Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Book "The Rules of Normal Eating"

The book The Rules of “Normal” Eating by Karen R. Koenig, is another very useful resource for those of us who want to change our attitudes about food. The author also has a great blog that is aimed at both over- and under-eaters and all of us who have surrendered in the past to emotional eating. Typically I would run for cover when confronted with a book that used the words “rules” and “normal” in the title, but I was so impressed with her blog posts that I took the plunge and read the book.

Her advice is similar in many respects to what can be found in the book “Intuitive Eating”, which I wrote about here. The main thrust of "Rules" is that there are certain behaviors in which people who are normal eaters engage, and those behaviors are different from how an over- or under-eater approaches food.

To cut to the chase, the normal behaviors are (quoting from her book):

1. Eat when you are hungry or have a craving for a specific food.
2. Choose foods that you believe will satisfy you.
3. Stay connected to your body and eat with awareness and enjoyment.
4. Stop eating when you are full or satisfied.

She offers a series of exercises and suggestions for how to understand our level of hunger at a given moment, how to pick the foods that we find satisfying, feeling our fullness and satisfaction levels with a given eating situation and how to stay aware of our body and what we are eating.

In addition, the book stresses that emotional eating is rooted in our inability to tolerate pain and discomfort. She exhorts us to “learn to tolerate discomfort around food and let your mind and body respond authentically.” Since we’ve used food as a way of comforting ourselves and soothing our pains, be they emotional or physical, to heal that not-normal relationship with it, we will quickly run head on into the necessity of dealing with whatever emotions we were trying to deny/suppress/soothe with the food. We are going to have to dig into our beliefs about ourselves – our fears, our pain, our yearnings and our joys. The process can be joyful when your curiosity becomes engaged and you are starting to figure out what is truly satisfying and actually finding ways to create satisfaction, and not just with food.

I know full well that I have not yet achieved what could be considered “normal” eating, but I’m getting there. I still feel obsessed somewhat with food and eating and weight, and to some extent, feel discomfort about it all. However, at this point, there seem to be fewer hidden corners in my attitudes about food and since I’ve gotten to a point of awareness about my thought patterns regarding eating, I can call bulls**t on myself sooner rather than later. Mostly.

One of the most awesome pieces of advice in this book that I have been working on lately is paying attention to what we want to eat - whether it's a craving or just something that seems like it would be good. I had an couple of days last week where I was extra hungry (no, not hormonally induced, I'm pretty much too old for that) and I really had to sit down and figure out what it was that would scratch the itch. Turned out that a couple of tablespoons of almond butter fit the bill - a little protein, a little healthy fat, not too many calories and yet, so delicious. This weekend, since I have the house to myself, I discovered that I wanted the same thing for supper two nights in a row - pita pizza - and so I had that. It felt good and tasted awesome.

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