From grazing to structure.

The other day, a client asked me how one makes the transition from grazing to regular meals. The first problem being that it sounds very scary.

I agree.

It’s scary because, if you have any history of hunger, whether due to not having enough money to buy food, or what I like to call “self-induced food insecurity” such as dieting or food restriction, or even due to just not placing a priority on eating regularly, and hence “forgetting” to eat for a long time — a part of you still remembers that experience, and you carry the fear of not having enough to eat inside you, sometimes for a very long time.

We talked about the fuzzy self a bit before — and it seems that the fuzzy self has a long memory. It does not forgive and forget easily.

As such, grazing and eating on demand seems very comforting. It sounds, on paper, like the perfect solution: just eat when you are hungry and stop when you are full! And, indeed, lots of people apparently do this successfully by teaching themselves to eat intuitively and to give up dieting. This is the basis for programs like Overcoming Overeating, an approach that has helped lots of people.

But for some people, it doesn’t work out. Hi, I’m one of them.

I think demand feeding can work, but it’s not the only option. For adults with structured work or school schedules, it can be impractical. And if you are one of my clients or readers struggling with eating, then there’s a good chance demand feeding did not work for you.

If you are eating on demand or grazing and it’s going well for you, great. Keep on keeping on. What I’m about to say applies to people who tried demand feeding and only received partial benefit, or couldn’t make it work at all.

Eating regular meals and snacks, having discrete periods of eating interspersed with discrete periods of not eating (and not having to think about food), can be really helpful if you struggle to feel hunger and fullness signals. It can also be incredibly reassuring to the small, scared part of you who remembers going hungry, who didn’t know where its next meal was coming from (or when.)

I try not to be too rigid about this structure. For me, it means eating in a routine way, at roughly (roughly) the same times every day. The way this works out in my life, at present, is that I eat breakfast soon after I get up, then drink coffee, and then around 12 or 1pm, I will have lunch. Around 3 or 4pm I will usually want a snack, and then dinner happens at 6 or 7pm. Usually there is an evening snack, either with a client right after dinner, or later in front of the TV around 9pm.

The way I arrived at this schedule was through a series of trials and errors. It also changes as my other daily routines and work schedule change.

It is not easy to simply impose a meal schedule on yourself and then stick with it. I am a firm believer in planting seeds of routine, and then letting the routine grow itself a bit, until you’re ready to plant another seed. This is the only way I have ever managed to get myself to develop a routine in any area of my life, because I am incredibly resistant to self-imposed routines (FEELS LIKE RULES!!! MUST BREAK THEM!!!), and yet I am so much happier when I’m in a good one.

And this is how the transition from grazing to structure happens: one seed, one piece at a time.

The first piece is simply observing what you do with food now, and the ways in which grazing isn’t working for you. When is the first time you usually eat during the day? How do you feel before and after eating? How long does it take before you are hungry again? Uncomfortably overhungry? Are there any times of the day during which you consistently get overfull or keep eating when you’re not even enjoying it?

Don’t just think up the answers after the fact — practice observing how these things happen in the moment. The answers you come up with will show you the best place to plant your first seed of structure.

For me, it was making the real-time observation that I was drinking coffee before eating in the morning, and then feeling not-hungry but incredibly tired and crappy. On the mornings when I ate something first, even if I didn’t think I was feeling hungry, I noticed that I felt much, much better. (Guess what? Sometimes hunger manifests itself as tiredness!)

That gave me the idea to make one, single deal with myself: to eat something for breakfast (even if it was just one slice of toast, or a glass of milk and a banana) before drinking coffee.

That was it, that was the whole deal.

I focused on that one thing, and let everything else slide for about a week.

During the time of seed-planting, it is important to continue observing. With observation comes the all-critical intrinsic motivation to do, or not do, something.

When you observe the actual consequences of what you are doing, by paying actual attention in the moment and not sort of putting two and two together long after the fact, you develop a memory that lasts, and you begin to apply it automatically when making decisions in the future.

I do this now, when deciding each morning to eat breakfast, even when I don’t think I am particularly hungry. It goes something like this:

“Self, what should we have for breakfast?”

“GAWD BREAKFAST THAT IS SO MUCH WORK, TOO TIRED.”

“Well, we could skip it and just have coffee instead…”

“OH SHIT LAST TIME WE DID THAT OUR EYES FELT SANDY AND WE STALAGMITED TO THE COUCH, TOTALLY SUCKED.”

“Okay, let’s pick the easiest thing and then have coffee.”

“GOOD DEAL BRO, DIBS ON THE BANANA.”

(I don’t know why my internal dialogue sounds like a very reasonable Bob Ross coaxing a drunken frat boy to eat a banana, but there you have it.)

The trick to this entire process is the willingness to let yourself make mistakes, and instead of letting your mind jump immediately on the judgey train to Verbal Abuse Station, just watch, notice, and mentally jot down what happens under “Notes for Future Consideration.”

Other useful observations I have made, noted, and continue to use to inform the choices I make around eating:

  • If I do not eat something fibrey for breakfast a few times a week, there will be digestive consequences.
  • If I wait too long for lunch, I will get desperately overhungry (even if I think I am not overhungry) and then feel like taking a nap for the rest of the day even after I have fed myself.
  • If I do not eat fruit and/or vegetables with lunch, I will feel “off” and vaguely dissatisfied and noshy for the rest of the afternoon.
  • If I do not eat an afternoon snack, I will be in no state to cook dinner.
  • If I do not start cooking dinner before I actually feel hungry, I will fumble around the kitchen like the unfortunately-named Fourth Stooge, Droppy — and by the time dinner is ready, I will be overhungry and spend the rest of the evening in a toddler-like state of insolence to all authority figures, real or imagined.

In order for me to make these observations, and plant the corresponding seeds, I actually had to make every single of these mistakes. Repeatedly. But with one critical condition: I paid attention while it was happening, made the connection between the consequence and the action (or lack of action), and refused to berate myself.

One step at a time, structure grows from the mistakes you make, and the seeds you plant in response.

When your seeds are all planted, and structure growing from them, a remarkable thing will start to happen: you will start to feel hungry, comfortably hungry, at the routine eating times through your day.

Even if you forget to eat, the feeling of hunger will come knocking on your door to remind you — and if you respect it and respond to it, you will make friends with it. Instead of hunger being scary, it will become your little handmaid, reminding you to take care of yourself.

When you sit down to eat feeling comfortably hungry, it’s easier, in turn, to eat until you feel comfortably full. “Eat when you are hungry, and stop when you are full” becomes second nature. It just happens to occur at roughly (roughly!) the same times every day.

And with time, the fuzzy self will start to forgive you and feel safe again — no more scary.

Internal dialogues regarding bananas are welcomed in comments.

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81 Comments

  1. Lisa
    Posted August 2, 2012 at 8:38 am | Permalink

    “If I wait too long for lunch, I will get desperately overhungry (even if I think I am not overhungry) and then feel like taking a nap for the rest of the day even after I have fed myself.”

