I meant to talk more about carefree eating in my last big journal post. I mentioned it but then didn't really elaborate. What is carefree eating? One way to describe it is eating freely without fear of consequences. It also involves being totally in the moment with your food. All other worries seem to fall away. Dieters and restrained eaters may only experience this during a binge or cheat. That was certainly the case for me for many years. The rest of the time there was constant chatter about numbers, guilt, self-control, and how I might compensate.
My thinking made overeating more appealing because it seemed to be the only escape from my thinking. Oops! That was the revelation. It wasn't really about the food. I felt relieved or hopeless based on what I was telling myself. During overeating episodes, I shut up for a minute. That was the magic. There was no drama or calorie math while I was still chewing. This made it appealing to keep eating more food for longer stretches. Again, oops! But I knew as soon as I stopped eating, the guilty, anxious noise would come rushing back in, so pass the cookies. Anybody relate?
The thing is, you don't need to overeat in order to feel carefree and not concerned about outcomes when you eat. Now, I experience something like Friday night ice cream peace at every meal. I think of Jill Coleman's line, "Control is the opposite of trust." When trying to fearfully control outcomes, craziness reigned. When I began to trust myself, stay in the moment, and focus on the behaviors I wanted, nearly every eating experience became carefree. Eventually.
This is where Georgie Fear is a super genius. Once you establish effective habits, you don't need to think so much. There's no need to count everything, or swear off certain foods, or stay out of restaurants, so there's no need to take a break from your eating with a forbidden food bender.
A few of my habits:
Eating satisfying meals and not snacking much.
Eating when physically hungry.
Eating plenty of nutritious whole foods with nothing off limits.
Eating to feel good before, during, and after my meals.
Eating dinner several hours before bed and going to sleep feeling light and comfortable.
These habits support a lean body and a healthy weight. If I’m following my habits, I can trust that I’m not gaining weight or undermining my values. There’s nothing to fret about or analyze to death at mealtimes. There’s just me enjoying my food. Note that taking someone else’s habits and trying to follow them like diet rules doesn’t have the same effect as establishing your own habits over time and allowing them to become automatic.
It’s also important to be able to recognize and release stressful thoughts. “Is that true?” If a thought hurts probably not. If constant fearful chatter about food, weight, and calories is the problem, more thinking isn’t the answer. Trying to counter or reason with those crazy thoughts keeps the circus in town. Dismissing them as unhelpful brain goo and staying fully present in the moment is how you find peace, and it doesn’t need to involve overeating. I loved this little graphic that Byron Katie included in her newsletter.