The great irony is that I learned to trust my body at the point at which it was most broken.
Let’s step back a bit.
I started getting a little chubby around the time when my period started in middle school. In high school I lost a lot of weight because my religion forbids me from eating poorly prepared food and our cafeteria food was worse than prison-grade, so I ended up doing this kind of feast and famine thing where I’d starve during the week and fill up on the weekends. This was especially bad between when they stopped providing Total cereal in the cafeteria during junior year and before I was able to ask my parents if I could have a food allowance senior year (money was always really tight at home and I didn’t want to be a burden, plus the dorms only had microwaves and fridges for food preparation).
When I got to college I grew two inches. People complained about the college cafeteria, but the lettuce was never brown or even yellow. There was fish! Nothing sat in tubs of melted grease. Cold-cuts! Cheese! Whole wheat bread! The milk was never sour. They served juice made from actual fruit! No, not as good as home cooking, but the salad bar alone was like heaven after years of starving.
In college I was surrounded by beautiful skinny women who were always complaining about how fat they were. Everyone dieted. I resisted, but somehow they got to me (I didn’t even *notice* they’d gotten to me until my first year of graduate school when someone asked why I talked about my weight so much… oh, man, I’d been indoctrinated). I counted calories. I ate a lot of sugary things that had no fat because the no-fat diet was in. I was always hungry. I don’t remember ever consciously thinking about doing this– if asked, I would have told you I was against diets and poor body images (and happy with my breast size!), and yet, I was doing what everybody else did. And I continually gained weight. I was my heaviest weight ever by the end of college (I can *totally* fit into my college clothing, though I don’t because styles change).
Scratch that, I was actually my heaviest weight my first year of graduate school. BCP and depression and not having to walk very much caused me to gain all the weight I’d lost the summer between college and grad school and some more. (I’ve seriously blocked this time from my memory.) After getting the depression under control and moving where I had to walk more to get to school, I dropped some, but was still was heavier than the healthy weight for my height, and not because I had too much muscle.
Then we decided we were ready to have children. I went off BCP. I cycled once. Then twice. Then not again. So I went to the doctor who sent me to another doctor. And then another doctor because my insurance changed, and then another. The second doctor suggested PCOS (and POF and thyroid). The third doctor confirmed PCOS.
For a year and a half my body was broken. Every three months I’d take a provera challenge to get my cycle started again. I was poked and prodded and found out I had a blocked tube on top of not cycling.
During this time I found out a lot about PCOS. I found out I’d been doing the diet thing all wrong for me. No fat was ridiculous for my body and was the reason I kept gaining weight while always being hungry. I cut out HFCS. Then sugar. Then refined carbs. I upped my fruit, nuts, and full-fat ice cream intake. I began snacking. I stopped being hungry all the time. Sweet things began to taste more sweet and I started being able to appreciate dark chocolate for the first time. Weight started falling off effortlessly at a pound or two a week. I stopped having mood swings. My acanthosis nigricans went away. I stopped being sad for no reason (other than the infertility-related reasons). My rational mind had much better control. Eventually I added Metformin to get the insulin under control and weight slipped off even faster.
The major thing that happened (before the Metformin) was I started listening to my body. I started listening to my hunger. I started noticing what foods made me feel crappy later, and what foods filled me up. I ignored calorie counts (mostly– it’s still kind of ingrained, but now it’s more, is this an 80 calorie hunger=apple or a full 200 calorie=small meal/larabar hunger?), instead listening to my stomach and to my moods. I learned to recognize when my blood sugar was dipping and always had something on hand before it could get out of hand.
And listening to my body is so much easier and less stressful than adding up points or calories or trying to be the mental command-economy for my body’s caloric intake and outtake. I don’t need a calculator, just some mindfulness.
Now, that’s not quite everything. I still have a very addictive personality and very little willpower. But I’m also very good at putting in commitment devices in pretty much all areas of my life. If I’m aware of my triggers, I can keep out of their way. For example, if there are chips in the house, I will eat them, even though I know I’ll feel cruddy later. Same with chocolate frosted donuts. So I don’t keep these things in the house. I don’t buy them. DH isn’t allowed to buy them, and if DC1 buys them they belong to hir and I can’t have any.
That’s not to say I never eat junk… but when I get a boxed lunch at work, I give back the chips right away, unless they’re cheetos (I allow myself cheetos of opportunity). I have rules. I only eat sweets if they pass a certain quality threshhold (chocolate chip cookies from the good bakery, yes! from the grocery store, no!), same with pizza (local place, yes! Domino’s, no!), and with donuts, if there’s a chocolate frosted, I’ll take it, but no other kind. (When I was pregnant I avoided even the above because of borderline GD with the first and that nasty wheat allergy with the second– I have a lot of willpower when it’s someone else’s life on the line). When DH bakes something, I’ll usually eat some (and he often cuts the sugar and substitutes wheat flour if applicable). I keep a bar of Green and Black 70-85% dark in my desk drawer at all times and take a square whenever I have a craving. I don’t deprive myself, but the junk food has to be really good for it to be worth it, and if it is good enough, then I generally don’t need that much to be satisfied.
We also do psychological things like use salad plates for meals instead of the big plates. We take multiple little servings so we can better judge when we’re no longer hungry. Sometimes we freeze a batch of cookies to dole them out in smaller amounts later. Back before DC1 was so big, we’d take half of a cake we’d just made to daycare so we wouldn’t eat it ourselves. These things help us to pause so we can listen to hunger and desire.
And no, doing these kinds of things alone probably won’t put most people at the bottom of their healthy range. (And some of my eating needs are specific to PCOS and my body. YMMV, which is why it’s important for you to listen to you.) Depending on how much junk I’ve been adding (because with nobody’s life at stake, and DC2 not eating whole wheat, refined carbs have snuck in), how much exercise I’ve been getting, and whether or not I’m hard-core nursing, I can be anywhere within that range, usually between the middle and the top unless I’m on metformin or the baby is getting most of hir calories from me.
But I don’t need to be super thin.
I just need to listen to my body and take care of it so that it will take care of me.
And that fits in with the greater grumpy rumblings philosophy… mindful laziness with a side order of commitment device can do great things, with health, child-rearing, even career concerns. Figure out what works for your specific situation, set up an environment where it’s easier to achieve those goals, and change things when they’re not working. Complete flexibility within a rigid setting. Mindfulness creating a low mental load. Grumpy rumblings is vast: contains multitudes.
#2 would like to remind everyone that, whether or not you would like to make food and exercise changes, a great thing to have is radical self-love.