What’s in Mah-Belleh?

Mah-Belleh should from now be the fun name I give to My Belly.  That beautiful place where the foods I eat are processed and turned into the nutrients my body needs to run.  But what is IN Mah-Belleh lately?  I’ve gotten many trollish comments to the effect lately that if I merely COUNTED what I put into my mouth (and thereby my beautiful large belly); then I would *poof* no longer be Fat!  (Huh, wow.  Count Calories??  No one has EVER in the history of EVAH mentioned that this might lead to some impermanent weight loss.  And I haven’t actually DONE exactly that for over 20 of my almost 29 years of life only to watch it fail over and over…)

But, seriously?  I don’t care WHAT size you are, or to what arbitrarily chosen Goal Weight you hope to get. Counting Calories?  Is Freaking Boring.  Do you know someone who counts calories?  ARE you someone counting calories?  Do you find yourself reciting lists to yourself or anyone around you who hasn’t already run screaming from your endless vocal litanies of what you already have and therefore still can Eat in any given day?  How many “points” or “grams” or “calories” you have left in the day: has this ever been your defining Mantra, the numbers (along with that scale weight) by which you measure every moment of every day of your life?? It was mine for a long. Long. LOOOONG time.  (Yet “huh” still Fat….)

Put in another twist of verbiage, have you ever known a person who is Counting Calories who WASN’T ready at a moment’s notice to inform you of every calorie in your own lunch, their lunch and the next 5 meals they hope to fit into the week?? Did you ever know, or have you ever been, a person trying to lose weight via Counting Calories who did NOT become completely and totally OB-freaking-SESSED with what/when/where the next meal was going to be? (And how many calories it would have?) It is crazy-making!! Both for yourself/the dieter and those forced to listen.

Understand please that the above mini-rant about Calorie Counting does not in any way mean I’m open to suggestions about how “No really, it isn’t about the Calories; it’s really all about the Grams of Carbs, Number of Fruits, Ounces of Protein, Portions of Omega-3, etc that make you Fat!”  I am happy to let you live your own little Counting life if you so desire.  Count it up.  If you feel that knowing how many ounces of fiber, adjusted for the number of carbs and Calories, will lead you to the path of Thin Privilege; then by all means who am I to pop your bubble? But honestly, I’ve BEEN done those paths (MANY of them, MANY times).  They do not lead to permanent Thin-i-tude for this here woman.  NO, not even when I did it all “Right” and kept at it, DESPITE plateauing or re-gaining weight (all while still dutifully counting and REDUCING intake/INCREASING activity levels).  So you can take your “Duh, knowing what goes in your mouth/belly will Make You Thin(ner)!!” trope somewhere else; I have NO interest in hearing it/debating it.  There IS no debate as far as I’m concerned.  You’re granted, by means of being a thinking human being, the right to choose what is right for you when it comes to deciding if you want to “Diet” or not and neither choice makes you a “Bad Person”.  But please remember that I am also granted this SAME right; not a right moderated by a need to fit into a socially accepted size/shape/level of beauty or youth first; but an inherent RIGHT.

As to the intent of this post, I wanted to let you know what IS in Mah-Belleh now.  Since I’ve been tested/treated for what boils down to that ambiguously labelled “IBS” I have had to work on tweaking my own personal food intake in interesting experimental ways; trying to find that Perfect Combination which will keep my stomach happy with me.  It has and likely will continue to be an interesting food journey to find out WHAT makes my stomach rebel and what makes it purr like the happy nutrition-engine it should be.  Because you see it isn’t as easy as we’d all wish it would be to cast aside years (or decades) of dieting mentality and say “Eat what you want!  Your body will tell you what it likes/wants/needs!  Tah-dah!”  Yeah.  Except after 20-some years of crushing my own body’s mental spirit, I don’t think IT even knew anymore how to tell me what to give it!

Cravings-cues mixed up with “No, don’t eat that, it will really upset the stomach!” all the time for me (and sometimes still do, thought it is much better).  Moving away from structured diets of “You eat this now.  No, not that.  Yes.  Even if it makes you nauseous/crampy/have to race to the bathroom with Dire Distress pushing against your abdomen…” has meant that I had/have a LOT of experimenting to go through.  Because knowing intellectually that certain foods must be more caustic to your system than others is a wide-world of different from actually testing and Finding OUT what those items actually ARE. And trust me…the testing really does suck.  There is nothing quite like trying to make it through a normal work day, only to find out that having orange juice for breakfast or eating a donut brought in by co-workers has COMPLETELY wreaked your digestion…sending you to the bathroom over and over with an overall icky feeling and pointedly distressed set of bowels.  Ugg.  Sometimes all I can think as I squirm through a painful day of “Yeah, can’t eat THAT again” is: Intuitive Eating BLOWS!  But then there are beautiful days as well; when I forget for up a HOURS that I usually am acutely aware of just how far away the nearest bathroom might be “just in case” and things just go smoothly.  Those days I can’t help but think: I NEVER felt this good on ANY of the various Diets I was on.  Intuitive Eating ROCKS!

