About a year and a half ago, I was trying desperately to lose weight and get my "bad" eating habits under control. I counted calories, packed itty-bitty lunches to get me through nine hours shifts of caring for two dozen kindergarteners and beat myself up whenever I gave in halfway through the afternoon and ate one of the brownies laying around at snack time.
I'd dieted before, and this was actually a pretty mild, and this time around I quickly recognized something was wrong, so I talked to a counselor and she recommended I read Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elysse Resch.
In a nutshell, Intuitive Eating is all about listening to your body's hunger and fullness signals and eating what you want. It makes so much sense, and it felt so right, because this was how I lost 55 pounds over three years without trying at all. I jumped right into this new way of eating, but I have looked back a few times.
I know it sounds crazy, but learning to eat intuitively is so much harder than dieting. There are no absolutes, no hard rules, none of that stuff to "keep you on track". No foods are inherently "good" or "bad".
I've come a long way. I eat when I'm hungry, I usually stop when I'm full, I naturally choose healthy foods most of the time, I rarely guilt trip myself when I overeat, and I exercise because I want to.
The only hard part is the emotional eating part. Fitness magazines and diet books tell you to go for a walk or paint your nails or something when you have a strong emotion instead of eating. A therapist told me to try to seek another distraction, but I came across an amazing idea on a wonderful IE blog, Honoring Health:
Instead of avoiding emotions, why not try to feel them?
Well, because it's scary. It's painful. Nobody wants to go wading through all that nasty stuff, but maybe feeling an emotion, acknowledging it, and doing something about it would be better than distracting myself with a Harry Potter book or blasting music to drown things out.
If you're sad, cry. If you're angry, beat the crap out of your pillow. Let it come out, let it happen, and try to do this in a safe environment.
So this is my goal for a few days. Feel stuff instead of avoiding it, with food or anything else.
PS: If you're stuck in the tyranny of dieting, I strongly urge to you read Intuitive Eating. It's hard, but it will help you with so much more than eating habits. I've gotten to know myself better in the last two years than I have my entire life. Read it, read it, and take care of yourself.