“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.