Learning to feed my hunger

I will never let another pair of pants tell me I’m fat again.

This from the mouth of my friend Rachael, as she speared another piece of perfectly roasted cauliflower off of the plate in front of us. We met for drinks, Rachael and I, and as the fathers of our children readied our kids for bed, we ordered another cocktail.

I eyed that tiny plate of cauliflower with resentment. It was so good. And there was so little. What a tease tapas can be.

R’s declaration convinced me of what I already knew—I must go buy new jeans.

Familiar, anyone?

Oh, the ever changing expanse of the post partum body. I’ve been rail thin with huge boobs to very squishy and everything in between. The rail-thinness was the product of exhaustion, depression, and breastfeeding in my first four months with Jo. I remember being stunned by the sight of myself in the mirror after a shower–I finally had the body I’d been told to strive for. It was strange and thrilling to see it on me. And I enjoyed it, guiltily, like a $50 bill you find on a busy street. Does this really belong to me? I didn’t work for it. It simply came through suffering over those early months of becoming a mother.

My current squishy reality, were I to guess, is the product of going to dance class less, breastfeeding less, and a little practice I’ll call The Celebration. It starts around 8:30 most nights when the boys are in bed. AJ will make some popcorn. I’ll grab another glass of wine and the cheese puffs. And then we’ll trot out a pint of ice cream while watching some show on the computer. It’s such a miracle to Eat and Watch without having to share or explain to the children. To be left alone to make terrible health choices and then to fall asleep on the couch. Don’t ask about the couple weeks when I worked through a box of 24 Haagen Dazs ice cream bars.

The Celebration also unfurled itself during the first few months of my job. It was just so miraculous to sit, unfettered at a desk—no one needing a snack or crying or hitting. So I would buy a tub of dark chocolate peanut butter cups at Trader Joe’s and polish of half (or more!) in an afternoon. Partytime.

The women’s group I attend every month? It is an oasis. Smart, interesting, engaged women, their beautiful child-free homes, wine and food. Last month, when I walked in, I thought, “Get ready, self. Time to over-eat.” I do it every time. The Rosé and cheese platter and berries with homemade whipped cream are just so damned abundant and miraculous that I have to pack it in so that it will last until next month.

I’ve felt uneasy about The Celebrations, just as I feel uneasy inside my jeans. And it took writing this to really see it:

I’ve gone and confused food with relaxation.

One feeds my body. The other, my soul.

In the confusion, both my body and soul have gotten squishy.

When I’m experiencing a significant break, rest, respite from the relentlessness of motherhood, I pack food into myself. As though the food will tide me over until next time.

It doesn’t.

And then, instead of really sinking into the moment, feeling the rest, the support, the entertainment, I zone out on food.

This week, I’ve been reading Women Food and God, and I tripped over this sentence several times because it was such a zinger.

To discover what you really believe…pay attention to the way you eat. You will quickly discover if you believe the world is a hostile place and that you need to be in control of the immediate universe for things to go smoothly. You will discover if you believe that there is not enough to go around and that taking more than you need is necessary for survival.

Guess which one I am, piling more sesame noodle salad onto my plate at my woman’s group like it’s the last meal I’ll see for days?

So, I’m turning over a new leaf. The concept of mindful or intuitive eating. I learned about it from this insightful TED Talk, and while at first I was left laughing off the possibility of mindful eating, it’s been surprisingly helpful in practise:

I eat what I want when I’m hungry. Eat till I’m full. If I’m not hungry, and I want to eat, pause the food train and be in the moment.

It’s felt like a homecoming to listen to and trust my body.

The new jeans aren’t too bad either.

141 thoughts on “Learning to feed my hunger

  1. Love. After many, many years, I no longer, mostly, have this relationship with food, but I often feel I have it with alcohol. I don’t drink too much, exactly, but it’s the only signal I have for “relaxation.” And so I crave it all the time at the end of a stressful day. And lately I keep getting colds and feeling like crap. I think there might be a connection here.

  2. OMG I LOVE every word you ever say. 🙂 Can we please all post our pics like that? I have a phone full of shame shots I have no where to share. I’m like, “uh huh, she did that! That makes ME normal and okay!” I laughed out loud several times and even once spit on my computer in a agreeable outburst….that was just fantastic. Thank you friend!

