I realize that moderation may work for some people. I totally get that. Steve indulged for years, on alcohol and food, yet does not suffer from the same compulsive brain that I do. When he decided to stop drinking, and when he decided to lose 40 pounds and start treating his body right again, it was a very different experience for him. He can still eat whatever he wants in small amounts. A few weeks ago, I bought him a bag of Krispy Kreme crullers and he made it last for 6 days, eating the appropriate portion size each day with his coffee. *Speechless*
So yes, it works for some. Not for me. This is a copied and pasted portion of an email that I thought really needed to be shared to clarify my thoughts on that a little better:
I’m still a work in progress. I know I have not completely eliminated the discontent that caused me to overindulge on substances and food in the first place; otherwise, I would never again binge like I did this week. I continue to work on it, on my anxieties and my tendency to worry. I continue to breathe deep and try to accept the fact that I deserve the good life I have now and do not need to continue to practice self-sabotage. Hurt myself before life can hurt me and all that business. I know I will get there!
As far as putting all of this into practice in a concrete form, i.e., how and what I drink, eat, put things in my body…
After 7 long years of constantly hammering into my brain that I could have whatever I wanted whenever I wanted it – alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, food – I believe my synapses fire differently than they did had I not trained my brain to respond that way. Chemically, I wired myself for indulgence, for bingeing, for compulsion, regardless of what the object of compulsion is. Even after a few years, I am not yet at a point, and don’t know if I ever will be, where that firing mechanism doesn’t work against me. If scientific studies are to be believed, I am also genetically wired for it, having a long history of three alcoholic smoker grandparents, two obese ones, and my father, who was a recovered alcoholic but never could heal completely, and smoked and ate himself into an early grave.
So by saying that I will learn to live with it rather than fight it, I simply mean that I have accepted that my brain misfires to an extent – and always might – and so to that end, I choose to do two things:
1) Adopt an all or nothing mentality about certain objects/behaviors (alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, cookies, cake, donuts – the shame cycle and the self-enabling all feel the same in practice, so yes, I believe they all belong together in the same category). These are things that get no allowance and no bargaining – because if there’s one thing the compulsive mind is good at, it’s bargaining. Instead, I practice complete acceptance that I will not be having these things and I move on. For me, there is no other way. That is how my brain operates.
2) Use it to my advantage. Instead of letting my compulsive behavior become a brain fog, zoning me out while I ingest anything and everything that is terrible for me, I harness it with total clarity and apply it toward positive things. I run every day. I say I am going to commit to a strength routine 5 days per week – and I do. I budget our finances and household necessities with amazing precision. I meal plan and cook nearly 100% of our food, ensuring I get to eat delicious, healthy meals and snacks every day, and therefore keep my mind and body happy. I am super organized in every aspect of my life. Etc.
I know about Intuitive Eating. I have a few friends who have discussed it at length on their blogs. However, I also know myself. I know what works and what I have to work with, chemically, mentally. I need to have structure and a plan. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t get revised. I have added a lot to my daily regimen over time because I realized I was eating too little. Then I realized I wasn’t getting enough protein in the afternoon so I changed my late afternoon snack to a grain salad or chickpea salad, rather than more fruit. So it’s a plan, but a fluid plan. If nothing else, I have to change it up here and there so I don’t get bored!
Some days I am not as hungry as others and so I will leave the yogurt/fruit/nuts in my lunch bag for the next day. Some days I am genuinely extra hungry and I eat it all and then when I get home have another handful of almonds or another apple before dinner. That is the extent of my intuitive eating. But, I need that framework in place every day.
I’d love to hear all other thoughts and opinions on this. Plain and simple, though, I think this is what works for me. The compulsive tendencies are less and less pronounced as time marches on and maybe one day they will be nearly gone. But right now, this is the way I am. I don’t feel that I have the option of moderation that some others have, due to the damage I did myself, my family history of addiction, my childhood where I was allowed to have entire sleeves of Oreos and bowls of ice cream anytime I wanted, or all of the above. For those of you who do have that option, bless you. You have my admiration. And a little envy. 😉