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> Back to Healthy Eating Excerpts List

Healthy Eating Excerpt from Don't Weight

Your Appetite Can be an ASSET

I used to travel with my husband on business trips. I functioned as the hostess for wives who were also on the trip. We called these trips "vacations". Indeed we traveled to Hawaii, Spain, and resorts all over the country. I had the unique experience of traveling both when I was a compulsive eater and when I had made peace with food.

Traveling as a compulsive eater was an interesting experience. There was food everywhere. And there was permission to eat. After all, this was vacation. At breakfast there was a display of pastries, and I could have all that I wanted. I wanted a lot. Mid-morning we were stopping at a little shop for candies. And it was perfectly acceptable to have candy on vacation. After all, I would go back to dieting when I returned. This went on all day and all night, eating every two or three hours. The first day I really enjoyed myself. The second day, the food had lost its wonder. By the third day, I felt kind of sick. But I was on vacation. How could I turn down these delicious treats that I would never have again? The vacation became a roller coaster ride of eating and nausea. I still enjoyed the eating, briefly. I spent most of the vacation waiting for that sick feeling to go away ... so I could eat again.

Traveling only a few years later, when I had made peace with food, was a completely different experience. I wanted to enjoy what I ate and how I felt after I ate. I learned from experience that a good breakfast helped me feel better all day. It was easy to choose a lower fat breakfast and fresh fruits. I also enjoyed some pastry. This time, when the next bite did not taste as delicious as the last, I choose to stop eating so that I could enjoy myself more. I was seeking that delightful balance between eating for pleasure and feeling comfortable afterward. Mid-morning, when we were at the shops full of candies or treats, I had two questions to ask myself: Do I want to be hungry for lunch so that I can enjoy lunch more? Or do I want to enjoy some of this food now? I could answer yes to either question. I could answer yes to both questions. What I would not do was to eat until I felt sick. I was on vacation. I deserved to enjoy myself. I would not spoil my vacation by overeating to discomfort.

I remembered a saying I had learned in Spanish class:

"Hunger is the best seasoning."

(Unfortunately, I remember it only in English because we learned by translating everything.) When I was in the middle of compulsive eating and bulimia, I had not experienced hunger for years. When I recovered from my eating disorders, I paid attention to eating, enjoyment, and satisfaction. I learned that hunger was truly the best seasoning. Everything tasted better when I was hungry. So, when I was on vacation, getting hungry was a good thing. It meant that I would enjoy my next meal even more. I would eat healthy food at meals and enjoy tastes of desert. I would have bits of delicious snacks between meals so that I would not spoil my appetite. My appetite became something that I cultivated. I wanted to be hungry when it was time to eat. I paced my eating for maximum enjoyment. After all, I was on vacation.

This is a complete change from the familiar idea of "controlling your appetite". This is really different from the idea that your appetite is "the problem", or the feeling of being "at war with your appetite".

Your appetite can be an asset to healthy eating,
not an enemy!

When your appetite is an asset that enhances enjoyment in eating, you have no need for control. You will eat comfortable amounts of food, because it is more pleasurable. You will find yourself saying "No, thank you" because you are looking forward to your next meal and you want to feel your appetite for the next meal. The only effort you need is the effort to keep your focus on truly enjoying yourself both now and later. The only willpower you need is the willpower to keep looking at the broader picture so that you can enjoy yourself both now and later. What a difference!

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