Expert Insight: Finding Satisfaction with Food is like Learning to Ride a Bike

“Compare teaching yourself to eat just the right amount of food to teaching a child to ride a bike. Do children learn easily when you get angry or criticize them for making mistakes? Will children feel like giving up if they are expected to do it perfectly right away? Will they want to try again if they’re ashamed about falling off? Or do they learn best when you observe what they do, encourage each positive step they take, and offer gentle suggestions on how they can improve? Do they want to keep trying because you focus on how much they are progressing, not on what they do wrong? Will they feel encouraged when they notice it gets a little easier each time? Learning to stop eating when you’re satisfied is exactly the same. You’re most likely to learn when you’re gentle, patient, encouraging and optimistic with yourself throughout the process.

And, as with riding a bike, this process eventually becomes natural. Occasionally, something will throw you off balance, but because you’ve practised and learned to make necessary adjustments and corrections, you’ll keep cruising right along.”

– Michelle May, “Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat”*

You know when you feel satisfied after you’ve eaten: you’re no longer hungry, but you’re not full either. You’ve enjoyed what you’ve eaten but it’s not sitting heavily in your body. Rather than feeling uncomfortable and sluggish, you feel content and have energy.

Finding that point is by trial and error and being gentle with yourself. Michelle May is spot on – being critical and harsh with yourself won’t help you at all (so dismiss your Inner Bully if it starts telling you you’re not “doing it right” or are a failure – as usual, it doesn’t know what it’s talking about).

Instead, try to stay connected to the side of you that exhibits self-compassion, gentleness, encouragement and persistence. The side that knows if you just relax, stay present, observe and enjoy, you can find your personal satisfaction point and eat just the right amount for you.

As with riding a bike, you’re bound to experience the occasional wobble (or two). But, in time, you may be surprised to find that mealtimes, rather than feeling like a minefield, have become easier, calmer and a lot more satisfying.

 

***

 

*May, M. (2010), “Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat: How To Break Your Eat-Repent-Repeat Cycle”, Austin: Greenleaf Book Group Press.

How Much is Enough?

You’re having dinner at a restaurant with friends. You skipped lunch so your stomach is growling like a caged beast as you examine the menu. You go to town on the bread basket and devour your starter as soon as it arrives. Now the waiter puts your main course in front of you. It’s a sizeable portion and you’ve eaten almost enough already.

What goes through your mind?

  1. Nothing. You pick up your knife and fork and eat until you’re finished.
  2. “I’ll have to eat it. If I don’t, what will people think?”
  3. “Diet starts again tomorrow so bring it on!”
  4. “I’m paying for it, so I might as well eat it, otherwise it’s a waste.”
  5. “But it looks so good! Also, I’ve had a tough day so I deserve it.”

Which answer leads to you feeling satisfied and thoroughly enjoying your evening?

Continue reading “How Much is Enough?”

Gentle Reminder: Something about Feelings

This is the blog post where I wrap up the theme for the month – in this case hope and hopelessness – and link to an older post from the archives.

There’s just one problem.

It’s the first day of my holiday and I’m currently sitting in the kitchen of a gorgeous little cottage in the Cotswolds. The countryside is unbelievably beautiful. The weather is perfect. The only sounds I can hear are the gentle hum of the fridge, birds chirping in the courtyard outside and the tap-tap-tap of my fingers hitting the keyboard.

Why is this a problem? Well, I’ve come down with a severe case of lazyitis (must be the change of water, I think) and I’m struggling to write the post I was planning to write which, I recall, was something about feelings. Continue reading “Gentle Reminder: Something about Feelings”

Gentle Reminder: Make Movement Joyful Again

Exercise.

I can practically feel the groaning and eye rolling.

In preparation for writing this blog post I did a bit of research. I googled some exercise slogans. What I found ranged from the ridiculous – “squat till you puke” (eww) – to the downright offensive, which I won’t repeat here. (Guys, seriously?).

Many of the so-called “motivational and inspirational” quotes I found conveyed the message that to have the body you’re “supposed” to have, you must punish it into submission.

No wonder the ‘e’ word has such a bad rep.

Continue reading “Gentle Reminder: Make Movement Joyful Again”

Expert Insight: Body Appreciation vs. Body Loathing

“Advertising for many commercial goods functions by cultivating our body insecurity or hatred in order to sell products.  If we all believed we were attractive as we are, for example, we would have little need for most commercial beauty products.  Women in particular are taught that their self-worth is determined by how well they match the cultural standard of beauty.  Most of us therefore feel inadequate and that we can never measure up.  And it seems as if advertisers have recently realized that they were so busy exploiting women’s insecurities, they’d forgotten half the population. So now they’re doing their best to make men feel equally horrible about themselves.  Buying into these images doesn’t benefit anyone but the advertisers”.

– Linda Bacon & Lucy Aphramor, “Body Respect”.

A few years ago, when I was facilitating a workshop on emotion-driven overeating, I was talking about not buying into “the cultural standard of beauty” that Linda Bacon and Lucy Aphramor describe.  One of the participants became quite angry and said something like “it’s all very well to say that but this is how the world works”.

Continue reading “Expert Insight: Body Appreciation vs. Body Loathing”

Why Should We Be Ashamed of Our Bodies?

You’re sitting in a café having coffee with a friend. Every few minutes you surreptitiously tug at your top so it doesn’t cling to the contour of your stomach.

You receive an invitation to your school reunion.  You’d love to go but feel you can’t because you’ve put on weight and you worry about what people will think.

You regularly scan your body in a full-length mirror, thinking “God, look at my thighs/belly/insert other body part here”.  When you’ve examined all your “defects”, you mutter a conclusive “ugh” before walking away from your reflection in disgust.

Continue reading “Why Should We Be Ashamed of Our Bodies?”

Gentle Reminder: The Discomfort of Comfort

You reach for food to soothe yourself, to comfort yourself, to make everything better just for a moment.

But what happens when that moment is over?

The discomfort kicks in.

You feel over-full.  You feel sick.  You hate yourself.

What was intended to be comforting has to turned into a maelstrom of physical and emotional discomfort.

Why have I done this to myself yet again, you ask.  Why?

Continue reading “Gentle Reminder: The Discomfort of Comfort”