Nutrition is a game we play.

Before I completely freak you out with talk of food groups, let me say a couple of things about The Bottom Line when it comes to eating:

  • The bottom line is that you provide yourself the opportunity to eat at regular times.
  • The bottom line is that, at those times, you give yourself free reign to eat WHAT and HOW MUCH you want.

Until you’ve got those things down, don’t even bother with “nutrition.” It will only mess you up.

Eating at regular times doesn’t mean “three measured meals with no snacks in between.” That is some depriving, dictatorial BS right there, pushed by groups like Overeaters Anonymous. Do NOT mistake any of what I’m saying here with any of the many, many tricks diet programs have pulled on you to try to get you to eat less.

I don’t want you to eat less. I want you to eat well.

Eating well means eating in a way that feels good, both emotionally and physically. It, emphatically, means getting enough to eat, and getting enough of the foods you really like.

Eating at regular times means, for most people, three meals with one or two or three snacks thrown in for good measure. Unfortunately, most adults have somehow internalized the idea that snacks are bad.

Stop right there. Snacks are not bad — snacks are essential.

Snacks are just as, and sometimes more, important than meals. Snacks get you through the period of desperation between lunch and dinner. Snacks give you a chance to eat some of the fun, bizarre, ridiculous, delicious, non-staple foods (like Cheetos) that it might otherwise be hard to incorporate into a fully-orchestrated meal. (They can also help to regulate your blood sugar, if you want to get all technical.)

They legitimize the hunger that you naturally feel at the mid-morning lull, the mid-afternoon lull, and the late-evening munchy time in front of the TV. We all feel hunger at one or all of these times. There’s no sense in denying it, so we may as well admit it, make it official, and get on with our lives.

Snacks are legitimate, snacks are official, and when you decide that you are going to eat them and make them a non-negotiable part of taking care of yourself with food, you can stop feeling guilty about them immediately.

So let’s do that right now: you are going to eat snacks. (Or snax! Because it’s so much more fun to say. Snax!) Why? Because snacks — official, pre-planned snax! — are part of life. They just are.

Providing yourself with regular opportunities to eat means that you will either pick rough times (like 6am, 9, 12pm, 3, 6, and 9pm again), or pick rough intervals (two or three or four hours) at which you will sit down with food in front of you.

You do not have to eat. But you have to sit down and look at that food and give yourself real, unconditional permission to eat if you want. And to go back for seconds, or thirds, if you need them. Or to eat half of it and change your mind and throw it away. Or to take a couple of bites and hand it to your husband. (Ahem. What?) Or wrap it back up and stick it in the fridge or freezer for another time.

Sound ridiculous and pointless? It’s not. It’s a crucial part of rebuilding trust with your body. It’s caring for your body as you would care for a child.

It’s making a promise to yourself: I will feed you. I will love you. I will let you grow.

Until the promise is made, and kept, and a relationship has been re-established, you cannot go forward toward the top of the pyramid without feeling scared, rebellious, resentful, and suspicious of yourself.

For now, build the bottom of that pyramid. Next time, we’ll dance at the top.

This entry was posted in Diets, eating, Humane Nutrition. Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.

104 Comments

  1. Posted August 2, 2011 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

    I’m eating a snack right now!

    I only recently had the revelation that hey, taking something to work that I can munch on (other than lunch) will probably make me less hungry and grumpy when I get home. And, lo and behold, it seems to be working. Go figure.

  2. Posted August 2, 2011 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for this. As a lover of weird foods (like wild game, organ meat, etc.) and a self-proclaimed believer in health at every size – I thought I “got it.” In conversations about fatness and body size and nutrition, I’ve said that I think our culture shames us too much about weight, size, or diet. And yet, I’ve fallen folly to my own “policies” in choosing what to eat. I stopped snacking because I wanted to ‘save-up’ for the big meals of breakfast, lunch and dinner. Since I’ve started working evening shifts at my job, I found that I would get lightheaded and not know why. It’s because I stopped snacking. It’s because I thought I was doing my body a favour by not eating at certain times. But really, my body was giving me hints that I need food and the low blood sugar-induced mental lightness was a signal to eat.

    Your blog is an inspiration to people in how to eat and live and love well.

  3. Emily
    Posted August 2, 2011 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

    I love your post, and I love these ideas. I have been implementing them for some time. But I have a problem. I gain approximately a pound a month when I eat with my hunger and eat the types of foods I enjoy (a wide variety). That doesn’t sound too bad, but in four years of eating intuitively, I am up forty pounds. The idea that one’s weight will find a set point is simply not true for me. It does not stop. The only way to stop it is to control the amounts or types of food that I eat. I don’t want to do this, but I also don’t want to be too fat to keep my job and be able to walk, etc. This is a real concern. I am now 270 pounds (and 5’1) with disabilities. It is one thing to accept my fat (I accept that I am and will be fat and that that is Ok), but another to continue to gain weight. This makes me panic. I have been diagnosed in the past with a (unspecified) genetic metabolic problem, which basically just meant that the doctors didn’t understand why I was so fat based on my “lifestyle.” There is no known treatment or cure. I also have hypothyrodism and take medication. Please advise me whatever you can. I am not asking for medical advice. I just respect your work and wonder what you would do in my situation. Thank you so much.

    • Posted August 2, 2011 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

      Hi – I have a really similar propensity to gain weight.

      What helps me is to make sure I’m eating at regular times and not just “demand feeding.”

      But underlying problems (like hypothyroidism, etc.) have to be handled with medication – no amount of changing your eating is going to be able to totally counteract their effect on your weight. Definitely see a doctor about this again if you can, and make sure your thyroid meds are at the right level.

      • Emily
        Posted August 2, 2011 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

        Thanks. I will keep that in mind. I think I do mostly “demand feeding,” i.e. only having meals or snacks when I feel hungry, with no regard to the clock. I may try to be more regular about it. And I was just at the endocrinologist yesterday for tests, so we’ll see on that front.

  4. Posted August 2, 2011 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

    I’d never thought of intentionally setting out a snack for myself, whether I thought I was hungry for it or not. It’s funny but after eight (wow) years of non-dieting, that’s still scary to me…I don’t trust myself not to eat it when not hungry.

    On the other hand, I know how much I’ve progressed because I was thinking about applying for a new job (in a new field) yesterday and immediately had a craving for food like I hadn’t had in ages. It was obviously connected to my emotional response to that stressor and the fact that I *haven’t* had it recently means I’m making progress.

    Weird, how we progress in such a non-linear way.

  5. Posted August 2, 2011 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

    I was so excited to open Google Reader and see a new post from you! Thank you, thank you, thank you for teaching me how to feed myself and my family in a way that is completely non-crazy-making.

