Deprivation without dieting

This week I’ve dipped my toe into the world of e-books and downloaded the Kindle app to my phone. The first book I downloaded is Gorgeously Full Fat as I love Sarah’s blog of the same name and I’m really looking forward to reading more of her story. The second – which I have got stuck into straight away – is Josie’s Spinardi’s How to Have Your Cake and Your Skinny Jeans Too. This was recommended to me by a fellow Beyond Chocolater and so far I’m really enjoying it. I’ve read a fair few books on intuitive eating (or whatever you want to call it) and they have all been excellent in their way but some of them have been a little heavy going for my tastes. This is something I’ve always loved about Beyond Chocolate – the book is really accessible – and Josie’s book is the same. The person who mentioned the book to me did say that it draws upon lots of research and I did wonder if that would make it a bit dry but it really doesn’t.

This isn’t going to be a review of How to Have Your Cake and Your Skinny Jeans Too as I’m not yet finished with it. I’m about two-thirds of the way through. I must admit that when I started reading it, I did wonder if I had erred in my choice. She makes it clear in her introduction that she is only dealing with overeating in response to dieting rather than emotional eating (she’s going to deal with the latter in a second book which I’m really looking forward to reading) and I am definitely an emotional eater rather than a deprived dieter! The thing is that, unlike a lot of women who come to explore intuitive eating, I don’t really have a history of dieting. It would be a lie to say I have never dieted, but it barely features in my eating history.

In terms of commercial diets, the only one I have done is Slimming World. And when I say that I ‘did’ it, I mean for about two days. I went to my first meeting on a Monday evening, got weighed and bought a bunch of books before sitting through what was probably the dullest evening of my life going round the room and everyone saying how much they had (or hadn’t) lost that week. Tuesday and Wednesday I stuck to the diet and by lunchtime on Thursday I admitted how bloody miserable I was and jacked it in. Maybe that was because I hadn’t stuck with it long enough to learn how to make syn-free pizza out of boiled potatoes or whatever but I don’t think so. Other than that, my only forays into dieting have been good old-fashioned calorie counting. But again, those efforst have been few and far between and have lasted for well under a week each. So I’m certainly not someone that’s lost 3 stone on a diet – in fact I doubt I’ve lost 3lb that way. That’s not to say I’ve never lost weight; I have…several times. My weight has yo-yoed up and down within a 3-stone range multiple times during my adult years. But it’s never being through dieting. It’s been when I’ve been happy in my life and food just hasn’t been something I have been obsessing over (and when I’ve been doing some kind of regular exercise) – so basically intuitive eating before I even knew what it was. Thing is, although I know I can do intuitive eating and that the weight does fall off that way, it’s actually a lot harder to do when you’re trying to do it.!

Most of my disordered eating history comes in the form of binge eating or emotional eating. It’s rare I’ve been on the opposite side of the pendulum (dieting) but overeating – that I’m good at. So, I’m really excited for Josie Spinardi’s second book as I think that will be really relevant to me. But, I got stuck into her first one anyway. Initially I thought that it was a good read but not really relevant to me as I don’t diet, and haven’t really done so in the past, so surely none of my overeating is the sort that’s a direct reaction to dieting/restriction. However, the thought suddenly occurred to me that it actually is still relevant…

The type of overeating she refers to is the type that is a response to deprivation – the fact that you eat the chocolate because you’ve deprived yourself of it on a diet or (what she calls Eating Cuz You Ate) continuing to overeat ‘forbidden’ foods because you know you’re going to deprive yourself as soon as you get ‘back on the wagon’ tomorrow. And it’s this second bit that applies to me. I don’t ever diet or deprive myself but, subconsciously, I do plan to. I find myself thinking that I might as well eat lots of cake/chocolate/biscuits/crisps today because tomorrow I’m going to ‘be good’ (not specifically go on a diet but a promise that tomorrow I’ll do Beyond Chocolate ‘properly’ or make healthier choices etc). And I really think that my brain sees this as deprivation in exactly the same way as it would if I were on a diet. I never make that fresh start because I sabotage it before it begins and I don’t think I ever properly understood why. So maybe you don’t have to diet or restrict your food to feel deprived – just thinking about it is enough. And that would totally explain why pretty much every single day for the last twenty years I have said ‘today is the last day I overeat – tomorrow I’ll have a fresh start’ and that fresh start never happens because every single day just ends up being one more ‘last day’. That’s a lot of last suppers and probably very few of them have been enjoyed because I’m shovelling them in in anticipation of self-imposed scarcity rather than actually enjoying them in the knowledge that I can chose to eat those foods if and when I want.

Even six years after discovering intuitive eating, all I still want to eat is the sugary, junky stuff and maybe that is down to this subconscious planned deprivation too. I see other women on the intuitive eating journey who have now lost their taste for these foods and genuinely find themselves fancying fresh, wholesome food more often than not. And my gremlin tells me that that’s because they are doing it ‘properly’ and this is what I’m supposed to be eating too. But, firstly, everyone’s journey and dietary preferences are different. And, secondly, this subconscious belief that I’m supposed to end up in a place where I don’t want to eat junk food seems to make me want it more because I might never eat it again once I’m doing it ‘properly’. And seeing this in writing, it just sounds completely nuts. For starters, I may well still fancy these junky foods sometimes when I’m eating intuitively. And if I don’t want them, then why would I want to eat them anyway? Why would I miss them if I get to a point I don’t fancy them? So, surely it’s a win-win? I either continue to fancy and enjoy them or I don’t fancy them and then won’t miss them. I’m seeing this as the same as being deprived of these foods and it’s not the same at all. It’s about choice. My choice. I just need to be brave and let myself choose based on what I really want and not on what I think I can’t have tomorrow, or next week, or next year. I can have it all. Or not. It’s my choice.

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