Notes on how I eat.

Dorothy Bradley, Who on a Diet, Watching the Woman on the Right Slurp on a Milkshake

This is an intensely personal thing to write about, and it’s something I usually avoid, because I absolutely believe that it’s no person’s — especially no fat person’s — obligation to disclose what they eat as a means of justifying their existence.

But because this blog is about nutrition, dieting, and normal eating, and because I’m positioning myself here as the “expert voice,” and setting something of an (anything but perfect) example — and not least of all, because I’ve grown gradually at ease with this space — I thought it might be useful for people to get a peek at some of the behaviours of a mostly-normal eater.

I say “mostly-normal” because I do have a history of disordered eating (which is distinct from a clinical eating disorder, but, I believe, falls along the same continuum), just as anyone who has ever dieted has a history of disordered eating. And there are still things I’m working on — I’m not perfect at feeding myself, and likely never will be.

But in the past eight or so years, I think I’ve come a fairly long way.

It occurred to me today that there are some things I do with food that, a few years ago, I would never have believed I would or could do, and which may prove interesting to people struggling to find a semblance of peace with food.

For instance, last night I went to a movie with my husband. Beforehand, we went out for drinks. My appetite has been very weak for the past few weeks, due to illness and side-effects of medication for that illness, and I’ve just not been very interested in eating. Whenever this happens, I find it mildly distressing, as I actually miss the pleasure of getting hungry and looking forward to food.

After drinking a beer, I felt a little hungry. I tend to get beer munchies. (In fact, I started rambling to Jeffrey about how they should serve beer to sick, malnourished patients in the hospital, if it weren’t for, you know, all the potential medical complications.)

I was excited to actually feel hungry again, so I ordered a cup of clam chowder. Jeffrey got onion rings, and I filched two of those as well, and was so pleased with the experience of not feeling indifferent to (or mildly nauseated by) food, that I bounced in my seat with happiness as I ate.

(Yeah. I do that sometimes.)

We next stopped at a drugstore to fulfill the obligatory tradition of buying verboten treats to sneak into the theatre. (I get a cheap thrill out of this, even if I’m not hungry.) I had a feeling that, once inside the theatre, I’d be jonesing for a snack, due to past associations if nothing else. I got Jr. Mints with M&Ms for backup.

(I should disclose right now that I really, really love candy. Like, a lot. A whole lot. This is sure to be a recurring theme on this blog. Consider yourself warned.)

We got to the movie theatre and the lobby was, of course, redolent of melted butter and toasty popcorn. It was lovely, but not very tempting — though I love hot, salty popcorn with my Jr. Mints and M&Ms, as salty + sweet + chocolate is one of the best flavour combinations OF ALL TIME (thank you, Kanye), my appetite just wasn’t up to popcorn, and I suddenly disliked the idea of getting my fingers greasy.

During the movie, I happily switched between Jr. Mints and M&Ms, reaching over frequently to throw some in Jeffrey’s open mouth.

As I ate the M&Ms, I discovered quite by accident that, for me, the absolutely ideal number to have in my mouth at once is three. Exactly three M&Ms. It allows the chocolatey flavour to spread evenly on all sides of my tongue, without being so overwhelming as to make my mouth feel sticky or dry, or to be laborious to chew and swallow.

Don’t ask me why I notice these things.

Partway through the movie and candy — maybe about 3/4 through both — I stopped. I put them in my purse. That was that.

I don’t know why I stopped when I did, exactly. As a person who previously had (and sometimes still has) a compulsion to eat candy until it’s gone, appetite be damned, I still find it mildly surprising when this happens. It was not an entirely conscious decision. I’d simply had enough — reached some kind of natural stopping-place, the end.

The movie finished and we walked home in the delightfully cold air, then slept till noon.

The next day, I had oatmeal for breakfast, and decided in the late afternoon to wander to a local coffee shop for some reading and thinking, as an excuse to put on proper clothes and get outside for a bit.The box of Jr. Mints were on the fireplace mantel, and I decided they would be a good accompaniment to coffee, so I took them with me.

After being greeted and teased by the barista, I sat and drank cappuccino and gradually ate Jr. Mints, one at a time, while alternately reading, highlighting, making notes and staring off into space.

Around 6pm, my prodigal appetite returned with a vengeance. My mouth kept having little fantasies of mashed potatoes, so I suddenly cleared the kitchen and set about making myself a meal out of the holiday ingredients that had gone unused during my illness.

I peeled and boiled a lot of potatoes. I chopped an onion, a pear, and an apple and sauteed them together in butter, to which I added salt, nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon, cardamom and black pepper. I defrosted some pork tenderloins, salted them, rubbed them in cinnamon and allspice, and cooked them with the fruit. Then I made some classic American boxed stuffing.

When they were soft, Jeffrey’s strong arm helped me whip the potatoes into smooth, fluffy goodness with no lumps, and we sat down to a miniature holiday feast.

My hunger was so intense that, after I’d finished about 3/4 of my plate, I went back for pre-emptive seconds — more mashed potatoes, more stuffing, and a second piece of pork. But just a couple of bites later, I was done. That was it.

We shared the leftover M&Ms for dessert; I put my full plate in the fridge; I washed the dishes.

Three hours later I was ravenous again. I reheated the plate of food and ate half of it, with two glasses of orange juice.

