Saturday, August 4, 2007

Blog Break - I'm Going to Italy

My husband and I are leaving for the airport in ten minutes. We are going to be in Italy for the next three weeks. I am so excited! I'm sure I'll be too busy eating gelato and enjoying Italian wine to blog, so I am taking a little break. I'll be back at the end of August. Ciao!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Should Restaurants be Required to Post Nutritional Information on Menus?

I came across this New York Times article yesterday about requiring restaurants to post the calorie counts for all of their menu offerings. This article brought up a lot of ambivalent feelings in me. Back in my dieting days, I was very much for this idea. It drove me crazy that I didn’t know how many calories and fat grams were in what I wanted to order at a restaurant. Then I learned about intuitive eating, and I stopped caring about how many calories food had. I haven’t given this issue any thought since I quit dieting.

On a personal level, I do not want to be forced to read the calorie count for everything on a menu every time I go to a restaurant. I’m pretty well established in this whole non-dieting thing, but I think it would be hard for me to order exactly what I wanted if the calorie count was staring me in the face. What if the thing I wanted had 1200 calories in it? If I didn’t know that, I would order it without giving it much thought, but I would certainly be satisfied after eating just part of it. A couple of weeks ago, I ordered pasta with grilled vegetables in a cream sauce. I’m sure there was an outrageous amount of calories in it, and I’m really glad that I didn’t have to deal with that knowledge. Instead, I ordered it and enjoyed it immensely. By the time I had eaten to satisfaction, it looked like I had barely made a dent in it. I took it home and got three more meals out of it, and I thoroughly enjoyed every one of them. I know that if the calories and fat had been listed next to the entrĂ©e, I would not have been able to enjoy it without feeling at least a little bad about it. I’m really glad that restaurant doesn’t post that information.

I honestly believe that this information won’t help anyone. Knowing the calories and fat grams will bring people into diet thinking. This diet mentality is one of the main contributors to obesity. As Geneen Roth says, every diet brings on an equal and opposite binge. So what would happen if people had this information? I can see it playing out in a couple of ways.

Scenario 1: Mary joined Weight Watchers three weeks ago. She has lost count of how many times she has joined, but she knows that this time she will stick with it and finally make lifetime. She goes to one of her favorite restaurants. Mary loves their grilled vegetable tostada. She looked up the ingredients beforehand, and figured that it must be about 12 points. That’s a lot for one meal, but she can afford to spend the points because she has been really good lately. She gets to the restaurant, looks at the menu and notices that the restaurant has added the calorie and fat information for all of their items. At first she is excited, but then she sees that her tostada has a whopping 1600 calories and 28 grams of fat. That’s a lot more than 12 points! She doesn’t know what to do. She really wants that tostada. She has been looking forward to it all week. She looks over the menu and can’t find anything else she wants, so she decides to just order the dang tostada. She eats the whole thing because she already screwed up anyway. She goes home feeling awful because she is so overly full. Over the next week she gorges herself on sweets and fried foods. She feels like a failure. Then one morning she wakes up resolved to get back on the wagon, and the whole cycle starts over again.

Scenario 2: (Let’s see what would have happened if Mary decided not to order the tostada.) She scours the menu for something that she could order that would be on plan, and finally settles on a green salad with a little grilled salmon on top. She isn’t a huge fan of salmon and doesn't feel like salad, but it is the best choice. She eats it, but feels very unsatisfied at the end of the meal. Once she gets home, she really wants to eat even though she isn’t hungry anymore. She just can’t stop herself and proceeds to binge on chocolate and bon bons. Mary goes to bed feeling horribly guilty. (Refer to scenario one to see how the rest of her week turns out.)

That pretty much sums up why I think posting this information on menus is a bad idea. I don’t believe that it will make people slimmer or healthier. Instead, I fear that this information with perpetuate the diet cycle and possibly contribute to an increase in obesity.

But people want this, and that should mean something. According to one study sited in the article, 83% of the adults interviewed were in favor of putting calorie counts on menus. I have to admit that it wouldn’t be fair to ignore that, so I propose a compromise. Let’s not put calories and fat grams on menus. Instead, let’s put the following: “Nutritional information available upon request.” Every restaurant would be required to have nutritional information for all of their entrees in an easy to read, accessible format. That way the calorie counts and fat grams would be available to anyone who wanted it, but it wouldn’t be forced upon people who didn’t want to see it.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Save Money, Stop Dieting!

I came across this mini article about the hidden costs of dieting on today. It made me chuckle. It’s really short, so I’ll just copy it here.

The Price of Self-Control

Hide your credit cards before you start cutting back your calories

by Rachel Meltzer

The real reason dieting is so hard? New research suggests we have a fixed reservoir of self-restraint. If you use willpower in one area (like, you stop eating chocolate), you become impulsive in other ways (say, blowing money on shoes).

When University of Minnesota marketing researchers asked volunteers to write an essay and then go shopping, those who were free to write about any topic spent $1.21 on average; essayists who were forced to exercise self-control, by restricting themselves to certain topics, gave in to the temptation to spend more ($4.05 on average). The lesson? Before you start your summer diet, hide those credit cards!

So there you have it, yet another reason to give up dieting. I already knew that intuitive eating had brought many wonderful changes to my life, but I didn’t know that it was saving me money. Woohoo!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Diet Wars

Last night I was flipping through the channels, and I came across a re-run of the Tyra Banks Show. I don’t usually watch her show because, frankly, she’s a lousy talk show host, but I decided to watch this one because of the topic: Diet Wars. When I first heard that title I knew that it was going to be a train wreck because of the word “war.” I am currently reading A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle, and I had read the following passage yesterday morning.

“These days you frequently hear the expression ‘the war against’ this or that, and whenever I hear it, I know that t is condemned to failure…War is a mind-set, and all action that comes out of such a mind-set will either strengthen the enemy, the perceived evil, or, if the war is won, will create a new enemy, a new evil equal to and often worse than the one that was defeated.”

So, in light of that quote, I was concerned that combining the word “diet” with the word “war” might just turn into a perfect storm. Turns out I was right. It may have been the worst display of diet mentality I have ever seen on TV.

