Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Rules of "Normal" Eating

Had a decent therapy appointment yesterday. I feel like we are still in discussions about what the problems are, where they stem from, and how to best work on them.

She gave me two books to get and start working through. One is a Phobia and Anxiety Workbook by Bourne and the other is The Rules of "Normal" Eating by Karen Koenig. The workbook I ordered for a dollar but have to wait a week or so before it arrive. I got the Rules of Normal Eating on my Kindle, so I started on it last night.

First off, it hit me right across the face with the introduction.

I have struggled with the idea that I am not normal. Sometimes I tell myself I am because I am normal weighted and appear normal to other people. But her description of restrictive eaters (as opposed to compulsive eaters, which is only me in my rare binge moments that rarely if ever happen anymore) fits me to a "T":

"As a restrictive eater... you know more about calories and fat grams than many registered dietitians do. You keep yourself on a permanent, lifelong diet leash and rarely let go. Filled with shame and guilt around food, you're terrified of gaining weight and follow rigid rules about when and how much you can eat. You use your relationship with food to manage your problems and feelings."


The book doesn't claim to be a quick fix, but a step on the way to becoming a "normal" eater (normal in quotes because normal is different for everyone... and there is an understanding that, if you have been disordered for a very long time, a full normal may not be possible, but you can get close).

It seems, so far, to be similar to intuitive eating. But not. I'm not sure yet, I will perhaps delve into that a little later when I get further into the book.

Right now, I am reacting strongly to the book... mostly in the "NO WAY! I will never be able to do THAT to be normal..." Things I know I'd have to stop doing obsessively, at least for a while, such as daily weighing (switch to weekly) or not using the calorie counter app.

Also, one thing stood out to me like a punch... she wrote that to be normal, I'd have to be at peace with the idea that I would put on a couple pounds or a few pounds while making the long learning transition into normal eating. NOPE. I'm not. Because I am disordered, hahaha, I am not okay with that. But that's why I am reading this book and going to therapy, so that I don't have such crazy intense reactions to the thought of gaining a couple pounds.

I still don't believe it is possible that I can be any sort of normal. She addresses that in the intro, and promises that it IS possible... with commitment, work, therapy, books and willingness.

And because I am interested in a completely healthy, balanced life... I am willing.

I am not jumping into anything too fast (such as letting go of my methods of control, like my app or whatever) and I still do plan on being "restrictive" by staying paleo, because oddly enough, going paleo isn't a method of control for me, it IS a health thing for the good of my body and doesn't play into any weird "good/evil" food thoughts.

Lots to think about.

It is a dream, what I think is an impossible dream, that someday I will just be able to make and eat food and not record it all... it takes up too much of my day.

But I do not have a relationship between body/mind/mouth that I can trust myself to say yes to food at the right times and no to food at the right times.

Not there yet.

But maybe someday? We'll see.

Namaste <3


  1. Well...that paragraph could describe most adult women unless they have time to exercise for hours each day, are blessed with a fast metabolism or just don't care how much they weigh. The key point I think is the shame and guilt piece and I have seen that often in "diet" blogs. I think it is normal to keep track of calories and not want to gain pounds. I think the meals you post look perfectly normal. What I think we could all stand to lose as women is beating ourselves up when we eat something we think we should not, or assigning a category to food as bad or good. It is just food, and we can choose not to eat certain types. But if we do eat it, let's not bash ourselves for doing it. Or others if they choose it. I'm not a fan of therapies just because their job is dependent on finding problems. So take everything with a grain of salt. I think from your posts you are not that disordered.

    1. I can't for the most part and usually, think like you do. However, I have had eating disorders in the past dealt with anxiety since I was a child. Recently, the last few years, I've had a white knuckle grip of control on my food intake... I believe, to deal with the anxiety I always, always feel. There is a thought out there that one can be normal weighted AND not constantly plan, measure, track, weigh and always think about food. I think about food and my body WAY too much, at the expense of other things. If there is healing out there, I'm going to give it a shot!! (I always shy away from therapy but the sadness and anxiety have reached new levels since my dad's death)

    2. Also, the fact that that paragraph could apply to most women? I think it's unnecessary kind of sad that we eat that way. I want to be able to eat in a similar way that I do now, but without all the restrictive and controlling behaviors (calorie counting, etc)

  2. I think what the therapist is saying is a slippery slope. People who eat the healthiest DO watch, monitor, and track. It's part of being healthy. I suppose that can be taken to extremes, like exercising in excess of an hour or so a day would be extreme. I dunno. I worry. I think I need to back away from your blog for a bit to allow you to explore this with a professional, which I clearly am not, and I don't want to confuse or muddle your situation which I think I would definitely have a tendency to do. Know that I love you, care about you, want you to feel better about yourself and be optimally healthy and happy.