It was the kind of hunger that only seems to come after a long period of not eating quite enough — the kind that still gnaws a bit even after your stomach is physically full. To me, it’s the hunger of depleted nutrient stores, not the simple daily, rumbling-stomach kind of hunger. It seems to come only after days of living primarily on cereal and toast, broth and gingerale.

I know tomorrow will most likely be different. Different foods will seem appealing, and I’ll eat them in different amounts. I may know again with stark certainty where to stop — or I may not.

If not, I will remain assured, as I did today, that my body will make up for it. That my appetite will eventually compensate for whatever mistakes or miscalculations I might make.

No matter what changes, I’ll remain relaxed. If I like food, if I don’t like food that particular day, I’ll be okay. I’ll know that another day will come when things will be different, but unchanged in one vital way — I’ll trust myself.

And I’ll prove worthy of that trust.


How goes it for you? If you feel like it, leave a snapshot of your eating in comments.

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  1. Posted December 1, 2009 at 6:32 am | Permalink

    My goodness, that meal sounds divine… my mouth is watering just reading about it. I hate to cook. I like to eat good food, I just hate to cook. Thankfully my husband is a good cook!

    • Posted December 1, 2009 at 7:01 am | Permalink

      It is so weird…I’m an extremely ambivalent cook. Sometimes I love it, like when it’s totally spur-of-the–moment (like that one was, in which I didn’t use a single recipe but just made it up out of my head), but it can feel like a chore at other times. And I haven’t cooked a real meal, literally, for months probably. At least weeks. And the last time I did, it was probably something like spaghetti with canned sauce.

  2. Posted December 1, 2009 at 6:51 am | Permalink

    This is a wonderful idea. I may do it myself this weekend.

    I want that dinner you made now though. YUM!

  3. Posted December 1, 2009 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    What Bri said x 1000. I too lack cooking skills. Apparently, not every one assumes a blaring smoke alarm means “Dinner is served!”

    I really appreciate you writing this. While I realize this might not have been your intention, it is so vital that people work to talk about food intake openly without seeking approval or absolution.

    • Posted December 1, 2009 at 10:28 am | Permalink

      Ugh, that last paragraph sucked. What I meant was it’s awesome that you wrote about this issue and hopefully OTHERS will do so without seeking approval or absolution. Not suggesting your post was doing either of those things.

      • Posted December 1, 2009 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

        Haha, no worries, I understood what you meant.

        • Posted December 1, 2009 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

          Ack. I have the flu (the boring kind) and I swear I am just not making any sense today.

  4. Robyn
    Posted December 1, 2009 at 11:33 am | Permalink

    I love how relaxed eating is in this post. I’m so used to being around people who practically weigh and measure every bite that goes into their mouths, and normally I just… don’t.

    I’ve been having some problems with food lately as well, due to an ongoing battle with a virus while 6.5 months pregnant. I just don’t feel like eating. I’m not psychologically hungry. But I HAVE to eat so that my child is getting the nutrients he needs and my body will remind me of it, often. But food doesn’t taste good, and it doesn’t make me feel good. In fact, it often makes me feel worse and vomit, but I still have to eat it! It’s a horrible feeling to know that my body insists that I eat when I (waaah!) I don’t want to. I’m starting to actively dislike food in a way I never have before. I’ve never had so many problems with food as I do when I am pregnant. It’s a whole other dimension of food issues. I must admit that I will be glad to be not-pregnant again in a few months and be able to simply EAT without all the baggage of my precious parasite.

    • Posted December 1, 2009 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

      Gah, I hear you. Being put off food (and I was pretty nauseous for a while with this flu) is a really distressing experience.

      I also got to the point where I just *had* to make myself eat. My stomach was gnawing at me painfully, and making the nausea even worse, because I was so physically hungry. But I could hardly bear the thought of food.

      Good times. I hope you’re feeling better soon — you’re a trooper to be fighting a virus on top of being pregnant. I salute you.

  5. Posted December 1, 2009 at 11:39 am | Permalink

    After watching my daughter eat in such an intuitive way, I have come to trust it in myself more and more. It is so wonderful to realize you can stop before the treat is done because you just don’t want anymore- not because you “shouldn’t eat it…” I think permission to eat “forbidden” foods is so important. I used to never have chips or coke in the house. Now, I might have a half a can of coke with lunch and just not want anymore. I used to crave it and drink a ton when I let myself have it as a treat. Now that I have permission, I don’t waste time craving foods, and I feel more “in control.” I also can have a bag of chips in the house that lasts for days. Some days I eat more (with melted cheese, yum) others I eat only a few with hummus. It feels so good to trust yourself. I hear you! I too am still mildly surprised when I don’t want to finish a nice chocolate treat with my coffee. My husband yesterday said how nice it is to live in a house where we have chips and soda and ice-cream, but also brown rice, curries, mashed potatoes, salads etc. It’s a nice balance of variety, and it helps take the “crazy” out of eating. It makes me happy! Good for you! Keep spreading the word! (I did a lecture to parents last night, and someone asked, “how is it that kids can be trusted to eat the right amount when adults can’t just eat as much as they want?” I continue to challenge that assumption. Adults can be competent eaters too!)

    • Posted December 1, 2009 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

      “how is it that kids can be trusted to eat the right amount when adults can’t just eat as much as they want?” I continue to challenge that assumption. Adults can be competent eaters too!

