Only kindness makes sense. Anything else is excruciating. That’s what Geneen Roth says, and she’s referring to how we treat our bodies. Instead of judging, punishing, shaming and restricting – we should be inquiring, listening, giving and loving. This does not mean accepting your ‘fat self’! I wouldn't be doing it if it wasn't about weight loss. But it’s also about sanity, and quieting the noise in my head.
This is not another Mommy blog, another rant about how hard motherhood is, the devastating effect it has had on my lifestyle, body and mind. With that I could fill a series of books. A weekly talk show. Let’s say a daily talk show.
It’s just that particularly after you have endured the fallout from the fruits of your labor (pun intended) your self esteem, inevitably tied to your size, is one more thing that plagues you while you try to get sleep, feed babies, nurse fevers, find a babysitter and work a job. Did I mention get sleep? Another talk show.
Eckhart Tolle says that you are not your mind. At first I thought, how on Earth could I not be my mind? But it’s true. You are not your mind. Your mind says crazy things, tells you all that you are not and will never be, all of the bad things you are and from which you will never break free.
I am using mindfulness and intuitive eating to help my body regulate to its natural weight. Not the weight I was when I was a fitness competitor, not the weight my husband thinks I should be, not the weight of my neighbor who is 3 inches shorter than me.
Geneen Roth is a woman I’ve never met, and probably never will. But what she has given me and many women around the world is freedom. She has validated what I was already starting to suspect – that the more you obsess about your body and the food you put in it, the exercise you do to get rid of it, the more you let your mind control your body - the fatter and crazier you get.
For so many reasons, our minds tell us that we must diet, restrict, withhold, keep track, dissect into components and calories. But our body just wants to be fed when it needs to be, and not when it doesn't.
What if I just love food?
If you really love something, you take your time with it. This was not the case as I sat in the Burger King parking lot, inhaling a deep fried chicken sandwich (extra mayo) and cheese-loaded fries. Then there's the issue of disposing of the evidence, hoping no one I knew was watching me. Was this love?
Have you ever watched a kid eat an Oreo? They break it apart, lick the middle, the sides of it, then finally bite into it. Have you ever watched a woman who has been dieting eat an Oreo? It’s not even like a one-bite brownie. She can cram two of them at a time into her mouth as if it were a contest.
The Guiding Principles
As per Geneen Roth (and as per the universe, I'm starting to believe), the following are the guiding principles to restoring balance in your mind and body and achieving your natural weight.
1. Eat only when you feel hunger (about a 3 on a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being ravenous, 10 being completely stuffed). This means that you do not have to eat just because it is lunchtime, because there is still half a sandwich on your plate, because you're worried you might be hungry later, because it has been three hours since your last meal and the latest issue of MuscleMag tells you that your metabolism will screech to a grinding halt if you do not. Also not because you are tired, your back hurts or the kids won't sleep. Also not because you miss your mom, you have work to finish tonight or (heaven forbid) you're going on another diet tomorrow, so eat up!
I have embarked on every diet on the planet, including Weight Watchers, The Eat Clean Diet, South Beach (which I not-so-lovingly refer to as 'South Bitch', due to crankiness experienced while deprived of carbs), The Fast Diet, Paleo/Primal, vegetarianism, veganism, raw food diets and several juice cleanses. I have found that no matter what, I end up bingeing and starving. Even though it’s not supposed to be a ‘diet’, it is inevitably something you are either ‘on’ or ‘off’. Only on the days when I truly allow myself to address my hunger, to listen to what my body (not a plan) is telling me, I eat a normal amount of food, feel nourished and have no guilt.
2. Eat sitting down in a calm environment. This refers to the habit (mostly of women) to nibble while cooking, pick off of plates while cleaning up, snack on leftovers as we put them away in the fridge and eat in the car.
3. Eat without distractions. No reading, music, television, and (hopefully) no crying babies.
4. Eat what your body wants. Eat to nourish yourself and to provide yourself with energy. I believe that most people are smart enough to know that you should consume whole grains, lean proteins, healthy fats and tons of fruits and vegetables. It is the minute that we decide to cut down, only eat certain items from this list, or go on a ‘plan’ that we seem to get into trouble.
5. Eat until you are satisfied (not full). It has been said that ‘satisfied’ is much more subtle a feeling than ‘full’. You should take a breath, chew your food slowly, pause before reaching for more and try to determine if you truly are still hungry.
6. Eat with the intention of being in full view of others. This addresses the habit (again, mostly of women) to sneak or hide food.
7. Eat with enjoyment, gusto and pleasure. Of course!
In her books, including Why Weight? and Women, Food and God, Geneen has taught me to feel your feet on the floor, your clothes on your skin, the yogourt on your tongue. To finish one mouthful before you pick up your fork to get the next one. To look at the colour, explore the texture, feel the temperature of your food as you eat it. to be aware of how your body feels before, during and after a meal. To eat when you are truly hungry, by checking in with your physical self, in the heart of your belly. To eat what your body wants, what nourishes it. And to stop when you are satisfied.
And that everything tastes better when you’re hungry.
It may seem obvious, but she also points out that you can never get enough of something you didn't need in the first place. I have learned to recognize that I eat when I'm tired, when I'm stressed and when I'm in pain. Geneen invites you to inquire when you have a feeling, seemingly a need to eat. Is the answer that you're truly hungry, or is it a desire to satisfy something else? She instructs you to find the physical location of your feelings in your body (for me, it's usually anxiety manifested as a fiery red ball in my stomach) and to do the hard work of embracing that feeling, scary as it might be.
Geneen has another book called When You Eat at the Refrigerator, Pull Up a Chair. I've been there - standing at the cupboard, slathering butter on a bread roll, just wanting something to make me feel better. But I only felt better for a split second, then much worse for having done it.