Thursday, September 9, 2010

All or Nothing At All

I need some structure.

See, here’s the thing: I am a person who responds to structure and schedules and actually finds comfort in them.

With mindful eating, I am finding the lack of structure terribly disconcerting. As I mentioned in a couple of posts, I’ve had some days where I didn’t even feel hungry until 3 or so in the afternoon. Then, stomach growling hungry and I can’t figure out what to eat because nothing seems appealing or “sounds” good. So I didn’t eat and promptly got a severe headache and a stomach ache.

The funny thing is I’ve had some times in my life where I’ve fasted for medical or spiritual reasons. I know I can go without food so I don’t think it’s purely psychological. The headache alone is physiological evidence that I need to eat.

When this happens during the week, it makes it terribly hard to figure out what to pack for lunch or snack or whatever. I honestly do not have the cash flow to just run out and buy whatever I want so I have to make an educated guess. So I do. It’s not working so great.

This past Tuesday, once again I found myself not feeling any hunger. I didn’t overeat on Monday and I had run Tuesday morning so I was really surprised that I didn’t want to eat. But I hung in there and sat at my desk working and sipping on plain old water. In the back of my mind I was a teensy bit concerned because Tuesdays tend to be double workout days for me – a run in the morning and an hour of Muay Thai in the evening. I know from experience if I don’t fuel and hydrate my body properly I can crash for sure during Muay Thai and that’s no fun.

Anyway as the morning went on, I decided that I would eat WHATEVER I wanted if I ever got hungry. Finally around 1:30 my stomach asked for food. I had brought a salad and spicy noodles and I didn’t want either. So I began rummaging through my snack box to see what else I had available. This is what I ate: a handful of Wheat Thins, 3 mini Mounds, 2 shortbread cookies and a True Delight granola bar.

Within a couple of hours, I was experience the biggest sugar crash ever. DUH. What the hell did I think was going to happen? The sugar crash was followed by yet another stomach ache and I ended up taking a shot of Pepto Bismol before Muay Thai to calm my stomach down.

KCL Anderson (who I know in real life) has been working this way of eating for a while now, keeps telling me this doesn’t have to be an either/or proposition. But I can’t figure out how to not firmly be in one place or the other.

Honestly, I’ve counted calories for so long, sometimes I catch myself adding them up in my head, even though I don’t mean to. (For example, without much effort I can tell you that I knew everything I ate at “lunch” yesterday was around 600 calories and that as I compose this post I've already eaten about 800 calories, even though I haven’t looked up a thing.)

So here I am, caught in this dilemma… do I just pack nutritious food and eat it when I’m hungry (talking true hunger here, not emotional) even though I really don’t want it? Simply because it’s better to force myself to eat nutritious calories (vs. empty sugary calories)?

All of the above said to express what I mean when I say I need structure. Running around all willy nilly and not being mindful doesn’t work because then I’ll eat nothing but slices of pepperoni and cheese, handfuls of chips and drink wine (or any food readily available and convenient). But being mindful isn’t working either since I can’t seem to figure out what the heck to eat and I end up running around all willy nilly with a stomach ache and a headache.



  1. I think there is a difference between mindful eating and intuitive eating. Intuitive is the eating when hungry line of thinking. To me, mindful eating is being aware of what you are eating and when. I think it is mindful to say, "You know, I haven't eaten lunch yet and I am not super hungry, but if I don't have my lunch now - I will really be craving something later that might not be the best choice."

    Being mindful is the overall picture of understanding how your body reacts to food and knowing ahead of time what might be the best choices to make. Not sure if that makes sense, but I think of it that way. I don't do well with the 'eat when I am hungry' philosophy. My body needs a little more guidance than that.

  2. I struggle with this as well, Helen. I don't have a firm handle on how this will work for me. I do know that I don't want to "battle" this for the rest of my life. Some peace and some balance would be nice.

  3. So aren't you able to find some "goodies" that you really like that are still healthy? The mounds bars are empty sugar calories of course. Do you have a favorite granola type bar that is super delicious that will actually HELP your body? They are kinds expensive but I like vitatops. The chocolate ones are awesome and actually healthy.