    1. It's fine if you don't want to read anymore :) this is my sounding board, my release, and people should only read what helps/pleases them!! I just wonder if I haven't been in the dieting works too long and the idea that we must closely monitor and track all the time isn't a fallacy?? Might it not be possible to weigh in just weekly, adjusting food behaviors without white-knuckle controlling them? As I said, this is a dream of mine... Might not be realistic, but I'd like to stop thinking about food all the time!

  3. I think one of the best reasons to get okay with gaining a little weight is because you have expressed interest in being a mom! To me, one of the scariest aspects of motherhood is the weight gain (which is ridiculous. The scary part is raising the baby once it arrives lol). Something else that scares me is the thought that I might have a daughter and pass along my disordered eating to her. :( "Normal eating" is a very worthwhile pursuit and I'm so interested to keep reading your thoughts on the subject. I think I might order the book when I get home, too!

  4. Please do continue to use your blog as an honest outlet for your feelings. I do agree with you that Paleo has been the best things I have done to improve my health. Glad you are going through therapy with an open-mind and open-heart and are in it for the long-term.

  5. I totally understand what you are saying. Back in my "calorie counting, weight watcher days" I was obsessive. Totally obsessive to the point that if I had one food "off plan" I thought I'd blown it. It has taken me years to get to where I am now. I don't count calories. Yes, I eat to a certain food template but I think that is healthy. If I go away I don't worry about weighing myself but do at home. I suppose that might be considered wrong by some but after a lifetime of struggles, it is not a biggy to me.

    One thing to remember about what you read - if we lived back in the day of no processed food, not so much sugar etc then yes, you could live every day not obsessing about food. BUT we don't live in that time anymore and with health problems as big as they are we do need to at least give some consideration every day to what we eat. I think it's wrong to think of that as being obsessive, it is simply being an adult who tries to make good decisions ;)

    Seriously, let go of calorie counting, continue on the paleo template and nothing bad will happen. Don't beat yourself up because you care enough to maintain your weight - sometimes these books are written by people who've never had that struggle. I hope this makes sense?

  6. Wishing you luck on this journey, and looking forward to snippets from the book. I have never met a "normal" eater and really have no idea what that means...ha! The folks I know that don't track, eat very unhealthfully, and the ones that are healthy track, and take time to read ingredients labels and such, so it's time consuming.... Please share what you learn ;)

    1. The idea of a normal eater, in this book, is someone who eats when they are hungry, can satisfy cravings without going overboard, and feels satiated with a proper amount of food. Someone who, by listening to body cues that they've developed through their whole life, maintains a normal weight without being obsessive about food. They can say yes and no at the right times. Go to a dessert buffet and not eat if they aren't hungry. Stuff like that. Things that seem SOOO unrealistic compared to my current behavior, hahaha.

  7. Actually Jeanette, I read that again and just need to comment:

    "As a restrictive eater... you know more about calories and fat grams than many registered dietitians do. You keep yourself on a permanent, lifelong diet leash and rarely let go. Filled with shame and guilt around food, you're terrified of gaining weight and follow rigid rules about when and how much you can eat. You use your relationship with food to manage your problems and feelings."

    The only part of that you should be concerned about is the last sentence. "You use your relationship with food to manage your problems and feelings". That part I get BUT reading that again has made me a little angry. What seriously is the alternative to watching what we eat? Losing control, binging? Then there will be another book for that telling you the exact opposite.

    I love that you are going to therapy if that is what you need and if a food obsession really is a big problem then great to get that sorted but I'm annoyed that a therapist would put doubt in your mind that eating healthy is wrong. It is probably the one of the best things you are doing for yourself and if you continue eating on a paleo template I guarantee the obsession will become less and less as you realise you have more control. Don't ever doubt this has been a massive change in your life and worth congratulating !!