This show was actually the follow up Diet Wars show. On the first show, Tyra teamed up three diet gurus with three teams of two women each. The teams were supposed to compete. The guru whose team lost the most weight after three months would win. I probably don’t need to tell you that this show ended up drenched in destructive diet mentality.

The first team was lead by Dr. Ian Smith author of The Fat Smash Diet. I don’t know anything about the diet (and I don’t particularly want to), but his team was by far the most “successful.” These two women lost a combined total of 69 pounds in just three months! Dr. Smith spent the rest of the show gloating about how his diet is the best diet.

The second team was lead by Jillian Michaels who is a diet coach from The Biggest Loser. I have never watched that show, but what I have heard about it reeks of all-or-nothing diet mentality. Anyway, her team “failed” to comply with her plan, and they “only” lost a combined total of 25 pounds. The team admitted to not following Michaels’ plan. She told them that they had to completely give up pizza, which they refused to do. They said that they didn’t understand why they couldn’t have a piece of pizza now and then and still lose weight. That’s a very good question if you ask me!

But what really drove them away from Michaels’ plan was the exercise. These two women were significantly overweight and didn’t exercise at all, so what did Michaels’ have them start out with? A spinning class! They said they felt like they were going to die fifteen minutes into the hour long class and that they weren’t willing to put themselves through that again. Something tells me that Michaels would have had better results if she had eased them into exercising instead of dropping them into an extremely challenging class.

The worst part of this show (and there were many bad parts) was that Tyra was clearly horrified by how these women “failed.” She lectured the women and then gushed to Michaels about how successful she is as a diet guru and was so apologetic at how her team had “failed.” Tyra clearly felt bad for Michaels! If 100 people went on Michaels plan, at least 95 would “fail.” Michaels’ failure rate may actually be higher than that, as her diet sounded like it is particularly difficult to follow. Yet Tyra clearly didn’t see it that way. She kept saying that this isn’t how she envisioned the show going, and she placed all the blame for that on the dieters. I wanted to jump through the TV screen and ask Tyra to take a closer look to see what was really going on.

Diets don’t work. Crazy, hard-core, all-or-nothing diets REALLY don’t work. How do people not know this? Evidence that they don’t work is everywhere. It’s difficult to find any evidence that they do work. Yet most people persist in thinking that diets are the answer. I guess it shouldn’t be so shocking that Tyra was surprised by the “failure” of the Diet Wars. I’m sure most of her viewers felt the same way.

If you want to read the synopsis of this show on Tyra’s website here’s the link. Just a warning, the person who wrote the synopsis did a great job sugar coated Tyra’s reaction.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Intuitive Eaters Blog About The Power of Now

I just got back from a nice relaxing vacation in the mountains, and I have been enjoying catching up on reading intuitive eating blogs. I am especially impressed by a couple of the posts I have read which revolve around Eckhart Tolle and The Power of Now. There is nothing in particular that I want to blog about today, but I would like to highlight two great posts.

I love what Gemma of Scales are for Fish wrote about her insights from listening to the Power of Now in the second half of this post. She did a great job explaining why focusing on the now is such an important part of intuitive eating.

Andrea of Onederful Bound has posted a lot about the Power of Now over the last couple of weeks. I especially love this post from a couple of days ago relating dieting/binging to Tolle’s chapter on relationships. I have to confess that the chapter on relationships is my least favorite part of the book. I couldn’t get past the fact that I know a lot of unconscious people who are in happy long-term relationships, which is something he seems to believe is impossible. Thanks to Andrea I am able to view this part of the book in a different light and see the truth in it. This chapter makes perfect sense to me when I think about it in terms of dieting/binging, and it give me further insight into diet mentality.

Hopefully, I will come up with something I want to blog about soon. I’d like to get a proper post up in a few days!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

The Power to Choose

My favorite part of The Power of Now is the last chapter on surrender. I learned so much from reading it and gained so many insights that I could probably write ten different blog posts on that chapter alone. This is just one – admittedly very long - post, so I only have enough room to concentrate one part of this chapter, the power to choose. Interestingly, this is near the very end of the book. I can see why Eckhart Tolle decided to end the book with this very powerful concept. Here is an except from The Power of Now on the power to choose. The Power of Now is written in question and answer format, so the first part of the excerpt is the question, and the second part is Eckhart Tolle’s answer.

“[Question] What about all those people who, it seems, actually want to suffer? I have a friend whose partner is physically abusive toward her, and her previous relationship was of a similar kind. Why does she choose such men, and why is she refusing to get out of the situation now? Why do so many people actually choose pain?

[Answer] I know that the word choose is a favorite New Age term, but it isn’t entirely accurate in this context. It is misleading to say that somebody ‘chose’ a dysfunctional relationship or any other negative situation in his or her life. Choice implies consciousness – a high degree of consciousness. Without it, you have no choice. Choice begins the moment you disidentify from the mind and it’s conditioned patterns, the moment you become present. Until you reach that point, you are unconscious, spiritually speaking. This means that you are compelled to think, feel, and act in certain ways according to the conditioning of your mind…

Your friend is stuck in a relationship with an abusive partner, and not for the first time. Why? No choice. The mind, conditioned as it is by the past, always seeks to re-create what it knows and is familiar with. Even if it is painful, at least it is familiar. The mind always adheres to the known. The unknown is dangerous because it has no control over it. That’s why the mind dislikes and ignores the present moment. Present-moment awareness creates a gap not only in the stream of mind but also in the past-future continuum. Nothing truly new and creative can come into this world except through that gap, that clear space of infinite possibility.

So your friend, being identified with her mind, may be re-creating a pattern learned in the past in which intimacy and abuse are inseparably linked. Alternatively, she may be acting out a mind pattern learned in childhood according to which she is unworthy and deserves to be punished. It is possible, too, that she lives a large part of her life through the pain-body, which always seeks more pain on which to feed. Her partner has his own unconscious patterns, which compliment hers. Of course her situation is self-created, but who or what is the self that is doing the creating? A mental-emotional pattern from the past, no more. Why make a self out of it? If you tell her that she has chosen her condition or situation, you are reinforcing her state of mind identification. But is her mind pattern who she is? Is it her self? Is her true identity derived from the past? Show your friend how to be the observing presence behind her thoughts and her emotions. Tell her about the pain-body and how to free herself from it. Teach her the art of inner-body awareness. Demonstrate to her the meaning of presence. As soon as she is able to access the power of Now, and thereby break through her conditional past, she will have a choice.

