The Great Grand Diet Trial Of 2011: March

November 15th, 2011 - filed under: The Food » Food Styles

In 2011 I set about on a journey to regain my health – a series of dietary experiments. You can read the backstory here. Prior to beginning these trials, I had used an elimination diet to clear up a systemic Candida infection. I was also healing my gut/digestion through the intensive application of probiotics via fermented foods and beverages, and it worked, because cultured food is magical!

The Test
In March, I practiced portion control and mindful eating.

The Theory
When I undertook this massive endeavor, it was with one purpose in mind. This series of dietary challenges were meant to facilitate a “dialogue” with my body. Not just to listen (being mindful), but also to talk back (via the experiments). This metaphorical “conversation” would help me determine how to best nourish myself, both physically and emotionally.

But I had developed a couple of really bad habits surrounding food, and there was no way I was going to be able to hear what my body was saying, if I wasn’t staying present when I was eating. Here’s an example of the sort of thing I’m talking about:

Our afternoon -> evening -> night routine involves me being with Waits all day, then Damian getting home from work and taking Waits while I jump immediately into dinner-making, then me taking Waits back while Damian eats dinner, then me feeding Waits while Damian has a few minutes to relax, and then Damian taking Waits and me finally getting to eat and chill out (pretty much for the first time of the day).

And so, subconsciously, I was eating more than I needed, just to get some extra down time! Damian would play with Waits for as long as I was eating . . . so I just kept eating. I wasn’t listening to my own true hunger cues, but I was using food as a way to check out, chill out, and steal some much-needed alone time. Because of this, and a few other smaller-but-similar daily incidents, I was very out of touch with my own sense of satiety.

[Can you think of any similar situations that might lead to this sort of disconnect, in your own day-to-day life?]

So my plan for March was simply to practice portion control – and in the process, to refrain from mindlessly munching, while attempting to eat intuitively (very hard to do at first!).

The Results
This was HARD. The most difficult challenge I’d had to date, by far. I struggled, especially on the weekends, and I had to lean heavily on Damian to help me with my mindfulness. We talked a lot about strategies for staying present, as he is a natural and experienced intuitive eater. Some of the answers were as simple as realizing that I could just ask for some after-dinner quiet time, instead of feeling the need to justify my time by filling it with food.

I also feel like I was able to rely on the groundwork I’d laid back in January, which was so helpful. I continued to note which foods affected my blood sugar, which ones led to difficult cravings, and which ones left me hungry again an hour later. The lessons I’d learned in January made March so much easier to navigate.

By the end of the month I was super tuned-in to my body. I’d reconnected with my fullness feelings, and my true hunger feelings, and that made portion control come naturally. Sometimes I still overeat, but when I do it’s always mindfully – sometimes something tastes amazing and I just want more! Which is fine, as long as it’s a conscious choice and the exception instead of the rule.

Overall, March was a huge breakthrough month for me, the one that really paved the way for the healthy, happy relationship with food that I now enjoy. Like I said, this Great Grand Trial is not just physical. There’s an important emotional component to eating, and to ignore that is to only see one part of the picture. So for me, March was a big piece of the big-picture puzzle. Which was great, since April turned out to be an abject failure . . .

Edited to link in the rest of the series:

Putting It All Together

  • Lindsay Beeson

    Ahh! Yes! This!

    I recently (accidentally) stumbled onto the occasional mindful meal.

    My disconnect has been: I use food to keep me excited throughout the day. Not just eating it, but thinking about whatever the next (planned) meal/snack is. This was especially true when I was working in an office and more prone to boredom. But essentially, my inner dialogue went something like this “Mmmm, that breakfast was good. Next on the list is my 11 a.m. snack! … It’s 9:45 now, not long until snacktime! … OK. 10:30. That snack is just around the corner! … 11 a.m.! Snack!” Where was hunger in that dialogue? Nowhere.

    Also, if it’s in front of me, it is a task that needs to be checked off the list (aka “clean your plate”).

    My days are less boring right now, but I still have that schedule mentality.

    But it’s slowly chipping away, and just last week I actually stopped short of finishing two meals (two!) because I felt full and didn’t *want* to eat anymore.

