If I was dieting old style, right now I would be planning my meals for the rest of the week. Damage limitation. Juicing vegetables, or lots of soup. Hunger would be a main feature of the week. And it would be a daunting depressing look into my immediate future. The thoughts running through my mind would be (and they still are a little until I silence them) negative. Criticisms. Why can’t I eat normally? Why am I such a fat heffer? Why can’t I put the chips down when I’m not hungry? I won’t ever be slim because I’m lazy and greedy. Oh yes, Mr Weight loss expert, I’m perfectly capable of slagging myself off. Your services are not required.
If I was dieting old style, the weekend would have been a pleasure/pain filled experience. Loving the family time, the food, the drink. Loathing the lack of control I feel around food and drink. Monday (or in this case Tuesday) would be the inevitable “I’m starting the diet again, tomorrow”. The thought of the future tingeing the enjoyment of the present.
So what is different when I’m not dieting old style? What happens when I make the conscious effort to tune in to my body emotionally and physically? And when “the diet restarts tomorrow” isn’t a phrase in my little language book?
Firstly there’s the living in the moment of the overeating. We all have reasons for behaving differently at certain times. For example, on holiday, when food choice is different, when maybe you’ve tried a meal at a restaurant and loved it so much that you didn’t mind how full you would feel, you just wanted to finish it all. Or a birthday party, where the host has made the most delicious cake, and you wanted to enjoy a little extra. Sometimes we associate overeating with celebration, for others it might be comforting after a hard day at work.
And it’s not wrong. Even my naturally slim friend will finish off the chocolate brownie during a coffee stop at the cafe as a reward for a hard days shopping!
By living in the moment, becoming aware of why I’m doing it, and tuning in to all the physical and emotional feelings as I overeat I am learning something about myself and the way I respond to food and to my life.
But as dieters we’re taught that overeating is always wrong. We learn to associate guilt with eating those extra mouthfuls we didn’t need. For taking one too many sausage rolls from the buffet table. So for a dieter, overeating will always be tarnished, and the promise of punishment in the following weeks is almost a certainty.
For me? Well, last night I went to bed and thought back on the weekend. Saturday I had been at college. Sunday we had gone for a long, wonderful cycle ride as a family. 10 miles all in. I felt ecstatic after 2 weeks inactive. Sunday evening we enjoyed wine and chips and dips and easy cook food. Yesterday, a bank holiday, was slightly groggy from a little too much wine on the Sunday, and overeating was in part due to the tiredness and grogginess from the wine. Feelings….tired, a little emotional after such a lovely weekend, glad to have bought a patio set to put my plans of al fresco eating into plan. The odd horrid message ran through my brain “You always let yourself go, you’re never going to be healthy”. I let it run through my brain, and let it leave. I know they’re not true. I know it’s my horrid inner voice. I know that mental health is as important as physical health, and dieting is not beneficial to my mental health right now.
And today? I woke up. I felt a pang of hunger. Mused over what to eat for breakfast. And I wanted a scrambled egg on a slice of pain de campagne. No super thin nimble. No wholemeal. I made my breakfast, plated it up and went and sat outside at my new table, without computer, or phone, or tv to distract my mealtime. I lay down my knife and fork between each mouthful. I paid attention to the flavours. I stopped when I was satisfied. I gave the leftovers to the dog. There was no guilt associated with the previous days events. No pay off now for what had happened then. I ate what satisfied my hunger and tasted every mouthful. I enjoyed the garden (granted, slightly wet this morning) and I enjoyed my egg on toast.
Because for me, not dieting means taking things one meal, one bite even, at a time. And the amazing thing is, that my body knows how much I need. If I’ve overeaten, my body is capable of compensating for it. Today I might just need a fraction of what I might have on a normal day. But I don’t need to worry. I just need to tune in, and let it be.