Progress is Possible

Even after I reached a healthy weight, until I switched to a low-carbohydrate regimen, I was never able to feel completely free of food. That is, I always had food on the brain. I was regularly hungry, having to fight off the temptation to eat extra snacks or bigger snacks. Even though I finally got to the point of recognizing portion sizes, I was still struggling to stick to the calorie count for the day.

It wasn’t until I cut high carbohydrate foods (like brown rice, crackers, and desserts made from whole wheat pastry flour) out of my diet that I really started to feel like I had a healthier mental relationship with food. It was odd because by eating really wholesome stuff, I felt like I should feel better. In reality, it was just setting me up for starvation because I didn’t have a well-balanced diet with enough fat.

I stopped grading to write this post. (Oh, so many reasons to stop grading and do just about anything else…). I often treat myself to some chocolate in the afternoon when I work, because that’s often my snack. But in this case, it was 10:55 AM when I found myself reaching for the stash by my computer. I realized, though, it wasn’t (amazingly!) for a distraction, but I was actually hungry. An interesting conversation in my head followed.

“It’s only 10:55 and I want chocolate.”

“Yes, but I’m actually hungry. I wonder why?”

“I’m going to have some chocolate. It’s only 85 calories.”

“Yes, but that’s 85 more calories in the day than I would ordinarily have, since I rarely have a morning snack.”

So many options, but my go-to is always the 88% super dark chocolate.

So many options, but my go-to is always the 88% super dark chocolate.

It was at this point that I realized, though, that because I’m now better able to depend on the signals that my stomach is sending to my brain, I’ve also been able to eat whatever and whenever I want. It’s a very different model than having a calorie count/ food exchange checklist for the day. Under that system, almost every day I’d eat everything that I was ‘allowed’ to have–and sometimes more, regardless of whether I really wanted it or not. Now, I am much more respectful of what I actually need and eat accordingly. As a result, I’ve maintained almost the exact same weight for well over a year without keeping track of anything.

 How much my previous self would have been tempted to eat.

How much my previous self would have been tempted to eat.

What I’ve come to realize is that some days I’m hungrier than others, so my varied intake balances out over time. This is a much more sustainable approach to eating, now that I’m not actively trying to lose weight, than having a calorie ceiling that is a negative reinforcement of an artificial limitation, as if my body needs exactly the same input every day.

I really appreciate that I’ve reached the point where I’m not thinking about or fighting the urge to eat practically every minute of the day. It’s a very odd experience for me, still new enough that I am regularly amazed when I think about it. I still love food, cooking, checking out new recipes, thinking about creative ways to make a new cake or what variety of chocolate I can make. But now I spend a lot less time worrying about what I’m going to put into my mouth next and whether I’m going to spend the rest of the day feeling guilty about it.

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