    Man, that felt good.

  • Kate in SB

    Ooh, this is so interesting! I am definitely a mindless eater, both in terms of what foods I eat and the when, why, and how much.

    I really like that you’re focusing on how food makes you FEEL.

    I’d love to have a better relationship with the food I eat. I think I avoid thinking about my diet because my grad student lifestyle is constantly stressed/busy that I feel like I never have time to think about my next meal. Also, I’ve never been too concerned about my weight and I think that makes me afraid of changing my food habits because I don’t want to force myself to go “on a diet.”

    Anyway, these mindful food posts are great but they seem way too short! I feel like you’re building up to something really amazing here. I want to read more!

  • Neysa Vaughan

    This is a great series so far, it’s great to see someone talking about a healthy alteration in diet, rather than dieting/going on a diet.

    Mindful eating can be really difficult. I’ve been very lucky that despite coming from a family with a very unhealthy psychological relationship with food, my mum always tried to encourage me to listen to my body when it came to food, not wanting me to repeat her mistakes. As a result, I’ve always been a pretty intuitive eater (except for one period between high-school and uni, where food became a crutch in a nasty relationship). I only eat when I’m hungry, or if I have a craving that isn’t going away, I never just eat because it’s the ‘right time’ to do so. Of course, this is easy for someone who doesn’t have kids, I can’t imagine how hard it would be in your (or any parent’s) situation!

    The one thing I struggle with is determining what is making my moods/energy levels spike, and your post the other day has inspired me to start to be a bit more mindful of that.

  • Sayward Rebhal

    I always get SO nervous when I post as part of this series. Thanks for the support, guys. =)

  • Courtney Bliss

    I totally know the feeling. I had done such a good job of mindfully eating. Then, months later I found myself mindlessly eating. Now I’m trying to get myself back on track. Thankfully it hasn’t been too hard. Mainly I just need to make sure I don’t make too much food to begin with. This series is great! It’s inspired me to really reevaluate my eating habits and get back to where I was a bit ago.

  • Moira

    I love this. I have noticed dramatic reductions in my cravings, carb binges, etc after I did my own probiotic/cabbage juice/GI remedy. Working on mindfulness has been my next big task, and a good friend of mine recommended this book… I (sheepishly) admit I have not started this yet (4 months now and still delaying). But now you’ve motivated me!

  • Anonymous

    Hey awesome article. Great job with your progress. Hope it goes really well for you!! Just a resource i have that i think you might like. I used this website to help me out ALLOT with all my weight loss and getting muscle!! It has helped me a big deal. Anyway just a thought. Good post will be back again to see how you go.

  • Laura Agar Wilson

    I’ve really enjoyed all your posts on this. After a long time of not binging, in August I started again, and its been a difficult task to look at myself and my body and figure out why I was doing it again. As for you it was a mix of emotional and physical responses – but since really trying to focus on being mindful I’ve come a long way. Thanks for sharing x

  • Clem

    Something really clicked in my head when I read the part about your eating to delay having to look after Waits again. I do that to delay chores, coursework, basically anything I don’t want to do… and I’d never realised that until today! Wow. You’ve just opened my eyes. Thank you for that.

  • Coco

    This is something that I’m working on right now- For over 15 years I’ve had some type of disordered eating which has come in many different forms…that’s more than half of my life and habits are hard to change. Through therapy I’ve been learning and understanding where this need to control what I’m eating has come from and part of my first “homework” was portion control in the way of slowing down when I eat. I tend to eat very fast and then miss my bodies cue telling me that I’m full- so I’ll keep eating, which then makes me feel guilty and uncomfortable. Just the act of putting down my silverware between bites had really made me more mindful when eating and slow down. It’s amazing how much less I eat and that I never get that I’m too full feeling.

  • Annie

    I think one of the most interesting things is getting rid of 3 meals concepts and just eating when you need to. I feel loads better this way. I don’t overeat, which is what I used to do, I think to compensate the gap between meals. Now I just graze and feel way better. There’s a lot of talk about eating late at night and how if you do goblins will steal your wine or whatever, but I eat at night almost everyday and always feel great in the morning, and don’t have any weight issues. Don’t get me wrong, I am not a particularly slender build, but my weight is healthy and wholesome and is much better since I’ve *not* worried about what time it is I’m eating.