    THIS. If I get really into a project like sewing something and I put off eating for too long, I get shaky and weak and it takes a really long time to recover from even after I eat. I’ve learned that one from experience. So I’ve been trying to focus on eating when I first start feeling hungry, so I don’t have to waste my afternoon waiting for my body to return to stasis.

    • Posted August 2, 2012 at 8:46 am | Permalink

      Those wasted afternoons are so annoying! It’s become one of my priorities to avoid them.

    • Cairsten
      Posted August 2, 2012 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

      I … am still learning this lesson. I experienced it *again* yesterday, when I decided to go to bed far too late, without having eaten. I spent the entire morning trying to sleep while dealing with moderate queasiness, extreme fatigue, and some dizziness. Only when I saw that it was past lunchtime and I didn’t feel hungry did it click for me that these were all signs of my having ignored hunger till the feeling went away and then gone without food for too long. Recovering from it took most of my afternoon, and has thrown my sleep schedule further out of whack, so today will be fun. (Have I learned? Probably not. But maybe it’ll be another month or two before I repeat the mistake.)

      • littlem
        Posted August 15, 2012 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

        I will be your learning buddy, if you would like one.
        It’s like … a graduate-level course, no?

  2. Arndis
    Posted August 2, 2012 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    My guidelines for myself go something like this. Eating just mostly-sugar/mostly-carb items on an empty stomach, especially ones that are also caffeinated, is to be avoided. Eat lunch and/or dinner, usually both. They should have ample protein and vegetables/fruits. Having a less-balanced/less-nutritious treat dinner or lunch (e.g. chicken fingers and fries) every now and again is okay. Try not to eat dessert before dinner, but dessert after dinner is delightful and likely to be savoured not wolfed.

    First stage breakfast is the right time for carbs and sugars and safe familiar flavours. Then the blood sugar and the stomach will be up to second stage breakfast, with more prep than “pour it in the bowl” and more challenging items like protein, dairy, and fruits. Do not skip breakfast if it can possibly be helped. Also, do not drink our cafeteria coffee; it cannot be rescued with cream and sugar and the result will ruin appetite for lunch.

    • Posted August 2, 2012 at 9:49 am | Permalink

      Hah, I love “first stage breakfast” and “second stage breakfast.” I have lots of clients who do this and it works great.

      • Posted August 2, 2012 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

        All those Hobbits who eat first breakfast and second breakfast have the right idea! I’ve been saying it for ages. Hee!

        I do still have too much of a tendency to blearily make coffee and start drinking before eating anything. Then I tend not to drink anything else all day, and that has negative consequences for me both mentally and physically.

        OTOH, I find that if I drink some water before having that first sip of coffee, I’m much more reasonable about both food and drink for the rest of the day. Since that works for me, I’ve started starting my day with a coffee mug of water, and then looking around to decide what goes in next. It’s still usually coffee, but one cup instead of three before eating something solid, and then I do drink something that isn’t coffee later on, whether it’s more water, juice, a soda, or whatever.

        Funny thing, since I started doing that I find I’m a lot more level headed in the morning.

        I wish my internal dialogs in re: bananas were as amusing as yours. You have fabulously funny inner voices.

  3. KellyK
    Posted August 2, 2012 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    My current lessons revolve pretty heavily around breakfast. Actually eating in the morning is key to not feeling awful. However, I also have the “meh, too much work!!” conversation with myself that you do, so I’m thinking that breakfast needs to be really easy.

    • Posted August 2, 2012 at 11:37 am | Permalink

      I am all about lowering the bar, especially with breakfast, if it’s challenging for you. I used to always be a really enthusiastic breakfast eater, but that has waned as I’ve gotten older. On days when I really can’t face it, a banana and milk are easy enough that I won’t feel resentful.

      • KellyK
        Posted August 2, 2012 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

        Yeah, I definitely need to pick a go-to breakfast and have it on hand all the time. English muffins with peanut butter might work, especially since it looks like you can keep English muffins in the freezer. Pop-tarts would also be a good fallback option, although the frozen breakfast things with egg might be better for keeping me from crashing before lunch.

        I’ve tried to cook ahead with things like crock-pot egg casseroles and banana bread, so that I have breakfast in the fridge for the week. Which is great, if I have a relatively uneventful weekend and actually cook.

        • Posted August 2, 2012 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

          I keep all of my bread products in the freezer, because everything goes instantly mouldy in our weather. It also ensures that I almost always have something bready on hand. It is super easy to defrost in the microwave, like 15 seconds, or just to put in the toaster frozen.

          You’re right, it’s great to have leftover stuff for breakfast on weeks when you actually cook. But since I often have times when I don’t, I definitely always need an easy fall-back breakfast to keep on hand.

        • Posted August 2, 2012 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

          I store nearly all of my breads, including English Muffins, in the freezer since I just don’t eat them quickly enough.

          Usually I’ll zip them in the microwave for 10 seconds, then split them with a fork, and pop in the toaster. If I remember to put it out on the counter before bed, then I go right to the toaster.

  4. Christina RD
    Posted August 2, 2012 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    There can be many benefits to eating regular planned meals/snacks (every 4-6 hours is what is recommended for people with diabetes for example). Maintaining more stable blood sugars can help improve concentration/mood/energy levels and also regular eating helps prevent you from getting overly hungry.

    I will share my obeservations from working as a dietitian in a mental health. A trend among many of my clients is to eat little during the day and have primarily coffee/pop and or cigarettes and then become quite hungry in the evenings and overeat at dinner and after dinner. If the body doesn’t get food fuel during the day, cravings for other sources of energy such as caffeine, sugar, or nicotine can increase. The day time is when we are most active, yet in North America many people eat most of their calories at dinner and onwards when they are sitting.

    It is my anecdotal experience that people who eat regular meals pretty consistently are more likely to maintain a healthy weight, and the higher someone’s BMI is the more likely it is that their eating habits will include meal skipping. If you wait until you are getting pretty hungry to decide if and what to eat, it is a lot harder to make healthy choices and not to overeat.

    Of course many people do very well on the grazing approach, however as mentioned it is not very practical when you are working or at school. One other comment I have on the grazing approach is that if you only eat small volumes of food at a time you will not get the same effect from the stretch receptors in the stomach which contribute to feeling full. If you choose bulkier snacks with high water volume such as apples that can help.

    • Posted August 2, 2012 at 11:36 am | Permalink

      Very interesting, thanks! I find that, while grazing in theory sounds good to lots of people, in practice it ends up with people totally skipping meals or putting them off far too long, because they don’t have a reason to prioritize eating as a thing that needs to get done – since it theoretically can get done “whenever.” Not very helpful.

      I find that I feel fullness best when I combine a bulkier food with a calorie-dense food. That way, I get the mechanical sense of fullness as well as the chemical, longer-lasting form of fullness. So, apples and peanut butter would be my ideal snack for satiety.

