Another Post on Intuitive Eating

Spawned from things I’ve been reading on the fatosphere in the past couple of days.

First, I read There are Diets, and then there are DIETS by meowser, who linked to Fillyjonk’s post Stumbling Towards Ecstacy.  Both of those articles gave me a lot to think about, and then I read On Diets by Big Liberty, and finally, Rebellion or Restriction? by sassyblonde.

Y’all have said so much and given me so much to think about.

It should be no surprise to long time readers that I struggle with doing IE right.  You know, correctly.  I wonder sometimes if it can really be as easy as eating what I want, when I want it.  And sometimes, I do question if I’m doing it all wrong.

All these posts have helped me to realize, again, I’m not doing it wrong.

But they’ve also addressed something I’ve not seen addressed a lot when people talk about Intuitive Eating.  That while a person doesn’t have to restrict any type of food (like they would on a diet to lose weight) there may be other reasons to restrict specific foods, that vary from individual to individual. 

I have a sensitivity to carbohydrates which triggers migraine for me.  As I also have PCOS, that gives me another sensitivity to carbohydrates, and while I do take Metformin which helps my body metabolize the carbohydrates better, I still have to be careful about how many carbohydrates I eat in a day, and how much protein I eat.  The more protein I eat, the more I can eat carbohydrates and not have migraines. 

However, there still is an upper limit of how many carbohydrates I can eat, no matter how much protein or exercise I do.

I think I’m starting to get the idea that IE isn’t just about how a person can eat anything they want any time they want, but it’s also about what’s good for each person’s body, and what their body can and cannot eat.  Like meowser, I know some people who are diabetics who can have sugar and alcohol.  They know their body well enough to know how much insulin they need to take to offset the simple carb ingestion.  I also know people who can never eat anything with sugar in it again, due to how rapidly it causes their system to spike and possibly lead them to a diabetic coma.

The thing is, I already know this stuff.  In discussions with the MiL recently, I’ve said that what an individual body needs is what they should eat, and that only the individual who is in the body can make that call.  We were talking about MiL’s sister, who’s been having some liver problems lately, and been told by her doctors to cut down on protein ingestion.  MiL’s sister is also an insulin dependant diabetic, and has been for years.  MiL thinks all her sister’s health problems are related to her weight problems (MiL’s sister is obese), and that if she’d just lose the weight, she’d be so much better.

Of course, it’s hard for me to sit here and just listen to MiL decide how much good health everybody else would be in if they just lose weight.  So, we’ve been talking about how she doesn’t get to make the decision of what anybody else can and can’t eat.  That it’s up to what each individual body needs, and the only ones who can determine what they need are the people living in their bodies.

So, I’ve been saying the right things.  I even believe the right things — for other people.  It’s just when I am looking at this for myself I find I have problems.

Yes, IE means you can eat whatever you want, whenever you want.  As I understand it, IE is about giving up food restriction just to lose weight.  But there may be other reasons why a person has to restrict their food intake (like me and my carbohydrate trigger of migraines).  It’s still not a “one size fits all” mentality, not that anybody who I’ve heard or read who talks about IE has tried to make it that way.

In a sense, I’ve still got a “diet mentality” that I’m trying to get away from.  IE is supposed to be this thing, so I have to do it perfectly, or I’m not doing it right.

One of these days, I’ll really understand it.  The fact that I can understand it for others shows me I can understand it for me eventually.  And until then, I’ll keep working out the feelings that tell me I’m doing it wrong, and if I just had more willpower/determination/whatever I could do it right.  Of course, since there is no right and wrong in IE, that line of reasoning makes no sense.

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4 Responses

  1. Great post.

    If there was one thing I’d add, from my own perspective, is that sometimes it’s not just that it’s okay to restrict for individual medical reasons, but that it’s *okay to unrestrict.*

    My case is unique in that I am told by doctors to eat and drink things most people (esp. fat people) are told to restrict. I’m told to salt my food, and to make sure once in a while, esp. if I’m feeling faint-y, to drink water with sugar and/or caffeine in it (hmm, sound like cola to anyone? lol).

    The interesting thing about my case though, is that making sure one *eats* something is as hard as making sure one *doesn’t eat* something. Really. I don’t always remember to salt my food, and like my food much less salty in general than my fiancee. Also, sometimes when I’m at work I drink water, water, water all day, and will suddenly realize at 3p — when I inevitable feel yucky — that a cola or juice would make me feel better again. And it does. 🙂

    I think one of the strangest experiences in my life – certainly counterintuitive to what we’re told is “good” foods – is one night, when I felt faint-y, dizzy, weak, and nauseous, and I ate a Cup O’Noodles. Suddenly, I felt amazing (it’s strange how awful one lets one feel, and then when you’re back to “normal”, how amazing it feels). I felt like I was Popeye and just ate a can of spinach. Cup O’Noodles! The sodium helped get my blood pressure back up enough that I didn’t feel like I was going to pass out anymore, I was just “normal” again. 🙂

    So yes, sometimes it’s about understanding it’s okay to *unrestrict*. Anorexics in treatment go through this process – and it’s not easy.

    Of course, it’s a slippery slope from saying it’s okay to restrict and unrestrict based on personal health, and then it’s okay to restrict to lose weight, which some would argue is also for personal health. The difference is that weight loss is temporary, its effects are temporary, and as one’s system gets to that “low-flame” state, one will cease to lose weight on the same diet, and even start gaining it back. Losing weight is basically just an exercise in self-harm. Optimizing foods for one’s health, though, does NOT have to do with weight loss, necessarily. As we’ve discussed. It can even cause weight gain, as in my case – when I stopped dieting and unrestricted for my health, I gained weight. When some people take meds to help other problems, they gain weight. Gaining weight can be healthy. Unrestricting can be healthy. It’s all about the individual. 🙂

  2. It takes time. Sometimes a long time. But you know what, you rock so hard for working on it. In this culture, in this time and place, it’s so hard to go against the grain. It can feel like swimming upstream. But in the end, you’ll get somewhere if you keep trying — unlike with dieting, where you’ll just get nowhere, fast.

  3. One of the things about restricting/unrestricting for *actual* health is that it is really rewarding. It makes you feel better – my mom has this crazy list of foods she has to restrict that includes whole grains and liver and avocados and some cheeses. She’s been a yo yo dieter her whole life, and *always* failed, but she’s stuck with these limits for several years – because if she doesn’t, her kidneys can’t cope, her blood mineral levels get all out of whack, and she gets stuff like faintness and heart thumping.

    Dieting to lose weight has *no* tangible rewards like that. It makes you feel bad most of the time, and the “rewards” you do get (new clothes, approval, scale numbers) are distant, abstract, or barbed with hatred for your non-dieting self.

  4. IE means you can eat whatever you want, whenever you want

    That’s not 100% accurate. It would be better described as listening to your own body, and taking cues on what to eat from YOU not external rules about what you “should” or shouldn’t eat.

    Restrictions like “my body doesn’t want too much carbohydrate because it results in a migraine” is EXACTLY in line with intuitive eating, it is EXACTLY listening to your body’s cues.

    Sometimes I wish articles on intuitive eating would mention this point more, they tend to concentrate solely on the breaking free from diet mentality.

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