  6. Posted August 2, 2011 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

    I think the hardest thing about giving up dieting and living a Health At Every Size approach is accepting that it is OK to eat and that it is OK to feed yourself what you are hungry for.

    Such a great post!

  7. Posted August 2, 2011 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

    Of course snacks are good and necessary. I think since a lot of people associate them as bad could partially contribute to their addiction to them. If we start seeing them as necessary components of our every day intake, we might learn to not abuse them.

    Yes it’s ok to to eat, and it’s ok to eat what you are hungry for, but it is also ok to feel hunger for a little bit before dinner. You aren’t going to starve to death.

    • ako
      Posted August 2, 2011 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

      Yes it’s ok to to eat, and it’s ok to eat what you are hungry for, but it is also ok to feel hunger for a little bit before dinner. You aren’t going to starve to death.

      And being a bit hungry is a lot less scary when you’re habituated to regularly getting enough food. Something in the brain knows the difference between “I’m starting to get hungry, and in an hour I can have a lunch of whatever I want and eat as much as it takes to satisfy me” and “I’m starting to get hungry, I may or may not get lunch in an hour, and if food arrives it’s going to be inadequate and unsatisfying, so I’m going to be hungry all day.” Get habituated to having regular satisfying meals and being hungry before meals becomes much more easier to tolerate.

      • Posted August 7, 2011 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

        Totally agree. People cannot learn to NOT be terrified of comfortable hunger until they have re-established trust with their bodies by making sure they regularly give themselves the opportunity to eat. That is, to have regular meals and snacks without going hours and hours and hours between.

  8. inge
    Posted August 2, 2011 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

    I’m currently arguing with myself a lot about breakfast. Breakfast is a new habit for me, and sometimes I feel that I’m not hungry and should wait until I am. OTOH, breakfast is so much of a pick-me-up at that miserable time of the morning, cold, tired, and with an interminable day of work ahead of me…

    So, usually: Breakfast.

    • Ashley
      Posted August 5, 2011 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

      I currently have a job I hate (well, it’s more my boss than my actual job responsibilities that makes me miserable, but whatever) and breakfast is really my primary motivation for getting up in the morning.

      • Posted August 5, 2011 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

        Ooooh, I have been there. Many times.

  9. Posted August 2, 2011 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

    I’m really working on learning to trust my body. It’s hard. I feel like it has betrayed me, but really perhaps it was not the physical body, but rather the emotional mind.

    • Gigi
      Posted August 3, 2011 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

      I really respond to this post -I found myself saying “yes, exactly.” My feeling of distrust came from a significant health event that took nearly a year to recover from a major abdominal surgery and I still struggle with the anxiety surrounding my body. That feeling of betrayal is really difficult to overcome, but coupled with being a huge woman (which I use in a positive way there – 6′ over 400 pounds) learning to look at food as real support for my body rather than morally “bad” is already making my life more enjoyable. I have found that just giving myself permission to enjoy food and interact with my body on even terms – rather than aggressive “I want you to be thinner, therefore (body) you dont get to eat for a while” is not succesful and it made me miserable.

      Thank you, as always for a great post. I read very few blogs but this one is my favorite.

  10. Posted August 2, 2011 at 8:22 pm | Permalink

    This post is awesome and I didnt realize how TRUE it is until after I had dinner, which was a couple hours later than I normally eat, and yanno what happened? I BINGED. right now Im regretting eating those last two tacos–and even though I knew I was full when I ate them, I COULD NOT STOP MYSELF FROM EATING THEM. So good…. Now I feel bloated.

    See, my feeding schedule is pretty regular. I didnt realize it until this post made me think about it. I wake up at 6 and eat a smallish protein-loaded breakfast between 6:30 and 7, then I dash out the door. I eat again at work, between 9 and 9:15 on the dot, usually carb-heavy, like a snickers bar. Then lunch is between 12:00 and 12:30–any later and I feel really hungry and cranky and anxious. Then nothing until I get home from work around 4:15. I usually make a beeline for the fridge as soon as I get home, and eat until Im satisfied. If I wait too long I usually end up feeling bloated after eating. Gee, I wonder why…Turns out that my feeding schedule is every 3.5 hours, and if I go longer than 4, I will overeat. I never thought about it until THIS VERY POST.

    Thanks Michelle! A little self-awareness will make me a better eater.

  11. Posted August 2, 2011 at 9:01 pm | Permalink

    Thank.
    You.
    (I’m slow clapping right now).
    Right now, I’m grappling with the situation where I sit down to eat and often don’t want as much as I have in front of me. And that’s weird. And I NEED to snack, because I’m eating less at meals.
    I had one of the new Starbucks small-ish lunch offerings and a little fruit cup for lunch and it was so exactly what I wanted, it was just right and just the right amount, at just the right time (not “lunchtime” but when I get hungry every day, about 2 p.m.) but when I got hungry later I needed a snack. That’s just how it is. I’m so over the idea of “spoiling my appetite.”
    But the whole “division of responsibility” thing with my kiddo is rocky right now. I’m doing it right but it’s hard not to be frustrated when the lunch I pack for her comes back almost not eaten. She seems to survive on “kid kibble” — goldfish crackers. Food provided at regular intervals doesn’t seem to have a big impact on her desire for “kid kibble” and sweets. Of course, she’s a 6 year old kid, and she seems to be in between growth spurts so she doesn’t have a huge appetite. I know she’s growing fine, and is totally normal, but I think I miss being able to think of her as a diverse eater. She’ll get back there, I know. I hope.

  12. Posted August 2, 2011 at 11:07 pm | Permalink

    I just finished a snak. It was lovely but not what I wanted. What I wanted is not in the house and I’m not going out right now to get it. Oh well. I won’t die.
    I’m still really terrible at the shopping thing. I hate the grocery store to a ridiculous degree.
    What is ‘instrumental’ food?

    • Posted August 2, 2011 at 11:37 pm | Permalink

      “Instrumental” food is the food that you decide to eat for some specific reason – for health reasons, or spiritual reasons, etc. Aside from just being tasty and decently nourishing. For lots of people, this means “vegetables” or whatever you think of as “healthy” food.

      I find it helpful to have a beer before I go to the store :D

      • Rikibeth
        Posted August 3, 2011 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

        Does “social” food count as “instrumental?” That is, you had dinner before you went to the party, and you’re not especially hungry, but look, So-and-so’s brought their legendary Thingamabobs, and having a Thingamabob and praising it to So-and-so is kind of a part of the whole party experience?

        I eat Thingamabobs at parties all the time and don’t feel guilty over it — I’m just trying to get a handle on the categories.

        • Posted August 3, 2011 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

          Interesting, but no, I don’t think it’s quite the same thing.

          • Tona Aspsusa
            Posted December 2, 2011 at 8:43 am | Permalink

            Wouldn’t it depend very much on WHY you are eating Thingamabobs at parties?

