Eating without Guilt

A few weeks/months ago, Dinneen discovered my blog and left a comment or two.  The name of her website, Eat Without Guilt, intrigued me, so I clicked over and discovered her story.  What she had to say about the way the French eat vs how we eat here in the States went right along with what I’ve been reading lately, and I could totally relate to her yo-yo dieting story.

As I poked around her site, I discovered her coaching business.  I liked what Dinneen had to say about enjoying the food you love without guilt.  I have always struggled with my relationship with food. Even typing that word – relationship – seems silly and melodramatic when talking about food, but if I’m honest with myself I know that it’s the truth.  Even though I’ve managed to maintain my pants size for most of my adult life, it’s been a constant struggle.  I’m the type of person to go to a party and eat myself sick and then skip a meal or two to loose the extra pounds, but this method of weight management is finally catching up with me.  To say nothing of the fact that my mood each day is dictated by the number on the scale.  It’s no way to live.

I knew from Dinneen’s comments on my blog that she was on my page with the traditional eating, so that afternoon, in an impulsive moment, I emailed her and asked her about coaching me.  In addition to developing a healthier attitude about food, I was hoping she could help me figure out if I have food sensitivities that are contributing to my phantom stomach problems.  (Two GI doctors end endless tests have turned up nothing other than the nebulous gastritis and IBS diagnoses, but there has to be SOME thing causing all of my stomach aches.)  For several years I’ve wanted to find a nutritionist to help me get to the bottom of my tummy troubles, but I always felt that I didn’t have the time to go to appointments.  With Dinneen, we can have our meetings on Skype, right in the comfort of our own homes.  It’s the perfect setup!

We’ve been working together for a couple of weeks now, and I’ve had some interesting self-realizations.  For one thing, I eat most of my meals and snacks either at the computer or standing up in the kitchen.  I’ve developed a habit of mindlessly eating while I do other things.  This is bad for both digestion and weight management.  So the first week, my assignment was to eat every morsel of food while sitting at the table.  Along with that, she instructed me to think about why I was eating.  Was I hungry?  Was I celebrating?  Was I drowning my sorrows?  Was I bored?  Do I really want it?

I quickly noticed that when I sit at the table, I am much more aware of when I am full, and I tend to stop eating sooner. Plus, I’m usually busy and eager to get up and do the next thing, so I don’t tend to eat myself into oblivion as I do when I’m mindlessly munching in front of the TV or computer.  When I lapse into my old habit of eating while I prepare dinner or work at the computer, I invariably overeat and feel gross afterward.  Dinneen promises that I can break the habit of eating mindlessly if I make a conscious effort to do my eating at the table.

The other thing I’ve been doing is keeping a food journal, and not only do I write down what I eat and where I am while I’m eating, but I write down how I feel afterward.  I email my food logs to Dinneen before each Skype appointment, and she looks over them and makes suggestions based on my eating patterns.  I wasn’t surprised when she told me that I need more variety in my diet.  She explained that if I’m eating a better variety of foods, I’ll be more satisfied and won’t have as many cravings to eat.  So this week my assignment is to incorporate more protein and fruits and veggies into my diet.  Check. I can do that.  But then she dropped a bombshell on me.

She wants me to work on breaking my addiction to the scale.

For the past 14 years, I have weighed myself every morning, without fail.  Sometimes I get on the scale a few times, just to make sure it’s consistent.  Then I always weigh myself at night, right before bed, to see if I can predict what the scale will say in the morning.  OCD, anyone?

When I get up in the morning and the scale is up, I’m woefully miserable and crabby.  It affects my mood for the whole day.  Sometimes it gives me the impetus to work harder to lower the number, but sometimes it just makes me want to throw in the towel and gorge on a breakfast of waffles and bacon.  If the scale is down, I’m delighted and the sun is shining on me even if it’s raining outside.  Sometimes that happy number gives me the boost I need to keep my eating in check, and sometimes it gives me license to eat more than I should.  These cues are entirely subconscious.  I know intellectually that I still need to eat sensibly, either to maintain the happy number or lose the unwelcome pounds, but that scale sends subliminal messages to my brain, I’m tellin’ ya.

Despite that, I’ve always credited my obsessive loyal weigh-ins with my weight management over the years.  But yesterday Dinneen had the audacity to suggest that this obsession dedication is actually sabotaging my efforts.  At first I was put off, but the more we talked, the more I could see her point.

Irony of ironies, yesterday I came across this post where Emily of Mommin’ It Up! confessed to the same sort of love/hate relationship with her scale that I have, and she committed to putting away the scale.  I read that and thought to myself, Hunh.  That’s brave.  I could never do that.

Well, folks.  This morning I weighed myself one last bittersweet time and put my scale in the closet. I will allow myself to get it out once a week and hop on to check my progress, but I’m going to try to rely on how I feel rather than the number on the scale to determine how I’m doing.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

I’ve also renewed my commitment to get up and dressed every morning before breakfast.  Ever since the kids started school, I’ve been doing this, and it really goes a long way towards improving my outlook on life.

In a few weeks, I plan to do a little interview with Dinneen so you can learn more about her.  Her story is really interesting.  I love her approach because, as she told me during our first meeting, she tells it like it is.  She also doesn’t take a one-size-fits-all approach.  She believes every person has to figure out what works best for them, and that’s where her services come in.  I can attest, she’s really good at pinpointing where the issues lie and suggesting practical changes to help her clients achieve their goals.  I’m really excited to see if she can help me, once and for all, learn to eat without guilt.  I’ll keep you posted!