Okay so I couldn’t figure out how many “Aha” moments I’ve had in the course of the less than a year I’ve been consciously avoiding the diet mentality and living in favor of health at every size.
There was definitely that “Aha!” moment when I realized that allowing myself to eat ANYTHING (in ANY amount, ANY time, etc) did NOT actually mean I was going to devour every rippled chip in the world until I exploded, guppy-fish style, all over my living room.
There was also a notable “Aha!” moment when I took account of the exercise I already do each week and realized that it is quite a lot and I’m improving all the time within the activities that I’ve chosen to do because I actually enjoy doing them. Mentally brow-beating myself for any minute spent on the couch (for fear that I will then be that “Bad Fatty” eating bon-bons or chocolate dipped babies or something, watching bad comedies until I melt into a puddle of fat right there on my own couch) is self-defeating. It was a moment of “Oh. Wait. Those ads and snarky fat-bashing people and diet-sellers always trying to spout that BECAUSE I am fat I MUST not be doing enough, (or the RIGHT) exercise are just full of bologna! (Is it sad I just had to sing that Oscar Mayer song to spell that right?) Only I really know what I’m doing and if it is enough for ME. Everyone else be damned!
There have also been lots of other HAES and IE “aha” moments of the smaller variety throughout the months now. Little things like “Oooo I’d love to eat this peppermint patty that a co-worker brought down to me but I shouldn’t eat it just BECAUSE it’s there, do I really want it? Wait. Hells yes I want it. It is delicious. I’d love a snack. Just because I didn’t consciously get up myself to get it doesn’t mean I don’t deserve to eat the damned minty treat!” These are more triumphs of the smaller mental variety. Getting over ingrained feelings to actually evaluate what I really want or my feelings behind eating or moving or anything really.
However, it is has also been a bumpy road, I won’t deny it. There was that first month when I really DID fear I would try to eat every freaking ripple chip known to human-kind. There was the night just a few days ago when that little internal food gauge guardian in my tummy must have been taking a little holiday. Either that or the microphone leading from his watch post to my brain was shut off and he was down there watching the levels of food in my belly overflow while he was desperately shouting “HEY! Enough food! STOP! Is…is this thing ON!?!? Stop sending food!” I overate in a way I haven’t for a while. It brought with it a sick stomach and also that guilty wash of feelings from my youth, from any time it ever happened before. That “What is WRONG with me?” serenade that tries to drag me even further into despair then the cramps raging through my over-full tummy already were succeeding in throwing me into.
So it hasn’t been all wonderfully easy and amazing “aha!” flashes of insight. Sometimes it has been a rough and long drawn-out time of “Oooo man. I guess that I overdid it.” Or even those frightening moments of “Gah! I don’t know if I’m DOING this right! What if I want yogurt all week for dinner? What if I want salad? Or (heaven forbid) just red meat? Is that ALWAYS okay???” after which I just have to make a choice and calmly remind myself that it is a learning process; and therefore fluid. I MAY make mistakes. And I will learn from them. Sometimes painfully, more often not painfully at all.
But no matter how the moment has come to me, it has always brought something valuable. Yes, even when I laid on the floor those few nights ago, wishing again (and trying to stop that thought) that I could “simply” throw it all up and be CLEAN again on the inside; it still brought to me a valuable lesson in listening. It was a reminder that yeah, I have the right to just “listen to my body” but I also need to be aware that sometimes my body just isn’t able to give me the right signals anymore after so long dieting and breaking those intuitive mechanisms.
It may mean that I need to put a bit of conscious effort into asking before that next serving of mashed potatoes or green beans or steak “Now, I know I really want this. Am I still hungry or is that internal cue taking a mini-break right now?” It might be that I won’t have the right answer and will end up taking a few (or many) bites too many again. It happens. But just like when I ended up throwing myself OVER a horse in a frantic attempt to get in the saddle; I just need to get up, dust myself off, and try again, slower this time.
And there will still be those more rewarding “aha!” moments to look forward to. Like last night at our anniversary dinner. After growing up being told to ALWAYS clean your plate (no matter what or how much was on it) since others in the world were starving; it has been hard to break that mentality. So I always find it a bit of a triumph to leave ANYTHING on a plate un-eaten. And last night after a chicken appetizer and our salads, the hubby and I both felt mostly full. We enjoyed a few bites of our meal and then stopped eating. Just stopped. Packed it all up and saved it for a tasty lunch to have today.
And that, to me, was a momentous “Aha!” feeling. That even if my internal cue was sleeping, I could still consider what I’d eaten and think, “hmmm I feel pretty good. I’d still love to keep enjoying the taste but it will still be there later if I’m still hungry so I’m going to stop.” It is a wee-step-by-wee-increment process and I’m happy to add one more little notch into the side of this mountain of incredibly daunting HAES/IE learning that lays before me.