Nobody chooses dysfunction, conflict, pain. Nobody chooses insanity. They happen because there is not enough presence in you to dissolve the past, not enough light to dispel the darkness. You are not fully here. You have not woken up yet. In the meantime, the conditioned mind is running your life.

Similarly, if you are one of the many people who have an issue with their parents, if you still harbor resentment about something they did or did not do, then you still believe they had a choice – that they could have acted differently. It always looks as if people had a choice, but that is an illusion. As long as your mind with its conditioned patterns runs your life, as long as you are your mind, what choice do you have? None. You are not even there. The mind-identified state is severely dysfunctional. It is a form of insanity. Almost everyone is suffering from this illness to varying degrees. The moment you realize this, there can be no more resentment. How can you resent somebody’s illness? The only appropriate response is compassion.”

The first time I read this passage, I thought Eckhart Tolle was way off-base. I was one of those people that used to ask why some women choose to stay with abusive men. I thought Eckhart Tolle was nuts when he said that these women had no choice. I was a big believer in choice. I loved 95% of The Power of Now, but I filed this away with other parts of the book that I didn’t quite buy.

The second time I read this passage, I had an epiphany. I thought to myself, what if I change the scenario from a woman who “chooses” abusive relationships to a person who “chooses” to binge and overeat even though they have become overweight as a result? I have spent years wondering why I overate and binged even though it made me heavier than I wanted to be. On the one hand, I certainly knew that I was choosing to put the food in my mouth, but I also felt like I didn’t have a choice. I wanted to stop overeating and binging, but it was impossible for me to make that choice. Why? Because, as Eckhart Tolle wrote, I had no choice. I was overeating and binging because of “a mental-emotional pattern from the past.” Like women who repeatedly “choose” abusive relationships, my situation was self-created. But I was making that choice from a place of mind identification. My true self was not choosing to overeat and binge.

In the past, I had always tried to stop overeating and binging by trying to override my mind, by trying to make my mind make a different choice. There were times in which I was able to do it, but it never lasted longer than a couple of months. Eventually, I would return to what was familiar and start binging and overeating again. After reading this and being able to apply it to my own eating struggles, I realized that the only way I was going to learn how to have a normal relationship with food was to learn to live consciously. I had to learn to live in the now instead of in the mind. Only by living in the present moment would I be able to truly have the choice not to overeat and binge. As Eckhart Tolle wrote in the above excerpt, “As soon as she is able to access the power of Now, and thereby break through her conditional past, she will have a choice.”

There is no conscious eating without conscious living.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Intuitive Eating in Las Vegas

I’m back from Las Vegas. It was a very interesting trip for me in regards to conscious eating. I was there for a bachelorette party with seven other women who appear to range in size from two to six. I spent the months leading up to this getaway freaking out about hanging out at the pool with a large group of size four women. It turns out that wasn’t such a big deal. Oddly enough, I was not so self-conscious.

What ended up being interesting is watching how they eat. While I heard a lot of, “Does this make me look fat?” and “This shirt makes me look like a sausage,” I saw a lot of intuitive eating. I don’t know why, but I expected them all to pick at salads. Instead there were a lot of nachos, burgers, and some salads, too. It was clear that these women ordered exactly what they wanted to order, and then they stopped eating when they were finished.

Another thing I found interesting is that they seemed to know nothing about intuitive eating on a conscious level. I have known all of them long enough to know that they have all always been slim. I guess they have never given how they eat much thought. A few times when I wasn’t hungry and chose not to eat, I was told, “Sometimes you have to eat when you aren’t hungry.”

Overall I ate less than the women I was with, which really surprised me. I have thought about why that is, and I suspect that maybe my body must know that it needs less food because I have extra weight on me. That seems like a logical explanation, doesn’t it? My husband suggested that maybe they were eating more than they usually do because they were on vacation. I suppose that’s just as possible. I can accept that naturally thin people experience what I call “vacation eating,” too.

Spending this last week with a group of natural intuitive eaters was a fascinating experience. It also helped me lighten up about intuitive eating. I still find myself questioning myself about whether or not I am doing this “right” from time to time. Watching these naturally thin women eat what they want and enjoy themselves has helped me to feel more relaxed about this process.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

A Little Update

I have had a busy week, and next week is going to be even busier, as I’m leaving for Las Vegas tomorrow. I will return to the blogging world at the end of next week. In the mean time, here is a little update on what has been going on with me.

I tried my first yoga class on Monday. I have done yoga videos at home, but I have never gone to a class before. I really liked it. The yoga studio and the teacher were both wonderful. She talked a lot about being present and coming back to the breath. I’m definitely going to make yoga classes a regular thing.

I have also decided to start therapy. I have thought about it off and on since I started conscious eating almost a year ago. Conscious eating has been going smoothly for me for the last few months, but I feel like I need to do more to address the issues that led me to eat for emotional reasons. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that my insurance covers therapy. My first appointment is a week from Saturday. I’m really excited about the therapist I found. When I told her that I follow intuitive eating, she said that was wonderful and that she likes intuitive eating because it is about mindfulness. How lucky am I to have found a therapist that embraces intuitive eating AND mindfulness?

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

8 Secrets of the Naturally Slim

Somehow I ended up on the WebMD mailing list, and I usually take a peak when it arrives in my inbox. This week it contained an article from Prevention called 8 Secrets of the Naturally Slim. I was surprised to find that it actually contained some good advice, but it was disappointingly diety in places. So now instead of people learning how the naturally slim eat, they are in danger picking up more diet thinking. So close, but yet still so far off the mark.

Here are the 8 Secrets of the Naturally Slim dissected.

1) They Choose Satisfied Over Stuffed - I have no issue with this point, as it is right on. They even invoke a hunger scale and suggest paying attention to your hunger signals while eating. Hurray! Score one for intuitive eating.