            My thought would be that if I eat one or several Thingamabobs because they are rare and I really like them in principle (even if I don’t feel hungry or especially _want_ them right then) it is absolutely not Instrumental Eating.

            But if I eat Thingamabobs *only* as a way to send social signals (I appreciate your cooking, I am not weird, I don’t make a fuss about food), wouldn’t that be an instrumental use of food?

            As a former Very Picky child I find myself doing exactly this sometimes; I eat almost symbolically small amounts of Thingamabobs I really don’t like at all only because it is the socially most neutral thing to do. This usually doesn’t bother me, luckily I now have very few really strong food aversions.

            I see this most clearly when it comes to high status food: I’m at best neutral when it comes to shellfish, and expensive caviar is totally wasted on me (though I quite like some of the cheapest fish roes). Luckily I happen to really like most everything foie gras I’ve ever been offered, but I would say that this is a food that seems to inspire a lot of “socially instrumental” eating – people eat one small canapé just to show that they are versed in the world of high status foods and not “liver, yuck!” -yokels.

            The more I think of it, I think there is social eating of Thingamabobs that can be characterized as Instrumental Eating, but it isn’t very common in its purest form.
            For *me* it might be one of the most common forms of Instrumental Eating (as I am not religious and very very rarely eat anything out of medical needs – that would be extra yoghurt when taking antibiotics), but that is because I am somewhat autistic and very interested in various social rituals and non-verbal messaging. I’m absolutely engaging in something that isn’t at all related to food or feeding myself when I quickly swallow two bites of something mayonnaise-shrimp-y – I am using that act to signal that I am part of the crowd and Not Overly Weird (and btw, it works).

        • KellyK
          Posted August 4, 2011 at 8:13 am | Permalink

          I think that falls more under good-tasting food. You’re eating it because it’s a big deal, legendary awesome thing.

          I’m thinking that the social components don’t quite map onto the pyramid, but they affect every level. Like, what you consider good-tasting will have a lot to do with cultural things you ate as a kid. What’s novel to you (and how novel it has to be to “count” and where your comfort zone is for things you will and won’t try) is also affected by the attitudes and ideas of people around you.

          Instrumental is more like, “Wow, my vitamin D levels are in the crapper. I will eat more fish.” or “It’s cold and flu season, let me drink lots of orange juice to get vitamin C.”

  13. Elizabeth
    Posted August 2, 2011 at 11:30 pm | Permalink

    I can’t tell you how much this blog is changing my life. This morning I needed some protein around 10:30, so I did something I haven’t done since I was about 14–I ate a handful of pistachios, enjoying every bite, without freaking out about the fat/calories contained in nuts. I almost cried with relief.

    Loving & treating myself well start NOW, not tomorrow or thirty pounds from now. I’m going to love my size-16, six-foot-three body just the way it is, rather than feeling like a giant oddball all the time and punishing myself for things beyond my control. THANK YOU.

  14. Dnelle
    Posted August 3, 2011 at 2:29 am | Permalink

    I find this very interesting because I find that I do this in other aspects of my life as well. Not only do I not give myself permission to eat what I want when I want, but I don’t allow myself to do what I want when I want either. Many times I feel like I am waiting for someone to give me permission to live my life. I was raised to be the responsible, “helpful” one in my family, the person who takes care of everything and everyone. I am also a natural people pleaser, which has screwed me up royally for many years. I am slowly (too slowly, it feels like) learning to live without feeling devastating guilt whenever I upset the applecart in order to do something (or NOT do something ) that is good for me but might not be convenient for someone else. Why is it so hard to be able to view oneself as worthy of respect and care, and one’s goals as worthy of pursuit? And how much of this behavior plays in to weight issues? Many times I feel as if I use my extra weight to render myself invisible so that I might move through society without being noticed. Does anyone else deal with this? I wonder sometimes if it’s because I am the eldest child from a dysfunctional family, or if I have some kind of anxiety disorder.

    • Posted August 3, 2011 at 9:23 am | Permalink

      Why is it so hard to be able to view oneself as worthy of respect and care, and one’s goals as worthy of pursuit?

      This is a fascinating question. I’ve had several of my students tell me that they feel undeserving of regular food and care. I am sure this extends to areas other than eating.

      • Courtney
        Posted August 3, 2011 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

        I struggle with this issue all the time. I’m the adult child of an alcoholic, and I was an only child raised by a single mother. I fell into an extreme caretaker role, and 20 years later I still have to fight myself to not put the entire world’s needs ahead of my own. In talking with other people who grew up in families touched by addiction, I’ve learned that it’s really common for those of us who survived dysfunctional families to not see our own needs as valid. There are times when it is difficult for me to articulate my needs at all, even to myself.

      • Dnelle
        Posted August 3, 2011 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

        I know a lot of my issues stem from having a naturally caregiver/ anxiety prone personality combined with conditional affection as a child. I was made to feel that the only time I was acceptable was when I was invisible or doing something for someone else, and that wanting anything for myself was “bad”. I have to say that reading your posts has helped me to realize a lot of things about my personality I didn’t even recognize before. I thank you for that because as I learn more about me I am finding ways to modify my reactions and behavior to be more kind to myself. It’s interesting how many experiences you have as a child become internalized and turned into world views without you even being aware of it.

      • Posted August 4, 2011 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

        That question comes up when exercise is on the cards too, all the time. It perplexes me how we rely on guilt and shame to get us to exercise, rather than investing in curiosity and a sense of play, and acknowledging that the desire for things to be better is a sign of self-love. And if you hold it lightly, it’s okay, you can just play…. We’re too damn serious all the time. At least I know I can be…

    • Inca
      Posted August 3, 2011 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

      The simplest reason is because we are told constantly how worthless we are if we don’t achieve, provide, deserve etc. Among other things, this blog (including the points about fat shaming) made me aware about ALL those shaming-things that are going on: how, (especially if you are not rich) you need to constantly prove your worth by working, achieving and proving you are worthy of care (being a role model, basically.) How you can be shamed if you are on welfare or food stamps or health care, and how that translate to ‘we really don’t want to care for you just because we think any human being deserves care, so you better be worth it’, and ‘why should we provide you with anything if you don’t give us anything back for it’? Food is a part of it, but it extends to shelter and health care and safety and common human decency.

      Apart from all the pressure on exterior, there is also the tremendous amount of pressure on achieving and being successful. Not being in the position to be that, I am really constantly (and consciously!) struggling with all the messages that society gives you about how worthless an individual you are if you can’t live up to expectations. And there are lots of those messages.

      (I need to add here that there is a huge, HUGE, difference between people in personal contact that have (with hardly any exception) been kind and understanding to me – that has actually been quite amazing – and the more abstract message from society, but also in general remarks from the same persons that probably don’t realize the extent of certain comments.)

