Saturday, July 17, 2010

Cake For Breakfast

Good morning, Chocolate Cake!  Of course, this is the anti-diet breakfast.  I am supposed to be eating appropriate levels of protein, vegetables, and maybe some whole grains, right? And sometimes, I do actually eat kale in the morning, not to mention oatmeal, eggs, and various other "good" foods.  But not today.  Today I ate cake - and it was good.

Why? Why would I let myself eat cake for breakfast? I asked myself this question before, during, and after my cake experiment.  The little voices in my head were having quite a fight about how eating cake for breakfast is bad, but to be honest I just ignored them.  And I will have you know that I really enjoyed my breakfast.

I would also like to state for the record that I did not end up eating the whole cake.  This morning I listened to what my body wanted.  I took into account the fact that not eating the cake, when that is what seemed good, would have meant restriction, and which would - by noon for sure - have led to eating the entire cake, and maybe some other stuff to boot.  I know this because I can't count the number of times that very scenario did happen before I started learning how to eat intuitively.

When I was a restrictive eater, I would pine for whatever food I happened to be "avoiding."  I avoided nuts and cheese because they had too much fat, pasta and rice because it had too many carbs and calories, anything fried, anything... well, pretty much everything except vegetables, and limited quantities of sprouted grain bread.  Chocolate Cake, and its cousins, Brownies and Ice Cream, were on the forbidden list for sure - at least until my inner rebel kicked in, and then I was all about eating anything "bad" that I could get my hands on, in large amounts, until my stomach hurt. Now that felt really and truly bad, on lots of levels.

I cringe now when I remember how brutal I was with myself.  I ate with vicious unconsciousness, and then I beat myself up some more.  I promised myself I would do better tomorrow, I would be "good," and maybe I would just skip breakfast tomorrow, and definitely I planned to go running - for hours and hours. Restrict, punish, rebel.  Lather, rinse, repeat. That was the cycle I lived in for who knows how long, and it was a miserable cycle.

Somewhere along the recovery journey, I discovered intuitive eating, which gives me permission to get off the merry-go-round.  Intuitive eating is the opposite of restrictive eating, and external authority.  Intuitive eating is about being mindful and listening to my body.  It is about (duh) eating when I am hungry, enjoying my food, and stopping when I am full.  This seems so simple, but it is not easy.  It has taken me a long time, and it is still challenging sometimes.  It means I have to care for myself in an entirely new way - which doesn't include eating when I am not actually hungry.  I have to actually feel my feelings (gasp!), and find new ways to meet the needs food was filling. This is a learning process, for sure, and there are bumps in the road, but it is truly life-saving for me.

Unfortunately, intuitive eating is definitely not what we are being encouraged to do in our culture.  The diet industry makes bazillions of dollars telling us we are "bad," and that we need their product or service or whatever to fix the problem they have identified for us.  What they don't tell us is that .05% of people who lose weight through dieting keep it off after 5 years, and that statistic includes people who lose between 5 and 10 pounds!  Weight Watchers technically counts me as a success story for their statistics because my current weight is less than the weight I started at. The science is skewed and manipulated to make us believe that our bodies don't know what they're doing, that an outside authority can make us skinny forever, and that we'll be "better," healthier, and live longer if we ignore our bodies and listen to "the experts." And then, to add insult to injury,  it is our fault when their stuff doesn't work!  As you can see, I am over it.  I am done internalizing their bogus information, and I am taking back my right to eat cake - and nuts, and pasta, and rice and fruit, and whatever else my body tells me it needs, in the quantities it needs.  And, I am taking back my right to enjoy my food.    

I am determined to practice this intuitive eating thing, even if it is scary to really give myself permission to eat cake for breakfast.  I am actively working on giving myself full permission to eat whatever feels good to me when I am hungry, according to my own body's signals.  Usually the things that feel good to me are pretty healthy, and nourishing. If I want cake, though, I have a piece and then I don't worry about it.  Cake  is becoming the emotional equivalent of a peach, and a carrot is the emotional equivalent of peanut butter.  Whatever I choose to eat has no relation whatsoever to whether I am a good or bad person. What a relief! This leaves me free to eat cake, but it also frees me to eat fantastic fresh fruit, lovely dark leafy greens, or whatever it is that nourishes my body and satisfies my soul.  And, I get to eat  without any crazy going on in my head about it.  I don't have to beat myself up anymore. I can choose to eat consciously, with pleasure! And it is good, even if sometimes it means cake for breakfast.

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