…maybe you’re just in the mood for something else. Jeez.
You know that old diet trope “If you’re not hungry enough to eat an apple, you’re not hungry”? I used to live by that — or tried to, anyway. But man oh man, I just never ever ever wanted an apple. And that provided me with black-and-white proof of what diet culture had been trying to tell me all along: my hunger was all fake and imagined. “If only I had any self control whatsoever, I could rise above all these non-apple cravings!”
Eesh. How messed up is that?
Fast forward five or so years, after my own six-month reset and transition to intuitive eating, and surprise surprise: turns out I’m just not really into apples. I bet I’ve eaten like ten apples over five years. Seriously. When I want a snack, I usually want something salty. When I want fruit, I go for a banana. When I want something sweet, I’m probably headed for dark chocolate. So sue me, Michael Pollan!
One of the bazillion ways that diet culture sucks is that it convinces you that you don’t know what you know. It is the anti-intuition. It undermines your trust in your own instincts, which can slowly but surely erode your entire sense of self.
Apples are not a super-special gatekeeper to hunger. They’re just apples. You’re in charge. And Michael Pollan does not know you or your tastebuds. You’re in charge.
If you’re not hungry enough for an apple, ask yourself what actually sounds good. Then go get some, and enjoy every bite. Stop letting mind games dictate your life, and try being mindful instead.
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I’ve let that same phrase control my life so much! It’s led me to not eat so many times, even when I’m legitimately hungry. The idea is paralyzing–if I don’t want something “healthy,” I must not actually be hungry *stares at carrots and hummus for 20 minutes, sighs, eats nothing*. I love apples! But I do not always want to eat one. Thanks for writing about this, I love your blog and can’t wait to keep up with it all 🙂
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Right?? It’s so…manipulative! Gah. SUCH a messed up message. Thank you so much for your kind words!
I stumbled across your blog when someone posted your illustration on the two different thought processes about food on FB, so I checked out your website and just kept reading and reading. I was so inspired, amazed and even relieved! Thank you for writing this. I have realized that I do eat for emotional reasons due to things in my life and things in my mind. There is A LOT of negativity floating around inside me and if I can just change that into more positive, helpful things, I believe that eating for comfort may just diminish, even if it’s a little tiny bit! The one thing I’m concerned with, though, about allowing myself to eat until I’m to that “Bleh” stage, is going too far? My stomach is yelling at me to stop, yet I don’t until I am so full I get a side ache. I am hopeful if I do eat when I’m hungry and eat until I finally feel done (and not wishing there was more), that maybe I don’t have to ignore the stomach so much and gradually eat HAPPILY! Thank you again for sharing!
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Oh my goodness, thank you so much for your incredibly kind words! I’m so glad you’re here.
I totally get what you’re going through! And life is complicated enough without hating our bodies and feeling afraid of food. I started drafting an epic response and before I knew it, I had hit 2,000 words…ha! You’ve inspired me to write more posts to better address all of your great points, so stay tuned! And in the meantime, a few things to think about:
1. If you find yourself unable to stop eating until you have a sideache, I bet you’re dealing not just with emotional eating, but a physiological element too. You can feel your stomach hitting capacity, yet your brain is never getting the signal to stop. Why the heck not?? Because of your hunger hormones. Eating until you’re in physical pain is a sign that your hormones are not signaling fullness to your brain (which is a side effect of restrictive diets). Basically your hormones are behaving like you are lost in the desert and any food could be your last. But you can help your hormones readjust and reset by eating to the point of fullness (or over-fullness!) with consistency. And you may very well experience some stomachaches along the way! I sure did. (I make this point about physiological hunger because there’s a lot of guilt that goes along with the idea of emotional eating, like it’s a bad choice that you keep making over and over. But these urges are primal and uncontrollable, so I hope you will release yourself from any guilt you’re feeling as you work through this!)
2. It’s so natural to worry about going “too far” but be careful — your definition of “too far” may be subconsciously rooted in the messages of diet culture. Everything we’re taught about eating is like, “balance! moderation! self-restraint!” and that may be informing your thought processes while you’re eating. i.e. “Is it socially acceptable to eat this much?” “Will I gain weight if I eat this much?” “If I eat this much now how much will I need to punish myself at the gym to make up for it?” Release yourself from all of those things. That’s external noise, and all you need to focus on is internal cues. So eat until it stops being fun. Or until you get kinda bored. Or until you notice that each bite of food seems to have less flavor than the previous bite. OR until you have a sideache! A sideache is the ultimate internal cue, and it achieves two goals at the same time: showing your body and brain that you’re not lost in the desert at risk of starvation, and reinforcing to your conscious self that you don’t even LIKE feeling this full.
3. I love your attitude and it sounds like you’re on the right track with your approach to replacing negativity with positivity — and if you have a bad day and can’t get to positivity, just aim for neutrality! Foods aren’t morally good or bad, and you aren’t good or bad for eating food. Like you said, just keep eating when you’re hungry, listening to your body, and be patient — it’ll take a few weeks or months for your hormones to fully readjust, but it’s SO worth the wait.
Thank you again so much for reading and I hope this is helpful! And don’t hesitate to ask if you ever have any questions for me!
Thank you so much!
I just love this perspective! When I had first read some of your other posts, I was smiling, thinking to myself, “Wow, this sounds awesome and I would LOVE to know what it feels like to not always think about counting calories and feeling guilty for eating ‘too much’ and having so much negativity placed on food and what I should and shouldn’t have.”
I have starting thinking daily about what you’ve written, and am feeling a bit of relief! Although I will admit that the years of accumulated diet rituals are still telling me not to do this or that, I’m slowly ignoring them and feeling okay about what I’m eating. It is almost exhilarating!
Thank you for the points as a response to my reply! I will keep in touch and continue reading your insights. I am humbled to be an inspiration!
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Oh I am SO happy to hear that you’re feeling some relief already!! It’s amazing how much diets prevent us from living our lives fully. The diet baggage can be so intense, but the more you’re aware of it, the better you can squash it! (Also…do NOT step on a scale! I promise you, there is absolutely no need to know your weight’s little fluctuations from day to day, and it will only breed negativity.) Stick with this — I know you can do it!
By the way, I was thinking of your last comment as I wrote my most recent post about emotional eating. Thanks again for sharing your wonderful thoughts and questions!