  5. Posted August 2, 2012 at 10:53 am | Permalink

    I eat smoothies for breakfasts almost every day. And while I am still in recovery and this sounds so much like “diety” thing, it’s so so great for me. For the first time in forever I have been having breakfast for months, almost ever day! It keeps me full but not sluggish (one reason why I hated breakfast + I wasnt hungry…), I get something sweet and tasty and it’s easy and fast. If it weren’t fast I would not do it, no matter how many times I read I need to spend 30 minutes or whatever on my breakfast. If it takes this long, I’m not gonna do it. If I don’t eat breakfast, I feel like crap.
    And you are so right that the observation thing is the key. Every time I don’t have breakfast I feel like crap. And this as a reminder works so much better than “i should”, and “i must”, etc. Sometimes now I even have just a juice and a fruit bar or something, but it doesn’t work as nicely. It’s the “if nothing else works” category. and I am so glad I got one at this point and don’t go into the “oh, not eating breakfast is calorie saving” thinking..

    Also, I love smoothies in the morning because my digestion seems to like it…

    • Posted August 2, 2012 at 11:16 am | Permalink

      I love smoothies in the morning, too. I’ve seen them badmouthed as too sugary, but I consider them an efficient way to get food at my system at a time when I really, really need it but am not liking the concept of “food” very much. Like you, I feel horrible very quickly if I don’t get something down. I usually use unsweetened yogurt and throw in veggies — spinach if it’s a green smoothie, frozen carrots or canned beets if I’m going more for an orange or red one. I like them to look pretty.

      I tend to do light breakfast, big mid-morning snack, early lunch — in part due to my work schedule. One of my big things I’ve noticed is that if I do not get some actual FAT in my breakfast, I’m ready to eat the formica off my desk a half hour into my work day. Love to put avocado in my smoothies for that reason.

      • Posted August 2, 2012 at 11:34 am | Permalink

        Mmmm, smoothies.

      • Posted August 4, 2012 at 9:55 pm | Permalink

        I noticed that with fat and porridge. Or, y’know – oatmeal. I like porridge, but it was never quite enough if I cooked it with just milk and oats (and honey/banana/etc), but when I started adding cream, I noticed it actually got me through to lunch without serious hunger threatening to derail my day. Love that fat for it’s lasting energy.

    • Posted August 2, 2012 at 11:39 am | Permalink

      I think it’s time to reclaim smoothies from the dieting camp. They certainly don’t have to be diety, plus they are easy on the palate and stomach, as well as very versatile.

      • Posted August 2, 2012 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

        Hear, hear! I love a good smoothie.

        • Posted August 2, 2012 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

          Momentarily hijacking this thread for favorite smoothie recipe: 1/2 avocado + 1/2 banana + handful raspberries (optional, but definitely adds something) + lots of cocoa powder + milk of your choice = nummy chocolate shake-like substance!

          • flightless
            Posted August 8, 2012 at 9:38 am | Permalink

            That sounds lovely! I usually just do banana & frozen fruit, but one I discovered in Laos was a coffee-banana shake: very ripe banana with cold strong coffee, ice, and optional sweetener and/or milk (I use almond and soy milk). For when I feel the need for coffee but not on an empty stomach.

        • Posted August 2, 2012 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

          Whoops… make that a whole banana… been a while since I made one of these, but I had a phase a while back when I wasn’t feeling very good when these totally hit the spot.

      • Posted August 3, 2012 at 8:52 am | Permalink

        I love breakfast smoothies. I also like that they can be low brain power if you prep them the day before. I like to put some quick oats, frozen fruit, soy milk, and a banana together in a container in the evening, and then I just blend the shit out of that in the morning and all I had to do was open the container and push a button.

        I also find they are easy to sort of slip stuff in to and easy to eat if you feel you need a certain nutrient, but you always feel a little nauseous in the morning (like I do). Like, I find that if I don’t have some protein with breakfast then I’m hungry all morning, no matter how much I snack. But most mornings the idea of eggs or other rich food makes me just want to hurl. A smoothie is easy to eat, though, and adding tofu or protein powder to it doesn’t make it any less easy to eat. I <3 morning smoothies.

      • G
        Posted August 3, 2012 at 8:18 pm | Permalink

        Looove smoothies. Every night I put frozen strawberries in the fridge to thaw and in the morning they get whizzed up with a banana, a splash of OJ, and some hemp or whey protein (or else I’m hungry again in an hour). I can do the whole thing on half-awake autopilot now, it’s super.

  6. Jen
    Posted August 2, 2012 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    This post was right on time for me – I’m so glad to read this today! I have been working on “discrete periods of eating interspersed with discrete periods of not eating”. This concept has really been a home run for me. When I do this (and right now it does take a lot of work for me) I actually receive a lot more pleasure from eating, generally because I actually get to experience that “comfortable” hunger and a legitmate feeling of satisfaction after a meal. I am a classic example of someone who failed at the “eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full thing” – I spent about 6 years trying to do that and it was almost worse than being on a diet. Planned meal times is my light at the end of the tunnel. Such a simple concept but amazingly powerful! This post was a great reinforcement for me! I need to remember its ok to make mistakes, and also take your great advice to be observant through out this process. Michelle, your posts are always right on time for me!

  7. etben
    Posted August 2, 2012 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    Oh, god, I feel you on the breakfast thing – I spent WAY too long in a spiral of BUT I DON’T WANT TO MAKE A DECISION, MAKING DECISIONS IS HARD, SCREW BREAKFAST, LET’S JUST HAVE SOME COFFEE AND GET GOING, GOSH. Which…is less than great. Once I made peace with the fact that I don’t like making decisions – that it’s okay to not like making decisions – things went much better. Cheerios for breakfast every day, HECK YES.

    …now I just have to do the same thing for lunch WHAT DO YOU MEAN I HAVE TO EAT LUNCH TOO, UGH, I HATE LUNCH but you have to eat something NO I DON’T yes you do – look, how about some ALL OF YOUR OPTIONS ARE TERRIBLE AND I’M TOO HUNGRY AND CRANKY TO FIGURE OUT WHAT I WANT AND I HATE DECISIONS SO I WILL JUST NOT EAT ANYTHING.

    (…it’s a work in progress)

    • Posted August 2, 2012 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

      Doing what you do with the Cheerios is sort of what I think of as choosing a “panic food” – as in deciding ahead of time, “When I am panicking about what to eat because nothing sounds good or I can’t decide, I will eat X thing that will always be at least acceptable if not awesome.”

      My panic food for lunch is a good old fashioned peanut butter and jelly sandwich. It’s not something I often go to, but when I am absolutely paralyzed with indecision, it’s always there for me.

      • Posted August 2, 2012 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

        When I was younger (okay, sometimes even now), I’d get “food indecision panic” when it came to restaurant menus. Somewhere in there — age 7 or 9 or so — I discovered that grilled cheese was my “restaurant panic food.” As in, I could order that and always be okay with it once it got there. It might not always be the most fabulous food ever, but it never felt wrong or un-eatable to me.

