Thursday, May 31, 2012

Normal eating. Is it important to you?

I want to be a normal eater. It's a thought I've had for more than twenty years. For most of those years, I didn't think normal eating was possible for me.

What is normal eating? I talk about normal eating, but I haven't defined normal eating. Rather than a definition, I have a vision of normal eating: I picture my friend Jessica who can keep an open bag of cookies on her desk weeks. Or Tania who frequently tells me "it's just food." I picture my friend Kristin choosing to eat a plum for a snack, not because it's a healthy choice, but because that's what she wants to eat.

It's not that I want to eat the foods the same foods that Jessica,Tania and Kristin, I want to have a similar attitude and thoughts when it comes to food.

Therefore, if I'm eating like a normal person I will:
  • eat reasonable amounts, most of the time;
  • eat a variety of foods;
  • choose to eat healthy foods because I want to not because I have to;
  • not count calories, points or servings;
  • ignore a bag of cookies on the counter and ice cream in the freezer (but eat a cookie and/or a bowl of ice cream if I really want to);
  • not think about food all the time;
  • not struggle with junk food;
  • not be afraid of feeling hungry;
  • understand that food isn't going to taste great all the time;
  • decide to eat food (or not);
  • not feel guilty if I eat too much food, or not enough variety or not eat enough healthy foods;
  • not gain weight just because I'm not longer on a diet.
That is how I see/define normal eating. As it stands, becoming that normal eater seems like a reasonable, achievable goal now. But all things are not important to all people. Is normal eating important to you? Do you have an ideal vision of the eater you want to be?

This post, like so many posts of my posts was inspired by Munchberry's comment on a recent post, What EDNOS means to me.
I wonder who decides what is normal. I know few normal people and am pretty sure it is overrated. I know few thin people who have food in proper perspective. Proper being that it does not rule some aspect of your life or mind. Even my hubby - who I consider the most healthy in relation to food gets a belly occasionally. His pants get tight, he stops overeating. He lacks my creative self delusion.
Still I would prefer not to be so tangled in my relationship with food. That is what I am looking for. I hate the drama. Since I have been home the drama is back. Very dismaying since I was doing so well before and during my trip. But here I am. Not at square one, but if say - I was on square 20 before I am now on square 7. Sigh. I will be glad when summer is over and temptation to eat out of control is diminished.
Munch, I think you decide your own definition of normal eating. From your comment, I think you have formed your own thoughts on what normal eating is for you, which may or may not be an important goal in your journey. From reading about Mr. Munchberry, I think he fits into my definition of a normal eater.

And I'm with you, in the end, I too want to be less tangled in my relationship with food. After all, it's just food right?

Karen writes about normal eating, including a post called Practicing "Normal" Eating. If you haven't read it, I recommend that you do.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Please bear with me

Well, I started a post last week; an update on little bear's birthday weekend, but now, almost two weeks later, it's a bit stale and to be honest, I don't really feel like reworking the post.
To sum things up, I'm happy with how I handled a weekend chocked full of social occassions (birthday party and mother's day). I felt like a normal eater. I ate reasonable amounts of food and did not overdo it on appetizers and desserts. I also managed to increase the whole grain intake, so much so that I could have sworn that the quinoa I was eating was stuffing.

But as I said, that was almost two weeks ago. What has happened since? Two things: my job and my little bear.

Last fall, the company I work for was sold by our parent company. The merger was finalized this spring. As the merger was finalized, we were restructured (don't worry I have a job) and my marketing position was eliminated. I moved into a different position, which doesn't allow for creative time management opportunities. In addition, I'm in a new building (closer to the train- yay!), but, the new internet policy is restrictive, meaning that I can't even read a blog, let alone access my blogger account (boo).

At the same time, little bear has hit some developmental milestone that is disturbing his evening bedtime routine. Three weeks ago, little bear required about thirty minutes of stories and cuddling before we put him to bed. Now, thirty minutes has stretched into an hour and half marathon attempting to manage toddler curiosity and separation anxiety (or so the parenting book says).

