Thursday, June 9, 2011

Eat whatever you want?

“Eat whatever you want. No foods are restricted and you can have as much as you want.”

My heart sank when my therapist said this to me. I assumed that at some point after therapy that I would be able to go back to Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig and lose my weight. After all, chapter 5 of the Beck Diet Solution is called, “Pick Two Reasonable Diets.” I figured face-to-face therapy would work the same way.

Immediately I considered amending my original plan (step 1: reprogram thinking; step 2: lose weight) to (step 1: lose weight; step 2: reprogram thinking). The only problem is that dieting had become an impossible task. Every minute of a dieting day is difficult and angst-ridden. I had been down this road before with intuitive eating and frankly the idea of no structure scared the hell out of me.

And then she added: “But, you must write down what you want to eat first.” Well, I thought. At least there is some sort of structure.

Here were my guidelines:

• Prepare a meal plan for the day.

• Include details such as portion size and number of helpings.

• No foods are off-limits as long as I write it down in the meal plan first.

• If I want to eat something that is not in the meal plan, I had to plan that food or additional helping into a future meal.

• Plan my meals the day before, or any time during the day.

I already found meal planning and journaling difficult, so my first week was challenging. Even though I could plan to eat whatever I wanted, I remained paralysed from making food choices. So, with the help of my therapist, we planned a few days of meals together. I allowed for reasonable portion sizes and planned for a good mix of healthy and not-as-healthy snacks and balanced meals.

As for following my own meal plan, it went fairly well. Sometimes I found that I wanted an additional helping of something (let’s say granola) that was not planned for. The need for more granola would grow, and become focused; the only way to satisfy this need was to give in and eat the additional helping of granola. That is when I learned that the need, the feeling I was experiencing was anxiety. Anxiety from 20 years of dieting telling me that granola is bad for me. That I shouldn’t be eating one bowl of granola, let alone two or three bowls.

I asked my therapist: “What do I do to handle the anxiety? How do I make it go away?”
She replied: “You have to learn to sit with it. It will pass.”

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