  3. I’m reading a great book at the moment called French kids don’t throw food written by an American expat and she writes about how the French women lose weight after having babies. I love it and im now trying it out for myself. They say they are “paying attention” not being good so otherwise you are being bad. .. its mindfulness and its been a helpful and easy thing for me to do.

  4. Yeah, I can totally relate to this. Although I haven’t had children I have struggled to let go of clothes that no longer fit me because I don’t want to accept my body as it is now. I have heard good things about intuitive eating. There’s a blog called eat, run, repeat where she talks about her experience with this approach. Good luck and thanks for sharing!

  5. Great post! I’m sure many people can relate. I recently started my fitness journey 10 months ago, but I can’t seem to let go of all the good food. Keep up the hard work! xoxo

  6. This is so relatable. I’m not a mom but I’m definitely part of the ‘need to buy new jeans adds to list’ group. Thanks so much for sharing and all the very best.

  7. I actually laughed at the opening statement, it was quite cute. I have been there several times, food is so awesome. Great post.

  8. Reblogged this on Tana Daily Telegraph and commented:
    Uh huh! Ok. Dudes may not make any objective comments here. Nonetheless, this post has shed more light on key aspects of life that I believe most of us would relate to and embrace it’s positivity. Thank you for such an informed view on the subject.

  9. I don’t know that I ever felt comfortable in my body – and having children didn’t help me get any more comfortable. Over a decade later, I still feel I am trying to find a restful place for my self, my body. I secretly look at my squishy all the time and do some serious navel gazing. Not sure if my soul is down there too but I sometimes come up with some good thoughts —

  10. My dad thought I was crazy and had complexes because I felt fat and didn’t want to wear a topless bathing suit like the rest of the kids in Italy. I was 3 years old. Nothings changed. I still feel fat. I see my grandmother’s body when I look in the mirror. But I think of exercise and not of food. Or so I say.

  11. I really get what you’re saying. I had a toxic relationship with food for years – I’d eat and feel bad, eat more…it was a never ending cycle. But recently I’ve been diagnosed with ADHD, and the pills I have to take for it are an appetite suppressor … So finally I’m not always hungry!! I have taken advantage of this an been eating much much less and finally feeling happy about food and how I look…but since I’ve been to the doctors for my mediation check ups I’ve been told I HAVE to eat this and I MUST eat that…I’ve finally become happy with the way I’m eating and I have to change it again just to accommodate my ADHD. It has made me incredibly annoyed and now I’m unsure of how to feel because I DON’T want to put on weight again but I also don’t want to make my ADHD worse! Dilemmas! If you’re interested check out my blog about my struggles; agirlwithadhd.wordpress.com

  12. I simply love this. Every comment you made sounded as if it was coming from my mind. I laughed and cried at the same time and managed to leave the hershey bar that I was about to wolf down. I have also started trying to document my journey. I believe that will help.

  13. Nice post! I think most of us women IF not all can relate to this. When I did away with mindless eating my whole world changed. Food can be an addiction like anything else and it is the hardest one to lick! Because we have to keep licking! LOL! Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

  14. Oh I can totally relate to this!! The celebration!! What a perfect description! Like you I am working on reigning in my mindless eating!! Thank you for being real, it is so refreshing! Thank you for sharing!

  15. “In the confusion, both my body and soul have gotten squishy.” I love this. I call them my squishy spots. I suppose I may have some squishy spots in my soul as well from my own confusion. Great read.

  16. Thank you so much for this. My constantly-morphing body after two children is a source of constant dilemmas, and it’s so affirming to know that I am not alone. Our relationships to food are often so vexed–your description of the kid-free food-and-TV-time in the evenings rings so, so true. Thanks for your brave honesty.

  17. Reblogged this on inglorious Resurrection and commented:
    Interesting article involving the long going relationship between man and food.. Original a relationship of necessity has become so much more.. Good has made it’s way to becoming a driving force in modern culture.. No longer simply an act of survival, it has become so much more.. An entity in and of itself.. A controller of men..

  18. I’ve recently gone back to the gym after several months hiatus. Sigh, how far I’ve sunk.

    I think I need to write a note and put it inside my lunch bag that says “Mindful Eating” if not, I’ll just forget and look for treats around the office.