  15. michelle d
    Posted August 3, 2011 at 11:52 am | Permalink

    This is great! I started weight lifting again and got this weird craving for having peanut butter (weird because I can go for YEARS without eating peanut butter) and wheat crackers at around 9am every morning. I started feeling a little guilty that I kept getting ravenous for this snack every day but had to talk logically with myself that with weight lifting this girl needs protein.

    • ako
      Posted August 3, 2011 at 8:21 pm | Permalink

      When I was in college I did a lot of weight lifting, and afterward I’d find myself craving a slice of pizza. I wasted so much time feeling guilty about that, and telling myself it was “junk” (it was actually pretty tasty pizza), I was making the weight-lifting “not count”, and somehow “undoing” the good I’d done myself, rather than simply accepting that muscle-building exercise makes me want protein, fat, and carbs.

  16. Emily
    Posted August 3, 2011 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    Seeing Satter’s hierarchy of food needs reminded me. Does anyone know where I can find the health pyramid? I don’t remember exactly what it was called but I remember the pyramid was supposed to represent a person’s overall health/well-being not just nutrition. I think maybe safety was at the base.

  17. ksol
    Posted August 3, 2011 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    It amazes me how the voice of nutritionism goes off in my head. I add half an avocado to a smoothie and even though I like it and want it, some demon in the back of my head starts freaking out about the fat in it. Even though I feel better with more fat in my diet. Nutrition can really screw you up — particularly since opposing strident camps make such different claims. I’ve seen people even going on about carrots contain too much sugar. Carrots. For realsies. Come on people.

    So I work on it, and read your blog every chance I get. And proud to say that this morning the avocado went into the smoothie with no protest and I listened to what my body wanted at lunch. It told me pretty clearly it wanted mac and cheese. Made it from scratch…nom, nom, nom. I is happy.

    • Posted August 3, 2011 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

      Mmmmm, fat. I love fat. It makes everything taste better. It also helps you to absorb nutrients better and build brain tissue :D

      • ksol
        Posted August 4, 2011 at 9:26 am | Permalink

        The brain tissue thing was in part why I started adding more fat, since I have a chronic, but well-managed, mental illness. For years I had insanely low cholesterol and I kept trying to go low-fat and eating the stuff to lower cholesterol because, well, that’s what everyone says you should do. Then I found out that there is a correlation (yes, I know, not necessarily causation) between low cholesterol and mental illness. At a certain point, just decided what the heck to try it. I don’t know for certain it’s made a difference, but I seem to feel better, and I’ve made peace with the idea that I could be wrong. I’m also not an evangelist for my way of eating — I’ve just found it works for me, for my body and my particular set of health issues.

        And ooooooohhh… once you go to whole milk. Yum!

  18. Posted August 3, 2011 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    Nice job, Michelle! I love the referrence to Ellen Satter’s work–please see her older piece on Normal Eating referenced in a post of mine http://dropitandeat.blogspot.com/2011/03/normal-eating-taken-too-far.html
    I would also add that while we must give ourselves permission to eat, regardless of the time of day or night, the criteria should be that our body needs the fuel. Eating simply because you feel like it or because you had a hard day is not likely to help support a healthy body. Yes, acknowledge that you are looking to satisfy a non-nutritional need with food–then use an alternative coping skill to get you through, not food.

    • ksol
      Posted August 3, 2011 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

      I dunno. If a bowl of garlic mashed potatoes will salvage a wretched day, I’d say go for it on occasion. Food is not just fuel. It’s comfort and camaraderie sometimes. If you’re constantly turning to food instead of dealing with your stress or emotions, particularly if it’s adversely affecting your life, you probably do need to change your approach. I don’t think it hurts from time to time, though.

    • Posted August 3, 2011 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

      I think you can do “comfort eating” in a healthy way. Additional coping skills are definitely important, and food can never fix an underlying problem, but I think it’s pretty near universal – and even institutionalized/ritualized in most cultures – to eat for emotional reasons: food at a wake, cake at a wedding, a birthday feast, holidays, etc. I also think milk & cookies time in the evening after a stressful day can be really useful – if you can sit and enjoy them and not make yourself sick or uncomfortable, and if you recognize what the actual issue is and that food can’t fix it. It can only soothe, distract, and provide some pleasure.

      However, I consider pleasure to be like another nutrient – essential to the diet. I also think that the body’s self-regulatory mechanisms of appetite (and weight) will adjust to a certain amount of emotional eating. Can you override it if you’re eating compulsively? Yes. But I do believe there’s a margin of flexibility for comfort eating in a normal way.

      • RachelB
        Posted August 3, 2011 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

        “Comfort eating” is, in moments of extremity, just about what I can manage for eating, because my hunger cues are not reliable when I’m really upset or anxious. When I’m emotionally overwrought, I get a headache, irritability, and other signs of low blood sugar long before I get hungry. If I can stave off that headache with polenta, which I am eating not because I am hungry but because to me it is like a hug in a bowl, that’s a win IMO.

        Similarly, when I was prepping for my qualifying exams, having some things on hand that were easy to prepare and reliably mood-elevating (for me, that would be kimchi dumplings) kept me on a much more even keel. And it was helpful to learn that it will not break me to eschew variety for a few days in favor of the one thing that sounds good.

      • Posted August 3, 2011 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

        I don’t disagree that eating should be pleasurable and may satisfy other needs besides nutritional ones. But if you are trying to find a balance, there needs to be an awareness and a differentiation, between hunger and non-hunger eating. Of course we live in a culture where food is entertainment, it’s indulgence, etc. But it’s up to us to set our own limits on how we use food–if it’s generally to satisfy other needs outside of nutritional ones, we will likely not be pleased with how we feel ultimately.

        • ako
          Posted August 3, 2011 at 10:15 pm | Permalink

          I think anything to do with emotional eating is a tricky subject in fat acceptance circles, because many fat people are stereotyped as constantly engaging on a massive level, and encouraged to engage in all sorts of “But what’s your real motivation?” self-analysis. And a certain degree of eating for emotional reasons is a normal part of the human experience. So for a lot of people in fat acceptance, “No comfort eating” or other advice against emotional eating comes off as “No, you can never have a bite of chocolate after a hard day, because you, fat person, are psychologically incapable of handling your chocolate!”

          But there are also severely unhealthy forms of emotional eating, and many of the people affected are fat, so it’s important to talk about it, and hopefully help people see where the lines are. (From what I’ve heard from people with eating problems, Michelle’s standards are good to look at. Most people I’ve heard from who eat emotionally to an unhealthy degree eat until they feel bad physically and/or rely entirely on eating as a coping mechanism, while a healthy approach tends to involve feeling good both during and after, and not using it as a substitute for actually dealing with problems.)