        What I have learned since then: If one asks very nicely, there are few restaurants who won’t serve a grilled cheese upon (food panicked) request, even if it’s not on the menu. :)

        • Posted August 2, 2012 at 8:44 pm | Permalink

          This is awesome! Plus it helps that I love grilled cheese.

      • Posted August 3, 2012 at 3:19 am | Permalink

        Doing what you do with the Cheerios is sort of what I think of as choosing a “panic food” – as in deciding ahead of time, “When I am panicking about what to eat because nothing sounds good or I can’t decide, I will eat X thing that will always be at least acceptable if not awesome.”

        This is a FANTASTIC idea and I shall adopt it immediately.

      • Posted August 3, 2012 at 8:56 am | Permalink

        My problem with the panic food is that then I end up eating that food way too often (because I can never decide what to eat and I never remember to start thinking about it before I’m hungry) and then I get completely sick of it and I go from “I always like falafels, they’re good” to “god if I never see another falafel again it will be too soon” And then I have nothing to eat.

        • Posted August 3, 2012 at 9:41 pm | Permalink

          I hear this problem a lot from my clients! I have yet to come up with a solution, except to maybe come up with 3-5 panic foods you can rotate when you finally go “off” one, as you periodically will.

          One thing to remember is that we ALL go off favourite foods from time to time. I think panicking about it when it happens can make it worse. You will like that food again someday – you just need a break from it.

          • Dawn
            Posted January 26, 2013 at 11:42 pm | Permalink

            Found this article and was impressed because without realizing it I’ve actually established a few ‘panic foods’ since I grew up and had to start feeding myself. Oatmeal (extremely versatile – I’m a huge fan of dried cranberries and brown sugar in mine, or on days I feel like working more, fresh diced apple and cinnamon), fruit smoothies, whole fruit (often with peanut butter for staying power), and cereal are on the list. If I have a little more time, bacon and eggs with various veggie additions (taters ‘n cheese, spinach, mushrooms, or tomatoes) is the default breakfast. Yum!

            When I was in high school my mother set up an assembly line in the kitchen once a month to create personalized breakfast burritos. We’d fill as we liked with pre-cooked egg, various meat options, veggies, cheese… whatever we liked. They were always a favorite when we were running out the door because they microwaved fast and tasted awesome, and you didn’t get hungry halfway through class. Every so often I think I should do that for myself…

          • Posted January 28, 2013 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

            I love oatmeal so much, and I totally ate a smoothie as a panic meal yesterday. (I wasn’t really panicking so much as I just had absolutely zero appetite and nothing sounded good to eat, even though I could tell I was hungry.) I drank it, and then a few hours later I was ready for solid food for dinner.

    • Posted August 2, 2012 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

      i think you might be in my head, etben. making decisions about what to eat is SO HARD. i want sci-fi futuristic pill foods. and not being able to make that decision combined with not always having things on hand to make PLUS not necessarily having the energy to wash dirty dishes so i can make food/actually make the food/clean up to some level of acceptability PLUS EATING…

      most days i get to the point where i’m so hungry i stop being hungry. and then i go braindead and my manpanion has to revive me with a popscicle of some kind once he gets home from work.

      michelle, i have the hardest time planting those seeds of “this might be good for me.” i know that having a vaguely structured eating routine would help immensely, but i just can’t make myself do it. it’s the FEELS LIKE RULES, MUST BREAK THEM!!! mindset. buh.

      • Posted August 2, 2012 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

        You’re in a really rough spot, Maggie. I feel for you. The best I can tell you is that eating anything at all is better than eating nothing. Don’t worry about holding yourself up to any standard right now, not even a “regular meals” standard, because at the moment even that might feel too overwhelming.

        If you can observe how many hours it takes for you to reach that braindead overhungry state, then you can decide what you’re going to do about that, going forward. It gives you information, and if you refuse to beat yourself up about it, it also gives you power to make a real decision that is completely your own.

        As far as “this might be good for me” goes, even that I find sometimes triggers my rebellion switch. This is not, at first, about what is “good for you,” it is about what allows you to avoid horrible pain (like braindead overhungry-ness.) Later, it might be about what makes you feel good in the moment, and even later than that, what helps you to keep feeling good over the medium- and long-term. But right now? It’s only about avoiding immediate pain.

        Even if you eventually end up eating popsicles three times a day, just often enough to avoid getting braindead, then you will have taken a huge step.

        • Posted August 3, 2012 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

          i will have to tell myself that. normally in the morning i can handle a smoothie, but i’ve been having a hell of a time keeping my spinach fresh. i’d been buying giant size containers of baby spinach, but then i got sick of green smoothies and it would go bad. so i bought the smaller size bag of spinach, which would go bad in hours after opening it. and i tell you, drinking a smoothie with yucky spinach will turn your stomach and make you not want green smoothies anymore.

          so i buy all this produce to put into smoothies and then it just rots and i feel guilty about it.

          ugh. i should just eat popscicles. speaking of, time to get one.

          • Posted August 3, 2012 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

            Maggie – I find frozen, chopped spinach works just as well as fresh. As does frozen fruit — even bananas (just microwave them a few seconds to get the peel off.)

            I am with you. Slimy spinach does not a tasty breakfast make!

          • Rosa
            Posted August 15, 2012 at 12:29 am | Permalink

            If you have or can get a popsicle mold, you can make double amount smoothies and freeze the rest of it in popsicle form, for later in the day. Especially if you’re already in the habit of eating them.

            When it was 100 degrees out for 3 weeks this summer, my kid basically only ate popsicles, but they were made out of fruit & yogurt & carrot juice, so no damage. Unlimited popsicles.

  8. TropicalChrome
    Posted August 2, 2012 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    Thanks so much for reinforcing the idea that it’s ok to be wrong! I grew up in a family where not getting something absolutely right the first time meant you were a failure and inadequate and you might as well just give it up now and go back to whatever it was you were doing because there is no hope. Yeah, sounds pretty silly now.

    Once I was able to reframe the idea of being wrong from “you’re horrible” to “wow, now I know something that doesn’t work so I don’t have to do it again”, it became a very useful tool. Not that there weren’t mistakes along that path, too…

    My internal dialogues rarely center around bananas. (I eat one if I want one, but I don’t want one that often.) They’re more like “Hey, last night didn’t go so well. Let’s think about what you ate and why. And how do you want to handle this situation next time?” or “Wow, that was fantastic! Let’s try this again because it’s *working*! I’m proud of you for figuring this out – you’re doing great!”. Because there’s nothing like positive reinforcement, even if it’s from our own little cheerleader in our heads :).

    • Posted August 2, 2012 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

      I love bananas so much that a lot of my thinking is spent on bananas.

