Eating incompetence.

by Michelle

I am not, by any means, a perfect eater. Or even a competent one, every day.

I do tend to score high on the validated eating competence inventory, but I am far, far, faaaaar from perfect. In fact, I’m not sure perfection in eating even exists. Or that I’d want it to.

I’d like to consider this blog more than just a lot of blah-blah where I tell people what to do. As you know, I’m not super-big on anyone telling anyone else what to do. But when you put yourself out there with the big old n-word (“nutritionist”), there come a lot of expectations, and also the assumption that You Know What You Are Doing.

All I really know is that I have an idea of what makes eating work for me, and what research and clinical observation has shown to make eating work for lots of other people. But what that actually looks like in each person’s day-to-day life is different.

Frankly, eating well doesn’t happen for me every day. Hell, there are periods of weeks or even months where my eating looks pretty damn incompetent. When I went through a big old nasty depression and alternated forgetting to eat entirely with eating to the point of numbness; when I lived in a place where the kitchen was tiny and inhabited by roaches; when I didn’t have money to eat much other than oatmeal, bananas, tuna sandwiches, beans and rice.

What I’m trying to say is, though I teach this stuff for a living, I’m still working my way through it. And likely will be for the rest of my life.

I consider this blog a series of reminders to myself of the lessons I have learned about eating:

  • That we all have the right and the need to eat, no matter how much we weigh.
  • That we must give ourselves truly unconditional permission to eat whatever we want, in whatever amounts we want, in order to find out what food works for us in what amounts. (Even though that is scary as hell, I know.)
  • And that “discipline” should only ever enter eating when it comes to the nuts and bolts of self-care: buying groceries. Making food. Taking the time to eat it, and to settle in and notice that we are, indeed, eating it. And sitting with the uncomfortable feelings, maybe even the shame and guilt, that come along with doing those things in a world that tells you to avoid eating at every opportunity.

For the record, I think of eating competence not as an objective measure of what or how you eat, but as eating in a way that supports you both physically and emotionally.

For a lot of people, the formal description of eating competence (feeling good about food, eating food you enjoy in satisfying amounts, and doing the work to ensure you get fed regularly) is that way. And when I describe my own incompetence with eating, it has less to do with the objective behaviours than how it make me feel — tired or rundown, physically uncomfortable, taking little joy or comfort in eating.

It does not mean that I am a bad person eating in a bad way, or that it causes long-term harm (you might be shocked at some of the diets people manage to survive on, well into old age.)

What it does mean is that I’m eating in an unhappy way. And not that I’m obligated to do better, but that I do deserve better. We all do.

We also deserve to be trusted that we will do better, when we’re willing and able to.

Comments make the blog happy. Especially when they’re curious, full of fun and insight, and respectful of everyone else’s experience.

I’m not super-jazzed about unsolicited advice, unwarranted suspicion, or telling anyone how they should eat. Now go play!