From skwigg's journal:
I want to elaborate on what I said in Tonya's journal about how my processed foods versus whole foods ratio has shifted. I said:
My processed to whole foods ratio may be more like 40/60, or 30/70. I do eat mostly whole foods, but barely. It's not the 90% plants and animals I used to shoot for. Clean eating didn't agree with me at all.
It really didn't. The vibrant good health that was supposed to happen? It was more like being cold all the time, being constipated, having no energy, walking around with a painfully bloated belly, insomnia, anxiety, not particularly enjoying my food, cravings, weight struggles, bingey lapses, obsessing about food every waking moment. Woohoo! Clean eating!
I used to believe that thing that if you eat 90 percent unprocessed whole foods, 10 percent of the time, you can eat food you actually want. This was a recipe for crazy. The slightly more lenient 80/20 version of that still made me hysterical. I'd be trying to math out cheat meals, or track treats, or schedule them in weird ways. The overplanning didn't help my mindset at all. It kept me very focused on what I couldn't eat, or what I could only eat at certain times. Then the flip side of that was the default overconsumption of safe foods. If they were whole and unprocessed, they wouldn't make me gain weight, right? Oh, oops, wrong.
Crazy Matt Stone actually helped out a lot here by exposing me to the idea that I might physically feel a whole lot better if I ate some bread and butter once in awhile, or ice cream, or salt. I certainly did!
Then Intuitive Eating came along and reinforced the idea that I could be eating what I want every time I eat, not following any particular ratio or scheme. I was surprised to learn that I still want chicken and vegetables. I tend not to enjoy dry skinless chicken breast and plain steamed vegetables, but who does?
Flavor is pretty important. Left to my own devices, I still like meat, fish, eggs, fruits & veggies, nuts, seeds, beans, and whole grains just fine. I tend to especially like them with fat and processed carbs. :-)
Lean Habit #4 is Eat Mostly Whole Foods. I think I still do that, but like I said, barely, not by a landslide or anything, and definitely not every day or every meal. It's more like over time I do.
Today so far I have eaten: Most of a frozen pizza (with extra veggies on it), several spoonfuls of Ben & Jerry's Peanut Butter Fudge Core, half a bottle of Pepsi, another big piece of cold pizza, four Italian holiday/wedding cookies, and a bottle of kombucha. I can't even begin to pass that off as some kind of plan I'm following. LOL But it's exactly what I wanted. Later I will want a couple of tacos, chips & salsa, and more cookies.
It's not clean eating, or calorie counting, or special meal timing, or no snacking. It is eating what I want, when I'm hungry, and to satisfaction. Because I can always have whatever I want, and I can eat again whenever I'm hungry, I tend not to overdo it very often. There's no reason to overeat anymore, definitely no compulsion to do it, not like when I was feeling hungry and restrained from dieting.
A question for you - so based on all of the above discussion, would it be safe to assume that you absolutely never have any conscious feelings of being deprived of what you really want anymore? Do you ever have to make the decision to 'say no' when you want to keep eating or 'be good' when you want to eat donuts but should have your regular cereal? Like you never feel like you are having to exercise self-control to eat the way you do now? Or maybe you do consciously exercise self-control and that is what is at the heart of it? The self-control to eat in accordance with your values?
Ooh, interesting questions. It is safe to assume that I never have any feelings of deprivation. I eat whatever I want, often as soon as I think of it. I never "say no" or "be good" or "should" myself. I never exercise self-control. That was all painful, faulty, f$%ed up diet thinking that had to go.
If I want to keep eating because I'm hungry, I keep eating. If I want to keep eating because the food is good, I consider how that's going to feel an hour from now and decide accordingly. Sometimes it's totally worth it and sometimes it was only the idea of continuing to eat that sounded fun, but I'd really rather not. Weight doesn't enter into it. I'm thinking about how I want to feel.
That's a kind of faulty diet thinking again if I'm telling myself I want donuts but should have cereal. (Why? So I'll live forever? So I don't get fat? To impress the food police?). I don't do that to myself anymore. If it's breafast time and I want donuts (or cake, or cookies) and those sweet foods are in the house, honestly, I'll usually have both, a smaller serving of cereal, a yogurt, and then the cookie. If it's not in the house, I'll picture myself sitting in rush hour traffic, half asleep, in my floppy pajama pants, in the cold, driving to get the donuts. Do I want them that badly? No, never. LOL So, I'll just make a mental not to myself, "Hey, donuts sound good. Find an opportunity to eat one soon." Sometimes the feeling sticks with me and I do find and eat a donut a few hours or days later. Sometimes I totally forget about it, or come across them and don't want them anymore. But I never, ever tell myself no. It's more like, "Not now, maybe later." And that's only because it's not convenient now, not because I "shouldn't" eat something.
Self-control doesn't work, not for long. If you're trying to achieve any objective using willpower or self-control, you're doomed because there's a really limited supply of those. They will run out. You will do the exact opposite of what you intended, usually with some real enthusiasm.