This mean that the bear bedtime routine ends as late as 9 pm. This doesn't leave much time for mother bear to have a shower, get ready for work, unwind, and crawl in bed by 10:30 PM. Even though I'm confident that this is just a phase, this extended bedtime routine may continue for a while, so I'm going to have to figure out when to write blog postings.

In any case, please bear (ha) with me as I figure out my new work environment and schedule.

I hope you are doing well and I look forward to catching up on your journey!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

What EDNOS means to me

NOTE: This is my comment in response to Nicole's of's blog post: I have homosexuality. Her well-researched and thought out blog post outlines why she does not believe in EDNOS. I've been wanting to write about what EDNOS means to me for a while, so I copied my comment into a post. 

Sometime in the early 90s, I was reading a book on a train ride home from Ottawa. I honestly don’t remember the name of the book or its author, but it was about compulsive eating. Something about making promises to oneself. With that I made my own promise: I will stop purging and just allow myself to put on weight. And with that promise, I stopped purging. (I thought that I can always diet to lose the weight later.)

But, nothing else changed. I still had the bulimic thoughts and mentality. I still binged, but I allowed myself to gain weight. When I became “too big” I went on a diet to compensate.

What was wrong with me? I knew that when I stopped purging that I had not fixed anything. I knew I was still f***ed up. Am I a recovered bulimic who is doomed to struggle every day for the rest of my life to not eat everything in sight?  Just because I stopped purging I was now normal?

I can tell you that in a blink of an eye, I was not fixed/recovered just because I stopped purging.  

Because it’s not about fixing the compensatory behavior, it’s about fixing the mentality. Some of us purge, some of us exercise, some of us stop restrict, some of us chew/spit and some of us gain weight and diet thereafter.

In my case, I replaced purging with dieting as a compensatory behavior. Sure, dieting isn’t as dramatic, but it is still a behavior compensating for the eating disorder mentality. (Unfortunately, dieting is common and viewed as a safe and effective way to control eating, when it is an eating trigger.)

I’ve been struggling with eating, weight and food for more than twenty years. I’ve been searching for answers and seeking help.  In 2010, I decided to see a cognitive behavior therapist and she provided me with an explanation for my constant struggle: an EDNOS diagnosis. More importantly, she helped me to change my negative eating behaviour.

I don’t use it as an excuse; EDNOS verified what I had suspected for years: that there was something wrong with my thinking and that what I was thinking was not normal. 

Upcoming posts (not necessarily in this order):

  • I'm fat: is there something unresolved in my life?
  • More on a food neutral household
  • With respect to food, I've been a four year old preschooler for most of my life
  • Blog anniversary - including my first giveaway!
  • Lunchtime logistics
  • Start a new healthy habit - seriously, it's coming

Monday, May 7, 2012

Shaking up the plan

I've made a decision to try a little bit harder. At least in short manageable chunks of time.

Since my parents returned from Florida and social occassions have increased, I've hit a plateau. I certainly wasn't losing weight in record amounts or time, but throughout the winter, I consistently lost a little bit of weight each week.

But, that has stopped. Why? Well, I'm eating more food. It started with big bear's birthday party (and the days leading up to the party) and has continued on since, with a family dinner party and working overtime and work provided lunch. I'm fine during the work week, but the weekends are proving to be unpredictable - food wise.

Basically, I'm fine as long as there are no unplanned eating events, such as parties, birthday or otherwise. But that's unrealistic, that's not life. I don't live in cacoon, so I have to get a handle on the unplanned eating. Yes, I know I have a plan for unplanned eating, but I think I need to tweak my plan. I need to put more into it.

I'm starting to think about food again. Not obsessively, but I am finding it more difficult to shake off temptation. This is a sign that I'm bored with my food choices. It's time to switch it up. I'm thinking of breakfast in particular. Perhaps I can come up with new snacks.

In any case, here is my plan:
  • Eat more grains (quinoa, barley, couscous etc). I like eating grains, but my kids and hubby want to eat rice and potatoes too. On those days, I'll enjoy previously prepared quinoa.
  • Start running (or walking). I want to get in more exercise, but, I'm going to start slowly and work my way up.
  • Write out what I'm going to eat for Saturday and Sunday. I need more more boundaries, nothing too strict (triggers overeating), but enough that I'll have to stretch my effort a bit.