  9. L.
    Posted August 2, 2012 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

    Yes, when it comes to breakfast I prefer to eat the same thing over and over again, because then I don’t have to think about it too much. My current favorite is plain yogurt + berries + granola–takes about 1 minute to assemble, is tasty and keeps me full all morning. Right now we happen to have berries growing but at other times of the year frozen work just fine, or other fruit, or sometimes I skip the fruit. But before that I ate these for at least a year or two… a little more effort, but not much, and so good: http://budgetbytes.blogspot.com/2010/02/chili-garlic-breakfast-quesadilla-061.html

  10. gidget commando
    Posted August 2, 2012 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

    I love you SO HARD for talking about the way some of us really need to deal with food, and making it okay! You’re the only nutritionist I’ve ever seen who actually addresses the real-life tangled mess of things that many of us face when it comes to this so-called “basic” life activity.

    I have chronic migraines. The good news is that medication has cut the number of attacks I get way down. The bad news is I’m Mega-Super-Tired-Woman ALL. THE. TIME. on the meds. Feeding myself is a balancing act. What can I eat that doesn’t contain triggers? What can I eat that I can prepare ahead of time, so if I’m tired I’ll still eat? What default prepared foods can I store up when that fails? How many things can I prep on the weekend so that eating something that makes me feel half-decent isn’t a chore, is affordable, and doesn’t make me go, “YUCK!”??? My life is up to HERE with all kinds of life hacks and a bunch of them are about food. I wish I could be the groovy little gourmet, whipping up something magnificent after work, but that ain’t never gonna be me unless they perfect cloning and I can devote one whole clone to food prep.

    • Posted August 2, 2012 at 8:48 pm | Permalink

      I think eating is a complicated balancing act for lots of us, for various reasons physical and psychological. Unfortunately, a lot of mainstream nutrition advice is presented by people who have apparently never had a complicated and messy relationship with food, or any kind of physical challenges with it (or if they have, they keep it well-hidden.) That kind of advice, for me, has never been very helpful.

      Whenever I see a photo of a dietitian in the kitchen with a big bowl of veggies, it gives me the creeps. It’s like Dispatches from the Stepford Kitchen or something. And it instantly makes me feel bad about the fact that sometimes I need to rely on frozen bean burritos (and also that I actually like them.)

      • gidget commando
        Posted August 4, 2012 at 11:13 am | Permalink

        Whenever I see a photo of a dietitian in the kitchen with a big bowl of veggies, it gives me the creeps. It’s like Dispatches from the Stepford Kitchen or something.

        Somebody call me an ambulance. I think I’m laughing myself apart.

  11. TyphoidMary
    Posted August 2, 2012 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

    (I don’t know why my internal dialogue sounds like a very reasonable Bob Ross coaxing a drunken frat boy to eat a banana, but there you have it.)

    You are my current favorite person.

  12. Posted August 2, 2012 at 11:53 pm | Permalink

    When I first moved away from the restrict/binge cycle (after 20+ years I decided it probably wasn’t working so well for me) it was largely because I read Intuitive Eating by Tribole/Resch. Well, in conjunction with lots of counselling and other support, but anyway that book BLEW MY MIND, and I started to listen to my body. And at first that was great, because my body was saying, “Hey… you know how you haven’t given me adequate fuel in years? Let’s rectify that.” My body went into a Carb Craving Frenzy. But after about a month, when my body was finally satisfied that I wasn’t going to starve it again, it settled down into ‘normal’ hunger and everything went pear-shaped. It’s relatively easy to ‘eat when hungry, stop when full’ when your body is SCREAMING at you, but far less easy when it’s not. And so after two or three months I settled back into irregular meals and grazing, and generally having no idea what to eat and when to eat it.

    When I get like that I start to panic that I’ve failed at eating – which of course leads to even worse patterns because then I have no idea what’s “right”, and become like a bunny in the headlights. Or a bunny in the kitchen eating a whole bag of chocolate chips whilst pretending she’s deciding what to cook for dinner, and then having a panic attack because now I’m full and all I’ve eaten is chocolate chips and I’m sure that’s not what eat when hungry stop when full is supposed to mean and I’m NEVER GOING TO GET THIS. When I’m in full food-panic mode I absolutely cannot think about three-meals-plus-snacks; I can only deal with breakfast. Dinner panics me (still), but breakfast I can do. I usually make two poached eggs on white toast – and I know that cooking eggs sounds like a big deal but the psychological benefits for me are amazing. I start thinking, “This is great. I can totally do this food thing.” PLUS, my body starts saying, “Oh hey, breakfast. Cool. How about I start reminding you to eat again at around 10? And then maybe we’ll do lunch too, okay?” It’s like breakfast not only calms me emotionally, but helps my body chill out and have some structure with hunger signals. It took me ages to work this out, and sometimes my anxiety around food is greater than my ability to have a calm breakfast, but for the most part it’s pretty good. It’s my silver bullet. :)

    • Posted August 3, 2012 at 3:37 am | Permalink

      When I get like that I start to panic that I’ve failed at eating – which of course leads to even worse patterns because then I have no idea what’s “right”, and become like a bunny in the headlights.

      This is totally what I think of as applying the diet mentality to not-dieting. Which means that we still think there is a right way and a wrong way to do it, according to some external rule somewhere. It’s so easy to slip into, when you’ve had that mindset (on the wagon, off the wagon) for so long. It’s hard to get used to there not being a wagon at all anymore. Just a road that is very bumpy that you have to figure out how to walk on, sometimes tripping along the way.

      That’s why I find what Ellyn Satter says about meals to be so comforting – at first, a meal is just gathering up whatever food you would have otherwise grazed on, all together in one place at one time. It literally does not matter WHAT the food is – it very well could be chocolate chips. I am not kidding. But putting those chocolate chips in the dinner spot in your day is a way of starting to have dinner. The “how” comes first. The “what” will evolve from there.

      It sounds like you have come a very long way, and I love that.

      • Posted August 3, 2012 at 5:41 am | Permalink

        I know, the idea of learning the “right” way to eat is so close to eating the “right” amount of calories (for example). It’s a hard mindset to break. I sometimes wail to my counsellor “I’m never going to learn how to eat!” She replies, “You already know how to eat. You just need start trusting that you already know, and do some fine-tuning on what it looks like, if you want.”

        Every time you quote Ellyn Satter I think I really must read something of hers. She sounds very sensible.

        I have indeed come a long way. Six months ago I was counting calories obsessively, weighing myself 8-10 times a day, and binge eating until I could barely move. Now I eat most things without worrying too much, I don’t binge, and four weeks ago I threw my scales in the bin. Feeling pretty bloody awesome about that, let me tell you. :D

  13. Posted August 3, 2012 at 12:18 am | Permalink

    THANK YOU FOR THIS POST!!! I’ve been following for a while and find everything you write very poignant, but this piece *really* hit home for me.

    LOVE the default-meal thing. This is something I do, but definitely need to put into practice more often, as I am SO indecisive when it comes to food (and most other things), especially when I’m hungry! My go-to in times of indecision or lack of groceries: 2 rice cakes with 1/2 an avocado spread on them, topped with seaweed salt, a bit of turkey, and a buttload of alfalfa sprouts. Seriously, I could eat this every day, it’s SO good!

    Thanks again – this was helpful.