      Oh totally. And I think that’s why Ellyn Satter stresses so much (like in Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family) on making sure parents are competent eaters as they’re trying to teach their kids how to eat. It would be so hard to try and teach parents to help their kids eat well, and practice the division of responsibility, if the parents can’t even trust themselves to eat.

  6. Lisa
    Posted December 1, 2009 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

    Loved this post!

    Yesterday for lunch I ate 1/2 of an amazing chicken burrito that I had leftover from the day before Thanksgiving. Yes, it was 5 days old (!!!) But it had been safely stored the whole time and it was SO good! I had it with fresh salsa. For dinner I had 1/2 of a reuben sandwich I had leftover from a restaurant meal from Sunday. With leftover coleslaw and pickle, and a little container of russian dressing to put on the sandwich it was *perfect*. I have a bite or two left, and it will be part of my lunch today.

    An important part of my recovery from my BED was making sure that I took food I was enjoying home, and/or saved it for later once I was full. That way it was safe to stop eating at comfortable. So ‘doggy bags’ are a very important part of my life :)

    • Posted December 1, 2009 at 3:12 pm | Permalink


      Doggy bags are pretty important for me, too (and leftovers, when I’m at home) because I feel really bad about wasting food.

      As a kid, I had a really small appetite and was forever leaving food on my plate. I think I felt bad about that, like there was something wrong with how much I ate (or didn’t eat), and I now sometimes have a hard time just throwing food out. I also worry about whether I’m going to be hungry again very soon.

      So, naturally, saving my leftovers is the perfect solution. It lets me relax while I’m eating a meal so that I can find my natural stopping place without worrying about whether I’ll be hungry again in a couple of hours. And there’s no guilt about wasting food or whathaveyou.

  7. Mina
    Posted December 1, 2009 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

    I liked this post. I have “big eat” and “little eat” days myself, that have nothing to do with whether or not I’m sick. On Sunday I had leftover chinese food AND Carl’s Jr., but yesterday I had nothing but a peanut butter and banana sandwich and homemade chicken noodle soup.

    • Posted December 1, 2009 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

      You know, I really like the phrasing of “big eat” and “little eat.” Consider it stolen :)

  8. Posted December 1, 2009 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

    I am a great cook; for almost eight years I’ve been regularly providing meals for my family of four and often a houseguest or two. A few years ago this was messing up my eating a bit… I’d be so busy caring for everyone else and cleaning and running errands and feeding chickens and fixing dinner etc etc. I was the mom who leans against the counter and drinks coffee while the kids eat. I was the mom who shovels food into her mouth SO fast at dinner so I can get up from the table and go hide on the computer for a while for a break. So even though I was cooking and providing great, healthy, homemade fare, I wasn’t eating well – according to my own principles.

    Honestly? The only thing that began bringing this back into balance was my kids getting old enough that they can help make food (I send my 7 year old out on the bike to get groceries regularly) and they can wait a few minutes (two crying breastfeeding babies? Not so much). I am eating better – as in, I eat before I’m ravenously hungry, and I don’t stuff myself when I finally get to food, and I have slowed down. I also feel free to go get a taco from la taqueria or whatever to tide me over. I’ve started re-prioritizing my own hunger. Having three (or more) other people to feed really did derail this for some time!

    I am also in a running program and I notice that’s made me a bit hungrier, but nothing I can’t handle.

    Thank you for a great post!

    • Posted December 1, 2009 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

      Wow, that’s a great point I didn’t really think of (given that I have no kids to feed!)

      I’m glad you’re getting your kids to help you out, and, as you say, “reprioritizing your hunger.” They learn some indispensible life skills (for instance, I would have loved to be able to go get groceries for my mum when I was a kid, but we lived in the kind of suburb where you have to drive to get anywhere) and you get the time you need to take care of yourself.

  9. Posted December 1, 2009 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

    Food prep and shopping are my most important domestic responsibilities, so food is actually kind of an important concern in my everyday life, behind my work and my relationship with my husband, of course. My husband and I are DINKS (double income, no kids), and for the most part, we live a comfortable and orderly life. We split up the domestic responsibilities. He manages the cleaning, and I manage the food.

    I do the weekly grocery shopping trip, make about half our lunches (elaborate salads and rice or pasta based dishes that I make 6 at a time). I cook dinner every night and take care of most of the prep-cleanup, leaving him to load the plates, glasses and silverware into the dishwasher. It’s normal for me to eat three meals a day that I’ve cooked from scratch. We probably eat one of each meal (breakfast, lunch, dinner) out or take-out once a week.

    I enjoy cooking, although doing it every night doesn’t always seem fun. I have “fridge brain,” as I like to think of it. I know exactly what’s in the refrigerator, freezer and cupboards and how long it’s been there, if it’s perishable. Tonight, it’s either steak with potatoes and veg, tofu stirfry, or chickpea curry for dinner. I’ll either decide myself or ask my husband for his input. Hum. I have two jars of turkey stock that needs to be used up. Maybe I should make stew instead.

    This is actually a big responsibility in addition to a full time job; basically doing food the same way a housewife would. I don’t know if I could manage it if we had kids. But, I do feel that we eat well.

    Also, this isn’t intuitive in a spontaneous sense. My appetite doesn’t vary a lot, even when I’m sick. I predictably get hungry at meal times, and I rarely skip meals or even eat a meal that doesn’t have carbs, veg or fruit, and protein. This organized way of eating works well for me. In fact, it’s something I usually enjoy and that probably helps get me through challenging times. There’s always that next dinner to plan, prepare, share and enjoy.

