Jenni*, who’s now recovered from anorexia, wrote that she had to get used to eating at least three times a day, which was huge for her because her pattern was to eat binge foods nonstop until she was sick, or, conversely, starve herself nonstop until she was faint and not thinking straight. Either way, she was wrapped up in destructive activities centered on food.
As one who’s been a chronic dieter, I did a double-take when I read her comment, for I, too, am often wrapped up in thoughts about food, starting from the moment I wake up in the morning. Either I’m eating or thinking about eating—nonstop, it seems. While I’m an active person who does a variety of activities during the day, whenever I pause to catch my breath, my next thought is usually what would taste good right now? I have no idea when that habit got started but what matters is that it’s easy to get stuck eating for the sake of eating when I’m not the faintest bit hungry.
So, Jenni’s decision to get used to eating three times a day struck a chord with me because it made me decide to get used to not eating except at mealtimes. That is, I’m going to practice eating three times a day with snacks only when I need or want them, which I can determine by asking how hungry I am. You may notice that I haven’t created a rigid rule. No way, because rules even about when to eat have backfired.
But, you may ask, how is this approach different from what you’re already doing by not dieting? It’s different because it’s a different mind-set. If I know ahead of time that I’m going to delve into a favorite activity other than eating during the morning, afternoon, and evening, then I can plan how I want to use that valuable time. For example, I’m always saying I have sooooo much to do, even stuff I enjoy such as singing so I’ll have a voice when choir starts up in the fall, walking on the waterfront, spending more time with family and friends, and reading. For some reason, it’s liberating to me to ponder what I’ll do with all that time that I’ve habitually spent eating or thinking about eating. (Made me smile thinking how much time this will free up!) When I stop during the day to catch my breath, I’m planning to turn my thoughts to the book I can’t wait to finish reading instead of reviewing my food options.
How do you keep from reaching for food when that’s not really what you want?