2) They Realize Hunger Isn't An Emergency - Another good point. One thing I learned through intuitive eating is that I had developed a fear of being hungry. I have heard other people say the same thing. I believe that the reason why people who struggle with food often view hunger as an emergency is because we have been on so many diets. We have forced ourselves to go without food when we were hungry. A natural reaction to that would be to fear hunger. I wish the article had said that there was a logical reason for this fear, but alas this wasn’t an intuitive eating article.

3) They Don't Use Food To Cure The Blues – Very true. This is pretty much the crux of emotional eating and the heart of why so many of us have a dysfunctional relationship with food. But their suggestions for how to get past this were too simplistic. They recommended that you try to figure out what your body truly wants and give it that. This is good advice, but it’s not that easy! They gave a one paragraph statement on how not to eat emotionally. That’s not exactly something that can be addressed in one paragraph, and I fear that doing so minimizes the gravity of the issue.

4) They Eat More Fruit – Now this is just stupid. I’m as happy about this one as I am about the advice that everyone should eat breakfast. I don’t like fruit, so I eat very little of it. Instead I load up on vegetables, which I love. If I forced myself to eat the 2-3 servings of fruit a day that they recommended, I would be very unhappy with my diet. I know from experience that making myself eat things I don’t like leads to binging and overeating. Hardly a recipe for being slim! I can’t stand food specific advice.

5) They're Creatures Of Habit – Now this one is even more stupid than the fruit advice. They actually suggested that you eat the same thing every day. They recommended, for instance, that you eat cereal every morning for breakfast and a salad every day for lunch. Now I know a lot of people would be fine with this. My mom happily ate a blt for lunch every day for four years. I, on the other hand, get bored if I eat the same thing for lunch two days in a row. I don’t even want to think about all of the binges I would have if I forced myself to eat the same exact thing every day.

6) They Have A Self-Control Gene – I don’t buy into this one, either. This self-control gene is another term for willpower. It’s a myth that willpower is necessary to be at a healthy weight. Don’t believe me? Try googling “willpower myth.” I know from my own experience that relying on willpower or self-control or whatever you want to call it in an attempt to lose weight is going to backfire. It’s only a matter of time until I crack and head into a binge. The desire to overeat needs to be addressed on an emotional level. This whole willpower/self-control thing is nothing more than diet mentality.

7) They're Movers And Shakers – I can’t argue with this one. Being active is obviously important for one’s health and well being. Although, I wish they had suggested finding an activity that you enjoy rather than emphasizing how many calories you are burning. It is destructive to think of exercise solely in terms of burning calories and losing weight. That’s just not a healthy outlook.

8) They Sleep--Well – I like this one, but I don’t think they should have been so specific about the whole eight hours a night thing. The point is that we shouldn’t be depriving ourselves of sleep. I think it’s good enough to honor your tired signals in the same way that you honor hunger and other natural body signals. Going for a specific amount of sleep regardless of how you are feeling isn’t very intuitive.

And they just had to throw in a quick tip in the end about the importance of eating breakfast. Argh!

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Seven Random Facts

I’ve been tagged twice now (by Andrea K and WifeMomChocoholic), so I suppose it’s time for me to take my turn at seven random facts.

1) I have been almost vegetarian for the last six years. I eat seafood once or twice a month, but other than that my diet is completely vegetarian.

2) I got arrested when I was 14 for trying to sneak into Elizabeth Taylor’s birthday party at Disneyland.

3) I hate shopping. I don’t mind grocery shopping so much, but I hate shopping for everything else. My poor mother really wanted to have a daughter so that she could have a shopping buddy. Now she is holding out hope that I will have a daughter who will like to shop with her.

4) I love to travel. International travel is my favorite. I have been to many places throughout Europe, a few places in Asia and last summer I went to Peru. This August my husband and I are going to Italy. I’m really looking forward to it!

5) When I was a kid, I wanted to be an actress. I even went to a performing arts high school for my junior and senior years. But then I got burned out and didn’t want to act anymore. I still don’t have any desire to act. I think it’s strange how I have no interest in something after loving it for so many years.

6) It took me seven years to get my bachelor’s degree. School was the source of many battles when I was growing up, and I developed a huge resistance to it. I actually dropped out of college twice. I am really proud of myself for going back, trudging through and getting my degree.

7) I really want to have a baby. My husband isn’t quite ready yet. He wants to finish his master’s degree first, which is logical. We are planning to start trying this winter. I’m so excited!

Now it’s my turn to tag someone, and I’m going to tag…Gemma!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

CE is the Way to Be!

I stole that title from someone who posts on one of my conscious eating forums. I love it! I have been feeling very excited and grateful for conscious eating lately. A couple of days ago I was bored, so I started browsing the Weight Watcher’s message boards. I was both saddened and relieved by what I read. Sad for the posters, but relieved for myself since I am free of all that now.

I read one post from someone who ate lunch at a work function. She thought she had done so well, but when she journaled what she ate she realized that she had no points left for dinner. I am so thankful that I never again have to worry about not having any points left for dinner.

I read another post from someone who was so proud of herself because she resisted buying a candy bar. She was at the store with her husband, and he bought some candy. She really wanted to be “bad” and buy some too, but she resisted. I am so happy that I never again have to feel proud of myself for resisting food. Instead, I can feel proud of myself for things that actually matter in life, and food can be just food. I love that! It’s just food! I don’t have to get depressed or worked up over whether or not I ate something. I am forever free to buy any food I want because I am free from trigger foods or red lights foods or whatever you want to call them.

And, as usual, there were a whole slew of posts from people who are recommitting to Weight Watchers. People who had fallen off the wagon and were ready to climb back on. I will never again have to wake up in the morning guilt ridden and tell myself that I will start over yet again. I am so excited that I will never have to go on another diet EVER! I feel so free!

Two days ago Oprah had the update show for Bob Greene’s Best Life Weight Loss Challenge. I missed the previous shows about it because at that point I did not want to watch anything about dieting. But this time I was intrigued, so I watched. I was impressed with how they talked a lot about feelings and why they overeat in the first place. You don’t see that very often in diet plans, and it’s so important. However, I truly believe that dieting is in direct conflict with learning how to feel your emotions and getting past emotional eating. I don’t have a whole lot of confidence that the people on the show will experience lasting weight loss. I hope I’m wrong, but what else could I think based on the well-documented failure of all diets?

