Monday, January 28, 2013

Practicing Attuned Eating (well trying)

I started a course last week on "Disordered Eating in Active and Sedentary Individuals." I thought it was a nice compliment to my background working with ANAB (the Anorexia and Bulimia Association) from years ago and my general interest in helping women feel their very best selves.  Truthfully, I was also interested in it myself.  Wanting to learn more about how to ditch this "diet mentality" and move forward to my healthiest and happiest self.

The course describes a way of eating called Attuned Eating.

Attuned Eating is: Eating based on the body's internal cues for eating. To determine what, how much, and when to eat, the individual checks in with the body's signals of hunger, satiety, and appetite. They temper this information with a bit of scientific knowledge of what the body needs. In the scientific literature, attuned eating is often called internally regulated, nonrestrained eating. (

The course goes on to describe how eating to meet your physical and emotional needs is important.  I really liked this way of thinking.  It reminded me of the book "Women, Food, God" by Geneen Roth.  A book I loved.

So based on what I read and where I am right now, I walked away with these general principals that I wanted to try applying to myself.  (this is not what the course suggests, just my own personal take away, based on my own path).

1.  Eat when Hungry, and Stop when Full and Satisfied.
2.  Pay attention to cues of I thinking of food, how does my tummy feel?,  when did I last eat?, what am I hungry for, how do I feel etc? If I'm hungry eat...choose something that meets your nutrition needs and is something you enjoy.
3. When eating try to eat till full and satisfied.  (don't stop before, and don't go past full)
4.  Think about all the things your body needs and through out the course of the day make sure to eat those things, (veg, fruits, dairy, protein etc...) But also include things like chocolate.  Frankly Chocolate meets an emotional need for me, and as long as I am hungry when I eat it and stop when satisfied (ie. usually a few squares not a whole choc bar and then more because I feel guilty) I feel that fits my attuned eating ideal.
5. There will be times you overeat, it happens, its ok.  Pay attention, you likely will not be hungry for awhile, or perhaps naturally eat less at next meal etc.  Don't let feelings of guilt etc drive you into further over eating, binging or periods of restricting.  Pay attention to how you feel, and let your body balance out.
6. Eat the foods you want, there is no FORBIDDEN FOOD...want JUBE them. But eat them when hungry and stop when satisfied.

Ok sounds good right?  Well how did the week go?

It was harder then I thought.  I had stopped tracking what I eat, and counting calories etc ages ago.  But I was still falling into a pattern of more "restrictive eating " during the week and then loosening the reins on the weekend which also usually led to overeating.  This was my weight maintenance style for the last year.  I guess it worked, I maintained my weight, but I was still thinking way to much about food, what to eat, what was allowed and having feelings of guilt when I over ate.  I was also very much setting myself up to over eat.

So last week, started off well.  I felt like a weight had been lifted off of me.  I felt free'er.  I still ate much of the same way, because my tastes have changed and so has my lifestyle.  The majority of the food I eat is very nutritious for my body and food that I really enjoy.  But I did do some things differently.  I ate more carbs, I even had "WHITE RICE" during the week.  Something silly, but something I would not have eaten during the week, when not carb loading for a run.  I also went and bought some candy, some jubes and liquorice.  That's when things went a little whacky.  I had been doing well eating when hungry, stopping when full and satisfied etc.  Then one night I started eating some candy, and couldn't stop.  I ate past satisfied, and ate because I felt guilty and thought might as well eat more.  I was right back into my old thinking.  I then felt guilty and thought, this is stupid, your going to gain weight, you need to go back to your old way of doing things etc.  I was full of guilt and doubt.  I went to bed.  The next morning I woke up feeling much better.  A new day.  I then realized that this switch in thinking is not going to happen over night.  I'm going to struggle with over eating, its going to happen.  Its natural given how restrictive I have been for so long.  I have to trust that this will all balance out.  I felt better.

I carried on with the week and for the most part it went well, I ate more then usual, and had some moments where I over ate.  When I overate, I tried really hard to just accept it and listen to when I was hungry next.  That was KEY..not just continuing to overeat but truly waiting till I was hungry again.  It was a learning experience that's for sure.  I won't lie and say I didn't have many thoughts of panic, and worry over gaining weight.  In fact, that's the other thing, I need to let go of the idea of weight.  Move from "weight" to "health" to truly and fully embrace this idea.  I need to be ok with gaining some weight while learning how to listen to my body.  I actually took a picture of myself Sat night before going out to meet some friends because I was feeling "fluffy" and knew that a picture wouldn't lie to me.  I took a full body pic of myself, and thought yeah...nothing wrong with you dumbass let it go :)  Sounds silly but it worked.  That night I went out and throughly enjoyed myself with friends.  I didn't have a plan on what I was allowed to eat or drink, when I would stop myself etc...nor did I have any guilt for drinking lots of wine and eating lots of chocolate.  I had an amazing evening, laughed, relaxed, and was just PRESENT (not stuck in my head thinking about what I should eat).
Heading out Sat night, feeling a bit "fluffy" then thought FLUFFY IS AWESOME :)  

So this is the direction the next phase in my Health Journey is taking. I really think this is a healthier picture of what "maintenance" will look like for me (and that maintenance may in fact be me weighing more).  I know it won't be easy, that there is a lot of learning to do yet.  That I will get scared and want to fall back to old "control" patterns.  I will worry about my weight etc.  But I know I can do this. I know I will find my way, what works for me, and will  be the healthiest and happiest I can be.


  1. Loved this post so much. It's honest, and I totally get is so hard to change a mindset, and to loosen the reigns a bit...but it's necessary in order to be balanced, and happy...we can do this.

  2. You said something that resonates with me. "It will take time". Changing eating habits doesn't happen overnight, but we expect it to. We force ourselves to this hard stop, wanting results now. Therein lies the yoyo, and the disappointment and the guilt, right?

    Realizing it will take time, and accepting the ups and downs while you learn a new way of sensing your emotional and physical needs is HUGE. I am excited to hear how this goes for you over time, and how it helps you (generally) in other areas of life, like parenting, relationships, or even running! Being attuned to one area of your life can sometimes have amazing results in others!

  3. the hardest part for me was to not eat out of boredom. If I am standing in from of the fridge and can't decide what to eat, I know it's boredom, not hunger. I also had to stop eating for entertainment purposes, I rarely go out for dinner now as a social event, I had to separate the 2. Every day is a journey and a learning opportunity along the maintenance road.

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