I don’t want to be fat any more. I’m at my heaviest weight and I’m also not loving the way I’m eating either. Even if you take size out the equation for a moment (hard to do when I’m feeling frumpy) I still don’t love the way that the food I eat is making me feel. As you’ll know, I’m a big fan of Beyond Chocolate – it just makes perfect sense that this is the right way to eat. But, of the ten principles, I am still – six years later – stuck on ‘eat what you want’. That’s the one that most people dive into in the beginning, eating chocolate and cake and pizza and chips with gay abandon until they realise that actually they want something more nutritious as well. Except I don’t seem to have got to the wanting something more nutritious stage. I still want chocolate and cake all the time. I’m still drawn to it every time and I still overeat every time and I don’t live in hope that it will ever change.
Now, having been amongst the BC community for a few years now, I’m pretty sure I know what the responses would be if I was to say this on the forum or to Sophie or Audrey (the creators of Beyond Chocolate). I would expect the responses to be – and if I’m wrong and people want to throw some other theories in, please do! – that either I haven’t legalised these forbidden foods I’m overeating or that I’m not eating them whilst also observing the other principles. And both of these suggestions would be correct.
When I eat chocolate or cake, I tend to do something else at the same time – watch TV, surf the net, play on my phone. Or otherwise they will be wolfed down standing at the kitchen counter whilst I’m making a cup of tea. Two or three doughnuts can easily be gone in less time than it takes for the kettle to boil. I don’t want to savour or enjoy them – I just want to stuff them down. It’s habitual. If I was truly following the BC principles, I would be allowing myself those foods, but waiting until I was hungry to eat them and then putting them on a plate and focussing and then stopping when I’ve had enough. But I don’t. I always tell myself I will but then, when it comes to it, I tell myself ‘maybe next time instead’. I just eat until I feel sick or until it’s gone.
The problem is that it’s still the Last Supper mentality. The last time I’ll binge or eat so much of those foods because tomorrow I’ll do better. Tomorrow I’ll eat like a normal person. Except I’ve told myself that every day for the past twenty years and discovering Beyond Chocolate and the concept of intuitive eating hasn’t actually got rid of it. Instead of thinking ‘tomorrow I will diet’ it’s just ‘tomorrow I will eat intuitively’. Not today. Not now. I just need to do it once more. This is where legalising food comes in and that’s something I still really struggle with. I told myself I’ve legalised this food but I haven’t.
Legalising forbidden foods is about acknowledging that you can have these foods whenever you want. And so, by not restricting your options or creating a ‘I better have it now because tomorrow I will be on a diet’ situation, you should be able to choose what you really want. It means that all foods are equal and don’t have guilt attached to them. Beyond Chocolate suggests a way to do this is to stock up on large amounts of your forbidden food so that you can be reassured that it’s always there if you want it. This is a great idea and I know it’s helped lots of people. But it didn’t work for me and I felt like a failure. Every time I’d go in the kitchen, I’d have some. There was loads – no one would even know it was missing. But of course I wasn’t combining it with the other principles – just grabbing it and eating it without breaking my stride.
I didn’t actually really believe I even needed to legalise any foods purely because I never really dieted and therefore I always allowed myself to eat the food. Why was I eating so much if I wasn’t responding to dieting? Well, partly because just by planning to diet or ‘be good’ I was anticipating scarcity and therefore falling into the Last Supper trap (I blogged about this more in my Deprivation Without Dieting post). Also the crux of the matter is that, whilst I believe that I can eat these foods whenever I want, what I don’t believe is that I can eat these foods whenever I want, in whatever quantity I want and not suffer for it. By ‘suffer’ I mean gain weight, feel sick, bloat up, lack energy, damage my teeth etc. And so I find myself in a bit of a chicken and egg situation; I will only stop eating such high quantities of these foods when I have legalised them BUT in order to legalise them I have to be able to prove to myself that I can safely eat them in the quantities I desire (which is going to be huge quantities because I’ll only want less when I can prove that I can eat enormous quantities without suffering…). And so round and round I go. I want to eat less of these foods because I think they are negatively affecting my health in the quantities I eat them but how else do I legalise them? I’m still choosing with my taste buds and not with my whole body and I need to be kind to my body because it’s not in a good state. Some days I just wish chocolate and cake didn’t exist and I didn’t have a choice at all.