Intuitive eating seems to have become a junk food fest in my mind where I almost have to eat ice cream, chips and creamy pasta for every meal. Like once I start on the sweets, it's very hard to stop with a reasonable portion.
In my experience, this happens as a response to previous rules, meal plans, and vows to cut out sweets. We control too tightly, get too hungry, obsess over weight, and then of course want to put M&Ms on fettuccine alfredo with a side of curly fries. Because the diet starts tomorrow! This intuitive eating thing is only a temporary sham escape that won't work and has to end soon. It's like a self-fulfilling prophecy. So, if there are no rules, if you're always free to eat whenever, whatever, and as much as you want, no end in sight, the rebellion response to that kind of abundance becomes looking forward to a salad, being happy with a few of those, getting tired of the cookies, or forgetting to finish the rest of your lunch.
I find (so called) intuitive eating that requires emphasizing certain types of foods, avoidance of sugar, portion control, and a weight focus to be not the least bit intuitive. "Lose weight with the new non-dieting diet!!" It's annoying. Keep making rules and you'll keep wanting to do the opposite. The only way out of that cycle is to allow everything, and then pay attention to how you feel and what you value. With that kind of freedom, eating nothing but junky convenience foods all day fell out of favor pretty quickly with me. I didn't feel good. I wasn't satisfied. It tanked my energy and my mood. If I think about wanting to feel good before, during, and after I eat, I naturally eat better without any rules or plans. The focus is on feeling my best versus controlling or depriving myself.
In my first attempt at intuitive eating, I had been dieting hard for a couple of decades. So, when I stopped, there really wasn't anything intuitive going on. It was an epic weeks long "cheat day." I kept thinking my appetite would calm down and I'd want some salad (as I had been told), but I was SO hungry, and that hunger was all bound up with feeling guilty, afraid, ashamed, and like a failure because I couldn't diet anymore. That is really not a good setup for trusting yourself or learning to eat with attunement. So, I was eating whatever, and a whole bunch, but it wasn't "working" because I was overwhelmed with conflicting emotions and trying to numb then with all the food I'd been denying myself. The best advice I can give to someone in that situation is to breathe, relax, and stay present when you eat. When we're busy numbing out or beating ourselves up, of course we don't recognize satisfaction when it happens. Then, even if we do notice, our story that food is scarce or that these foods will probably be off limits again soon will keep us eating past it. It takes time for all that reactivity to settle down. It settles faster if we approach our eating with kindness and curiosity instead of judgment. Just notice. Do I like this food? Am I hungry right now? Am I starting to feel satisfied? I found it really important to remind myself that I could always have more later. I also found it helpful to eat satisfying meals at regular times. I could still snack as much as I wanted, but meals were happening. They produced much clearer, more beginner-friendly hunger and fullness signals than grazing all day in some kind of weird limbo.
This is really helpful, thanks Skwigg. I was also thinking about something @happyme said in someone's journal (can't remember if it was yours, mine, or Sunshine's) but she mentioned digestion being crappy because of not chewing. It dawned on me the other day that I'm pretty sure I don't chew my food anywhere near as much as I should. When I'm in the midst of a binge, I'm shoveling food in so fast I'm barely swallowing before I take the next bite. This isn't quite the case when I'm eating "normally" but I still think I barely chew before I swallow. I do agree it's hard to be mindful when you're ravenous, but it might help matters a bit if I chew my food more than I have been. :)
It comes with practice, sure, but it's impossible to be mindful when ravenously hungry. So, behaviors like restrictive dieting, overtraining, or purging pretty much rule out mindfulness. Once we're consistently and adequately fed, then we can notice how food makes us feel. It sounds very much like you're off in your thoughts when you eat, so you're not truly experiencing the food. You're experiencing what you think about the food. One thing you can try once you're feeling adequately fed is "stopping the words." I use that little trick when my brain clicks on in the middle of the night or I find myself ruminating over something stupid. Instead of the crazy, involuntary running dialog that happens when we're just floating along, try not to form words. No planning, no judging, no debate, no imaginary arguments with people who aren't in the room. If you find yourself making words, stop. Slow way down, breathe, look at your food, smell your food, notice the texture and flavor, notice how your stomach feels right now. If the words come up again, let them go again. Don't engage with them. It's not easy for anyone to do this for long! Definitely don't judge yourself for not being able to do it. That's just more words. 😄 In my experience, an eating disorder likes to hear itself talk. It's easy to get into endless debate, trying to find the right words to blame, justify, or reward whatever loony thing we're about to do. Instead, be skeptical of the whole conversation. Pause and focus on breathing in and out, on taking one bite and then another. No stories. It helps!
I'm really glad I found this post, Skwigg! The last paragraph hit home especially hard for me. Particularly when I've been coming off a hard rebound of purging, I find that it's especially hard to stop eating. With that being said, I also eat in a frenzied state of panic where I can't seem to shove the food in fast enough. I do find it very challenging to calm my thoughts or eat in a peaceful, non-judgmental, mindful way. Maybe it comes with practice, but when I'm eating something like ice cream or cereal, I'm so busy thinking about how I can "get rid of it" that it's hard to even taste the food. Although I think I'm tasting it, because all I keep thinking is, "More more more! It tastes SOOO GOOD," but I eat in a rushed way. Or I worry about when the eating experience will be over or when I can eat again or if I'll be hungry enough to eat again (because once I let myself get super full it'll be a really long time before I "get to.")