    • Posted December 1, 2009 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

      Also, this isn’t intuitive in a spontaneous sense. My appetite doesn’t vary a lot, even when I’m sick. I predictably get hungry at meal times, and I rarely skip meals or even eat a meal that doesn’t have carbs, veg or fruit, and protein. This organized way of eating works well for me.

      You’re right that this isn’t intuitive eating, in the “demand feeding” sense, but it IS competent eating in the Ellyn Satter sense. And it’s the way I prefer to eat as well — predictably and orderly.

      Being sick has really derailed that for me, so I’m back to a kind of “demand feeding” mode temporarily. But I usually do (and prefer to) get hungry at predictable mealtimes.

      It’s a sign that you’re doing really well with feeding yourself.

      • Posted December 1, 2009 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

        Sometimes I really feel like a pig, though. I see other people skipping meals and not even noticing, or eating really tiny amounts of food, and I think “this is why I’m fat. I keep eating these regular, substantial meals that leave me feeling satisfied. Everyone else is either restricting or just doesn’t get hungry.”

        • Arwen
          Posted December 1, 2009 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

          Dee – Maybe the way your body is and works is a body that likes regularly spaced substantial meals! I have slender friends that work like that, and heavier friends who’ll eat one big meal a day.

        • Posted December 1, 2009 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

          “Everyone else is either restricting or just doesn’t get hungry.'”

          …which you know is patently false. What you see people eating is only a tiny slice of what they actually eat. And lots of people seem to have “social eating syndrome” wherein they purposely eat less around other people or in public. Most of them make up for it later by eating more in private.

          I even eat a bit less when I’m out, or with friends, because I’m distracted from the food (and my hunger) by the company, by talking, or whatever. It’s also hard for me to eat a lot unless I’m in an environment (like home) where I can be totally relaxed.

          Eating regular, substantial meals that leave you feeling satisfied is exactly how it’s supposed to work. I know in this culture it’s hard to remember that, but remind yourself of it whenever you have to.

        • Entangled
          Posted December 1, 2009 at 7:38 pm | Permalink

          I eat every single meal without a single skip as well. If I even come close to skipping one, I get very very ill. It’s just the way some people are. (and fwiw, I’m not fat – probably more to do with the fact that no one in my family is than with my meal habits)

          My boyfriend can get busy and forget about breakfast AND lunch. I boggle at the possibility. Even when I’m really sick skipping meals makes me feel even sicker.

          • Posted December 2, 2009 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

            Wow. Yeah, I know what you mean. I’d be a zombie if I skipped two meals in a row. I’d be eyeing the squirrels and pigeons, thinking maybe they’d be tasty and wondering if I could use my ipod cord as a trap.

          • Posted December 2, 2009 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

            Wait, you mean that’s not a normal way to spend your lunch break?


  10. Arwen
    Posted December 1, 2009 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

    I’ve got two kids, and I don’t “demand feed” them now that they’re not breast feeding. For us, of course, mealtime isn’t just about food; although I am trying to teach them to trust themselves, their bodies, and their hunger, I am also trying to teach them about manners and trying new things in the constraints of our time, ability, and pocketbooks.

    Of course I try to make sure I’m making foods they like. I’m a decent cook in a bunch of styles. But I also introduce new foods, and my youngest “hates” anything he hasn’t met before. So the rule is simple: one bite of everything, and then as much as you want of your favorites. But take small servings – fourths, if you want, but incrementally – so we’re not throwing stuff away.

    After four or five times tasting, the “hated” food falls into the “liked” food column. My picky eater now eats squash and beans and apples and lasagna and chili. Which is good, because he was really into peanut butter – jelly for awhile there; and it is more than just his relationship to food we’re negotiating. It’s also budget, and cooking, and the vulnerability that happens when you’re out of the only foodsource and it’s four days ’til payday. (It’s hard to give a crash course on trying new things in a time when you the parent are under stress…)

    Since we buy produce in season when possible and local when possible and cheap pretty much always, there’s got to be some flexibility.

    What I am finding is that my fat lessons and my food lessons were twinned for me after years of trying to change diet to change shape, but the kids don’t seem to have twinned those yet. They may very well grump about something new, and we’ve had moments of struggle over the “trying” rule, but they are learning body politics and respect for human diversity in a different place than at the table.

    Since for me, diet and size was completely and utterly twinned, I’m finding out the startling fact that they’re not, really, to be utterly earth shaking.

    • Posted December 1, 2009 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

      After four or five times tasting, the “hated” food falls into the “liked” food column.

      Exactly. I wish more parents understood this — it takes several “exposures” for some kids to get to like certain foods.

      I think this is where a lot of the “kids hate vegetables” myths come from — parents who’ve tried to give their kid brussels sprouts once, who really forced the issue, the kid was put off by a brand new (and bitter-tasting, to a kid) food on the first attempt, and the forcing only made the kid decide, on principle, never to approach the food again.

      So I’m glad you’re letting your kids explore and actually *learn* to like new foods. Because that’s what it is, a learning process. We didn’t all grow up to like the foods we like automatically. It takes practice, and patience.