I was especially struck by something at the end of the show. One of the diet challengers had only lost six pounds, which was much less than all of the others. She said that this was because she had expected the diet to fit in with her life. She said that she now realized that she needed to change to fit the diet. If you ask me, she had it right the first time! Then Oprah gave her the following advice, “You can never eat anything you want.” Really Oprah? I only eat anything I want!

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Breakfast - The Most Important Meal of the Day?

Over the last couple of months I have discovered that I don’t need breakfast. I find that I pretty much never get hungry until lunchtime. This should come as no surprise to me, but somehow it does. Back when I was a kid and still a normal eater, I never wanted breakfast. My mom would make it for me every morning, but I would mostly pick at it and eat no more than a bite or two. But when I grew up and stopped being a normal eater, I started eating breakfast. I think this is largely due to the fact that pretty much every diet tells you to eat breakfast. There seems to be this belief that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Well, maybe it is for people who get hungry in the morning, but it’s not for me! I have spent the last ten years eating breakfast just because I thought I was supposed to. It’s so nice to just throw that whole idea out, and eat when my body actually wants food.

I decided to search the web to see if I could find any support for skipping breakfast.

I found this on a UK website called Weight Loss Resources. “Skipping breakfast can mean your body will start to crave something sweet and you'll end up snacking on unhealthy foods.” I have skipped breakfast almost every day for over two months now. Not once did I start craving sweets or end up snacking on “unhealthy” food. In fact, it’s pretty rare for me to snack at all. I find that I’m usually just not hungry between meals. Incidentally, I wasn’t much of a snacker during my normal eating childhood, either.

A website called Revolution Health had this quote, “A great deal of research shows that those people who eat breakfast are more likely to weigh less than those people who skip breakfast.” Really? Obviously I wasn’t part of any of those studies! I didn’t start gaining weight until I started eating breakfast. I’m not saying that eating breakfast caused me to gain weight. I started gaining weight because I fell into the diet cycle, and I stopped listening to my body’s natural cues. One of those cues was that I am not usually hungry in the morning.

Most of the stuff I read seemed to be written under the assumption that everyone is hungry for breakfast. I agree that skipping breakfast if you are hungry is a bad idea. But what if someone isn’t hungry? Should she eat breakfast anyway? I only found one website that addressed this issue. Dr. Kendall from Colorado State University recommended the following, “Food that early doesn't set well with you, or you're not hungry in the morning? Start with something light, such as a glass of milk or fruit juice and lightly buttered toast or a small piece of fruit such as a banana.” Basically, don’t listen to your body because it’s obviously wrong. Eat whether or not you are hungry.

The answer is no. Apparently there isn’t any support online for skipping breakfast, so I will have to say it here.

There is nothing wrong with skipping breakfast. In fact, it is a good idea to skip breakfast if you aren’t hungry.

There. I said it. I don’t care if every so-called “expert” disagrees with me.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Is Intuitive Eating Just Another Diet?

It can be. I spent my first two months of this journey treating intuitive eating like just another diet. I know I am not alone on this one. I have read many posts on several different forums from people who are obviously approaching intuitive eating in the same way one would approach a diet. It makes sense that people do this. For most of us the only way we have ever approached changing our eating habits is to diet. As a result, the diet mentality is fully ingrained in us. I decided to post about my experience with treating intuitive eating like a diet in the hopes that it may help others navigate through this common obstacle.

I was beyond excited when I first learned about intuitive eating. I rushed out and bought Breaking Free from Emotional Eating by Geneen Roth, and I devoured it. I had never heard of this non-dieting approach before. I dived in headfirst and lost ten pounds in two months, which is about the same rate I lost weight when I was following Weight Watchers very closely. Then I hit a wall. I just couldn’t do it anymore, and I couldn’t figure out what went wrong. Wasn’t intuitive eating the solution to all of my food related problems? I have since realized where I went wrong. I was approaching intuitive eating in the same way that I have approached every diet I have ever been on.

I was using Geneen Roth's eating guidelines like a set of rules. I was religious about following them, much in the same way I had been religious about counting points when I was on Weight Watchers. I approached her hunger scale in the same way. Every time I ate, I would check in with the hunger scale every few bites. I had to make sure that I never ate past satisfaction! I had to make sure that I was eating intuitively correctly at all times because I really wanted it to work for me.

I was also very excited about intuitive eating. I still am but in a totally different way. My excitement at first was the same excitement I felt every time I started a new diet. I felt like finally I had found that magic pill. This time I was going to be able to lose the weight and keep it off forever. Incidentally, I was ignoring one very important piece of advice from Geneen Roth. I was still weighing myself almost every day. I couldn’t see the harm in it. I was losing weight! Wouldn’t weighing myself just motivate me to continue with intuitive eating?

I never messed up. I ate intuitively perfectly for almost two months. That's how I typically am when I start a new diet. On my last stint with Weight Watchers, I never went over my points for even one day for the first four months. I have been deeply entrenched in the all or nothing diet mentality for a long time. In my first two months of intuitive eating, I was completely oblivious to this fact. When I started to not be able to eat intuitively every time I ate, I started to feel guilty that I couldn’t stick to it. I started to feel like a failure. I found myself binging and overeating more and more often. Sound familiar? I was following intuitive eating, but I was still firmly entrenched in the diet cycle.

If you are worried that you might be using intuitive eating like a diet, there are a few questions you can ask yourself. Think back to how you felt when starting new diets in the past. How do they compare to how you feel about intuitive eating? Is your approach the same or is it different? What about that all or nothing diet mentality? When you overeat or eat when you aren’t hungry, what goes through your head? Do you feel guilty? Guilt is a telltale sign that you are wrapped up in diet thinking.

What do you do if you realize that you are treating intuitive eating like diet? First, I would like to say congratulations! You have just taken a major step in your intuitive eating journey just by realizing that. Everyone is different, so this is a very individual process. I can share what has helped me move out of the diet cycle.

I don't care about eating intuitively perfectly anymore. If I overeat or eat when I'm not hungry, I don't get mad at myself. When I start to think about a time I "messed up," I immediately think about the last time I ate intuitively. I focus on the positive, not the negative.