  14. Bex
    Posted August 3, 2012 at 1:10 am | Permalink

    Oh man, I needed this this morning, when I got focused on a particular breakfast that wound up taking ENTIRELY too long to get and sent my entire day into a screaming obscenities at electronics, kicking everything I could get my feet near rage spiral. (At one point, I yelled at my printer to “check itself before it wrecked itself”, I kid you not. Face, meet palm.)

    A banana would have been really nice this morning, I’m thinking.

  15. Julie Sienkowski
    Posted August 3, 2012 at 2:40 am | Permalink

    This is a fantastic post and the replies to the comments are really helpful. I can instantly relate to “Rules. Must break them” and “panic foods”. Your well-articulated idea of “periods of eating interspersed with periods of not eating” just makes so much sense too. It’s helpful for both stressed eating and bored eating. Thankyou.

  16. Emily H.
    Posted August 3, 2012 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    I found my eating habits getting a lot better for me when I moved — only a short distance, just enough to shave about ten minutes off my commute. Before, I would get off work and be ravenous and go to the drugstore across the street for a chocolate bar and a soda. Then I get home, I’m sugar-crashy, I don’t feel like making dinner, I eat everything in the house that takes zero effort to prepare. And so, worst case, it’s ten and I’ve eaten nothing but carrot sticks and I’m ravenous again but it’s too late to start dinner.

    Now, I get off work and I’m ravenous (I’m working on keeping snacks at work, but it’s tricky!) and it’s easier to tell myself “Yeah, you’ll be home soon, there’s almonds and yogurt at home,” and somehow it’s easier to go right into cooking dinner (while eating almonds and yogurt.)

  17. Alex
    Posted August 3, 2012 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

    Entries like this is why this blog has been life-changing for me. I have been attempting to “demand-feed” myself for most of my life, and was taught to think that anytime I ate for a reason other than hunger, there was some sort of psychological problem going on that needed to be addressed. After awhile, this kind of thinking becomes exhausting–not to mention, undermining one’s confidence about one’s emotional stability as well as one’s ability to eat “properly.”

    I love Michelle’s practical and wise approach to eating. From her I have learned to give myself permission to occasionally eat for practical or “aesthetic” reasons, without having to feel that I then needed to do some kind of emotional inventory. (I also LOVE the entry about the three kinds of hunger!).

    For example, I now give myself permission every day to finish my lunch with peanut m&ms. I love them, they make me happy, and my body responds perfectly well to them. This is primarily an “aesthetic” hunger–I am usually physically satisfied after my routine meal of a turkey, avocado and cheese sandwich (with REAL mayo, mmm). But those m&ms are delicious and get me to the point of fullness that I can work for a few hours without recurring hunger. I’ve also given myself permission to eat my mid-afternoon snack of fruit and a handful of nuts, even when I am not somewhere extreme on the hunger scale. Eating that snack, again, means I can go til dinner without thinking about food in the interim. (Not thinking about food! What a concept!).

    Anyway. Those are my two cents: Michelle, you rock. I’m always excited when there is a new entry…keep on keepin on!

    • Alex
      Posted August 3, 2012 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

      crap–I meant “Entries like this ARE why this blog has been life-changing.” Doh.

  18. G
    Posted August 3, 2012 at 8:22 pm | Permalink

    “by the time dinner is ready, I will be overhungry and spend the rest of the evening in a toddler-like state of insolence to all authority figures, real or imagined.”

    This is me. My coworker introduced me to a great name for this state: hangry (hungry+angry). I get so cranky when I need to eat! (especially before dinnertime)

    New life changer for me: Egg n cheese on toast made with microwaved scrambled eggs. Eggs without the stove? Awesome. And I can cook them in a container such that they’re just the right size for the bread!

  19. Posted August 4, 2012 at 9:58 pm | Permalink

    I like to eat bananas if I’m going to be exercising. They sit well in my guts during training, and after training I don’t do protein shakes (any more), but I’ll have a big thing of milk and a bunch of almonds. It’s like a deconstructed smoothie. Very satisfying. Probably wouldn’t be enough for any kind of endurance work, but it serves my purposes very well.

  20. Elizabeth
    Posted August 5, 2012 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    For me, part of structure was the realisation that, most mornings, I’m not hungry. If I have my first meal at around noon, I feel fine. If I force myself to eat something, I feel sluggish and headachy for most of the day. There are occasional days when I need something, but not most mornings.

    I have to keep reminding myself that it’s what’s right for *my* body, and that’s fine, but it’s difficult. I think it’s a mixture of the “you MUST eat breakfast or you will DIE” dogma that everyone gets, and the worry that people would judge the fatty fat fat fat for “bad” eating. I’ve seen and heard people sneer at fat people for not eating breakfast, because missing that one meal is what makes people fat, don’cha know?

    So, my main meal at noon, something moderate at about 5 or so, then something light late in the evening, but without carbs or the energy burst keeps me up at night. And some snacks in between. I’m the same size, but I feel more in control.

    • Posted August 5, 2012 at 8:26 pm | Permalink

      I think you’re right – it is totally about what works for your body. If waiting until noon works, then so be it. That is your breakfast.

      • KaralynZ
        Posted August 7, 2012 at 9:32 am | Permalink

        I’m the same way with breakfast, and so is my son. What’s funny is my mom noticed this about me (apparently) before I did. “Oh he’s just like you always have been, you could always take or leave breakfast, that never works for me.”

  21. Posted August 6, 2012 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

    This is a great post and I wholeheartedly agree… especially the part about the afternoon snack… or for me, a little appetizer before I start cooking dinner. I just can’t cook dinner when I’m ravenous.

  22. KaralynZ
    Posted August 7, 2012 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    I started a new job in February, 2nd shift instead of 1st shift, and thus had to re-structure my eating patterns completely. Since I’m not eating meals at ‘traditional” times I have less trouble eating what I need or want instead of what’s normal or what’s available. But I was pretty much back to grazing again because my eating patterns were all messed up.

    I’m not a breakfast person. I don’t usually prefer to eat instantly after I get up – I prefer to have something to drink and wake up a bit, relax and then have breakfast after about two hours. Working 2nd shift is perfect for this. Ideal breakfast for me is as heavy on protein as possible, about 1-2 hours after breakfast I go exercise before work, then I start work, have a snack, my “lunch break” is around 8-9pm and I find I don’t normally need to eat after that. I often *want* to snack when I get home from work after midnight, and sometimes I do, but usually it’s just habit- I rarely ever actually feel hunger that late.

    This has been going SO much better for me than the constant grazing I was doing when I first started my new schedule!

