An actual scenario from my past:
I found a 2 week “Clean Eating” meal plan online, created by an RD that I want to follow. Yes, I am an RD, but it always just seems better when someone else makes it. Everything is laid out for me – breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. It’s set up for one person, except some of the dinners that have bigger portions. I don’t have to worry about much waste, because it uses leftovers and the same ingredients throughout the 2 weeks. My shopping list is taken care of, all I need to do is follow the list and recipes, and I’m golden for 2 weeks! It’s just so….ELEGANT.
I fill my cart with fresh food, almost no processed food in my cart. I pay an abnormally high amount at the register, and it takes so long as the cashier types in all those veggie codes. But I’m proud, she must not see carts like mine very often! (Beaming inside) Aren’t I so healthy? I hope you’re learning something about how to eat as you ring this up.
When I get home, I fill my fridge to bursting with all this clean stuff, and start prepping my meals. I feel calm and in control.
Then I get a text from a friend inviting me out to dinner and drinks, a girls night! I panic!
BUT. MY. MEALS!!
For several minutes I’m in a giant battle with myself, as though this is the biggest, most important decision I could possibly make. On the one hand, I want to have fun, socialize, party and let go. On the other hand, I just spent so much time and money on this plan, and if I don’t follow it exactly – well then what’s the point!
Ok, Meghan, you can figure this out. Just say you have plans for dinner, then meet them out later for drinks. That’s not on the plan, but the calories are too little for me anyway, so I’ll just drink the extra instead.
So I miss half the night, go out, then end up snacking a bunch at home because I always get the drunken munchies. My friend texts again in the late morning – Let’s go to brunch!” F*CK, I think, this is going too far! I ditch my friends and spend the day home alone to make my perfect meals and snacks.
The rest of the 2 weeks goes okay since I’ve become a hermit. The plan comes to an end, and on my next grocery trip my cart looks much more like everyone else’s. I don’t gloat at the register, and hope my friends will text me now, don’t they know I can have anything I want for dinner?! But they don’t. Because I kept making excuses to not go the last two weeks. So I stay home with my now not-so-clean food.
After several days or weeks of that, I feel “unclean” enough to go on the next clean eating plan, and start the process all over again, each time digging a deeper hole to climb into.
This was my pattern even years after my more severe disordered eating phases. I realized how much it actually interfered with my life once I started dating my now husband. I would hide the fact that I was following a strict plan, and rush around like crazy and make excuses to still follow the plan as best I could.
But once he moved in, it got complicated. I knew I had to let go of rigidity and welcome flexibility. Before I could do that, though, I had to understand that it really wasn’t about the food. Following such a rigid plan helped me feel like I had some control. It helped me feel safe. Because it’s called “Clean Eating” it also helped me feel morally better. Like I was somehow a better person for eating a certain way.
The truth is, I didn’t know how to trust myself and my own body to tell me what was good for me. That went for food, but also other areas. I was always looking to the outside world to show me the way. But how can anyone else know what’s best for me? I delegated major life decisions to everyone else but me.
It wasn’t until I learned how to listen to and trust myself that I was able to let go of rigidity with food. I still get the urge to follow something like that when my life becomes too uncertain, or when my doubts creep in and take over. But I’ve realized that kind of rigidity only ends up causing me more stress and separation, when connection is really what was healing for me.
Self-doubt and mistrust is everywhere in our culture when it comes to food and diet. Almost all of us are trained to look outside ourselves for the answers, and that only makes you disconnect and mistrust your own body even more.
Intuitive eating is coming back to your body’s own natural knowing. You’re born knowing what nourishes you and what doesn’t. You just lose it along the way. But it’s still there, and you can reconnect with it again.
If you’re interested in learning more how intuitive eating can help you, schedule a free consult with me today.