          • Posted August 4, 2011 at 7:31 am | Permalink

            @ako well said! Thank you. Certainly you’ll see from my blog that I endorse inclusion of all foods, for all people regardless of size. I am also well aware after 25 years in practice that disconnecting from the physical side and endorsing use of food for all other reasons the majority of time leaves most people miserable.

          • Dnelle
            Posted August 5, 2011 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

            “No, you can never have a bite of chocolate after a hard day, because you, fat person, are psychologically incapable of handling your chocolate!”

            I love that. I am constantly amazed by the bias people have toward anyone overweight. There is such a misperception that anyone overweight is totally out of control and does nothing but gorge all day on sticks of butter, cake, and bags of chocolate. Of course the real reason for extreme prejudice against overweight people is not for their condition but the fear that it might be !gasp! CONTAGIOUS.

          • Posted August 5, 2011 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

            So, wait…are you saying that I should stop eating sticks of butter all day every day?

            Whoops.

          • Dnelle
            Posted August 6, 2011 at 3:34 am | Permalink

            I know, right? You would think that our thinner bretheren would be glad that WE’RE SUPPORTING THE DAIRY INDUSTRY, PEOPLE! My daily butter consumption creates JOBS, y’all! I guess they’re just not as conscious of the global economy as we are.

          • ako
            Posted August 5, 2011 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

            Yeah, and the “Everyone overweight is constantly binging” assumption does no one any favors. People who don’t have food issues are likely to develop them when subjected to constant “Is that the minimum necessary amount of butter? Did you try the low-fat option? What about having fruit, instead? No, lower calorie fruit!” nagging. And someone who does have food issues isn’t likely to benefit from “You’re fat, so your food issues must be binging, anything that means you eat less is good, and the most important standard for judging improvement is how much weight you lose.”

        • Posted August 5, 2011 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

          My perspective on this is not that we should be steering people away from eating, per se, even as a coping mechanism, but that we should be exploring why someone needs the coping mechanism, if it’s something that is consistent and long-term. I don’t mean my getting up after a bad night and grabbing a coffee – that coping mechanism makes sense and gets me through. I mean sitting down at my computer, seeing a good job opportunity out there, and then feeling an overwhelming yearning for food – that is a stress response and, while food may be the right temporary fix, it also signals that I need to do some work on WHY I’m needing a comfort mechanism in response to that particular stressor.

          The eating isn’t the problem and neither is the desire to eat as a coping mechanism. The need for the coping mechanism in response to a potentially unexplored area of stress is the issue. Sometimes people are ready to explore it and sometimes not (and pushing if they’re not is likely to add more stress/more need for a coping mechanism).

    • Inca
      Posted August 4, 2011 at 6:11 am | Permalink

      I have two thoughts when reading this.

      One is that the nutritional-vs-nonnutritional (or body needing it vs mind needing it) distinction isn’t always as clear cut. For example, after I fallen of a horse (or something similar, something that evoked a strong fright reaction and left me shaking on my legs) chocolate, or something sugary and starchy is a good remedy.

      And that makes sense in a physiological sense (it gets your blood sugar back to prepanic levels.) So, comfort food or nutritional need?
      But, every strong emotional reaction uses lots of energy, so a bit of ‘comfort food’ makes sense in about every case.

      Also, I was thinking of something people with horses described. In some winters, there isn’t enough hay for horses to eat. They get fed oats and other stuff, they get all the nutrition they need, and yet the fact that they don’t nibble on their food makes a huge difference and the horses get cranky, or start nibbling on things that are really not good for them. They recommend giving the horses willow branches or something like that to chew on.

      So the act of eating is, even with animals, not just about getting nutrition. It serves other purposes as well, and I don’t think it is bad at all to take those added purposes into account.
      There’s just some balance thing to be struck. Food can be one tool of many in the toolbox.

    • KellyK
      Posted August 4, 2011 at 8:23 am | Permalink

      I don’t see any reason that you can’t do both. You can make comfort food your regular meal or snack, that your body *does* need for fuel. And if you take the time to relax and savor your food, it makes it easier to tell when you’ve reached the point of fullness. (If I eat too much, nine times out of ten it’s when I’m snagging breakfast or lunch at work and am distracted.)

      As an example, earlier this year, I spent a week on work travel, dealing with some fairly big-deal and high-stress stuff, and spending my whole day in a room with three other people who could talk about *nothing* but their diets during every single break.

      So, I made it a point to take myself out for a nice dinner each evening. There were a ton of great restaurants around, so I had sushi one night, a Lebanese wrap the next, and a fantastic burger another night. I took my time, I enjoyed every bite, I read and people-watched during dinner. And it did amazing things for my stress level.

      I had to eat dinner anyway, so why not make it an experience that fulfills emotional needs too?

      • Posted August 7, 2011 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

        Glad somebody gets it ; ) Clearly an emotionally charged subject that elicits an awful lot of assumptions.

  19. Susan
    Posted August 3, 2011 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

    What happens if you have little or no appetite and can’t feel normal hunger, or are completely disinterested in food? I’ve never had much of an appetite, and I’m on medications that have left me with little or no drive to eat. Should I just eat when hunger rears its head, or set myself a schedule?

    • Posted August 3, 2011 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

      Setting yourself a schedule can help train your hunger to appear at predictable times. Might be worth trying for a few weeks.

  20. Anna
    Posted August 3, 2011 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

    I love all of your posts, but I especially love the ones that contain little catalysts for me. I didn’t realise how I don’t eat snacks because I feel like I shouldn’t. I always end up either ignoring it and being hungry, or eating a full size meal even though it’s not strictly necessary.

    I’ve been practicing the “eat whatever I want whenever I want to” which I’ve learned form this blog,a nd it’s going really well. Now I have a new thing to add: eating a small amount of food as a snack, just because I want to.

    Thanks Michelle! I can safely say that my life is better because of your blog. I don’t think I ever could have reached this point otherwise.

  21. ABananas
    Posted August 3, 2011 at 10:16 pm | Permalink

    So, what happens when you can’t financially afford this style of eating? Currently, I barely have enough money to provide myself meals, much less snax. And when I’m eating its not most cost effective to eat via my preferences and whims, but rather what I can afford – sadly dollar menus are cheaper than a basket of strawberries (what I really want). How can I avoid feeling resentful of my eating when its not only complicated by disordered behavior, but also by a financial dip?

    • Posted August 3, 2011 at 10:34 pm | Permalink

      Unfortunately, when you can’t afford enough food, you have to forget everything else but getting food. Look at the pyramid again – before you can worry too much about preferences, etc., you first have to have enough food to work with. All I can tell you is that I hope maybe you can get some assistance to get more food. And that I hope things will get better, and then you can move on.

