so many folks I encounter still believe in restriction in all of the forms that it can take: calorie counting, meal planning, low-carb or low-fat diets, and over-exercise on inadequate fuel. And if I am honest, 2 years into recovery, those things still have their appeal to me, too.

But the point of this post is not to whine and complain.

The point of this post is to say that, even though I was scared of unexpected hunger at unexpected times, I still chose to act on that hunger. And that, I believe, is the key to recovery.DSCN1850In recovery, actions are more powerful than thoughts. Anxious thoughts suck, no doubt about it. Who wants to spend more time worrying about a piece of cake than they do actually eating the cake? I’ve done that many times, and it was certainly not something I would have chosen for myself. Managing that anxiety is key to recovery.DSCN1878But on the other hand, it also makes a lot of sense that managing food- and body-related anxiety starts with action. Rather than listening to that anxious voice and waiting for it to fade, I have to recognize the anxious voice and choose to care for my health in spite of it. That’s why, I think, recovery is accurately called a “fight.” My mind is a battlefield between everything I’ve learned about the importance of intuitive eating and all the lies I’ve soaked up over the years about why and how to be skinny. The side that consistently determines my actions is the side that wins.

And I’m not so pessimistic that intuitive eating will stay so scary forever. I’ve heard from a number of people that, if I choose to intuitive eat, even when it’s scary, the anxiety will fade in time. I’ve been intuitive eating for about a year and a half now, and I do believe it’s getting easier.

Do you intuitive eat? Do you find it difficult or scary, and if so, why?


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  1. Diane Wahto says:

    Hmm. Intuitive eating is and interesting concept. I don’t know that I do that, as I have pretty regular eating habits time-wise. However, sometimes I get hungry at night, or I have trouble falling asleep. I usually get a glass of milk and if I’m hungry, I get a snack of some kind. I don’t like eating late at night, but I figure my body is communicating with me when I’m still hungry at that time. I don’t worry about it too much. As you know, I go to TOPS and I sitll have ten pounds to go to get to my goal weight. I lose a little bit each week and it adds up. At this point in my life, I’m losing it for health, not for looks. Nothing is going to take these wrinkles off my face. 🙂

  2. Cora says:

    That quote from Avocado A Day is absolutely solid. It’s really nuts when you sit back and think about the society we have all created, and the beliefs so many of us now live on – when 100 years ago they weren’t even in the realm of thought. And that means, it is going to be so, so hard to fight back against these beliefs. It is a fight. Absolutely. But its a fight we need to fight every day. I am also holding on to the hope that the more I fight and the more I try and practice and replace my thoughts with those of self care, the less scary intuitive eating will be. It just takes time for those brain processes of ours to shift. But they will. I believe it.

    1. Joyce says:

      I hope you’ll be able to find intuitive eating easier and easier as time goes on, too. I know you’ve been working hard just to re-set your metabolism too, which kind of has to be done before trying the whole intuitive eating thing. You’ve been so brave!

    2. Annie says:

      agreed – that quote definitely makes you stop and think.

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