So, no, I never feel like I'm exercising self-control at all with regard to my eating. I'm freely choosing based on how I want to feel. That changes, so it's not like there's one right answer when I want donuts for breakfast or want to keep eating candy. Generally, I'll have a taste of something as soon as I think of it, or decide to have two more and then stop, or decide I'm good for now and look forward to having more later. There are no attempts to "should" myself anymore. Those were stories I made up when I was dieting, the ones about deprivation and self-control. They turned out not to be true.
Apparently, I have all kinds of insights when I'm outside playing fetch with the dog. I was back out there this afternoon, thinking about the two apparently conflicting values - leanness and food freedom. They work together. It's all about the balance between them. If you value freedom and flexibility (and feeling great, having energy, all of that) then you're not in danger of taking the leanness too far, of pushing it into restriction and discomfort. The flip is true too. If you value leanness, you're not in danger of turning the food freedom into a reason to overeat all the time. The two together make things easier.
What it looks like in practice is interesting too, because it's not like leanness is at the front of my mind and I'm always putting my potato chips on a dainty little plate and turning down the extra cookie. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don't. At different times, each value is important. Right now, in the middle of the holiday season and all the great food, freedom is having a moment. I'm primarily looking to relax and enjoy myself and celebrate the season. It's not that the leanness value goes away completely, or becomes a killjoy, or causes conflict. It's still around enough to remind me not to hurt myself, not to eat mindlessly, or eat in a way that's completely at odds with my other values. But it's not the priority right now. Just like when I settle back into my normal workday routine after the holidays, I won't be seeking out quite so much spontaneity and excitement with my food. I'll gladly pass on most of the cookies and cheese trays and bagel baskets that show up at the workplace. I'll be a little more mindful when choosing portions, and I'll love that. I'll be relieved not to be dealing with whole hams and boxes of truffles all the time. LOL
Going about my normal life with no holidays or vacations, the values kind of trade off in terms of which one is up front at any given time. When I'm eating my standard work meal that I love but put zero thought into, leanness takes the lead. When I eat one cookie with lunch instead of three, leanness again. When I'm going out to dinner with a friend, food freedom steps up and takes a little more priority. When I'm eating my favorite healthy breakfast the following morning, leanness is up. When my husband makes popcorn and opens a Dr Pepper right before my workout, as he does, valuing food freedom and spontaneity means I'll have a couple handfuls of popcorn and a big drink of soda, hoping I don't gurgle and burp too much during jump tucks.
So, instead of being at odds they kind of work like a team. And of course, all of this is assuming you're eating enough in general. If you're too hungry, food freedom can bolt like a wild horse, dragging you around and making you feel helpless. Or if your desire for leanness is coming from a place of fear and loathing, your methods can be heavy handed and impossible to sustain. It helps to think in terms of balancing the two (Jill Coleman's middle way or #Moderation365), and to deal in small pleasant adjustments - no meal skipping, banned foods, or enforced misery.
It's similar behaviors - intuitive eating, happy eating, eating just enough, saving some for later, being more mindful, and all of that. If it feels like dieting, it's because there's a painful thought behind the actions, a fear, something unquestioned. The difference isn't the behavior, it's the thinking. I do what I do because it's a fun game, one where I get to have potato chips and abs, energy and good health, sound sleep, peace, confidence. I can't wait to get up and play every day!
Those similar behaviors felt nothing like a game when I was restricting based on unquestioned fears. It was dire. One wrong move and my fate was sealed. So, you can eat one less cookie because you're excited about that choice and all the good things it will bring, or you can eat one less cookie but tell yourself a story about how you'll never be able to eat what you want without gaining weight, how you'll always have to monitor and restrict, how you can't be trusted, how it's all so hard. Same action - deciding to pass on the extra cookie - completely different reality for the cookie eater, and probably a different outcome too. People experiencing stressful, negative emotions are inclined to want to soothe themselves with cookies, which then feels even more hopeless and out of control. But it's not the cookies or the behavior with the cookies that determine whether it's easy or a constant struggle, it's what you're telling yourself.
I just thought of another example. My intuition wants pizza, as it does. Instead of being doomed to eat too much pizza, the leanness part of the equation is noticing when I'm getting full and saving some for later. It's not avoiding pizza altogether. Or my intuition wants potato chips. Maybe I'll put a serving or two on a plate instead of eating them out of the bag, which makes it really impossible to register how many you're eating, even if your intentions are good. Or if I want to zone in front of the TV with a lot of salty snack food, maybe I'll go with popcorn instead of chips. It's just as much fun but I can eat more of it without feeling like I'm wrecking myself. Or, my intuition says cheesecake. Valuing leanness means I'll make a small one and freeze a few slices instead of overdoing it for days with the cheesecake.
Yep, all those words "clean" "processed" "real" "healthy" have such wildly different meanings depending on each person's experience and perception. I'm right there with you on your real food definition being more like homemade or traditional, not necessarily unprocessed or low-cal. I've also noticed that I never call it "junk food" or "processed crap" anymore. That used to be my go-to terminology when I was scared of it. Now, it's "play food" or "fun food," if I differentiate at all. I don't especially like calling things "treats" and definitely not "cheats." More and more, it's all just "food."