      Ellyn Satter actually recommends not even making kids “try” anything — her theory is that children naturally aspire to do what they see adults doing, and they will approach and test a food (even if that “test” amounts to just touching it, or putting it in their mouth and spitting it back out) in their own good time. So if you ever find them grumping too much for your liking, keep that in mind and take comfort from it.

      You sound like you’re doing really, really well with it and I’m happy to hear that. Your kids owe you a debt of gratitude, even if they don’t realize it yet :)

      • Posted December 1, 2009 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

        I go back and forth between pushing that my son try a new food versus not insisting. These days I still do insist that he at least touch a new food to his tongue. If he licks it and doesn’t like it, then he doesn’t have to have any. He has as much as he wants of other foods that I know he likes, however.

        • Michellers
          Posted December 1, 2009 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

          My daughter used to eat anything and everything without complaint but at 3-1/2 years old decided that she wanted more control over her food options. That’s okay, I get that. We do enforce a “one bite of everything on your plate” policy, but then she can fill up on whatever she wants. Our only rule is that she is not allowed to say “yuck” because that is rude to the rest of us who think what we are eating is “yum”.

          • Posted December 1, 2009 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

            Our only rule is that she is not allowed to say “yuck” because that is rude to the rest of us who think what we are eating is “yum”.

            That is adorable. I like this rule.

          • Posted December 3, 2009 at 10:56 am | Permalink

            A friend tells me his son decided he was sick of turkey leftovers, so dad told him he could have whatever he wanted, so what did he want, and the kid wanted octopus. He’s about 8, and though I don’t care for octopus (too chewy), having grown up with parents who think everything is gross, I love hearing this stuff. I hope my nephew gets his father’s eating habits, not my super-uptight sister’s. I warn her to keep him away from my mom, but she doesn’t understand, and may be almost a bad. I applaud the effort to raise children who aren’t scared/grossed out by food.

          • Posted December 3, 2009 at 11:16 am | Permalink

            Wow…octopus. What a kid.

            I’ve had octopus myself, but also found it rubbery. Though I enjoy eating all manner of grody-looking seathings.

  11. Lyngay
    Posted December 1, 2009 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

    Your attitude here is what I aspire to. Thank you. :)

  12. Posted December 1, 2009 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

    I’m still in “recovering” mode – as somebody who’s been compulsively overeating for, gosh, twenty years or so of my life, it’s a long, slow process.

    Today’s been an ambivalent food day. I had my usual breakfast burrito. I have PCOS, which means that if I don’t start my day with protein, and a goodly chunk of protein at that, my energy levels will dramatically sag by mid-morning and I’ll be really hungry. I had water and a nice mug of lavender Earl Grey tea along with it. I typically have mochas three times a week with my breakfast but today, in the interests of financial viability, is a non-mocha day and the tea was a nice substitute (also read: free and in my work drawer).

    Mid-morning I was a little peckish for something carb-ish. I had a mini bagel with some crunchy PB. See that protein thing again? That kept me full, barring six? seven? of the tiny melty mints until lunch, which was an Amy’s cheese enchilada with beans and corn. It wasn’t the right lunch…I feel like it’s a lump in my stomach and should probably have sucked it up and paid for a big salad. The Amy’s meals work in a pinch but I’m realizing that the Mexican ones leave me feeling sluggish, so if I’m going to have one, it needs to be one of the Indian ones instead.

    That last sentence? Sounds really silly…but it should be screaming in a REALLY LOUD VOICE about how much progress I’ve made in the six and a half years since I stopped dieting. So should the fact that when my husband and I went out to breakfast at the gorgeous little cafe in the tourist town where my parents own a shared cabin, I looked at the vast menu, including options like raspberry cream cheese French toast, and delicious omelettes…and thought: I really, really want yogurt, granola, and fruit with a side of their homemade country sausage patty. I ate most of it, although there was some granola left over, and it was absolutely perfect in every way. Exactly what my stomach and body wanted and needed to keep me going until lunch.

    I’m getting better at matching. This afternoon I’m not sure what I”m going to eat, because I forgot Greek yogurt, which I like to have with granola mid-afternoon. I quite fancy an oatmeal raisin cookie from the bakery down the street, so will probably get one of those and maybe a piece of fruit (an orange sounds yummy) if they have one.

    It’s not purely normal eating. I tend to eat past full at dinner quite frequently…but it’s progress and damn good progress at that!

  13. paperkindgoms
    Posted December 1, 2009 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

    I really loved this post. I think it’s an interesting sign of the deeply ingrained thought patterns that my initial reaction was “This is cool — I should do this. I’ll have to pick a good day.”

    Since then, I’ve been pondering the different ways to be “good”, though it’s not a word I really like.

    And so I will share that I had three pieces of garlic bread with my cheese ravioli tonight, because I really wanted them. Part of that, I’m sure, was comfort eating… I have a big presentation tomorrow, and it’s not entirely ready. Part of it was really enjoying the flavors and the crunch. Part of it was that lunch had been a long while ago, and I was hungry. And all of those are valid reasons to be eating as I practice listening to my body.

    And so with a little reflection, that’s the way I want to interpret “good” if I have to use that word. But that wasn’t where my brain was initially.

    • Posted December 1, 2009 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

      Oh god, sometimes garlic bread just makes life worth living.

