Tuesday, May 3, 2011

"Corrective" Action

Reading back over some of my techniques for altering my relationship with food, I sometimes wonder if it sounds fairly disordered and bizarre. Teaching myself to be hungry and live with it, developing a technique for eating tiny amounts of treats and being happy with 2 or 3 bites, and now, I've started to practice eating much more slowly. In fact, my current project is to eat my breakfast by waiting 5 minutes between bites.

To someone who hasn't spent the vast majority of their entire lives between 300 and 400 lbs., this may all seem obsessive and overly regimented rather than behavior meant to "normalize" my eating. It's important to keep in mind that "normal" is highly subjective, but also that over a lifetime, my dealings with food have been a couple of standard deviations away from the mean. In other words, these measures wouldn't be necessary if I was a little closer to doing what people with a healthy relationship with food are already doing.

My choices are akin to a compulsive hand-washer who washes his hands 100 times a day reducing the number of times he washes his hands slowly through time. It's not about cultivating abnormality, but normality, though sometimes I wonder if it comes across as quite the opposite.

Rigid exercises in waiting to eat, purposeful tasting, etc. are part of behavior modification techniques that I've been increasingly putting in place for myself. When I start such plans, I have to pay attention to the clock, portion sizes, etc. This purposeful effort is the only way to re-set the way I deal with food. Through time, my behavior more naturally falls into the sorts of patterns which assist in eating more modest portions and doing so more slowly and mindfully. The rigid structure falls away as the mind and body conform to the new patterns after having learned them through time using external constructs.

Those who don't have the same issues as me may find the rules I put in place for myself ridiculous and possibly even scary. However, this isn't about boxing myself into extremely restrictive behavior or limiting my enjoyment of food. It's about correcting life-long unrestricted behavior and prolonging the experience of enjoying food.

Recently, I decided to eat my breakfast (usually a homemade sugar-free muffin) by waiting five minutes between bites because I feel that I have a tendency to "rush through it" even though I'm eating mindfully. My husband eats the same food in the same quantity as me, but it takes him up to an hour sometimes. He is very casual about it.

Mind you, he often eats much later at night than me and in greater quantity as he's not trying to lose a lot of weight, so he isn't waking up as hungry as me. However, eating fast when you're hungry doesn't improve satiety. It just tends to increase the chances of eating more. Eating slowly gives the body a chance to recognize the food biologically as well as psychologically. There is no benefit in taking 5 minutes to eat my muffin as compared to 30 minutes. In fact, there are only drawbacks.

Eventually, I'm hoping this forced pattern will lead to my eating more slowly at every meal without any sort of external construct. There is no downside to this change in behavior. I'll be eating the same amount of food as before, but just savoring it over a longer period of time.