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!
In March, I practiced portion control and mindful eating.
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!).
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 . . .