      • paperkindgoms
        Posted December 3, 2009 at 11:39 pm | Permalink


  14. Posted December 1, 2009 at 8:59 pm | Permalink

    You sound similar to me in your eating, somewhat. I eat very little if I’m not feeling well, figuring I’ll make up for it later. I’m feeling surprisingly relaxed about food these days, but I’m still a bit cautious due to past ED, and I’m still likely to try to eat too little if I’m not paying attention, so occasionally, I’ll eat even if I don’t wanna. I don’t even hide what I eat anymore, (very new) and people who knew me at a much bigger size stare at me in disbelief, and I’m quite unapologetic about it. I eat to enjoy my food and not binge, and it doesn’t really need to be more complicated than that, at least for me. My ex just left his aunts house, and she really weighs EVERYTHING and looks it up on some iphone app. Granted, I’ve been dating/good friends with him for 15 years, so he’s seen plenty of craziness about food and weight, but he didn’t realize people did this. What a way to live.

  15. Ems
    Posted December 1, 2009 at 10:31 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for sharing. I think relaxation is really the important thing – when we get anxious we start overthinking and that’s where disordered eating starts. I thought I got really good at intuitive eating this past year, but then my body changed suddenly over the last couple months, and now I’m constantly tempted to second-guess every bite I take again!
    I am actually pretty happy with my eating overall whole though, I think the past year of intuitive eating did get me on a pretty sensible nutritional track so that I have more fruits, vegetables, and general variety in my diet now.

    I’m also one of the regular meal eaters, in part because I tend to get hungry at pretty regular times. I’m usually a snacker as well, but today I didn’t get hungry at all between meals. For breakfast I ate a couple pieces of still-warm bread with butter and my mom’s plum jam (mm, taste of home). Oh, and my usual two cups of coffee with milk. For lunch I had a sandwich with leftover turkey and cranberry sauce, mayonnaise, and spinach, and an apple that I had brought for a snack, but felt like eating then. For dinner I was really craving rice and black beans, so I made some along with some baked butternut squash. And it was exactly what I wanted and I was feeling down and in need of a little pleasure, so I had another slightly smaller bowl full. Then I noticed that the foreign chocolates someone had given me a few days ago were almost gone and I’d only had one (thanks, roommates), so I had a cup of tea and took one of the last three, which I felt guilty for because I was full and it was very dense but it’s not like more of those chocolates are coming any time soon.

    There is that little voice inside my head that’s reappeared recently saying “you’ve barely felt hungry at all today – did you eat too much?” But I’m trying to make the louder voice the one that points out, “between fresh bread, black beans, squash, and chocolate, I ate SUCH good food today, and every bite was totally worth it.”

  16. Lisablue
    Posted December 1, 2009 at 11:07 pm | Permalink

    Ahhh that’s a conversation.

    I started writing about how I have eaten through the years, but I’ve erased all that.

    I would say that right now I have disordered eating. I comfort-eat a LOT, and generally always it’s carbs of one sort or another. Pasta. Bread. When I’m comfort-eating I eat past-fullness, too. And when I comfort eat, I tend to “forget” to eat my vegetables – even though I *love* vegetables, and am, in fact, a vegan!

    This is compounded because I don’t want to teach my son disordered eating, nor do I want to teach him not to like his vegetables. He’s still at an age where if I model enjoying something, he will change his “yuck” to a “yum” during just one meal. So I end up beating myself up over my eating even more.

    I’m also a creature of habit. So, if I stop at Starbucks and get a latte, and one day I go to the bakery next door and get a scone… then I will forever after go to the bakery next door and get a scone, even on the days I’m not hungry… unless I stop going to the Starbucks in the first place.

    And, like someone else mentioned above, I am just now getting out of the habit of scarfing down my food as quickly as possible (as I did when the boy was very little, knowing that he could quite possibly need me before I was done eating, and often being quite hungry).

    And, I love to cook. But I haven’t had the time or energy to put into it that I used to. I work full time outside the home now, as does Andrew, and the kid takes a lot of attention at 2 years old. So, quick and easy it often is. And at least once a week we find ourselves out for dinner, and many more times a week I end up buying a lunch. Overall, what I see is that once I came back to work after my mat leave, my eating has gone far into the disordered side of things. Right now I don’t have the perspective to say, either way, if its’ gotten better in the last year or worse. Nor am I certain what it is I’m craving that the food is replacing.

    • Lisablue
      Posted December 4, 2009 at 12:16 am | Permalink

      In case you’re wondering, I figured out what’s going on – I’ve been very very very stressed (a court case coming up, plus a move, a death in my husbands family, plus regular life with a toddler, and full time work outside the home), and I have been comfort eating for the last few months. It’s not that my regular eating is disordered, just that I have a history of taking a while to figure out what’s going on in my head. Even though I live there. ;)

      (Do you have a way of telling which Lisa I am? That is, that I’m lisa-cam’s-friend? I didn’t want to say my name was Lisa cuz there’s another Lisa up in the comments somewhere)

      • Posted December 4, 2009 at 5:06 am | Permalink

        Yeah, you know, stress like that is something that will send many (maybe even most?) people to comfort eating. And, personally, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, nor do I think it’s necessarily disordered. It actually makes a lot of sense as a coping mechanism, when you think about it — food is readily available (for those of us who aren’t food-insecure), it definitely has an impact on your mood, at least short-term, and it’s not particularly harmful, as least not immediately (and the argument could be made against it being harmful in the long-run, even, but that’s a huge issue for another post.)

