Just yesterday, after returning from my afternoon walk to Starbucks and my favorite little grocery store, I returned home with a big smile on my face.
Was it coffee that made me so happy? Well, yes and no. I'm actually trying to drink less coffee and choosing pretty carefully where I buy it from. I'm pretty sensitive to coffee, sometimes it gives me jitters and affects my sleep. In addition, I suspect that having too much of it has something to do with why I'm feeling more anxious or depressed at times. I'm not sure if there's any truth to it or not, but that's something that I've been thinking of.
In this afternoon though, coffee sounded like a good idea. But what made me happier than coffee was chocolate that I bought.
To be exact, I bought two small chocolates–the ones you can see in the picture above. One filled with caramel and pecans and other rice crisps and almonds.
Definitely. I was smiling BIG realizing how much things have changed. I'm free of the habit of having to stuff my face with thirty of them. Just two. I can stay sane around chocolate. Amazing.
Why Am I Even Talking About This?
If you have never had a problem with portion control, then you may not understand why I'm even talking about it. What's so awesome about all that? You wanted chocolate, went to a grocery store, bought it and ate it–that's it. What's there to talk about?
But it is a huge thing for someone who used to have an unhealthy relationship with food, who used to struggle with portion control, who only used to see the world as black and white, which, when translated into the relationship with food, meant restricting or gorging. Staying sane in situations where you have plenty of your favoite foods around you is a pretty big change.
I've been able to be fine with just a few pieces of sweets for a while now. Yes, there are days when I eat more than moderate–it happens to everyone! But in general, a little bit is enough.
How Depriver's Mind Works
My feelings and actions around food have changed a lot. Here's how my mind used to work, back when I was struggling with portion control, depriving and then limitless gorging, and which is how most deprivers' minds are working:
First you get the craving for something, usually sweet. Sugar cravings happen sooner or later, when you either
1) eat too much of it, so that your body asks more and more, to rapidly bring up the blood sugar levels again, or
2) desperately deprive yourself from all the sweet things. As a result, sugar becomes all you can think about.
Let's talk about the second case–not allowing yourself to eat what you really desire. You tell yourself to have some willpower! Keep your goals in mind (Get a bikini body! Get ready for summer! Drop the 10 lbs for bikini season, it's right around the corner!), so of course, there's no room for treats in your diet. Because you think that if you have them, you'll never achieve your goals.
But willpower has limits, which is why we can't rely on that. When you want something really bad, but you don't let yourself to have even a little piece of it, then at one point it becomes all you can think about. You will throw your hands up and fall, face first into candy bowl and won't stop before you feel literally sick.
How My Mind Works Now
That used to be me, but not anymore. That's why I was so happy yesterday to once again realize that I did it again: I just bought two mini chocolate bars and I was okay with it. I realized once again that I can eat a little bit and stop.
I swear that there used to be times when I was really thinking that I will never be able to break out from this restricting and gorging cycle and treat food like it's a normal thing. About 4 years ago, that's honestly what I thought.
Start Fixing Your Mind
I've said that many times before, but I can't empasize it enough:
Life really sucks when you can never have your favorite meals. But you think that that's what it takes to lose weight and get healthy and happy.
Life may seem so unfair because it seems that all everybody else in the world can eat the things they want, it's only you who can't live a normal life.
That's not true at all! You can live a life that you love and there is room for your chocolate. Stop thinking that it's off limits, because all that extreme restricting does is to feed your cravings.
When you stop doing that, foods lose their magic. You know that you can have them if you want to and you don't have to eat all you can possibly fit into your tummy today.
Secondly, you have to realize this :
Eating huge amounts of foods is a huge stress for your body and messes up your metabolism.
After a binge, you'll end up with stomach pain and feeling awfully heavy. Knowing what eating a crap load of food does do your body may help you to avoid your next binge.
The lining of our stomach is thin, but it will stretch if you put a lot of food into your stomach. However, if you stretch it too much, you'll damage the small blood vessels inside of your stomach walls.
When your stomach stretches to fit all the food and is getting bigger and bigger, it starts to take up the room from your other organs, like intestines. The intestines get squeezed and twisted and won't be able to do their job.
It's totally insane and harmful for your stomach to handle three huge chocolate bars, a box of cookies and a five muffins in one sitting. But that's what binge eaters put their bodies through.
Knowing what bingeing does to your body and how it actually hurts it may help you to avoid over eating. You want to treat your body better than that.
Third step in fixing your mind is that:
Teach yourself to be okay with small amounts.
That may sound insane: How can you possibly teach yourself to satisfy with less?
Basically, there's just one thing that is going to help you: practice.
There are people who eat three bites of a dessert after dinner, no matter if they actually wanted it or not. The idea is to teach themselves moderation. Jill Coleman talks a lot about it. That might be one way to go and I'm sure it's helpful.
I don't order a dessert if I don't feel like it, only to take three bites and send the rest of it back (part of it is simply that I hate to see food thrown away). But what I do is that I buy or order things that are really small. Two candies. Two squares of chocolate. A small cup of ice cream. Whatever it is for you–you will repeat yourself that this amount is enough. It will get easier. You just need patience and consistency.
One thing that helps with learning to be consistent is slowing down when eating. Make eating your chocolate a little ritual and be sure that you are actually present in this situation (vs. eating while watching TV). Smell, taste, bite, chew, ENJOY. That's all part of teaching your brain that a little bit is enough.
Small Wins Lead To Big Success
I have practiced sanity around foods for long time now. It's getting easier! Along the way, you'll start to notice small wins, things that you never thought were possible.
Here are my few wins from this and last week, in addition to my two super tasty filled chocolate squares that got me so excited yesterday:
A morning coffee and a fudge filled chocolate ball art my trip to Morro Bay last week. I love fudge and when we stopped at a little coffee shop at a waterfront that served fresh coffee, fudge and chocolates, I knew I wanted to try one.
Just one. It was perfect.
Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate bar with caramel and sea salt. I bought it a few days ago because I was at Trader Joe's and I like their chocolates. I didn't want to eat it at this moment, but I wanted to have some ready for later when I may feel like it. Well, I haven't opened it for four days now. Not because I'm restricting, but because I haven't felt like it. I know it will be good though!
The other afternoon when I was working, I noticed that I was going a little snack-y. I didn't have anything and home, so we went for a little walk to a grocery store. I got a dark chocolate bar and my husband got some cookies.
I took two squares from the bar (they're actually pretty good size), had one cookie and a small glass of almond milk. It tasted so good! The rest of the chocolate bar went in the cabinet and I think finished it in three or four days, which means that I had 2-3 pieces every day.
Totally fine. Felt good. No binges. No uncontrollable cravings, because small cravings got satisfied already before they ever got huge.
You can stay sane around your favorite foods. You just have to practice. When you are craving sugar on a regular basis, that's a problem and that's not the case when you should give in and eat treats non stop. The problem is in your overall diet.
But if your cravings are a result of constant forbidding, you may want to start letting yourself to eat what you want, only in smaller amounts. You will soon realize that this particular food loses its special meaning that you used to give to it. It's not anything magical, it's not anything that you can't have again tomorrow.
Also, know what stuffing yourself with food until you feel extremely uncomfortable does to your body. You will put your organs through real pain. Your body deserves better.
Hope you know that normal relationship with food is possible. I've been through all that and know how hard it is.
I'm here to help you–let me know if you have any questions.