A few weeks ago, I blogged about trying to learn a new way of eating to help me develop eating competence and stop with the permanent diet. This is an update on how that’s coming along.
It is surprisingly difficult to learn this new approach, even as I’m eating basically the same food as I always have and not in too much different a way than I did before. For those of you just joining the party, I am shifting my eating habits away from classic diet/restricted eating/obsessive calorie counting and trying to develop (or rediscover) my eating competence as presented by Ellyn Satter and the institute she founded.
Some of the issues I’m facing are related to starting my new work contract which has turned over my more flexible schedule of the last few months. I’m spending time commuting to work and back home that I didn’t need to allocate before. My time at the client’s site is not entirely my own to schedule. I’m still learning their company culture, which distracts me from other things. This is a matter of getting a routine established, which I expect to have settled into by the end of the month.
After that, the two biggest issues I’m working with are a stricter eating schedule and a more permissive eating mode.
I hadn’t realized until I set up three meal and three snack times how lackadaisical my eating patterns are. Meals are pretty well set, but I have been grazing and nibbling far more often than I knew. The food I am eating is the same; I eat the same thing for snacks and I eat the same amount as before. It’s that I would not allow myself to get hungry between meals. I spaced the snack food out so as to quell hunger pangs, which means I’m not being aware of my true hunger levels. Now, I eat at 6:00, 9:00 (if feeling hungry), 12:00, 3:00, 6:30, and 9:00 (if feeling hungry). About every three hours, but two snacks are optional if I’m not having any sense at all of hunger. I tend not to get hungry between breakfast and lunch, but I think that may be due to the amount of coffee I drink. What I have started to do is pull out the morning snack and have a small nibble of it, then wait 5 minutes and see if that triggers a “Oh, yeah, food!” reaction. Usually it doesn’t. In the evening, if I have had a big dinner, I’m usually not interested in food. If I have something sweet or treat-like, I’ll save it for my evening snack so I end the day with something emotionally satisfying.
Being more permissive about food is challenging. Until I sat there, facing my plate, knowing that I could eat all I wanted, not just a single serving, I didn’t realize how strictly I’d been controlling my intake, mostly at dinner.
Breakfast has been a bowl of some kind of cereal with milk and sugar for as long as I can remember. That’s just what breakfast is to me. If I’m traveling, I’ll order eggs and toast because I never like how other people prepare cereal and I always want skim milk on my cereal. Again, this is just How I Eat My Cereal. I am very solid that I’m not restricting calories by drinking skim milk. I can’t stand any other kind of milk on cereal – it tastes thick and wrong to me. I grew up pouring reconstituted not-fat powdered dry milk on my cereal (usually Cheerios, but sometimes Cornflakes or Wheaties), and that’s just what cereal tastes like. I like hot cereal in the morning, and love the texture of steel cut oats, so that’s what I have.
Lunch is also not problematic. I eat raw vegetables. Lots of them. It’s what I’ve eaten for years, and I always have more than I want. Plus a hard-boiled egg for protein and fat. I don’t eat them with a dip because of childhood encounters with spoiled food and messy/bad tasting/mixed up dips, salad dressings, and other creamy substances. Like people dripping ketchup into the mayonnaise jar, or watching people drink glugs of dressing right from the bottle, or trying to force me to eat flavors of condiments that I loathed (sweet relish, Miracle Whip, blue cheese anything, 1,000 Island dressing, etc.). As a result, I will eat vegetables raw in preference to risking getting a mouthful of spoiled dip. And, I really, truly, honestly love fresh crunchy vegetables. The taste, the texture, the colors, the way I can pick up this one, then that one, mix flavors, and so forth. I bought a bigger lunch box and bigger containers so that I can always carry enough and never be looking at the box going “I wish I’d packed more.”
Snacks between meals depend on where I am. At home, I’ll mix up things that require a bowl, eating utensils and might be drippy. At the client’s location, dry things, easy to eat, not smelly stuff. For example, at home, my afternoon snack is usually rice cakes smeared with peanut butter, while at work, I’ll have a container of spicy rice crackers and nuts.
Dinner is where I’m getting tugged in different directions. I am used to cooking things in 2 or 4 servings to reduce leftovers and food waste. With just two people, a meal of 12 servings is overkill unless I can freeze some for a later date. What I have a problem with is that I only make enough for exactly 2 or 4 servings, so, if I want more, I can’t have it because it’s either gone after me and the Spousal Unit have dished some up or else I’ve planned to have the leftovers later in the week. With my new work schedule, I need to save leftovers so dinner is available at a reasonable hour. So, I’m having to learn how to extend the servings so that there’s a bit more than just 2 or just 4 – adding more rice or bulgur, chopping up more vegetables, taking out some extra chicken, etc.
Then there’s the mental block of “You’ve had your meal, no more!” I’m now making myself put a second serving (even if it’s just a small spoon of something) on my plate and trying at least one small bite before I say “Yup, I’m done.” It’s unlearning an arbitrary limit. Now, at a party where there is a lot of food laid out, I don’t feel this limit. I also don’t feel any limit, which is a different problem. I’ll work on that next. Right now, I’m trying to get past the sense that I don’t dare eat more than my one, single, measured, calorie-counted serving at dinner. If I want another bite, I’ll have one.
So, that’s where I am with developing my eating competence. It’s going to be slow and I’m learning to be patient with myself on this.