I did not always want or need: breakfast before I was even awake, half a pint of ice cream every time I opened the container, peanut butter apples no matter how big or filling the rest the meal was, green smoothies or giant salads every day because vegetables, cake at every meal after I'd baked one, the whole pizza, eggs with breakfast, dessert in restaurants, the whole sleeve of crackers, the same amount as my husband was eating. On and on. It's not that I didn't want and enjoy those things sometimes, but not mindlessly in every instance. Stopping to consider how I feel and what sounds good opened my eyes to the number of times I was eating what I always eat with no thought. So did the truly bizarre and miraculous discovery that I enjoyed eating without distractions sometimes. Without distractions, I realized that some of my portions and choices weren't what I actually wanted. I just hadn't noticed when I was always watching TV, or texting, or reading while I ate.
It's not that I didn't trust myself, as in, "Oh, I can't have these in the house. I'll eat them all." I didn't trust that my body could regulate my intake over time if I were eating certain foods willy-nilly on any day without some kind of structure or known portions. Those are foods like potato chips, crackers, nuts, Dr Pepper, ice cream, and M&Ms. I had been eating them before, but often on a specific day, a certain time, or in a measured amount. The funny thing is that when I totally cut loose and went with what my body was telling me in the moment, I was often happy with four M&Ms, or two potato chips, or three spoonfuls of ice cream. I realized that I wanted the taste with my meals but not always standard servings.
Foods I wasn't even considering eating go back to my lurking orthorexic tendencies from having read every nutrition book/article/website ever. Like the pepperoni on that pizza. I love pepperoni but wasn't considering it an option, even uncured, even occasionally, because nitrates. Bottled salad dressing. Waffles. Mayonnaise. Cow's milk. Real maple syrup. Fast food that's not Panera. It's not that I'd want my whole way of eating based on the foods everyone else is trying to avoid (LOL), but the flexibility to include anything once in awhile greatly increases satisfaction.
It's also been interesting to watch the shift that's occurred between reverse engineering portions, set mealtimes, and no snacking versus, "I can eat more of this in ten seconds or ten minutes if I want it or am still hungry." I usually don't want it, but knowing I could eat it lets me key into how I'm feeling in the moment. I'm happy to stop eating sooner than if it's clearly going to be six hours until the next meal, or four days until I usually have M&Ms again. And yet I had so much success with reverse engineering portions and having some solid habits and structure. I think it was a necessary step for me. I could still be doing it and be very happy, but I'm super duper extra happy having created that solid foundation and then gaining even more flexibility and freedom.
My body tells me stuff in the moment about what and how much I need, I just wasn't able to hear it without some deliberate practice. Like experiencing levels of fullness in the moment while eating. I thought that was imaginary voodoo, or obsessive madness, but I read the book, did the exercises, and it became very real for me. I'll stop eating now even if there's more on my plate, or I'll get up and serve myself more if I'm still hungry, no second-guessing. All of that chattering diet debate falls away when whether to eat more or stop is NOT based on external rules, weight, fear, deprivation, what you ate yesterday, the usual troublemakers.