The important reflection for me here is that this testing of my own has in general really been paying off.  I have learned of many items that I am far better off avoiding if I really don’t want to spend the day in digestion-agony (and likely the next 2-3 days as my systems struggles to re-set itself). I’ve learned that eating anything processed into a sugary pastry/confection and sold in a grocery store contains fillers/additives or just STUFF that makes me feel awful.  So, in a way that was never as easy when I tried to avoid it because a diet said I “Shouldn’t”: I just don’t eat it.  Simple.  My body can’t process it without me feeling ill; so I just find myself lacking any desire to eat it.  If I do get a craving for a donut (kitten-loving baby-flavoured of course!) I have to mentally and seriously weigh if that urge is going to mean I am willing to sit through the following hours/days of physical torment for the momentary pleasure.  Usually I’m not up for the trade off.  And yet sometimes I still am and I deal with my choices (because, remember, they are MY choices, not YOURS or someone else’s to make).

And, for those about to think that of course I’ve just been learning about “Bad Foods” that my body rejects (which “of course” means I must be Fat because I’ve done nothing in life but eat these “naughty” items, and in excess); think again.  I’ve also learned that things like simple tomatoes send me for a whirl.  Love them…but have to deal with bodily discomfort any time I eat them (if I decide they are worth it!)

It has been a really tough thing, learning to Listen to my body and finding out if we even can speak the same language anymore after spending so long with my fingers in my ears, drowning out its pitiful cries for attention.  Perhaps my body, as I built a Dieting Tower in homage to Thinness, striving to reach it at any means available, had been on the path to its own Babel situation; if I hadn’t stopped to pay attention, maybe I was going to lose all ability to speak with/understand my own body at all even if I did finally decide I wanted to.  Yet I’ve been lucky.  I’ve been learning.  I’m STILL learning…and likely will be for a long time, perhaps forever, as I try new foods, new activities and listen to find out how my own body responds.

So, today I have some honeydew melon and deliciously buttered fruity English Muffins in Mah-Belleh.  And have had a pleasant start to the day with now bodily distress.  Lunch will hold some baked chicken breast and rice pilaf filled with broccoli.  I have some sharp cheddar, a bit of chocolate pudding, and a clementine as snacks if desired. Dinner is as yet undetermined since I’m heading to see a friend’s performance in an Improv show in New Hampshire.

In testing my own body’s responses to food stimuli I’ve been adjusting to what it can and can-not deal with.  Some of those results mesh with what anyone will tell you should be part (or not) of a Healthy Diet.  Some do NOT.  We are all unique as human individuals.  Each of our bodies process things differently.  My Perfect Foods will not likely match entirely with your OWN learned definitions of Perfect (remember that saying “One Size does not Fit All?  It applies to food as well: One Menu does not Fit All).  That is part of what makes this entire process both incredibly frustrating and profoundly fascinating at the same time.

The important part for me is that Mah-Belleh and I are again on speaking terms.  We still have arguments, but I could see us becoming large (heh) friends in the future as we work together to find out what does and doesn’t work for US. And in the end, that’s what matters most. Doing so has lead to weight stabilization but, best of all, a far more symbiotic understanding about what best allows for my body to function and still satisfies my hunger.

So I ask YOU: What’s in YOUR-Belleh?  Are you on speaking terms?  Or are you both turned away, back to back, hands stuffed in your ears, ignoring each other in the hopes that doing-so will lead to society-approved body thinness?  The choice remains yours however, no matter how you choose to communicate (or not) with your own personal Belleh.

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16 thoughts on “What’s in Mah-Belleh?

  1. I last did the calorie-counting thing about two years ago, and I am DONE with it. I fired my health care provider at the same time. She was the one saying “calories-in-calories-out” and who was completely uninterested in my food diary because I must be lying if I weren’t losing weight. So yeah. Fired. Wish I’d done it sooner.

    I’m still working on intuitive eating after too many years of self-starvation, but I really do feel much better when I just pay attention to what my body asks for and don’t judge myself for it. Right now I’m experimenting with adding more fiber to my diet. I’ve recently started eating apples for breakfast instead of bagels. Turns out an apple isn’t quite enough to get me through the morning until lunch, so I’m going to try adding half a bagel or some cereal or something.

    It’s much more fun figuring this stuff out when you refuse to feel bad about it! A couple of years ago I would have been either feeling virtuous about my growling tummy or feeling miserable about my horrible unnatural appetite because an apple wasn’t enough to sustain me. Now I can just look at the situation objectively and say, “This isn’t quite working for me–what else do I need to do?” It’s a huge leap forward.