  22. Tinab
    Posted August 4, 2011 at 11:38 am | Permalink

    For me, snacks have become part of “competent eating”. I was taught most of my life not to eat between meals and I often skipped breakfast, so usually at lunch time I was ravenous and ready to binge (which I did quite often).

    Usually I have breakfast at 5.30 a.m and get hungry again at about 9.30/10 a.m. A snack at that time keeps me happy till lunch (and I do not think I am gaining any weight because of this new habit – I do not have a scale, but my favourite jeans still fit…)

  23. Posted August 4, 2011 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

    Since I can have a hard time eating a lot of food at once, snaking helps me get enough calories and nutrients and prevents the “I’m starving, I’m going to eat the countertop” from happening.

  24. Ann
    Posted August 6, 2011 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    This is so hard for me… Hard both because it’s hard even without interference, but also because my partner is anorexic, and he gets upset when I break the food rules he sets for himself. He tries to hide it, but I can tell he’s getting freaked whenever I eat “too much,” the “wrong” foods, at the “wrong” times, etc. I know a lot of people have to deal with others giving them the stink eye when they eat intuitively… How do you deal with it?

    • Posted August 6, 2011 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

      You can’t play by his food rules. I hope he’s in treatment. But it’s good for him to be around someone eating normally, even if he can’t yet bring himself to do so.

    • KellyK
      Posted August 9, 2011 at 9:24 am | Permalink

      Is it something you can discuss with him? Rather than him trying to hide his discomfort, can you have an honest conversation and figure out what you’re both willing to put up with to accommodate the other? I’m not suggesting that you live by his food rules or only eat snacks when he’s not around. Just that it might be helpful to tell him straight out what behaviors of his are upsetting you, give him the chance to do the same, and figure out something sane and healthy for both of you.

      • Ann
        Posted August 9, 2011 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

        Yes, he’s in treatment, and yes, we’ve talked about it. He knows it’s not okay, which is why he tries not to show his discomfort. He knows it triggers all sorts of problems for me. But, eating disorders treatment takes a good long time, and right now he’s struggling with the “eat enough not to die” part of treatment. The less urgent stuff is, well, less urgent right now. So I try to work around it. But it’s especially the issue of “eating enough” (way down there at the bottom of the pyramid) that becomes hard for me, because sometimes that doesn’t line up with his restrictions, and his behavior amplifies the pressure not to eat I have in my own head, but am trying to heal. In the end, I don’t follow his rules, but they definitely make the whole process of eating intuitively harder.

        • Posted August 9, 2011 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

          I’m sorry, my dear. That is so hard.

  25. Posted August 7, 2011 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    My food problems are less about body issues and more about my depression, among other ailments. It’s all tangled up (isn’t it always) but the main reason I don’t eat, or put off eating until I’m too hungry to think, is that I don’t have the (mental) energy to get up and get a meal together. So then by the time I get so hungry that I NEED to eat, I just make whatever’s fastest, which is usually something boxed and processed, etc. And it ends up not being that satisfying, because what I REALLY want is an actual home-cooked meal, but I never manage to get my shit together in time to make one. So I stop even buying the ingredients at the store, because I’m convinced they’ll go bad before I have a chance to cook them, which just compounds the problem.

    Other issues include: I have IBS, which means I’m limited in what I can eat without feeling sick later, which means I get depressed when I want something that’s on the list of things I shouldn’t eat, like real ice cream. My anti-depressants decrease my appetite, and also make eating less of a physical pleasure. I have ADHD and executive functioning problems, so planning ANYTHING in advance is a challenge. And the big one, which a lot of people mentioned above: I often don’t feel like I deserve to eat well. If I think about cooking, my little brain-voice goes why cook when you haven’t done anything else all day? you should be doing all those things you have been putting off! you should clean your house and work on this project and do your laundry and run these errands, and THEN you can think about food!

    So, I really appreciate this blog for challenging that voice. It doesn’t always work, but it helps. Thanks for writing.

    • Posted August 7, 2011 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

      Food first – always :)

    • KellyK
      Posted September 13, 2011 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

      Wow…that sucks a lot and has to be really hard to deal with. You totally deserve to eat, and you deserve to prioritize feeding yourself above all the other stuff that you feel like you have to do.

      Would it help to try to keep the makings of meals that don’t go bad so easily on hand? Frozen veggies rather than fresh, keeping bread and meats (especially those that don’t take long to thaw, like bacon or ground beef frozen in individual patties) in the freezer, making sure you have eggs and beans and pasta, etc.?

      And maybe throw a list of “things I can make in half an hour or less when I’m exhausted and already hungry” on the fridge door? Not that there’s anything at all wrong with feeding yourself the easiest thing when you don’t have the mental energy to cook, but one of the traps I fall into is that I turn “cooking” into more work than it needs to be and stress myself out. Scrambled eggs and toast is a home-cooked dinner, so is a burger.

  26. Posted August 8, 2011 at 12:17 am | Permalink

    I get a delivery box every week at work of 4 single-serves of mixed dried fruit & nuts. I am in love with this stuff. (It’s called Harvest Box in Australia, but I think the idea is around elsewhere. Unsolicited testimonial!) The joy is that it’s a mix, and you never know exactly what you’ll get. So – I get surprises, and there’ll always be something around to snack on at my 4pm slump.

    Some are sweet from just dried fruit, some have choc chips, and some are salty, so it’s not all twee health nazi stuff. Today I plan to have the dried blueberry, sultana and white choc chip mix for afternoon tea. I shall make sure I put it in front of me, even if I don’t eat it. The clear packaging means I don’t have to open it if I’m not actually hungry, so that helps with my bugbear of Must Not Waste Food.

    I can’t believe how much I love this stuff. I feel like I’m doing myself good instead of feeling guilty over the peanut M&Ms from the snack machine.

    Now if I can solve all my other food problems… ah well, one step at a time.

    • ako
      Posted August 8, 2011 at 11:48 am | Permalink

      Some are sweet from just dried fruit, some have choc chips, and some are salty, so it’s not all twee health nazi stuff.

      Isn’t it odd how with food officially designated as Good and Healthy, people tend to either be self-righteous about enjoying it or feel like they need to make excuses for liking it? It’s one of those things where the cultural obsession with nutrition has loaded everything down with so much guilt and pressure that it’s hard to simply enjoy a pizza or a spinach salad without being wrapped up in “How does this count in terms of Healthy Eating? What will people think in terms of virtue and vice? How will I be judged?” In terms of food officially designated as Good, it’s mostly “Will people think this makes me better than them, or that I’m doing this to one-up them?”, whereas in terms of food officially designated as Bad, it’s mostly “Will people see me eating Bad and judge me as Bad?”

