Perfection in our eating

It’s been awhile since I took a reader’s question and answered it, and I’m glad to be back at it. If you have a question you’d like me to answer in an upcoming email, feel free to send it to me. I love answering your questions!

Here are some questions that came in from one of our readers:

1) I’m finding that when I’m in tuned to what I want to eat, I really only know what I want that moment, many times, and it makes it difficult to shop and adequately prepare.
2) I found that when I honor my hunger and respect my fullness, I often eat much less at a given meal. However, say I’m at a relative for Shabbos, and I eat to a comfortable fullness at the Shabbos day meal, but then found myself getting hungry 2-3 hours later and I didn’t know what to do! Everyone was sleeping there was no food around.. so I ended up feeling a bit ashamed that I was hungry.. this is just a scenario explaining my question which comes up when I go to people often.
3) I find that I get full soo fast, that it almost feels like from right when I start eating l’m like dreading feeling full already.
4) I find myself a bit like either I’m very in tuned or when I don’t feel in touch I can overeat more than a little. I’m not sure if there’s something to be aware of when it comes to “acting as if I feel in touch” kind of thing. Like knowing that I wouldn’t be eating like this if I would see not to, so trying not to anyway… or something…

Can you relate to some of her questions?

Here’s my answer:

There are a couple of things I’d like to address first: the “hunger/fullness diet” and feeling urges.

It’s so, so easy to turn the principles of Intuitive Eating (here’s a link to my media page with lots of articles I’ve written about the different principles) into another diet. One of the components of Intuitive Eating is Mindful Eating. Mindful Eating is a phrase that is being thrown around by many diets that usually come with a claim that they will also help you with your emotional eating. The problem is that trying to work on your emotional eating without the other components of Intuitive Eating is like trying to plug a leak with duct tape. Sooner or later the hole is reexposed and the water comes pouring out again. You might be able to keep your emotional eating at bay temporarily, but without working on your eating from the foundation it will surely creep up again.

This isn’t to say that Intuitive Eaters never eat emotionally, or never overeat, or never undereat. They do. And when they do, it’s a quick hop, skip and a jump back to their regular eating habits, because that’s what Intutive Eating IS essentially: normal eating. If there’s a big leak (aka dieting), though, then a person needs a complete overhaul of their pipes (aka relearning how to be a normal eater through Intuitive Eating).

You can be mindful and present about your hunger and fullness cues when eating, while simultaneously dreaming that this food will miraculously shrink your waistline. These unattainable dreams exclude the very important principles of Intuitive Eating of “Reject the Diet Mentality”, “Make Peace with Food”, “Challenge the Food Police”, and “Respect Your Body”. It excludes at least 40% of the principles! And these are some of the most challenging ones. Without them, Intuitive Eating quite honestly looks like just another diet, and we all know where that takes us!

And here’s where it gets tricky, and where I think our reader is feeling challenged.

When you become an intuitive eater, you don’t reach a blissful state where you are always eating exactly what you want to eat. Sometimes it just isn’t practical. Sometimes you want some of your favorite ice cream after a fleishigs meal, and your plan is to be asleep 6 hours later. Sometimes your plans change and you’re away from home when what you really want is a bowl of your favorite homemade vegetable soup you prepared on Tuesday for this chilly winter. Sometimes you really want food and there’s no food around because you’re in a hotel in the middle of nowhere without room service and the corner grocery stores have been closed since 6pm.

What I’m saying is that you should just eat. Feed yourself consistently throughout the day. Eat when there’s food available to you, keeping in mind your hunger and fullness cues to a degree, but not obsessing about them either, while considering how long it will be until you will be able to eat next. There is no perfection in our eating, and trying to reach some level of perfection will just make you feel even crazier around food, which surely keeps us away from feeling Menuchas Hanefesh. I bet your urges will also settle down when you really internalize that imperfection in our eating is really quite perfect.

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