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> Back to Healthy Eating Excerpts List

Healthy Eating Excerpt from Don't Weight

Lessons from a Bulimic and Compulsive Overeater

These are some of the things I learned as I recovered from my eating disorders.

  • Whatever my body size and shape, I am entitled to take care of myself!
  • My body deserves to be fed nutritious foods.
  • My muscles and joints deserve the pleasure and benefits of regular movement.
  • My basic human needs deserve to be met.

I made small doable changes in my life with a goal of taking care of myself. Those changes were more likely to be permanent than any grand sweeping changes ever could be. Those small changes added up to a comfortable self-sustaining healthy lifestyle that met my physical and emotional needs.

When I made changes with a goal of weight loss, those changes were temporary. The very words, "on the program" and "off the program", implied that there was some "expert" telling me what to do or how to eat. There is nobody except me who can figure out what I should do and how I should eat in order to meet my unique set of needs. I need to TUNE IN so that I can learn from my experiences and make choices that meet my needs better.

The fact is that food does meet some of our physical and emotional needs. That is normal for all human beings. Food is supposed to be one way to meet our physical and emotional needs. There is a problem when we use food as the primary way to meet our needs.

The problem is not the food. The problem is that we spend too much time and energy eating (or not eating) instead of improving our lives. The problem is using food to tune out from how we feel and what we need.

I kept asking myself two questions, "What do I need now?" and "What is the best way for me to meet that need?" I had to find out, through personal experimentation, what was right for me. No book, no program, no "expert", could tell me. I had to listen to myself and learn what I needed.

I wanted to improve my relationship with food, not to lose weight, but because food was not meeting my needs. I used my relationship with food as a tool to learn more about myself.

In order to understand what needs I was trying to meet with food, I decided to keep track of how I was feeling. (I had to avoid any behaviors that were similar to dieting behaviors. I would not write down what I ate.) Instead, I would write down what I needed when I ate. I found it most helpful to think and write down the need before I choose to eat. (After I ate, I often could not remember how I felt or what I thought.) Here are some of the needs I discovered:

  • Fuel: I often ate because I was hungry and my stomach was growling.
  • Entertainment: Sometimes food just tasted good and I wanted the pleasure of eating.
  • Accomplishment: I could not face any other task, so fixing a nice meal met my need to accomplish something.
  • Comfort: From mother's milk to chocolate cake, food has been and should be one possible source of comfort. It is just not the only source!
  • Distraction: When I had an unpleasant feeling or thought, eating sweets would numb me.

This was educational, but it was only part of my question. I wanted to know what my needs were, and if my needs were being met when I ate. So, I took the time before I ate to write down what I needed. I took the time after I ate to notice how I felt. Did eating meet that particular need? If it did, I circled the need to symbolize a satisfied need. If it did not, I put an "X" through the need to symbolize an unmet need. When I reviewed my last week's record, I saw more "X"s than circles. I discovered many unmet needs that were hidden within my relationship to food.

Once I was more aware of my unmet needs, I got creative and found better ways to satisfy my needs. I used problem-solving to build a LIFE that met my needs. I chose to improve my relationship with food because I knew I deserved more satisfaction in my life. It had nothing to do with my weight. My weight was and must remain irrelevant.

Watching my weight and dieting were gateway behaviors to compulsive overeating and compulsive under eating and compulsive over-exercising. To recover from my bulimia I had to take the focus off of my weight. I recommend the same for you.

Don't do anything to lose weight.
Do everything to take care of yourself.

Don't watch what you eat.
Watch what you need.

Then, do everything you can to
meet your needs more effectively!

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