      It’s sad, because everything is in the Good category or the Bad category (or sometimes categorized as Good by some people and Bad by others), and most people like at least some food in both categories. Which means people are constantly feeling the pressure to excuse their food habits. “I had a brownie for my afternoon snack, but I’m totally going to make up for it at the gym!” “I had an apple, but I’m completely making up for eating cookies yesterday!” It’s sad, because it’s all food, and if it’s enjoyable and satisfying, it’s all good.

      • ksol
        Posted August 8, 2011 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

        So true. I’m not big on too much salad dressing, so when the girl at the fast food place tried to give me two containers of it and I turned one down, she said, “Oh. Someone must be on a diet.” Um, no. Just never have cared for lots of the stuff.

        I’ve been known to confuse people who are evaluating my diet by my grocery cart by having a hunk of tofu next to a pack of steak.

      • Posted August 8, 2011 at 9:10 pm | Permalink

        Oh, yes, ako! I bought into that again, didn’t I? Both ways, too. Oops. Sorry, and thanks for catching it!

        I just had a snack of dried pineapple, macadamia nuts, almonds, sunflower seeds and pepitas – and it was delicious, and I loved it. Much more than I would have liked the peanut M&Ms. I think I slipped in one case because I was afraid to push the food police side of things – OK, you may snack at designated hours BUT IT MUST BE HEALTHY OR YOU ARE EVIL!!!! And in the other case because I forgot that peanut M&Ms are food, perhaps?

        ksol, I quite enjoy doing that too, with things like lentils & bacon, or classic ma po tofu – tofu with pork!

        • mara
          Posted August 9, 2011 at 12:33 am | Permalink

          I’ve been known to order a veggie burger with bacon! yumm!

  27. Robyn
    Posted August 12, 2011 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    THIS is what I’ve been TRYING to tell people. Sigh. Everyone seems to reject it with something like, “Oh I could never do that. I’d just eat a whole box of cookies every day.” Maybe you would. At the beginning. Then you’d learn to really listen to your body and eat what your body wants and needs. How could this be a bad thing? I am SO GRATEFUL to be able to instill intuitive eating habits in my children. But now that the older one has started public school I hope some stupid “nutrition education” bullshit doesn’t make her think that eating is bad. Should that happen, how would you suggest I combat it?
    Thanks, Michelle.

  28. Jerim
    Posted August 13, 2011 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

    One of your best posts, yet. Love it, love you!

  29. Erin B
    Posted August 14, 2011 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    I really struggle with snacking. Or at least night time snacking. I can eat when I’m hungry and stop when I’m full through out the day, but night time snacking consistently leads to night mares for me.

    Which always leads to night time …. negotiations. If I’m hungry and I snack before bed I won’t sleep, if I don’t snack I wake up starving and light headed. Mostly, I’m just not hungry after 7, 7:30 pm or so. When I am (for whatever reason) I end up with that dilemma.

    I realize I am asking the “have you ever heard of this before” question, but I am also curious if you have any suggestions….

    • Erin B
      Posted August 14, 2011 at 9:33 am | Permalink

      I should add that they seem to be physiological night mares, not fear of weight gain. I have been this way since I was 3 or 4 years old. I don’t dream of anything particular, but I wake up with my heart pumping and fight or flight response in high gear and it takes me almost an hour to calm down enough to go back to sleep.

      • Tona Aspsusa
        Posted December 2, 2011 at 10:55 am | Permalink

        I have periods of something a bit similar: I absolutely need to eat something sweet (chocolate or cookies or something like that). I then react to that by falling asleep. Only to wake up 30-180 minutes later by an even stronger craving for more. This craving is so intense it is absolutely not funny.
        When this problem was at its worst I could literally lose days to these bouts of sugar-sleep-sugar cycles.

        I tried everything “healthy” I could think of, trying to withstand the horrible craving, exchanging chocolate for rye bread or cheese etc. All of that only made it even worse.
        Quite by accident I discovered that what broke this cycle of craving-stupor-craving-stupor was something as counter-intuitive as drinking something sweet. So now when I’m in a period where I’m in danger of this reaction happening (mainly autumn and spring), I make sure to have a glass of juice or soda by my bed.

        If your nightmares are physiologically tied to digestion, maybe you need to find “sleep friendly foods” for yourself?
        I’m thinking things like cup-a-soup or instant oatmeal, but your body might work in ways that means those would be the last things; this is probably very individual.

    • Posted August 14, 2011 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

      Do you have time between after dinner, yet 1-2 hours before bed? That is an ideal evening snack time. Try having a little something for a week or two at that consistent time in the evening, even if you are not hungry. You may be able to train your hunger to show up at that time with practice.

      If not, consider tacking dessert onto the end of your dinner each night, to make sure you’ve gotten enough food to carry you comfortably through the night. And make sure you eat breakfast within an hour of waking up :)

      • Erin B
        Posted August 15, 2011 at 12:22 am | Permalink

        Thanks Michelle. I am a breakfast eater. I can’t make it through the day otherwise.

        • Posted August 15, 2011 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

          Same here…I don’t know how some people do it!

  30. Posted August 16, 2011 at 2:57 am | Permalink

    I used to be one of those people who “never eats breakfast”… but basically because I was a student and slept so late that lunch was breakfast. Later I found that I couldn’t eat on first waking, so I would take a sandwich to work for morning tea – ie, breakfast. I still need at least half an hour, and preferably a bit more, between getting up and eating.

  31. OAer
    Posted August 25, 2011 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    I regularly attend OA and know from the literature that “three measured meals with no snacks in between” is 100% NOT a requirement. That may be some people’s food plan but food plans vary greatly from individual to individual. OA does not tout a specific food plan. The only requirement for OA membership is a desire to stop eating compulsively. If you were told otherwise in an OA meeting, I’m very sorry but that is not correct.

    • Posted August 25, 2011 at 11:59 am | Permalink

      You’re right. I know I painted OA with a broad brush, but the “three measured meals” approach is accepted and supported by OA, if not required. I’m also in serious disagreement with an addiction model applied to eating disorders. I know people have found help with OA (as well as with other programs I dislike, such as Weight Watchers), but I’m not a fan of their approach or their philosophy. Perhaps some meetings do not follow the “three measured meals” approach, but many of my clients have history with that particular facet of OA, and are still struggling to recover from it.

      I know I’m biased here, and I don’t want to hurt people who find OA helpful. In fact, I hope it really helps you. I know structure and support, in almost any setting, can be invaluable. But I also know that a food restrictive attitude is common in groups like OA, and I cannot get behind that personally.

      A great resource that may bridge the gap somewhat between an OA approach and an intuitive eating one is Overcoming Binge Eating by Christopher Fairburn. I’d recommend it to anyone who has a serious binge eating/compulsive eating problem, or who has experienced binge eating in a bulimic context.