I have also realized that I eat as a way to avoid emotions, so I have been working on letting myself feel my emotions and getting comfortable with them. I never thought that I ate for emotional reasons because I thought I was eating out of boredom most of the time. I have since discovered that eating out of boredom is a form of emotional eating. I was turning to food because I wasn't comfortable just being with myself. Eating was a way for me to prevent the emotions from coming up at all.

I am active in online intuitive eating communities. This has been an essential part of my journey. I am fairly certain that I would have given up after those first two months if I hadn’t had the support and advice from other people who were further along on the intuitive eating path.

I know this doesn’t apply to all intuitive eaters. I have read blog posts from people who have been doing this for only a few weeks, obviously really understand intuitive eating and are clearly moving out of the diet cycle. Maybe you are one of those people. Or maybe you are like me. It doesn’t really matter either way. The only thing that matters is that you recognize where you are at and move through this process in whichever way is best for you.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Getting Unstuck

Up until a couple of months ago, I found myself completely incapable of eating intuitively. I was still caught up in that all or nothing, perfectionist, diet mentality. I had managed to completely renounce dieting, so this meant that I was overeating and/or binging every day for months. I didn’t know how to eat intuitively, and I was beginning to wonder if I would ever be able to.

Then something changed. I was flying to Orlando for business, and I wanted something to preoccupy me on the long flight. I downloaded a new audio CD I had purchased called “Getting Unstuck” by Pema Chodron onto my iPod. Halfway through the recording, I had the biggest light bulb moment I have had in my whole intuitive eating journey. I suddenly “got it.”

In “Getting Unstuck,” Pema Chodron teaches on a Tibetan Buddhist concept called shenpa. There is no clear definition for the word shenpa. It is basically that hooked feeling we get, that sticky feeling, that urge to scratch. For some of us it is the urge to drink or the urge to shop or the urge to gamble. For me it is the urge to eat. On this recording Chodron teaches how to stop the scratching. Here’s an edited down version of the excerpt that changed the course of intuitive eating for me.

“So there’s this practice that some of you have done with me, or do on your own, which is called one in the beginning and one in the end. And what this is is when you wake up in the morning, you make your aspiration for the day or aspirations… And one at the end is at the end of the day you look back over. This is the part that is so loaded for people like ourselves because looking back over you go into despair mode about what a failure you are.

So when
Dzigar Kongtrul teaches about this, he always says, for me when I see that I connected with my aspiration even briefly once during the whole day, I feel a sense of rejoicing…And when I see that I blew it, lost it completely, I rejoice that I have capacity to see that…What is it after all that sees that we blew it? It’s your own wisdom. It’s your own insight. It’s your own prajna [wisdom]. Couldn’t we just have the aspiration to identify with the wisdom that sees that we said a mean word or that we drank when we said we wouldn’t drink or whatever it is? The wisdom that sees that? That we identify more and more with this prajna or this wisdom aspect of our being instead of always identifying with the failure that’s being seen. When I see that I didn’t live up to it, that I blew it, I rejoice that I have that ability to see.

So this is a very, very important point you see, and again hopefully I say this to get us into the spirit of delighting in seeing rather than despairing in seeing… Letting seeing build confidence rather than cause us to go into a depression and feel discouraged and hopeless. This is the point that he makes over and over again in his teachings. Being able to acknowledge the shenpa, being able to see the shenpa, that is the doorway to freedom…Then if we can do the next step of refraining from going down the road, which sometimes we’ll be able to do and sometimes we won’t be able to do depending on the strength of the shenpa. We should rejoice that sometimes we have that ability to interrupt the momentum of the shenpa. And we should rejoice that we even had the aspiration to acknowledge and to refrain. And we should expect relapses…You know, five steps forward, five steps back. Five steps forward, four and a half steps back. Yay!”

I suddenly knew why I couldn’t eat intuitively. I was always focusing on my failures. At the end of every day, I would look back at how many times I overate and how many times I ate when I wasn’t hungry. I was going about this whole intuitive eating thing all wrong. I needed to focus on my successes, not my failures. Every night when I went to bed instead of remembering all of the times I overate or binged, I would be much better off focusing on all of the times I ate intuitively and all of the times I was conscious of what I was doing.

So that’s what I did. Every time I thought about a time when I overate, I pushed that thought out of my head and thought of the last time or last few times that I chose not to eat when I wasn’t hungry. I no longer allowed myself to think about my “failures.”

All of a sudden I was able to eat intuitively. Not all of the time but sometimes. At first I ate intuitively once every couple of days. As time went on I was doing it more and more. Here I am a couple months later, and I’m eating intuitively most of the time. Amazing!

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Take Action Challenge

I was blog surfing yesterday, and came across the Take Action Challenge on Christine Kane’s blog. I instantly realized that this is something that could really help me. I have been struggling with taking action in regards to conscious living. I have spent countless hours learning about it. I have read books on the topic and listened to even more audio books. I listen to audio books about living consciously every day on my commute to and from work. I have spent hours sitting in my meditation room reading or listening to mindfulness books. My favorite teachers are Pema Chodron, Eckhart Tolle, and Marianne Williamson. I have been listening to them for months, so I am very clear on what conscious living is all about.

I can’t seem to take the next step and put what I have learned into practice. My meditation room is really only a reading room. It’s nice to have a peaceful place to read, but that is not what I envisioned for that space. I envisioned a place where I could meditate and practice yoga, a place where I could move into conscious living.

While reading Christine Kane’s blog, I stumbled upon a reference she made to morning pages. Basically, the point of morning pages is to spend 20 or 30 minutes every morning writing everything that comes to your mind. This sounded like a good tool for me to live more consciously, so I wrote my first morning pages today. Much to my surprise, after 20 minutes of writing I discovered why I have been feeling so blocked when it comes to putting conscious living into practice. I am afraid of what direction my life will go if I allow myself to live consciously.

I have a great job. I make a lot of money. I get a lot of vacation time. I don’t have to work long hours. I have a lot of freedom at work. But I also have this nagging feeling that this isn’t where I’m supposed to be. I started working here immediately after I lost my father. I was in a period of profound grief, which probably isn’t the best time to choose a life-long career. This job was the obvious choice. It was the easy choice. But was it the best choice? I’m worried that it might not have been.