  23. Gillie
    Posted August 8, 2012 at 11:47 pm | Permalink

    I find that breakfast is/has been a major issue for me- mainly because I don’t feel “hungry” first thing in the morning in the same way I feel “hungry” in the evening. For ages, I’d buy things I hated, like oats and muesli, thinking that it was the sort of thing I had to eat. Also, I was living with my mother who liked to pass judgement on my eating. Then I though that buying “healthy” breakfasts aren’t doing me any good if I don’t eat them, so I now eat a sugary cereal that I eat every day and I feel so much better throughout the day! I also find that if I leave eating for far too long, I get these really aweful headaches that jsut don’t go away, even after medication and food. Seriously, they’ve lasted for 12 hours in the past. I still fail sometimes, particularly on the weekend, but I’m learning, bit by bit

  24. Katie
    Posted August 9, 2012 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    My go to breakfast is this (because I can’t eat carbs in the morning or I get hypoglycemnia within a few hours and have that shaky, spacey, nauseous feeling others have described and that is NOT fun) :
    Take 2 frozen precooked sausage links (Jones brand but I’m sure there are others) and nuke for 30 sec on a plate then cut up. While they nuke scramble 1 egg in a bowl with a little milk. Pour on top of cut up sausage on the plate and nuke it all for about 40 sec stopping halfway to stir around on the plate.
    All in all it takes about 2 minutes and uses 1 fork, 1 plate and 1 bowl and it tastes pretty good although I eat it begrudginly wishing I didn’t have to eat at all. Most importantly, it keeps my blood sugar steady so even if lunch is a little delayed I don’t feel like dying :)

  25. Annie
    Posted August 9, 2012 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

    I recently started eating disorder treatment, and have been on a meal plan for the first time in my life (I don’t count my dieting/restricting as eating plans – more like starving plans). I do have some resistance to being told what to eat, even though it’s just food groups and not specific foods. And adding fruits and vegetables back into my diets has been a digestive and emotional challenge, as well. But, overall it’s been 80% awesome, and I’m so glad I suspended my distrust. I am feeding myself reliably, thinking MUCH less about food, and getting hungry on a schedule. As someone who has binged, restricted, compensated, and tried (unsuccessfully) to intuitively eat, for a long time, this is revelatory to me. I do hope (and plan) to move into a place where I can eat intuitively/mindfully WITHIN snacks/meals down the road, but I’m becoming a believer in the schedule and structure of planned meals/snacks.

    • Posted August 10, 2012 at 10:50 am | Permalink

      This is awesome. Meal plans are a hard part of recovery, but also totally worth it. It’s like an anchor to food sanity. The digestive stuff will work itself out as your GI tract heals and gets used to food again. You’ve taken such a huge step.

  26. Nanasha
    Posted August 10, 2012 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    Breakfast is madness for me. I generally have to get up, eat and leave in less than 30 minutes. This sounds easy except that this involves a potty training preschooler, a cat who yowls incessantly until food is placed in front of him once he hears my alarm go off, and my 30 weeks pregnant self being awkward and pregnant.

    I have about five or so cereals on hand. Usually frosted wheat, something flaky with almonds, grape nuts and some kind of guilty pleasure kid cereal that I totally got for me too even though my daughter asked for it. Usually there is some granola thing too but lately it has not been something I hanker for. My big secret for cereal is to use whole milk. I could never get into the mouthfeel of yogurt but lower fat milk just made me get raging hunger half an hour later. I also drink a normal glass of water with my vitamins and meds before eating cereal, so that also helps. I hate cooking on workday mornings so I usually keep a couple hardboiled eggs and string cheese sticks in the fridge and eat them if I desire something more peoteiny.

    Dinner is where I get my biggest anxiety. Thank goodness for having a husband who loves to cook! Just knowing that when I get home he will be serving me something that he knows I will like and I don’t have to be all anxious. He has also gotten better at giving me smaller portions so that I don’t overstuff myself and get a stomachache.

    Of course, if he can’t make dinner for whatever reason, there’s always Chinese takeout or Taqueria to the rescue! Wor wonton soup and pork buns or a super quesadilla with meat, guac, cheese, and sour cream can banish my worst panic attack.

  27. Mab
    Posted August 11, 2012 at 7:00 am | Permalink

    Hahaha, my own internal dialogue in the morning before 9 am would look like this (after the painfull “getting out of bed” part) :

    “Huuu, self, I think I might be a little tad hungry, are you okay for a piece of bread ?”

    “GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAW GET AWAY FROM THE FOOD OTHERWISE I’LL MAKE YOU REALLY SORRY FOR THIS !”

    “Okay, okay, calm down….would you mind a sip of water, tea or juice so we can take our medication ?” (I have chronic disease)

    “OK BUT ONLY A SIP AND HURRY UP OR WE WON’T HAVE ENOUGH TIME AND I HATE BEING STRESSED IN THE MORNING IT MAKES ME FEEL SICK”

    “Sure”

    Aaaaaaaand, guess what happens around 9 am ? 8D

    “SELF, SELF, SELF, I’M HUNGRY OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOH GOD I’M HUNGRY GET US SOME FOOOOOOOOOOOOD !! OH AND I WANT TO PEEEEEEEEEEEEE !!!”

    “Self, we are in the middle of a lecture right now, can you wait for 15 more minutes ? I’ll get you to the bathroom and afterwards we’ll have some nice coffee and a cookie”

    “NO I WANT IT NOW GIMME FOOD GIMME FOOD GIMME FOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOD”

    (yeah, my inner self is a spoiled brat)

    It’s nearly impossible for me to eat food before 9 am. If I try to force myself too, I will just feel awfully sick, with stomach ache and nausea. So now I’m just taking breakfast to work/uni with me, eat it just after arriving, or waiting a little bit. And just in case, I always have a little box on my desk with nuts and dried fruits. My professors tolerated it, as I wasn’t making any noises, or leaving any scraps behind me. It allowed me to wait for the lecture break, where I could get some hot drink and a cookie.

  28. Jo
    Posted August 12, 2012 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

    I crave chocolate like *crazy* but if I was ever on a road trip, and stopped for a highway snack and picked chocolate, I would pay the price for it. I would be SOOOO tired in the next hour of the journey, I would frequently have to pull over and nap. One travelling companion of mine thought I was hypoglycemic. The correlation between chocolate and sleep was even too obvious for me to deny. Even so, it took me YEARS to put two and two together, and a very good friend who happened to be a nutritionist who told me that when I craved chocolate, my body probably just wanted protein, and she told me to get a string cheese or cup of yogurt at the truck stop. I tried it and it WORKED. I couldn’t believe it. I am a cheese-highway junkie now. I bring bags of curds with me like some people bring trail mix.

    I can’t add a banana story… I thought I was allergic for years, but now I call it what it is… an intolerance. I’m banana-intolerant. LOL

  29. Posted August 15, 2012 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    What made a lot of the difference for me to become a normalish eater, was to abandon all desire for low-fat anything. I was always hungry, never quite satisfied, always wanted to keep eating. I do better with moderate/high fat eating, food tastes better, and I’m content and comfortable. Even still, it has been tough to figure out how much, how often, and what to eat so as not to be so food-obsessed. Thanks for spreading the knowledge.

