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Full and Fulfilled

The Science of Eating to Your Soul's Satisfaction

By Nan Allison, M.S., R.D. and Carol Beck, M.S.

Introduction

Even with the best training from some of the most reputable nutrition schools in the nation, advanced degrees, and years of experience, we were still struggling to help our clients in their battles with food and weight.

Something was wrong.

We had been trying to find yet one more technique for better motivation - have clients visit more often, call more frequently, and learn more facts about food, nutrients, emotions and weight control. All these efforts were exhausting us and our clients; we got frustrated with them, and they with us.

We talked with psychotherapists for perspectives on their clients’ struggles with food. We experimented with the assumptions that a lack of pleasure and satisfaction could play a role in this struggle (and tried mightily to have clients interject more pleasure and planned indulgences in their daily food routines); or that some clients could be too busy to truly care for their bodies, so worked with them to find time for their bodies; or that in this society, we have all been taught to discount, minimize, avoid, cover up, keep a stiff upper lip—anything but acknowledge our pain.

We recognized that all of these factors played a role in the reasons people eventually returned to eating in ways they always had, preventing them from making the changes they wanted to or thought they should make. But all of this information was not enough. Something was still missing.

Neither we nor our clients consciously realized the connection between where they were on their life paths and their behavior with food. Their best attempts to change food habits did not have lasting effects until they looked at the link between their bodies and their emotional and spiritual lives. The reason: experiencing the emotional and spiritual parts of us causes biochemical changes in our bodies which alter our desire for food. In addition, eating in a way which balances with the body’s needs often gives people greater clarity in getting to know themselves as emotional and spiritual beings.

People can choose, then, to travel their paths by entering at either, or both, gateways - by working on food issues and moving on to the emotional/spiritual issues or vice versa. The important point is to recognize and understand that the two—cellular/biochemical and emotional/spiritual—are linked.

As you read the chapters in this book, you will begin to see the paradoxical relationship between your spiritual/emotional life, eating, and your physical body. How we eat and how we view our bodies are metaphors for handling life; our relationship with food says something about who we are and how we express our very being in the world. Not only are they metaphors, they are concrete, physical reflections of where we are on our life's path and can determine how we proceed.

So, don’t stop dreaming about achieving peace with food. Most of us want that peace so desperately yet are stymied when using the strategies and options taught us. It is impossible to successfully use these strategies, however "right" they may be, without first knowing what feels good and right for you. Our bodies are filled with authentic clues about what is right for us but we have been taught to discount the very signals that free us to make the dream of peace with food a reality - to truly be full and fulfilled.

We finally realized that clients intuitively knew something that neither we nor they fully understood—what we now label the "intuitive eater" (body signals) within, and that the intuitive eater is the key to feeling both full and fulfilled. So we finally gave ourselves and our clients permission not to know the answers and trusted that our clients' bodies would eventually give them the clues they needed to begin to explore and discover their own inner wisdom.

This book is designed for you to do the same thing. Some clients choose to explore their food patterns and behavior, and in so doing, start to find the connection between their emotional/spiritual struggles and food intake. Others will find it more comfortable to explore their emotional/spiritual paths first. Either way, the biochemical balance in the body is altered, making it easier to then address the other. We wrote this book so that you, the reader, can begin to use the power that comes from listening to your intuitive eater; to begin trusting, interpreting, experimenting with, applying, and practicing using your intuitive eater. You have everything you need to feel both full and fulfilled.

This book gives you both the permission and information you need to discover what's right for you.

What is Intuitive Eating?

    Intuitive eating has certain characteristics:
  • It varies from person to person. Because our tastes, bodies, activities, emotions, and spiritual paths are different, what our bodies require in terms of nourishment also differs.
  • It is cyclical. Weekly, monthly, and annual cycles, even life cycles, change our body’s need for, and responses to, food.
  • It is imperfect. Intuitive eating does not mean we’ll always choose absolutely "healthy" or "pristine" foods. We won’t always feel as if we’ve had a "perfect" balance.
  • It is rhythmic. We feel pleasantly full (but not stuffed) after a meal and pleasantly hungry (but not starving) before the next.
  • It includes a wide variety of foods. Cereals and grains, fruits and vegetables, dairy products, meats, beans, nuts, and even fats play a role in normal, intuitive eating. Again, the exact balance and variety of foods must be individualized.
  • It is free of obsession. It acknowledges that our compulsions are due to biochemical or emotional reasons and any over- or under-eating is a clue to begin looking further as an opportunity for learning.
  • It is nourishing to the body and spirit.
  • It feels good. Good food in the right amounts and at the right times excites the senses. It provides tactile and taste sensations as we eat, and a pleasurable "full" feeling afterward. When we finish a meal, we feel comforted and renewed - physically, emotionally, and even spiritually.
  • It is an essential component of self care. What better way to nurture ourselves than with the foods we need and enjoy in the amounts we require?