Also, my husband and I recently bought a very expensive house. (We live in Los Angeles where all homes are exorbitantly expensive.) We both love the house and hope to live in it for the rest of our lives. If I left my great paying job, that wouldn’t happen. We would have to move. Every time I have tried to express my dissatisfaction with my job, my husband freaks out. He doesn’t want to move. I really can't blame him. I would probably freak out if I were him, too.

On top of that, I don’t think I even want to live in Los Angeles. There is so much concrete here. Too many rushed, stressed out people. Too many cars. Too much traffic. Any time we go on vacation to a beautiful woodsy less populated area, I find myself wondering why I don’t live there. I want to be surrounded by trees. I want to live with nature, not endless concrete.

If I allow myself to live consciously, I will be forced to pay attention to what I truly want in life. I won’t be able to stuff it down and ignore it anymore. The truth is I don’t even know what I want. I haven’t even let myself go there. I have a copy of Finding Your Own North Star by Martha Beck. This book is supposed to help you figure out what to do with your life, what your true calling is. I have picked it up several times over the last year or so, but I can’t get past chapter three.

I have decided to do Christine Kane’s Take Action Challenge. I am committing to do at least one thing every day to become more conscious. In practical terms that means that I will either meditate or do yoga. It’s scary to think about the changes that living consciously may bring, but I want to live consciously because I know that is the only way to have a meaningful life.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Conscious Eating Works! Really!

Throughout the course of my conscious eating / conscious living journey I have noticed that a lot of people are very skeptical. I often hear something like, “If I ate intuitively, I would eat nothing but chocolate and gain at least 100 pounds.” Guess what? It doesn’t work that way. That’s not to say that conscious eating is easy. It's not. I have gone through a lot of self-doubt worrying that I am doing it wrong, even worrying that I am not capable of doing it at all. Here is an excerpt from a post I made on a conscious eating forum on November 1, 2006 after I had been doing this for four months.

“I have stopped CE [conscious eating]. I eat without paying attention. Sometimes I am hungry when I start eating and sometimes I’m not. I almost never pay attention to how hungry I am after I start eating. It’s like I just got tired of thinking about it…My pants are feeling tighter, and I’m feeling out of control.”

What I didn’t realize at the time is that I hadn’t stopped. It’s true that I wasn’t eating intuitively most of the time, but I was still on the conscious eating / conscious living journey. What I know now -but didn’t know then- is that conscious eating isn’t a way out for those with food issues. It’s a way through. I was expecting to be able to just eat intuitively naturally. Wrong! It doesn’t work that way. I had to start by taking the judgment and guilt out of overeating. Then I had to work on why I wanted to eat when I wasn’t hungry. I had to learn to be comfortable with feeling my emotions so that I wouldn’t feel the need to stuff them back down with food.

I still have work to do, but I have come a long way since that post last November. I still occasionally eat when I am not hungry, but it’s happening less and less. I am becoming more and more comfortable feeling my emotions.

I weighed myself last Friday. I haven’t weighed myself since -I think- January. At that time I had gained ten pounds since beginning this journey the previous July. [Note: Weight gain is normal and expected when someone starts intuitive or conscious eating. Please refer to my introductory post for more information.] After I stopped weighing myself my clothes got a little tighter, so I think I probably gained about five more pounds. Over the last few weeks I have noticed that my clothes have been getting looser, and the scale was beckoning me. Much to my surprise, I have lost all of the weight I put on when I first started. I weigh almost exactly what I did in the beginning. My body is now gradually moving to its natural weight.

However, I must note that one of the main reasons I have lost weight is because I haven’t been weighing myself. I have been focusing on living consciously and having a normal relationship with food. I have not been focused on losing weight. That is an essential part of conscious eating. I know that if I want to stay out of the diet cycle, I am going to have to stay off the scale.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

The Power of Now

Last December I had been practicing intuitive eating for five months. My focus was 100% on the food, and as a result I was struggling. I have been posting on a thread called Conscious Eating/Conscious Living almost since the beginning of my journey. I didn’t understand why the thread founders decided to call it that. I thought it would have made more sense to call it Intuitive Eating. I didn’t get why they used the word conscious, and I really didn’t get the concept of conscious living. What did that mean, and how was it relevant to intuitive eating?

Then the answer to my question literally fell into my lap. My husband and I moved into our new house at the end of last November. We had a heck of a time getting telephone and internet service. I won’t go into the details, but the phone company was giving us the run around. I spent at least an hour a day talking to various phone company employees, but no one was able to help us. I became very angry over the whole situation. I would rant and rave to anyone who would listen.

This dragged on for about two weeks when The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle arrived in the mail. I was participating in an online secret gift exchange, and my secret person had sent it to me. No doubt it had something to do with all of the angry posts I had posted on the message board about my phone company dealings. I had no idea what this book was about, but I decided to read it anyway. I have never liked to read, but I had no other way to pass the time since we didn’t have phone or internet service. The satellite dish hadn’t been installed yet either, so TV wasn’t an option. That book was literally the only thing around to help me pass the time, so I read it.

I was instantly mesmerized. I read it in two days. Then I rushed out and bought the audio version. I proceeded to listen to it about six more times over the next couple of months. The Power of Now says nothing about conscious eating, but I finally got it. I understood why that thread is called Conscious Eating/Conscious Living. I understood that conscious living is really what this is all about. Conscious eating is just one aspect of conscious living.

This all started to hit me when I got to the part of the book in which Tolle writes about how nothing exists outside of the now. Here is an excerpt.

“Have you ever experienced, done, thought, or felt anything outside the Now? Do you think you ever will? Is it possible for anything to happen or be outside the Now? The answer is obvious, is it not?

Nothing ever happened in the past; it happened in the Now.

Nothing will ever happen in the future; it will happen in the Now.