        A pretty benign way of dealing with stress, other options considered! I mean, think how many people stress-smoke, or stress-drink, or stress-[insert illicit activity here].

        And yes, now that I see your email address the clue train arrived and I realize who you are! :)

        If you’re interested, I bet you would really like Ellyn Satter’s books since she focuses on parents and kids. Both How to Get Your Kid to Eat…But Not Too Much and Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family would fit your situation.

  17. Entangled
    Posted December 2, 2009 at 1:45 am | Permalink

    I almost always eat breakfast at my desk at work. I wake up hungry to famished, but if I can tough it out the 50 minutes or so until I’m at my desk, it means that I can start and finish work that much earlier. Once there, I had my usual breakfast of two veggie sausage patties and a small bowl of granola.

    At around 11, I started getting really hungry. Normally I have an apple or something, but I’d finished my work stash yesterday and wanted to hit Whole Foods before the crazy lunch rush so I could re-stock my fruit stash. I got myself a lunch of salad with lettuce, sauteed asian greens, miso soba noodles, and some sesame/peanut tofu and tempeh. Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite enough food, and when I finished I was still feeling a little weak and hungry. So I had a small stash of cinnamon puffins from the work stash. All good.

    That got me through the day, though I got hungry on my way home and knew it’d be a late night for dinner since I had karate. And I REALLY didn’t want to get hungry and faint during karate. I thought about having more cereal, then had an inking I “should” have an apple. But I didn’t want an apple. Then I realized I didn’t want an apple because it would leave me hungry during karate – not enough food! Then I had the brilliant idea of an apple with peanut butter. SO perfect.

    After karate, I’d planned to make pantry channa masala (chickpeas, diced tomatoes, spices, onions over rice). I knew my boyfriend wouldn’t want to eat it, but didnt have much in the house or the patience to go shopping after work. Then I found scallions, though, which meant I could make sesame noodles, which he likes much better. I made those, with some ginger/garlic/soy sauce spinach. It was very tasty, but I am definitely done with peanut butter and asian sesame/peanut sauces for the next few days.

  18. badhedgehog
    Posted December 2, 2009 at 8:17 am | Permalink

    Ooh, the first proper food when you’re starting to feel better after being ill — your mouth is alive with it!

    Yesterday I had porridge (oatmeal) for breakfast. Before lunch I ate a small bag of hula hoops (the British potato based snack) then for lunch I had a sausage sandwich in granary bread and a big mug of coffee. I was actually pretty hungry before I got my arse out of my chair and fetched the sausage sandwich — I tend to wait too long before getting lunch. I baked ginger cookies and had 3 of them warm out of the oven. At some point I had a square of dark chocolate. I would probably have had another, but it was the last square.

    For dinner I made some odds and ends tapas (it was between that and veggie curry, I think veggie curry is on the books for tonight). I wanted to use up 1 sausage, half a packet of halloumi, a big flat mushroom, half a red pepper and the end of a cooking chorizo. I also had various other veg to work with. I made chorizo/zucchini/mushroom thing, tiny sausage meatball/onion/green pepper thing and I fried the halloumi with the red pepper. We had it with a loaf of bread. I wished I’d had another sausage to make tiny sausage meatballs out of.

    OH had brought home some reduced-to-clear honey roast smoked salmon which I was going to put with everything else, but it had gone bad. Not really bad, but kind of soft, and it was way too sweet. I’d swallowed about a teaspoonsworth before I realised and spat the rest of the mouthful out into the trash. My stomach had taken note, and I did wonder for a while whether it was going to be a case of it saying “Right, everybody get out, we’re going to need to start again with new food”. It turned out OK, but I didn’t quite enjoy my tapas as much as if the salmon hadn’t gotten involved.

  19. Posted December 2, 2009 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    I have just come back from vacation, and felt like I mostly ate competently — and enjoyably!

    This is without cooking more than one of the meals I ate (and it was more reheating than cooking, really). And I usually cook at least some of the time.

    Thank you for writing this. I too sometimes bounce with happiness at a match between hunger, appetite and food selection. I also have noticed that the stopping point is much more clear to me than it used to be.

    You really, really write well, Michelle.

    I also appreciate hearing from other parents about feeding kids. My little girl is a sporatic eater, sometimes preferring to eat nothing if she can’t eat what she desires. This comes and goes with her growth spurts and activity levels. I want to expose her to a wider variety of food but our lives are a bit chaotic at the moment, so we tend to circle around some of the same foods. Last night it was whole wheat pasta with tomato sauce, shredded cheddar cheese or parmesan cheese on top, and brussel sprouts just removed from the stalk and steamed. But on our vacation, she had more than one meal composed of whole grain goldfish crackers and fudgesickles, with a few grape tomatoes.

  20. Posted December 2, 2009 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

    I’ve been trying intuitive eating and I feel like I’m doing it the way you post. I found it helpful to read your example. I may have to post my own as I experiment with this newfound way of eating. I, too, am an “eat till it’s gone” eater, so it’s been strange to actively listen to my body and heed it’s little messages.

    Thanks for posting this!


  21. Posted December 2, 2009 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

    p.s. Did you pick the photo at the top of this blog because the lady with the milkshake kind of looks like you? (You know, bangs and all?)


    • Posted December 2, 2009 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

      No no, and she doesn’t at ALL look like me, actually. I like the pic because the blonde lady is on a diet, and she’s hungrily watching the other lady eat!

