“Bad” Habits I Choose To Keep

During the past 4 years I have discovered that, for me, being too strict with my food and my food-related behaviors can be just as bad as not being strict enough.  For today, I am able to incorporate the following guidelines into my daily food plan without experiencing any adverse effects whatsoever.  I am not suggesting that these ideas are okay for everyone, but I am trying to point out that, if you are struggling because you feel that your food plan is too restrictive (like I was), maybe trying something a little less rigid will help.  Try easing-up for a while.  Then gradually let go of one thing at a time.  As you get closer to your Higher Power (through working the Steps), you will be less and less interested in food (especially the ones that you know are unhealthy for you) and you will just “know” when it is time to cut back a little bit more.  At least, that’s the way it’s been working for me.  My caloric intake has gone from a whopping 6000 calories per day to a much more healthy 2500 calories per day over the course of 2 1/2 years.  Plus, I have been able to keep it at that amount, comfortably, for the past 1 1/2 years.

A FEW EXTRAS: When I am feeling deprived because I am craving the taste of something sweet, I give myself the freedom to add an extra packet of sweetener to my coffee or my cereal.  Or I will purposely go out for an iced coffee made by professionals – -always so much more “scrumdiddlyumptous” than the ones I make at home.  Sure, that is probably due to the cream they use that I don’t, but if that will give me the boost I need to avoid a binge, then so be it.   Same goes for those awkward moments when I am out with friends or family and there is that last minute decision to go out for ice cream.  I used to feel like the martyr, grimly letting everyone know that “I can’t have that.”  Nowadays, I am usually not even interested in getting anything and I simply order a coffee or a diet soda.  But if I do feel myself getting cranky about it, I allow myself to have one small scoop of sugar free ice cream.  Again, for me, it’s not about the extra calories, but rather, how I feel towards my particular plan of eating.

A FLEXIBLE SCHEDULE: I used to practice the 3-0-1 plan (three meals a day, nothing in between, one day at a time) that is so famous within the OA fellowship.  It is a great idea and works well for so many people.  But it didn’t work for me.  Ever since I allowed myself the freedom to eat all the same foods and portions that I had on my 3-0-1 plan without confining myself to only eating three times per day, I instantly felt myself relax.  Now I eat at the times that fit most conveniently into my schedule, or (gasp!), at the times when I actually feel hungry!  And here is the most amazing part of all: I have actually had some days when I do NOT get around to eating all the food I have coming to me!  I sincerely believe that this is because, for the first time in my life, I am actually beginning to listen to the signals from my body and eating according to those rather than according to the time on a clock.  I used to be a big believer in the idea that I was some kind of genetic mutants who had been born without the ability to recognize when I was full.  But over the past two years, I have changed my mind about that.  Now I think it is just that I never learned what the sensations of hunger and fullness felt like because I was always eating according to emotional (rather than physical) cues.

REPETITIVE FOODS: I used to have a sponsor who would not let me eat the same meal more than once within any given week.  I suppose there may be some value to this strategy, considering how obsessive we food addicts tend to be.  But for whatever reason, I found that when left to my own devices in this one area, as long as I am eating according to an abstinent plan, eating the same foods or meals from one day to the next is actually comforting to me, especially if they are foods or meals that I really enjoy.  Whatever benefit to body or mind that may have come out of forcing myself to eat a variety of things I don’t really care for was usually lost to a much greater sense of deprivation and resentment at not being allowed the freedom to the eat abstinent foods that I actually liked.

ORDERING OUT:  Whether we like it or not, eating is big part of socializing.  In the past, my rigid food plan contained all sorts of rules around eating out.  I was supposed to ask questions about how certain foods were prepared.  I needed to bring home half of what was on my plate to be eaten as a meal the following day.  I could not have any fried foods.  I had to have oil and vinegar on my salad (which I hate) if there were no sugar free options.  Or I could bring my own dressing with me, which I would never do.  (Just a personal preference here.  I know plenty of program people who have brought their own salad dressings into restaurants and lived to tell the tale.)  And these are just the rules I can remember off the top of my head, 20 years later.  I’m sure there were many more.  Today, I have almost the exact opposite philosophy regarding eating in restaurants.  Now I give myself permission to eat whatever portion is put in front of me (as long as I have ordered something that is meant as a serving for one person, of course!).  If the choice is between a binge or a bigger portion of chicken, I’ll take the chicken.  I also eat fried foods when I am out.  This is not a healthy choice, mind you, but it’s my choice.  Maybe some day I will change my mind on this one, but so far, eating these foods has not given me the urge to binge.  Oddly enough, since I have taken this less restrictive approach, there have been several times when I have actually taken food home, either to give to my husband or to have as part of another meal, even though I don’t have to do so.  More evidence of sanity returning!

Although I understand that, in some ways, many of these concessions are the remnants of the way I used to use food as a “reward,” I have discovered that, for me, they also make it easier for me to stay abstinent, which then gives me confidence in my ability to stick to a food plan.  In other words, it is the old “success breeds success” theory.  For so many years, I felt like I could not trust my own body (or mind) to make any type of healthy decisions when it came to food.  But now I am finally beginning to trust myself, because I am finally beginning to trust and rely on a God of my understanding.  I truly believe that He is inside me, healing the damaged part of my mind, and making it possible for me to eat in an ever more sane, balanced way.

In the end, what it really comes down to is the ability to cut myself some slack.  By letting go of the perfectionism I used to have around “good” foods, “bad” foods, and dieting in general, I am acknowledging my humanity rather than pretending that it does not exist.  It is not “wrong” to enjoy food, or to want to go out to eat with friends, or to want to enjoy healthy portions of foods that are part of family traditions that are special to us.  Here I am reminded of the part of the Big Book that talks about our desire for sex as being a God-given trait of all humans that is to be enjoyed rather than shunned.

Couldn’t the same be said for our sense of taste?

January 13, 2014 This post was written by Categories: Tricks (& Tools) That Work For Me 3 comments

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