  4. As uncomfortable as it has been for your (not eating and getting a head/stomach ache, eating the sugary stuff and crashing), it is part of the process. I think the practical part of us (and yes, I do have a practical side LOL) wants to view the stomach aches and sugar crashes as failure or mistakes. They are not. In fact, when we were in Bermuda I had a day in which I had too much sugar and I paid for it (no I didn't gain weight, but I felt like crap for a while and didn't sleep well). It's still a work in progress for me.

    As for counting calories in your head? It's doesn't mean you've failed at intuitive eating. It means that you're using the tools that you know and feel comfortable with.

    I guess it comes down to realizing that there's not even a one-size-fits-all definition to intuitive or mindful eating. Yes, t's a pain in the you know what to deal with the trial and error aspect, and it's scary to think you may be making a mistake or, gasp, evening gaining a pound or two in the process.

    Oh, and I love Lori's take: being mindful means that even if you're not feeling the hunger, giving yourself something nourishing anyway can't hurt...and it doesn't even have to be a lot.

    I was excited this morning...I've been noticing that my midsection seems a little smaller and so I measured my waist (the only thing I you know I don't weigh myself) and I am one inch away from what I want it to be. I've lost five inches there in the past year

  5. I think sometimes we have to treat ourselves like we would a child..."here is your nutritious meal, now eat it" - because for me, my rebellious inner-child is what got me to 256 pounds! And sure, I have days when I'm not particularly hungry around a mealtime, but I do force myself to eat because disaster happens if I don't.

    Maybe on those "not hungry, nothing sounds good" days you need to think of food as merely fuel for your hard-working body and not pleasurable food?

  6. Oh Helen,
    I, too, NEED structure. Though I have tried to stay away from to much structure, it's what I need. It TRULY keeps me going. So...I am shakin things up a bit. I'm headed back to structure to join?!?!?!

  7. I don't have any advice because I'm still learning myself. There have been "learning experiences" and successes. I like what Lori said.

    I look forward to the day when I don't worry about this. It just comes natural.

  8. I am not sure how to respond to this, because I normally pack my food for the day the night before, and its rare that I don't want to eat what I bring - and I am cheap - I try not to spend any money during the week!

    Hope someone is able to provide the answers your looking for!


  9. Great post, Helen, and some great comments as well. I have to agree with Shelley - if I get too loosey goosey I WILL end up overdoing on things that will sabotage my efforts. I know this about myself. Shelley's suggestion of thinking of the healthy food at an approximately requisite time as fuel is great. No question..."I do this because it is what I need to do for me". Keep us posted on how you negotiate this. If I ever get to where I can think about intuitive eating, I'll want all the anecdotal evidence I can get!

  10. Helen,
    The four pound loss is a good thing; however, it's probably because I wasn't stuffing my face nearly as much. Whatev...I'll take it :)

  11. I would say still bring healthy things to eat, and even if you don't feel like it, at least have a few bites. Last week I was sick, and I didn't want to eat anything and I wasn't hungry either! At least that way you are getting some nutrition, but not eating junk and feeling bad after. Maybe eat half your lunch at lunchtime and the other half in the afternoon?

  12. I don't see why you have to do intuitive eating if structure and counting calories are working for you. I wouldn't trust my body to choose the right food. It wants to be fat and get fatter. I like the comment about eating cus it's good for you. I'm not even considering being an intuitive eater.

  13. I've struggled with this for over 20 years. Finally decided to yield to my own personal need to adhere very strictly to the weight watcher's point system. In a perfect world, I'd eat when I was truly hungry and it would most often be healthful. In this life, I did not get that ability, so I find I MUST use a structured way of eating. I'm just grateful to have found a way which works for me. Good luck.

  14. how about both....pack exactly what you want in small portions...count as you eat and stop when your full????

  15. YES to what the wiseKAREN says above.
    Ive rambled far too much about this but for me it was a process as well.
    MANY days of eating crap in the name of "BUT IM INTUITIVE NOW!!" until I learned that when I longed for the chocolate covered donuts it was my BRAIN SCREAMING FOR THEM--not my belly.

    all that ick consumed and feeling...hungover afterward was an integral piece of the mindful eating path for me.