    1. I think it's the difference between "rigid rules", shame and guilt... the author definitely wants people to eat a healthy, nutritious diet to maintain a normal weight, but without all the stress and obsession and struggle. I think the goal is to get watching what I eat to an easy, peaceful, normal place rather than this sort of disordered place I am in.

      I will definitely NOT give up paleo... no book could convince me of that! I think I can take lessons from lots of places not associated with paleo and apply them to my lifestyle. I know my health is good with the way I eat now... and I want to continue to eat the way I do now, just without all the stress and guilt and obsession!

  8. "you know more about calories and fat grams than many registered dietitians"

    That line made me chuckle, because, in my experience about 50% of dietitians are obese, not just over weight, but obese. And they have been trained to teach people to "manage" their diabetes, not eat to eliminate it (Type 1's are stuck, but 80% of type 2's can eliminate with food and exercise). So that whole topic sort of shows where we are as a society. There are some good dietitians out there, but like a good physical therapist, they are not actually the norm.

    I think you did a good job with this post. Anxiety is tough. It can sort of hyperdrive us on certain topics or thoughts.

    I think there is a sort of newbie phase as people settle into weight loss where it is the be all and end all. And at the time it is good, because it keeps them focused and gives them something to do.

    Then there is the opposite where people sort of stop paying attention and regain.

    I can see that a search for middle ground would be desireable especially if you are ruminating a lot on these topics.

    Middle ground between aware and rumination.

    I actually found my answer from someone who could not maintain herself. When I was absolutely sick of calculating/tracking, she suggested I think in categories - fruit, protein, green type veggies, starchy type veggies, etc. I calculated it out and realized that would work for me - asparagus, green beans, broccoli are all close enough that I don't have to track. So I just stock my house with what we all eat. I batch cook very simply. Then we just fill plates and eat. I find it very relaxing. I am not saying what in the whole wide world do I want to eat? I am saying what of the foods I eat do I want for this meal? Every few years I might track when someone asks me a question, but otherwise I don't.

    But I also do not put myself in food free for all situations. I don't do buffets, nor totally food based events (like a carry in with people who are not like minded), I would not go on a cruise. It is not that I think I would over eat. It is more that we just don't live that way. I don't like to think about food very much. We have shopping, stocking, prepping, batch cooking, storage in glass containers down to a science. My husband can do it. My kids can do it. It is simple. It is then done and we are on to other things.

    We have dramatically changed the activities we do as a family, as a couple, individually.

    I have a vegan daughter (16), a vegetarian daughter (20). My husband eats pretty much the same way I do. Our (24) son eats slightly more carbs than we do, but is very similar in his food choices. Vegan daughter and I don't eat dairy, the other three do. Husband, son and I eat turkey, fish, chicken, the girls do not. So we are not the national norm by any standard.

    Dinner is now something we get done/out of way so we can play cards or go to theater or swim in the summer or work on a project. Dinner used to be the main event when I was heavy and we had bad habits. Dinner was still a big deal when I was in process. Dinner was still a big deal when I first hit maintenance #1 and then lost more for maintenance #2/current. It took a while to sort of settle into a groove where I set myself up so I could be successfully mindless.

    I totally get anxiety thinking and the places it can sort of land. It is good you are sorting this out for yourself. It is very good you have help.

    1. I just wanted to thank you for your thoughtful comment... Gives me a lot to think about and I really appreciate it!

    2. I see you moving on to work on your next phases. This is something most people do not do. Some stay in the food rant stage. Some are always trying to make something work that is never going to actually work. Some regain. You got your weight off, you cleaned up your food so it is real food. You have a great outdoors life. I support that you are getting yourself help to work on the rest of your stuff. Really important. And you are very lucky because you are doing this work now and will reap the rewards for many, many years.

  9. I've been catching up on my blog reading as I've been out of the loop for a few weeks - life stuff. I think I've maybe commented once here? But I read your blog every day - unless life gets in the way:) Anyway, I just wanted to chime in and in reading the last few posts wanted to say - Good for you, Jeannette! Not that you need any of blog world's approval, but I wanted to throw my positive vibes your way. You are doing the hard work necessary to make your whole self, well, whole! I can't say I experience anxiety about the same things, or can identify with everything you write. But I so enjoy reading what you write. And I admire the way you are able to articulate your feelings and thoughts. So keep it up!!!