When I was obsessed with food, I loooooved making graphical representations of the way I eat. Graphs, pie charts, bulleted lists, the more complex the better. I would depict the macros, the timing, refeeds, carb cycling. My old fitness blog was full of that stuff. I was thinking about that yesterday when I was reflecting on how my approach has changed, so of course I had to make a new graphic for the way I eat now.
It's crazy, right? But that's primarily how it goes. I get hungry, generally around breakfast, lunch, and dinner time, I think about what sounds good and what's available, I eat until I'm totally satisfied, and then I stop. If I get hungry and/or want something in between meals, I eat it. I wouldn't be thinking about it otherwise. Though, there are times when I'm presented with all manner of food in between meals and don't care. At work last week there were hot dogs, nachos, cookies, pizza, cupcakes, candy, a whole convenience store spread. I wasn't hungry. None of it was appealing at the time, but I grabbed a couple of little candy bars for later because you never know. They were tasty before dinner.
I do still think about how I want to feel, not just what will taste good. I still enjoy a lot of nutritious whole food but I don't have any guidelines. It's normal for me to eat fish and vegetables for lunch one day, and then have pizza and cookies the next. Neither is right or wrong, it's just a matter of what sounds good, which is often exactly what I need based on appetite and emotion. If I'm tired, frazzled and daydreaming of comfort food, creamy pasta it is. Other times a crisp, fresh, loaded salad is what sounds delicious. The more I pay attention to what I want and need at each meal, the less crazy I am around food. The easier it is to recognize satisfaction and lose interest until I get hungry again. If I place a bunch of external conditions on what or how much I can eat, then I overthink and second guess everything. Then I'm not satisfied. Then I'm looking for the escape hatch from this stupid plan, which leads to eating a lot of random stuff, feeling bad about it, and tightening up the plan. Repeat until I can't stand it anymore and acknowledge that it's not working.
Letting my appetite determine what, when, and how much to eat works far better. Think about every wild animal in nature. Even with an abundant food supply, they eat to appetite and maintain an ideal weight without ever reading a fitness blog. We come preprogramed with that same brilliantly effective appetite regulation. We're told it's broken, don't trust it, hyper-palatable foods have hijacked our brains. You can't eat freely. You need a plan. I don't buy that anymore. Food plans result in failure, rebellion, and more plans. Eating according to what my body is telling me actually works. I despised anyone who tried to tell me that! I got so angry about it. I ranted about intuitive eating and non-dieting for years. That fear is why I was still clinging to elements of restriction years into starting a site about not dieting. I think some people dive in fearlessly, let their body do what it's going to do, and experience the mental and metabolic benefits relatively quickly. I was SO not going to do that. I let go of restriction in a "one toe in the water" sort of way, but the more I moved in that direction, the more confidence I gained in myself and the approach.