  32. Dana
    Posted August 30, 2011 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    I prob have like 4 snacks a day on top of 3 meals. I eat a lot, I like it that way :)

  33. Lex Apostata
    Posted September 6, 2011 at 11:16 am | Permalink

    Free rein, not free reign. (I know, you’d rather think of yourself as a queen than a horse, but English is English.)

    • Posted September 10, 2011 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

      You sound like you’re straight out of PUA Academy — you have that “emotionally abusive teenage boyfriend” thing going for you.

      • KellyK
        Posted September 13, 2011 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

        Hehe. English is English, but manners are also manners.

        • Posted September 14, 2011 at 8:55 am | Permalink

          I wouldn’t normally jump all over someone for that, but combined with his other comment on this site, it’s pretty clear that he’s making with the negging like whoa.

          Narcissists: they’re what’s for dinner.

          Everyone else who’s NOT a parasite in the colon of humanity: feel free to correct my grammar, syntax, use of idioms, etc.

          • KellyK
            Posted September 14, 2011 at 11:26 am | Permalink

            I just now saw the other comment and, yep. If your only contribution to a blog is mean snark, you deserve to be snarked right back.

            And I can’t even grasp the logic of trying PUA tactics on the internet…I know it can work in real life (shudder) but has anybody in the history of blogging ever said “Wow, random stranger, I find your snippy comments unfathomably sexy. Please let me know where you are so I can fly out and have a one-night stand with you.”?

          • Posted September 14, 2011 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

            I think I am going to say that exact thing next time some bro-dawg leaves me creepy comments.

          • Posted September 14, 2011 at 6:57 pm | Permalink

            That’s why you’re awesome.

  34. Jenny
    Posted September 9, 2011 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    thanks for this Michelle! I am currently in an eating disorders treatment program and see a dietitian bi-weekly. Your philosophy is exactly what she has been teaching me all along. As a dietitian, myself I know how much the nutrition can really fuck with you. In fact the RD I see at the eating disorders clinic has said to me how she wishes sometimes I wasn’t a dietitian because of how much it messes with my ability to eat.

    I printed out this blog post and keep it in my purse, pull it out and read frequently to keep working on reminding myself how important rebuilding trust with my body by offering food at regular intervals is for me. Until I can re-establish that relationship and trust with my body, worrying about the nutritional value of what I’m eating just messes the whole works up!

    • Posted September 9, 2011 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

      So glad to hear that. I also need to get the name of your dietitian so I know someone I can refer people to!

  35. Posted September 20, 2011 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    I am new to the blog and enjoying it, but I was shocked at the reference to Overeaters Anonymous in this post. I’ve been a member of OA on and off for years, going to meetings in three different cities. I don’t advocate it for everyone, and I’m not even sure I advocate it for myself (I have mixed feelings about certain aspects of the program unrelated to eating plans).

    The “three meals and no snacks” is a snippet culled without context from a pamphlet that talks about different examples of meal plans that have worked for people. It isn’t the doctrine of OA, and it’s very misleading that it’s presented as such in your post.

    That said, your description of it as “depriving” and “dictatorial” and offering “three meals a day with no snacks” is simply wrong. OA defines its goal for members as “not compulsive eating”, but what you choose to eat is your own decision. I’ve met people who eat sugar every day, I’ve met people who don’t, I’ve met people who eat three meals and as many snacks as they want, etc. The variations are as endless as the people, and I’ve always heard the maxim that “what you eat is entirely up to you”.

    I’m correcting an inaccuracy, not advocating for OA – they can do that themselves. I’m still not sure how OA fits into my life or what it means to me and my eating habits, but I can tell you that the reason I go back every few years is that I’ve never met a group of woman who are so good to themselves. In the meeting I currently attend, there are women of all shapes and sizes who talk about loving their bodies, feeding their bodies good food, and trying to take care of their physical and mental lives in as healthy a way as possible, and none of them are freaking out over snacks or diets or calories. It’s an environment I can’t find anywhere else, which is why I keep revisiting it, despite my belief that it’s far from the answer or the whole story.

    At the moment it’s simply the only place I can go where women have a halfway healthy relationship to food, and as I’m sure you can appreciate, sometimes that’s a harbor in the storm.

    • Posted September 20, 2011 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

      I’m sorry. I truly didn’t realize OA was so flexible. I’m glad it helps people, but I’ve read some things about it that disturbed me a lot.

      I should also say that I’m biased personally, because aside from using a completely different framework professionally, I’ve had several clients tell me about some pretty bad experiences with OA. Not that that means it’s a universal experience for OAers – just one I’ve been exposed to.

      • Posted September 21, 2011 at 1:38 am | Permalink

        I think it definitely depends on the meeting, and where the person is. I live in Seattle, which is a large city home to many groups, all with different flavors. In the ones I’ve attended here, the groups are large, and the input is quite impressively diverse. At some meetings in a small town I was in (only three people in a meeting, for instance), the group input was quite limited, and as a result I’m not sure much healing or acceptance took place. I think in groups that small what can end up happening is just a passing-around of neurosis, instead of any real insight.

        There is a sub-group of OA called HOW, which I won’t get into because I don’t know much about it except that it’s very strict. It has an eating plan of its own, very different from the normal OA mode of operating. I heard about “HOW meetings”, and asked about them, and learned just enough to make me want to run away. There is a food list, you report all your food intake to a sponsor, etc. I’m pretty sure I actually shuddered when the person told me about it.

        If you encounter this again from your clients, you might ask if they were involved in HOW. They may not have been – I don’t mean to invalidate anyone who had a poor experience generally with OA. But I’ve noticed several people in our own meetings confusing OA with HOW, and few HOW people are so vocal that newcomers may not realize the difference.

        • Posted September 21, 2011 at 9:54 am | Permalink

          This sounds like the type of thing one of my clients in particular told me about. If she’s reading, she might contribute some comments about her experience.

  36. Posted October 11, 2011 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    Wonderful article.

    I can affirm how valuable this idea of regular meal-times is from experience. A year ago, in an effort to be healthier, I started eating breakfast as soon as I got up. Just cocoa and toast and maybe a banana, nothing special. But the effect of having broken my fast on my mood and ability to be productive and, more importantly, calm under stress for the entirety of the rest of the day is out of all proportion to the amount of effort it takes to stumble into the kitchen upon waking and put the kettle and toaster on. :)

    • Posted October 11, 2011 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

      Amazing! Yes, even having a drink of something can get your body stimulated and “woken up” for the day.

  37. Rachel
    Posted February 7, 2012 at 11:23 pm | Permalink

    Welp- This one punched me right in the face. haha I’m a “3 meals- no snacks” girl. BUT NOT ANYMORE :) I will begin working on this trust business tomorrow morning.
    THANK YOU!

2 Trackbacks

  • Categories

  • Archives