  2. Listening to your body is a skill, and can be lost over time if we ignore ourselves. It’s like the way that I could hold a simple conversation in French when I was in high school, taking French, getting a B+ average in the subject, and listening to a lot of French operas…but thirty years later, I have forgotten at least two thirds of what I learned simply because I don’t use it much these days.

    I know I could learn it all back and more if I put some time and effort into it, though. Same with bodies.

    IE is really tough to learn if you’ve spent most of your life actively avoiding listening to your body. Toss in digestive issues, and it’s going to be a colorful process, to say the least.

    My belly is full of blueberry-flavored coffee, ATM. It likes coffee before solid food, I have found. In a minute or two, I’ll get up and make some toast. In about two hours, I’ll have a full breakfast provided by my current temporary employer. Yesterday it was grits, fried eggs, and a banger. I have no clue what it will be today, but it will be similarly hearty, I expect. Sometime in the afternoon, I’ll have a small snack to tide me over to dinnertime, and when I come home I’ll probably make pasta with some yummy veggies in the sauce.

    My belly and I are good friends. We like most of the same things. It’s good having a companion in your own body instead of an enemy. And it sounds like you’re on your way to being friends with your belly. That’s a wonderful thing.

  3. Mah-belleh has coffee and water in it right now, and maybe the tail end of the breakfast bar I had when I woke up. Because it doesn’t like food for about three hours after my morning run, that’s totally expected. I suspect it will demand my tasty lunch of pasta with liberal lashings of spinach, tomatoes, pine nuts, and feta cheeeeeese in about an hour or so. And I will happily acquiesce.

    The boyshape I love is going to the farmer’s market now, and tonight we will have something made of fresh tastiness. Perhaps there will also be berries, and Mah-Belleh will be Pleased.

  4. I like Fantine’s note about fiber, I find myself working to incorporate the “right” amount at each meal…unfortunately it is a bit of a gamble as to whether or not I’ll get it just right; especially when my menstrual cycle is at the “fun” part.

    Twistie…what is a “banger”? And may I say that “It’s good having a companion in your own body instead of an enemy.” might be a great FA slogan?

    I notice that already a few people mention coffee and have to smile because that was one of the first things I realized I couldn’t drink! 20 minutes after a delicious cup of java and I’ll be jittery and in the bathroom in regret. But I do love the smell and, occasionally when the following hurt is just gonna be worth it anyways, the taste too!

  5. Mah Belleh has oatmeal, raisins, sugar, and coffee swirling around. I’m about to add grapes.

    You know how tomatoes toss you for a tumble? For me it’s carrots. And later tonight I’m going to eat ice cream, and then Mah Belleh will be all, “Cold! Yay! …Waitaminute, aren’t you lactose intolerant?” and I will say, “TOTALLY WORTH IT” and high 5 Mah Belleh.

  6. Mah Belleh is currently full of deliciously fuschia roasted vegetables (mmm…beets), some coffee (at which it is feeling jittery but willing to compromise for the sake of not conking out at work), rice crackers, and potato chips (evidently, I was a bit salt-deprived due to the heat).

    Most of the time, my tummy and I are quite good friends, though we’re having some negotiations at the moment about just how much delicious cheese I am allowed to have. Three cheesy meals a week was evidently too much.

  7. @ April

    “Banger” is just the British term for sausage.

    My belly had cottage cheese and canned peaches in it for breakfast, along with tea and water.

    It is now being filled with lunch: a chicken sandwich on whole wheat, with a plum and a banana.

  8. I have frequent digestive issues myself…frequent indigestion (since childhood, & I am sorry, but, regardless of what they are saying now, I STILL think that being emotional & highly-strung & surviving a lot of chaos & trauma can contribute to digestive problems) & I think MAYBE IBS; I generally have two or three BMs every day & get diarrhea easily. It is sometimes prompted by acidic foods, such as citrus & tomatoes, especially the pasta sauces I love, but sometimes they are no problem. We eat a fair amount of fruits & veggies, lots of whole grains, I sometimes drink V-8, & actually, if anything, I tend to get TOO MUCH fiber; getting enough has not been an issue since I lived at home, & not always even then, since my mother regularly made graham (whole wheat, kind of) muffins & baked at least one pot of beans weekly, often two. For all the yammering about fiber, yes, you can get too much & some bodies cannot tolerate as much as others.
    Ma bellah has had cheddar cheese, a couple glasses of pure not from concentrate (Simply Orange) pink grapefruit juice, a smoked turkey sandwich with a little Miracle Whip on Arnold’s Double Fiber whole wheat bread (my housemate doesn’t believe there IS such a thing as too much fiber), some sour cream & onion chips, a dill pickle spear, tea with half & half, a Coke, a fun size Almond Joy bar, & 4 sections from a Hershey bar, & about 2/3 of a ribeye steak, some mashed potatoes, baby peas, & a glass of the chocolate milkshake my son made for himelf. That is since 6:30 this morning, it is nearly 8:30 now, & I am done for the day. Actually, I have to say that ma bellah & I are quite happy with each other right now, so it is a pretty good day.