    • Posted August 17, 2012 at 7:01 am | Permalink

      I’ve been thinking on this, and I’ll take back what was most effective for me. That nasty horrible shame that I used to have about everything I ate – really useless, baseless moralizing (thanks mom!). It was a determined effort to impose structure whether I liked it or not (I tried not to eat, or at least not eat anything bad – those days, fat, these days, carbs), and I’d get very hungry and eating way more and worse than I would have eaten in the first place. I made myself eat meals, and made myself eat food that I liked, and did a lot of self-talk to convince myself that it was okay and good for me. It was hard not to try to get myself to eat “healthy” (low fat, low sugar, vegan), which I would end up tossing because it was not yummy, and train myself to allow food that I enjoyed.

      But it worked, and now I feel okay with food, consider myself cured enough. I walk a moderate line between what I consider healthy and what tastes good, sacrificing a little on both ends, but I’m content with it, don’t eat anything I dislike, don’t stuff myself frequently as it’s never my last meal, nor the last time I’m going to eat x, y, or z, and really, don’t stress about it if I find myself in situations that aren’t ideal. Much better, I was so miserable.

  30. Erin
    Posted September 9, 2012 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

    Michelle, I’ve only been following this blog for a few weeks now, and it has been the most amazing comfort to me. I’m not fat, but I’m very short and curvy, and have struggled for years to feel comfortable in a body that the majority of the world sees as Not Right and Not Normal. Since getting to college, I’ve gone through bouts of obsessive dieting, compulsive over-eating, and borderline ED behaviors. And through all of it, I just kept thinking, “I’m unhappy because I haven’t found the right plan yet. If I could just find the right way to eat and behave, I’d look and feel perfect.”

    The problem, I realized, is that I didn’t trust myself to know what was right for me. I looked for the answers on the Internet, in books, in dangerous self-designed experiments, never believing that if I just let go and trusted myself, I’d be okay.

    I accidentally stumbled across this blog while looking for pictures of Marilyn Monroe. I read through your posts for the rest of the day. To hear someone speak with such self-assurance, experience, and acceptance gave me instant, miraculous peace. And lately, whenever I’m feeling down on myself or start letting those fears creep back in, I go back to things you’ve said, and I’m reminded of what matters.

    Essentially, what I’m getting at is that YOU ARE AN AMAZING WOMAN, and your voice is one that needs to be heard by so many people. Thank you for sharing your wisdom and kindness with the Internet, thus making it possible for me to hear your voice all the way from Texas. =)

    • Posted September 10, 2012 at 11:09 am | Permalink

      Wow, thank you Erin. I’m so glad I could help, and I hope you can keep reminding yourself that you really can be trusted, and that a part of you was born knowing how to eat.

      Anyway, I sometimes get down on myself worrying about whether what I do matters, so it’s very nice to hear that it does. It keeps me going. Thank you.

  31. Posted September 27, 2012 at 9:51 pm | Permalink

    Bahahahahaha I am so happy I found your blog. I love the approach and the message, but mostly I love that you make it funny. I too have to sort of sneak up on new routines. My current ability to diet without going crazy overboard or trying to compete with myself (i.e. let’s beat the prior days calories) has been 4 years in the making with small adjustments all along the way. Trying tacking food, then not tracking and see if I still maintain, eating breakfast, not eating breakfast, making/packing lunches the day before or in the morning. Now I am at a good place with my diet mentally and physically and am competing in a fitness competition!

  32. Tessa
    Posted October 2, 2012 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

    I am found your blog from a link from another website and am so glad I did! I was in foster care for the first few years of my life and never knew when I was going to have access to food. I am know in an adoptive family and have no issue with food security, but the issues are still there. Also I have the luck of having a host of other mental health issues that don’t help with my eating issues either. I really appreciated your post and I will definitely visit your site again!

  33. Posted October 2, 2012 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

    Michelle –

    I came to your blog from the Facebook post from UpWorthy about the newscaster who was being bullied about her weight (awesome video – her self-confidence is really inspiring) and I think I’m in love.

    But it’s this post that clicked. I, too, have been in the habit of downing coffee before breakfast, thus allowing it to BECOME breakfast, and in forgetting to eat until I’m so hungry it’s triggered a migraine. (Well, you probably don’t get the migraines.)

    I don’t know why I’ve never been to your site before, but you’ve gained a new reader.

    • Posted October 2, 2012 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

      Coffee is so great in the morning, it’s such an easy mistake to make. I don’t get the migraines, but it definitely leaves me feeling horrible. Caffeine is an appetite suppressant, so it’ll temporarily trick you into thinking you’re not hungry, while in the meantime you are starting to bottom out. When the caffeine wears off, you will feel it and it won’t be good! Thanks for coming by :)

  34. KHG
    Posted October 2, 2012 at 7:25 pm | Permalink

    Hi, another UpWorthy transplant, and I just became obsessed with this blog. And this post in particular–was seriously laughing out loud at your internal dialogue, I totally do that, too.

    When I was in middle school, my dad paid me to eat breakfast. I would always say I wasn’t hungry (and I was a total pill about it, too; I’m still surprised that my parents didn’t throttle me) but I begrudgingly ate my Wheaties for a few weeks. Surprise, surprise, I’ve been eating breakfast pretty much ever since. Score one for the parents.

    I want to echo another commenters about drinking water. If I can convince myself to drink a glass or two of water before I get to work, I’m much less likely to want to drink the coffee and, as you mentioned, more likely to eat breakfast because I’m not full of caffeine telling me I’m not hungry. I do enjoy a cup or two on the weekends, because a girl’s gotta live, right? ;)

    Thanks for all the positive encouragement and thought-provoking content. I’mma go comment on everything now.

  35. Posted October 4, 2012 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

    I’ve had so many “a-ha” moments while reading this post, I can’t even begin to go into detail (thank goodness for you, right?). Between this post and your later post “Food and exercise are not matter and anti-matter”, I am finally getting the information and tools I have needed and sought for a long time (a LONG time).

    As a newcomer to your blog, I intend on going back into your archives and reading every post you’ve written. You are the first fact-based and scientifically-sound resource I have found that speaks to my needs.

    No medical practitioner has been able to give me answers when I say, “I began destructive dieting patterns when I was 10 years old even though I wasn’t an overweight child. I continued those patterns throughout my teens, backed off in my early twenties and then picked up in my mid-twenties again. I know this is why I’m obese now even though I often don’t eat until 4-5 pm in any given day because I forget to eat until then. What do I do?” I just get a dumbfounded look like they’re thinking, “That’s not possible for you to obese and not be eating. I have no answer to that.”

    Well FINALLY I have some concrete answers and constructive tools thanks to you! Like I said, I am going to read everything you’ve written here. And then after I’ve gleaned all the facts and wisdom you’ve generously offered up, I’m going to determine if I need to become one of your clients.

    Thank you again!

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  • By Mid-Week Balance: 8 August 2012 on August 8, 2012 at 10:34 am

    […] If you have struggled with healthy eating in your life, you may have explored strategies to do less grazing (you know, that mindless munching that adds up so quickly) and more planned eating.  Michelle, who writes with incredible compassion at The Fat Nutritionist, offers a reflection about why this is such a struggle for many people, as well as suggestions for implementing structured eating. […]

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