I’ve been reading When Women Stop Hating Their Bodies, on the recommendation of Good with Cheese. I can only read a little bit at a time, because the issues it brings up are such powerful ones for me, and they either make me put the book down to think things through, or they make me put the book down because I’m so shaken, emotionally, by what I’ve just read.
One of the main topics of the book is demand feeding, where you eat what you want when you’re hungry for it, and eat as much of it as you want, and stop when you’re full. Legalizing all foods and responding to your stomach hunger is supposed to lead to the increased ability to really listen to what your body wants/needs to eat AND reduces frantic binges of “forbidden” foods, because nothing is forbidden. If you can have whatever you want, then you’re not viewing food from a position of deprivation, and the previously forbidden foods will eventually lose their power over you, because you know you can have them any time you want. It’s actually pretty fucking revolutionary of an idea in the face of Atkins and South Beach and Weight Watchers and the Zone and Eat Right For Your Blood Type and Sugar Busters and countless other diets that tell you what you can eat, how much of it you can eat, when you can eat it, and what you cannot, ever, eat, lest you flip out and eat your weight in Chips Ahoy cookies.
My initial response to demand feeding is, “Eat what I want? But I don’t KNOW what I want!” That’s the twisted beauty of a diet like Weight Watchers (although their schtick is “there are no forbidden foods!”) or Atkins — they tell you what you’re allowed to eat. You have a list of choices, and you have to pick from the list. It doesn’t matter what you want; what matters is sticking to the list. On a diet, I know what I’m *allowed* to have, but I don’t know what I actually *want.*
Then when I think about what I want, it’s all foods that have been forbidden in the past (because although Weight Watchers says that there are no forbidden foods, you can’t actually eat half a bag of Doritos and still be following the POINTS plan). Cheetos, Doritos, cookie-dough ice cream, Oreos, those wafer cookies that have the cream in the middle that come in brown (chocolate), tan (vanilla), and pink (I have no idea what flavor they were supposed to be). McDonald’s hash browns and a sausage and egg mcmuffin (my love of which dates back to a high-school job at McDonad’s). Little Debbie oatmeal cream pies (did you know there’s a double-decker version? sweet sugary mother of god, it’s snack food nirvana).
So I bought Doritos, and I ate them when I wanted them. And now I don’t have the urge for Doritos. I got the McDonald’s breakfast last weekend, and it was as full of fatty, tasty goodness as I remembered. And now I don’t have the urge for it. (Well, I don’t have the urge for a McMuffin. I *always* want hash browns.)
I’ve always had this fear, which has been encouraged and strengthened by the many diets I’ve been on, that if I ate what I actually wanted, then I would devour the WORLD. Well, I already wrote about this. But to really embrace demand feeding, I have to face that fear. I know, intellectually, that my fear is unfounded. I cannot possibly eat my own weight in Little Debbie oatmeal cream pies. I *know* it, but I still don’t *believe* it.
I haven’t gained weight, despite eating Doritos and McDonald’s. I think it’s possible that I’ve merely adjusted the rest of my food intake around the addition of the previously forbidden foods. And I don’t mean adjusted in the sense of “Oh, since I ate this McMuffin, I’ll have to fast on celery juice for the next 2 days!” I mean adjusted in the sense that eating what I wanted actually filled me up (imagine that — eating fat does what fat is supposed to do — satiate your hunger!), and so I didn’t get hungry again as soon as I normally do. If that makes sense.
I’m still afraid that I’ll devour the whole WORLD, but I’m going to stick with demand feeding for now, and really try to listen to what my body wants and needs.