  9. What a great post!

    Since its only 10am, Mah Belleh has water, milky coffee and a bit of yoghurt in it. I’m another one who doesn’t like to eat too soon after waking up.

    Some days Mah Belleh and I are good friends, other days not so much. I think I have IBS, and as yet I have not been able to work out what triggers the urgent bathroom trips, but I know that something sure does.

    How did you set out to discover what your belleh can/cannot tolerate? Sometimes I think a particular thing has triggered problems, but the next time I eat it everything is perfectly fine. And if it can take a few days for the problems to show up, then it gets even more complicated…

    • randomquorum the process I’ve been using as my own little “testing” is far from scientific. Since I usually know though within 20 minutes if something will bother me or not I kinda have just done trial and error. Mostly if it is something I’m curious about and want to “test” I will pick a time when I know I’ll be home for a few hours so if it DOES trigger the fun bm/bathroom sheenanigans then I will be somewhere familiar. Without using a diary of any kind (since that leads down the very dark path of food diaries and all too quickly spirals into calorie counting madness for me); I take note of how I feel after eating something new or something I’ve been worried about. Pasta sauce (very tomato-y stuff), ANY carbonated beverage, red meat a bit, cucumbers even a tad; all tend to trigger discomfort. It is still very much a work in progress but I’ve finally passed into what feels like more days feeling “fine” than “uncomfortable” and for me that is a huge step away from the past!!

  10. Oh and I forgot to say that I ABSOLUTELY agree with you about the crazy that is calorie counting. I remember eating only packaged foods (because they are labelled with calories) in an attempt to make the crazy somewhat less. I also remember weighing/calculating everything and refusing to eat anything I hadn’t made myself because I couldn’t acurately know how many calories were in it, and refusing to make any new recipes without calculating the total caloric value of the dish and dividing it by the serving size. And oh boy does that make life fun! Never made me skinny though.

  11. It’s almost impossible to get through to the trollz, that your body can and does ‘count calories’ already, or measure it’s energy requirments accurately.

    For instance, when you rebound quickly after weight loss, totally out of control, it gets to more or less where you started, and then stops.

    How would it know if it wasn’t measuring it’s energy requirements?

    Dieting just attempts to duplicate badly , something that is already being done far better and with greater efficiency by your body.

    All you do is confuse the process and get in it’s way; brilliant.

    Anyhow, my belly and moi are still attempting to get back into proper contact. I don’t think it’s about food though, it seems emotional in some way.

    Many eastern tribes call this the second brain, doesn’t surprise me at all.

  12. This was a good read. It was fear that motivated me to come to better terms with mah-belleh. I’m emetophobic; afraid of becoming ill or nauseous. Hence, any kind of food that made mah-belleh feel strange, caused it to make loud noises, or work faster or slower than I like, has gone onto a “rather not”-list and as a result, I have also learned to really listen to the signals that mah-belleh sends out when it’s full. Though it was not a nice way of learning these lessons, I’m very grateful for it. Mah-belleh and I are very much in-sync these days.

    Calorie-counting has always disgusted me. My bloodsugar rises and fall very quickly over the course of the day. There are moments when I need to eat something in order not to faint and I refuse to count whether these little things that will keep me up and running during the day fit into my calorie-quotum for that day. I refuse to feel guilty about what I put in my mouth. Guilt is not a feeling that will make me a better person and I have long tried to ban it from my life.

    I prefer to go on feeling nowadays. I smell the food and if I feel that I want to eat it, I will. And sometimes the smell will not compell me, and then I won’t eat it. My body tells me exactly what I need, and I wish I could share this with everyone.

    • just to add: have no doubt that I am still fat. No matter how intuitively my fears have taught me to eat. Or maybe even a little over-careful at times.

  13. Very interesting post. People who obsess over every calorie and all that crap are really annoying. Counting this and that is retarded and it doesn’t work. I enjoy eating. It’s one of my favorite things to do. Yeah I need to lose some weight and I want to. I don’t want to be miserable and turn eating into some calculation though. My goal is just to eat better. I’m trying to eat less greasy and fatty foods and eat more vegetables and fruits and not eat so much at night.

  14. Pingback: State of Calm Worry « I AM in shape. ROUND is a shape.

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