  19. I hear you, sister!
    Three kids later, and even though one runs and one fasts and one drinks plenty of water, our bodies are no longer our own. Our lives are no longer our own.
    Food for thought, though: my Mum died of cancer a few months ago. Chemo killed her appetite and her taste buds. Nobody deserves cancer, but she certainly didn’t foster it through an unhealthy lifestyle. And as she lay at the hospice with only days to live, she told me that she should have had another glass of champagne while it still tasted good. So, listen to my Mum: don’t stop celebrating. We’re alive. That’s worth celebrating.

  20. I get caught in the loop of ‘Iv exercised time to treat myself’ and ‘I am going to exercise tomorrow so I can treat myself’ never ending treats interspersed with a little exercise gets me nowhere.

    I found that the best thing was to re-evaluate what a treat is, does it have to be chocolate or can it be a massive dinner. When I started cutting out the sugar and wine I found that I didn’t want the treats as much, its hard work and I slip all the time (I have discovered Pret chocolate croissants and entered the dark ages) but I am more aware of what I eat and why. Sugar slumps are the devil.

    1. I hear you, thisdrkbluemind. the think about the mindful/intuitive eating that is thrilling to me is that it doesn’t have to be a rewards system anymore. For me, I’m able to just tune into when I’m hungry and then I eat whatever I want till I’m full. I don’t have to qualify for treats anymore, which is a treat in and of itself. And sometimes, like last night, I noticed that I wasn’t hungry, but I wanted some lemon cake and whipped cream. So I just had some. Reading Women Food And God really helped too…the whole notion that nothing in me is broken. I can trust myself to know what I need. REVOLUTIONARY.

      1. Hmm I might give it a read, I think my downfall is as simple as that, I eat when I don’t need to because I think it will give me something good to feel, that naughty treat luxury feeling when really I need to eat when I’m hungry and not when I’m bored or emotional!

  21. Love this. So many people can relate to this post especially me. Food is my best friend through good times and bad. Recently I have realised this is fine but it needs to be controlled for the wellbeing of my mental health. Eat better, feeling better 💗

  22. Love this. So many people can relate to this post especially me. Food is my best friend through good times and bad. Recently I have realised this is fine but it needs to be controlled for the wellbeing of my mental health. Eat better, feeling better ?

  23. It’s so easy for food to serve an emotional purpose – celebratory, comforter, stress reliever etc. For me it’s hoovering complete rubbish when I’m feeling overwhelmed. So to hear that you’ve managed to overcome that link through mindfulness is great to hear!

  24. As someone who just started her healthy journey, this blog was perfect to read! Thank you! I have never had kids but hope to one day. I want to be healthy enough to keep up with little ones. I am an emotional eater, but it doesn’t matter what emotion I am feeling. 😦 I really like what you said about paying attention to your body, eat when you are hungry, eat until you are full. That is going to he included in my daily life.

  25. Thanks so much for sharing, life can get hard, but as long as we take back control, we can do anything we put our mind to 🙂

  26. This is so awesome! I think that if we are going to make changes then we need to look at it from a positive perspective. We need to like ourselves and be mindful I think you said this so well.

  27. Reblogged this on #LifeWithMother and commented:
    I’ve certainly had the same “celebration” moments at my women’s group. Great read and good advice on mindful eating. I do something similarly, not depriving myself but just tracking my intake so that I don’t overeat. The squishy self is slowly going away. I have to ask myself: what makes me happier – the slice of pizza or feeling awesome in my skinny jeans? The skinny jeans win for me.

  28. Reblogged this on dailyscienceconvo and commented:
    “I eat what I want when I’m hungry. Eat till I’m full. If I’m not hungry, and I want to eat, pause the food train and be in the moment.” I could not have said it better, eating is a life source and art enjoy them both!

  29. This is so reliable. I have read so many things on how to eat clean, they never work. But know I know thanks to you, listen to your body. Please go check out my blog, I just started it, Gypsybirds.wordpress.com thank!!!

  30. Empowerment come from within. In order to change how the exterior sees us, we have to start by changing the way we see ourselves. Fat or not, what’s important is how healthy our thought are.