What you think of as the past is a memory trace, stored in the mind, of a former Now. When you remember the past, you reactivate a memory trace – and you do so now. The future is an imagined Now, a projection of the mind. When the future comes, it comes as the Now. When you think about the future, you do it now. Past and future obviously have no reality of their own. Just as the moon has no lights of its own, but can only reflect the light of the sun, so are past and future only pale reflections of the light, power, and reality of the eternal present. Their reality is ‘borrowed’ from the Now”

If you have ever studied Buddhism or other such teachings, this excerpt probably won’t be as shocking to you as it was to me. But I had never heard anything like this before. I have since heard and read a lot of stuff about being present in the moment. Was I living under a rock before? I think the truth is that I wasn’t ready for that message yet. And the second I was, all of these events unfolded in perfect sequence to bring it to me. Amazing!

I realized that my problems with the phone company weren’t important. I was letting this outside drama interfere with my life. My life is what is happening right now. It has nothing to do with what the phone company failed to do in the past or may or may not do in the future. All that was a distraction from the Now, which is the only thing that really matters. The Now is the true essence of life.

And living in the now is also the key to intuitive eating. By living in the now, by living consciously, I am able to eat consciously. By being present in the moment, I feel my emotions as they come up. In the past, an uncomfortable feeling would often have me running to the fridge. Usually I wouldn’t even realize that was why I was eating. But when I am living consciously, I am conscious of what I am doing. I can’t run from my emotions anymore because I know they are there. I know exactly what I am doing.

So this is why I say that there is no conscious eating without conscious living.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Don’t Exercise...Play!

The other day I was killing some time by reading intuitive eating blogs when I stumbled upon a post on The blogger posted that she had hula hooped for exercise. What a great idea! I used to love hula hooping, but I never thought about doing it for exercise because I always thought of it as something children do. Then I thought back to all the things I used to do when I was a kid. I used to love jump roping, swinging, riding my bike, etc. I don’t do any of those things anymore. Why?

At some point I grew up and forgot about playing. That’s when that ugly word, exercise, entered my life. I would join a gym and start using the stairmaster or the treadmill. I would go for a couple months at most before I just couldn’t take it anymore. Sometimes I would only go a few times before quitting.

I hate exercise. But I don’t hate playing. I loved to play as a kid. Whenever anyone asked, I would always say that my favorite part of school was recess. I have decided that I am never going to make myself exercise again. I’m going to start playing again instead. Weeee!

Friday, April 27, 2007

Every Woman Has an Eating Disorder

I wanted to write a post about this blog because it is what first introduced me to intuitive eating. Last July I was struggling with Weight Watchers. I had been in a diet/binge cycle for several months. I was desperate to lose weight, and I just didn’t know what to do. I posted about my struggle on the Weight Watchers message board. One very wise poster suggested that I check out I did, and I was mesmerized. I read every post in one sitting. I would like to highlight two of them that really spoke to me.

In this post, the blogger points out that when we don’t allow ourselves to eat the foods we want; we are saying that we don’t trust ourselves. I had never thought about it that way before. I thought I was avoiding french fries because I needed to lose weight. The truth is, I was avoiding french fries because I didn’t trust myself with french fries. I thought that if I allowed myself to have them, I would eat too many of them. That I would eat them every day, maybe even several times a day. How could I be a confident, happy person if I didn’t trust myself?

This post highlights ten appearance assumptions that lead to body image issues. I was especially struck by number ten. “The only way I could ever like my looks would be to change them.” This is the whole reason I was dieting in the first place. I thought I needed to lose weight before I could be happy with the way I looked. Isn’t this one of the main reasons why everyone diets?

The blogger went on to say, “If you're dissatisfied with your body, which would be easier--to lose weight or to work on your dissatisfaction?” What a revelation! It had never occurred to me that I could actually learn to accept my body as it is now. Considering I had been dieting on and off for a decade and only getting heavier, it seemed that it might just be easier to work on body acceptance.

On a side note, I have since discovered that learning to accept my body is a key component to learning how to eat intuitively. It’s really hard to be a conscious eater when you are focused first and foremost on weight loss. I have found that intuitive eating has become easier as I have stopped worrying about losing weight and started focusing my attention on wanting to have a normal relationship with food.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007


Last July I discovered intuitive eating after living in the diet cycle for the last decade. I learned that eating consciously is actually much harder than dieting, but the results are worth it. I desperately want to have a normal relationship with food. I am not willing to spend the rest of my life in the diet cycle. Through this journey I have also realized that there is no conscious eating without conscious living. Conscious living has added so much meaning to my life. I have even found myself being thankful for my food issues because they brought me to conscious living.

I decided to start this blog for a couple of reasons.

Most of the stuff I have read about intuitive eating focuses on the food. There is some information about emotional eating, but it doesn’t go much beyond that. I wanted to create a place that talks about conscious eating within the context of conscious living.

I am tired of hearing people say that they tried intuitive eating, but it didn’t work for them. Here is an excerpt from a post on a conscious eating site that I frequent.

“It's very tempting to try to follow this, to be free of constant monitoring, but I have to confess that I've tried it and it hasn't worked for me…It was a few months- maybe 4 months- over which I did not weigh myself, and tried to practice intuitive eating, and when my clothes started to feel and look tight, I got on the scale and was shocked to see myself 10 lbs up.”

What frustrates me about reading posts like that is that this is exactly how intuitive eating is supposed to work. In Breaking Free from Emotional Eating, Geneen Roth wrote that she gained 15 pounds over her first six months of intuitive eating. For the next five months she maintained that weight. It was almost a year before she started to lose weight, and it took her two years of eating intuitively for her to lose 30 pounds to reach her natural healthy weight.

Intuitive eating isn’t a quick fix. It takes an amazing amount of dedication. It’s not a diet. It’s a process of learning how to have a normal relationship with food. Losing weight may be a byproduct of that, but it isn’t the main point. It will only work if you make a firm commitment to eating consciously. If you view it as a way to lose weight, as another diet, it won’t work for you. You need to be able to accept the initial weight gain. You need to be able to accept that you might not start losing weight for a year or maybe longer. If you can’t do that, intuitive eating won’t work for you. It will just become another diet that you will “fail” at.

I have decided that conscious eating / conscious living is worth it. I have decided that I am worth it. I am not willing to struggle with food for the rest of my life. I want to enjoy my life and be free from food obsessions, and I’m willing to do what it takes for me to get there.