      • Posted December 3, 2009 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

        Well, if she doesn’t look like you, then sheshe could be your sister. I did notice the poor lady down the counter. Speaks volumes.


  22. MJ
    Posted December 2, 2009 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

    I try to be a loving and permissive parent to my food cravings – if I want it, I try to find it so I can eat it. Though there are some foods I love and could probably eat every day (cheese, milk eggs) there tends to be a lot of variety from one day to the next. For example yesterday I had a (Spanish) chorizo and cheese panini for lunch, and some wholemeal toast, mozarella garlic and tomato for dinner. Today for lunch I had salmon sushi and a bowl of vegetable soup, with a small fruit smoothie for dessert, and cheeseburgers on wholemeal bread for dinner. Eggs for breakfast both days. And a little bit of dark chocolate both days. Who knows what tomorrow will bring?

  23. Posted December 3, 2009 at 12:18 am | Permalink

    You don’t think the woman in the photo looks anything like you?? Really? I had to look twice to convince myself it wasn’t you! Then I wondered if maybe it was your mom. : )

    • Posted December 3, 2009 at 1:10 am | Permalink

      If you saw my schnozz from the side, you’d know for sure it wasn’t me :)

  24. La di Da
    Posted December 4, 2009 at 5:43 am | Permalink

    I seem to have big-eat and little-eat days too. It seems to even out over a two-week cycle.

    What’s really put a dent in intuitive eating again, however, is having to go gluten-free. I can’t just go get a nice sandwich for lunch. Nearly all takeaway or food court meals and snacks are full of gluten or probably contaminated with it. I can’t see something on the shelf at the supermarket, think ‘That looks delicious!’, throw it in my basket and take it home to eat. I have to read the labels on everything carefully. Nearly all convenience food has gluten. I can’t eat the buffet, because people pick up the gluten-free foods with tongs from the gluten-containing dish, or they drop crumbs everywhere. I can no longer grab a pre-made lasagne to throw in the oven when I’m tired after a long day at work. I have to prepare nearly everything myself, from scratch.

    There’s very little spontenaity in diet allowed to me. Yes, I know the gluten-containing foods will make me sick and I don’t want to eat them, but I still want to eat the *idea* of the food, like a pizza from my formerly favourite Italian restaurant, and so on. If that makes sense. I’ve been gluten-free for about a year now and it’s still challenging. I’m re-training a lifetime of eating experience here!

    • Posted December 4, 2009 at 5:53 am | Permalink

      That is really, really rough. I hear you, totally. But even though it’s sometimes a struggle, I’m glad you’re making changes to help yourself heal and be healthy.

  25. Cassie
    Posted December 8, 2009 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

    Eating like this used to be a fantasy to me. I am still trying to figure it all out, but things that make me squirm about intuitive eating is not wanting to take care of myself, take the time to figure out what foods I want, as well as never wanting breakfast foods. That’s been a routine since I was a kiddo, no idea why. So my eating today, so far, has been a White Castle cheeseburger with a few fries at 9am, because all the other fast food places on my way were still in breakfast mode. I realized it was super yucky that early in the morning (I actually ordered 4, since they are so little, but threw them away because they weren’t right for what I wanted), so I went a little out of the way to a Duncan Donuts and got 2 plain yeast donuts and saved one for later in case I got hungry again. Later in the day, I microwaved a potato, since it is my favorite food in the whole of the universe, and scooped on some butter and sour cream. forgot the salt, so it wasn’t quite right, but feeling very good that I actually took a lunch break. My habit had been to just stay hungry until I got home and could eat in private. This probably seems a little disordered, but it is much progress for me right now — eating when i’m hungry and being able to let go of food if it isn’t a right match. I’m actually taking a few ideas about trying new things, because I might start to like them if I tried them more than once. (except breakfast foods, LOL!)

    • Posted December 9, 2009 at 8:03 am | Permalink

      I realized it was super yucky that early in the morning.

      Totally not yucky (I mean, on a objective level…maybe it felt yucky to you at the time because it’s not what you really wanted.) Just the other day, I ate a HUGE hotdog for breakfast because, for some reason, I really wanted a hamburger with pickles. (No hamburgers immediately available, alas) and it was just so riiiiight.

  26. Ashley
    Posted December 12, 2009 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

    So, I don’t know what this says about me, but I’m just really lazy. I live alone and I eat alone. So I don’t cook and I don’t go out, I just make the absolute easiest stuff at home. I eat frozen TV dinners and lots of processed foods and sandwiches. For breakfast every day, I have a peanut butter sandwich and a latte. I know this sounds weird. I’m sort of depressed and not cooking or really making an effort is part of that, but I sorta don’t care.

  27. Ellie
    Posted February 16, 2010 at 8:51 pm | Permalink

    I know tomorrow will most likely be different. Different foods will seem appealing, and I’ll eat them in different amounts. I may know again with stark certainty where to stop — or I may not.

    If not, I will remain assured, as I did today, that my body will make up for it. That my appetite will eventually compensate for whatever mistakes or miscalculations I might make

    im not sure why, but that part right there really kinda *thinks*….hmmm…..eases(?) my mind a bit about the whole ordeal. usually i’ll find myself freaking out over eating too much one night, then basically starve myself for awhile than feel crappy that it bothers me at all and pig out all over again. that little tid-bit right there really helps put things in perspective for me, thanks.

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