I'm a little worried. I'm feeling anxious, but if I go slowly, if I remember that I don't need to be perfect, I know it'll work out.

Friday, May 4, 2012

I want something special to eat

Mommy, I want something special to eat.”

I glance at the clock. It's 7:30 in the morning. I wince. Something special is big bear code for something sweet. 

“What do you mean special?” 

“I want two, no three chocolate chips.”

This is one of my worries as a parent. I am worried that I'm going to pass on my food issues to my little bears. The fact that he talks about “special food” is a sign that I have work to do.

"You can have a chocolate chip later, but not for breakfast." I have a variety of responses for big bear when it comes to food. I rotate them around depending on the request, context, time of day and the overall mood of my big bear.

I'm working on creating a food neutral household to minimize food related anxiety. To do this I avoid attaching overly positive or negative labels on food (treats, sweets, healthy, good for you); encourage eating a variety of foods (no need to eat everything, but try everything once) and attempt to defuse a pre-occupation with taste.

It's a challenge. I've been dripping these ideas on big bear (in a preschool friendly way) for just about two years now, but obviously big bear has picked up on the idea of "special" food, and special food is highly valued. 

Big bear has obviously inherited mommy's sweet tooth. He is ruled by his taste buds, turned off by texture and any food that looks "weird." I can almost feel the building frustration of not being able to eat chocolate chips all day growing inside him like a weed. 

I suspect there is both nature and nurture at work here. Nature in that kids may have evolved to avoid certain food types (fruits and vegetables), and developmentally, toddlers choose to play over eating for a few years. And when this happens, I believe that a strong conditioning to eat begins.

I can attest that is alarming when your child stops eating seemingly overnight. Babies know when they are hungry and stop when they are full. But one day, the eating stops. A developmental milestone is reached and eating food moves way down on the priority list and the negotiation (struggle) between parent and child begins. 

Methods to encourage a choosy toddler to eat can range from fairly benign (a food-filled fork is "coming in for landing!") to vegetables or bits of meat hidden under palatable food such as rice or potatoes. More assertive tactics include using a favorite food to encourage eating other foods ("no dessert if you don't eat your vegetables") or engaging a power struggle over eating (child refusing to eat, parent insisting child must eat dinner before leaving table). Food may also used as a reward ("no fussing tonight and I'll give you a treat') or withholding food as a penalty ("no dessert if you don't stop throwing a ball in the house").

The influences continue in the community as positive and negative labels are slapped onto food, commercials and food packaging are designed to influence food choices (thanks for putting all the kid cookies at kid level mr. grocery dude) and stereotypes are passed on regarding certain body types.

How does this affect our children's development? What do they learn?

A child learns to overvalue certain foods (sweets, treats, fast food) at the expense of other foods, a child learns to eat more food than necessary, a child associates food with good and bad behaviour and some children will learn to be freaked out by food and eating. Food is no longer just food, and we live in a community that values thin and demonizes fat. 

From an early age, we are conditioned to eat, hungry or not. 

We do this because it is our culture and our tradition. 

But the conditioning can backfire. Some will eat more food than needed and gain weight. Others may want to emulate overly thin models and actresses who are showcased in movies and magazines and develop a distorted body image. 

Some will diet and lose weight. Food anxiety increases, worrying that the weight will come back. Anxiety leads to overeating, gaining weight and more dieting. More worry, more anxiety, more eating, more weight gain, shameful feelings, more anxiety, more eating and more dieting. 

Some will get stuck in the diet mentality, a vicious cycle of restriction and overeating; losing and gaining weight.

I think that as a community we need to rethink about how we think about food. We need to think about what we are telling our children about food and how that will affect their eating behaviour as adults. 

We are conditioned to eat (and overeat).

We should be able to eat, like a normal person; a variety of foods that fuels our body and when the mood strikes, something that just tastes good. 

Upcoming posts:

  • I'm fat: is there something unresolved in my life?
  • More on a food neutral household
  • With respect to food, I've been a four year old preschooler for most of my life