  31. This is so beautiful! Thank you so much for the reminder about mindful eating and re- reading Women Food and God. I loved it and have been forgetting it. I totally related to your description of “the celebration” and had a good laugh.

  32. This really struck a chord with me! Too many times have I been in that same position! Now I have another book to add to my reading list for “self improvement”, so I thank you. Just recently started taking care of myself- so the night cap of wine isn’t needed so often, but I absolutely relate. Great post, thanks for sharing.

  33. Some things to consider when hunger hits is to grab a glass of water. 75% of Americans are dehydrated.

    Also, if a person is not getting the nutrients they need the hunger response does not cut off, just the full switch and they will eat again sooner.

    Clifford T Mitchem
    Advocare Distributor
    Nutrition + Fitness = Health

  34. I saw the same TED talk and cried with laughter. She was very insightful and encouraging. Thank you for this post. Motherhood is definitely an adventure!

  35. I’m not a mom, but I can really relate to how mixing up soul and body satisfaction are two different things. Kudos to all you mommies out there though, you have the best job in the world 🙂

  36. This was the post that made me decide to follow your blog, I can relate to this so much even though I haven’t had any children. Thank you for sharing and being so open 🙂

  37. I’m only sixteen, and I know what this relationship with food feels like, because I struggled with it for such a long time up until recently. EAT to LIVE, DON’T LIVE to EAT!

  38. Reblogged this on a few simple moments and commented:
    I just read this and I think its great! I do this, sometimes. Food can be relaxing to me, but there is a limit.! Really makes you think more about healthier options and eating when you are really hungry! And if you feel hungry, live that moment and really think on “well am i really hungry or am i nervous, sad, angry, bored? These all play into food as comfort! Take a read! Let me know your thoughts!

  39. I have begun this process of coming into the present moment with food. Which is supposed to be a present, but feels more like a marathon of willpower that I forgot to train for. I am working with the book you mentioned. I was also inspired by the book, “The Power of Habit.” Good luck to you.

  40. Women, Food & God is such an eye-opening book. I love Geneen and her sage approach to eating and food. I have fallen off of the mindful eating truck and have been much more mindless in the last couple of years but I am making my way back. I don’t have children but I can so relate to finding reasons to celebrate just about any old thing.

    Thank you for your terrific post and congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

  41. Eating for social purposes (because it’s there, because everyone else is eating, because it’s free, because it’s someone else’s exotic creation that you will never see again…) instead of eating because we’re hungry is a main reason for obesity. We Americans need to consciously eat for fuel and nutrition, not boredom or emotions.

  42. Mindfulness is a powerful mindset in many things beyond just eating. Simply knowing what you value and what your goals are make it much easier to act mindfully consistently. This will help you move toward a life that you value on a daily basis.

  43. Loved reading this post! I completely get what you mean with the celebration when you feel like ‘wahey its party time!’. Mine is usually Friday after work when I indulge in too much wine and takeaway. I know what I need to do by way of planning, but it never works out that way x

  44. I threw away all pants with numbers and traded them in for comfy dresses and skirts. I too have been following the eat what your body wants (not necessarily your mind) wants, but yes. A peice of chocolate or an ice cream cone can sooth your soul. 😉

    1. AMEN! The reason I love the mindful eating is because it is not based on restriction. It’s based on listening. And when I listen, and when I’m hungry, I eat what I want, chocolate cake included!

  45. Wow good for you for take charge and recognizing the mind switch! I’ve been there, thinking I might not have the chance to eat “it” again and wanting to stuff as much down as I could. Knowing full well I was going to feel yucky full and bloated! I can totally relate to this though and I’m finally getting a handle on my health and eating right. I would love to have you follow me on Facebook for support and encouragement 🙂 http://www.facebook.com/sheseemann Thank you again for being so honest and sharing!

  46. I just bought some new jeans today (one size bigger) and I don’t really feel bad about it. Reading about the nightly celebrations sounds like our house each night. Good reminder to be mindful but not obsessed. To

  47. Some people eat to live…. And then there are those like us! We live to eat! I can never bring myself to put down delicious food! I’m not big for sweets but I indulge every now and then! Loved this post!!?

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