  • Rachel

    oh my gosh I do the SAME EXACT THING, albeit in a slightly different context… I’m a grad student and lately I’ve been SUPER busy at school, so I just eat lunch in my office and read the newspaper while I do it… it’s like a chance to finally relax. but my officemate has all this leftover Halloween candy sitting around, and I always eat a bunch just to justify continuing to sit and read the newspaper for 10 more minutes rather than going back to work. gross!! (and this is just the most recent example, I’ve always done this in different contexts, or at least “always” since I graduated from high school and life became stressful.) I REALLY need to work on this mindful eating thang… glad you’ve found success!!

  • jill

    The kid-juggling sounds exactly like my house. So I end up getting between 5 and 30 minutes unattached on many days…shoveling in food because I never know when my time will end. My unmindful eating is also in taking bites of something (apricots, chocolate chips, almonds…) when i pass through the kitchen (which is often), partly because I’m in need of a lot of calories right now, partly because I never know when I can actually have a meal (I spend many constantly getting more food for my children with their neverending appetites). Fine for now (but not exactly restful), but a bad habit for the day when I’m not a harried, lactating mom.

    I’m on the edge of my seat to see what happened in April. :)

  • Kaitlyn@TheTieDyeFiles

    This segment of your trial definitely speaks to me! Years of calorie counting has tuned out my natural sense of hunger/satiety and I’m now working on eating mindfully to combat this problem and become an intuitive eater, something I haven’t experienced in far too long. Thanks for sharing your journey. I love that you recognize that these trials are not only physical, but emotional as well!

  • Sarah C.

    No seriously – we are ALL waiting anxiously for each post in this series. So many of us are going through our own food-related journeys or feel the need to do so (feeling like you described before you started this path) and we’re loving hearing what worked/didn’t work for you. Thanks for sharing!

  • Serenity

    Congrats. Do you have any suggestions for figuring out actual hunger when you are relegated to eating at certain times? I often can’t tell when I’m hungry, or if it’s just time for me to be hungry.

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Hi Serenity, that one is tough. If you truly can only eat at certain times, then I’d say it’s better to eat, even if you’re not fully hungry, than to skip (which could really stress your system). Is it possible to keep some small, inconspicuous snacks on you? That way you could adress your hunger as it comes up, at least a little bit. Would something like that work?

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Hi Serenity, that one is tough. If you truly can only eat at certain times, then I’d say it’s better to eat, even if you’re not fully hungry, than to skip (which could really stress your system). Is it possible to keep some small, inconspicuous snacks on you? That way you could adress your hunger as it comes up, at least a little bit. Would something like that work?

  • Rachel

    I am very much enjoying these posts. Learning to listen to your body can be so difficult and it is something I am working with now. You are quite an inspiration.

  • Scandifoodie

    I really enjoyed reading this post. I have had to concentrate on the same issue – being a mindful eater, which really doesn’t come naturally to me. My fiancé (much like Damian) is such a natural, I wish I had even a small portion of his calmness! Thank you for sharing, this was very helpful!

  • OddSock

    I’m revisiting this post as I’ve noticed a massive disconnect in my eating recently. I’ve become really unhappy in my job, and I (along with my fellow demotivated interns) have really been dragging out our lunches and breaks, snacking pretty much all day long as an excuse not to do work! I’ve also been skipping breakfast, and sometimes dinner, because I’m so stressed, and I feel the need to reconcile my eating habits with actual feelings of hunger. I’ve just ordered the book ‘Mindless Eating’ and I’m hoping that the book, along with your post, will inspire me to get out of this pattern! I’m really glad that BA is still available while you’re on a blogging break, you have no idea how much I rely on it as a resource!

  • Sayward Rebhal

    I’m so glad to hear it’s still helpful. I hope you can get yourself back on track! Im’m actually hoping to start posting the rest of this series either next week or the week after. I do intend to finish it!


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