Now, I have to preface this by saying that disordered eating is NOT the same as an Eating Disorder. I know it sounds like semantics, but the former is MUCH easier to “get over” than the latter. For the record, when I was in college, I considered myself a disordered eater, even though my calorie intake was low enough to “qualify” as anorexic-level. But when I stopped starving I just . . . stopped. I had about a month where it was tough, but after that? I was fine. Sometimes when people ask me about my eating habits in college, I say I was mildly anorexic, but that’s not really the case. It’s just a term that most people understand, and it’s easier than going into serious detail about the differences.
My Eating Disorder (ED) was/is binge eating. I really do refer to this one as an ED because I COULDN’T STOP. There was no, “wow that was hard” for a month and then poof! I was fine. Even today, sometimes when I’ve had a really bad day I will come home and take my dinner to bed, because if I don’t go to bed, I WON’T STOP EATING, and I know it. I know the warning signs. (I always get a lot of sleep those nights, LOL. You’d be amazed how good you feel when you turn out your light at 8:00pm!)
But in college, although I didn’t have an ED, I definitely was seriously disordered. What i was going to eat, how much I was going to exercise – those thoughts figured prominently in my day. I learned that if I sucked on hard candies most of the day, I didn’t get hungry – the sugar was enough to fool my blood-sugar into thinking there was food in my body.
Hm? What’s that? You want to know how the hell this relates to the post title? What post title?
See, here’s the thing: a lot of the behaviors I engaged in while I was in college are not inherently unhealthy. I was looking at the “Go, Bucky, GO” post and realized that low-fat, low-carb, dairy-free, high-protein bit? Was not all that far from what I ate in college overall (despite my rather excessive intake of Tootsie Roll Pops – hey, they were only 50 calories and no fat! STOP JUDGING ME! LOL). And as a rule, I did not exercise excessively by current health standards: 40 minutes of cardio, 30 minutes of wieghts, 5-6 days a week (though I did not cut back when my knees started hurting, which was a BIG mistake). I still ate the occasional fried chicken sandwich from Burger King (though NEVER with fries, and only after waiting 3 days, in case the craving went away).
But you can see, even just in the paragraph above, how intertwined the disordered habits (exercising in pain, waiting a set number of days to eat something I wanted) were with the healthier behaviors (regular exercise, a diet that made me feel good – well, when I ate it, anyway). And that’s part of the reason that I look around almost frantically for a “diet.” I’m looking for something that doesn’t relate to that time in my life, that doesn’t make me wonder if I’m sliding down the rabbit hole, with wax paper under my butt to speed up the slide. (Anyone else do that when they were little? Use wax paper on the slides so you could slide faster? No? Too bad. That was my mom’s idea, and she was a freakin’ GENIUS. Either that or she was trying to kill us all: i remember taking some SERIOUS faceplants. It could go either way.)
So the last couple of days I’ve gone (carefully) back to eating more like I did in college. Not the Tootsie-Pop obssession (although I have always had them in my house, ever since college), but the food angle. I’ve been trying to carefully (so, SO carefully) tease out the behaviors and habits that were healthy and made me feel better from the behaviors and habits that made me feel like the most worthless person on the planet. It’s pretty much a tightrope: “Put your left foot there . . . No! Not THERE! Over THERE! Don’t move too fast, or you’ll fall, but for God’s sake don’t put your foot in THAT spot!”
So in some ways it’s more stressful than following a diet. But in other ways, it’s LESS stressful. I had a 6-inch Turkey sub from Subway the other day, and it was SO good. I love those things, I really do. And I haven’t been eating them because “OMG, the carbs! The CARBS!” LOL I ate it with oil but no mayo, which is the part that is more like my college days. And I had to make an effort not to wonder how many calories EXACTLY the oil added, and how many mintues of exercise EXACTLY it would take to burn off, say, 100 calories. Well, the oil might be more than that, better round up: how much exercise to burn off 200 calories? That was the hard part.
The easier part? Eating what I want. And it’s entirely psychological, because I’m STILL looking at menus, discarding anything with dairy in it, anything with white flour (I ate the Subway sandwich on a wheat bun – though I think there might be more white flour in it than they let on), and making choices about how much fat/carbs/protein I want (or don’t want) to eat. But (here’s where the psychology kicks in) it’s MY choice. I’m not getting it from a food list, someone else’s version of what’s “good” or “bad” for my body. I get to remember that those sugar-free cream cheese cupcakes? Make me feel SO MUCH WORSE than a fun-size Snickers bar, even though the cupcakes are sugar-and-carb-free, and the Snickers bar . . . well, not so much with the “-free.”
Maybe this is what Intuitive Eating really is. Not eating whatever I want because I WANT IT NOWNOWNOWNOW but eating what *I* know will make me healthier and happier in the long run.
Now I just have to work on filtering out the Shamebots that accompany the college habits that were healthy.