The Fight To Eat "Right"

If you are like most of us, you have struggled for a long time with food—or against it. Think about all the times you have turned down dessert (probably more occasions than you realize), and the times you didn't let yourself eat what you really wanted. In following a prescribed diet, you may fill yourself full of foods you actually hate while you come to despise foods you actually like, such as tuna, cottage cheese and Melba toast because you associate them with the "diet." You may eat combinations of foods which seem odd or unnatural to you. Maybe you measure or weigh every bite that goes into your mouth.

You work very hard to eat right—yet derive little or no lasting benefit. And, you may continue to struggle - your relationship with food does not become easier over time. Clearly, something is wrong with this picture! Work this hard ought to produce results. When it doesn't, the overall scheme of things needs to be revisited. This book helps you do just that. It helps you understand what is going on biochemically at the cellular level, how that is connected to what your mind is thinking, your heart is feeling and your soul is believing and how all these connections translate into the foods you are drawn to, the eating patterns you follow - your eating style. It's about how foods and your eating patterns affect your biochemistry in such a way that your heart and mind can open to your soul and grow at this deep level. This spiritual growth subsequently affects our drive for certain foods and ways of eating. So, eating not only keeps us connected to the physical world but can also allow us to grow as spiritual beings and listen to and care for our souls, not just our bodies.

Fighting the Wrong Battle

No wonder we lose the battle with food and weight over and over again. We were not born to fight it. In fact, so long as we continue to fight with food, we will never have all the energy we wish for, our scales will continue to show numbers that we don't want to see, and our reflections in the mirror will fail to please us. This is a battle we were never supposed to fight and are destined to lose. For we and food are meant to be natural allies - not enemies. We can go on fighting - many of us do for all our lives - but we can never win. We only grow weary.

Maybe you've been doing things that don't work because not only were you unaware of the impact of the spiritual/emotional/ biochemical connection in your life but also because the food plans and diets you've tried won't work (indeed, will never work) for you. Perhaps, along with millions of other people, you've been provided with rules about food that simply don't apply to you. We're assuming these rules and diet plans were based on each author's lifestyle and experience, and successfully might have helped them control their weight.

But, that does not mean their plans will work for you. For example, Oprah Winfrey found a nutritional system that worked for her; Richard Simmons has his own exercise and diet strategy; Susan Powter, author of the popular book, Stop The Insanity, found her way to a satisfying relationship with food.

But, each of these programs was based on individual physical needs, personal tastes, schedules, and personalities.

Fortunately, there is another way. Here, in this book, you have a step-by-step guide to do exactly the same thing—only just for you, going even broader and deeper by incorporating your biochemical/ emotional/spiritual connection.

The Journey of Discovery

This book is here to help you reclaim your intuitive eater within. It is here to help you give up your struggle with food. Intuitive eating is a guided individual journey. If you are looking for a list of do's and don'ts, or for a new set of battle plans, you will be disappointed. In fact, you will find very few case studies or client examples in this book. Those examples wouldn't be useful. Your relationship with food is yours alone. It's not like anybody else's. Intuitive eating is not a food plan, but an opportunity for you to explore your own reactions to, and experiences with, food. We encourage you to learn which foods please you, nourish and sustain you, and to learn about how your body and food interact.

Like any journey of discovery, intuitive eating takes time. Clients ask, "How long does it take?" Our answer: "It takes as long as it takes." Throughout the process, there will be times when a whole world of answers will open to you; other times, the insight gained will be more subtle. In fact, just by trying some of these experiments, things will change. You'll find there isn't one correct answer. Don't be surprised if you don't get the same results every time. What is real for you is based on the mode of consciousness that you bring to bear at each moment. Along the way, you will sometimes experience what feels like failure. But the effort is well worth the rewards. Each failure will provide insight to move you one step further along the path toward success.
    You will move to a place where you are:
  • naturally, effortlessly, and comfortably eating foods you enjoy in moderate and healthy amounts
  • eating when you are hungry, not starving
  • stopping when you are full, not stuffed
  • accepting, not panicking, when eating doesn't go just right.
  • Intuitive eating means feeling confidence and trust in yourself when it comes to food because you are learning to accept your body, emotions, and food, and the ways they work together.


Giving up old habits is not easy. Abandoning the struggle is - well - a struggle. As you explore intuitive eating you'll get to know food again. You will become sensitive to your body's needs and signals related to food, and its responses to your emotions and spiritual growth. You will re-examine old ideas and behaviors. You will take some risks.

Waking the Intuitive Self

The process of learning how to feel full and fulfilled will put you back in touch with your body so that you can "hear" its signals for certain kinds or amounts of food. In some ways, finding the intuitive eater within is like waking a good friend from a lifetime slumber. A gentle touch may be all you need. The knowledge that you carry inside you is like this sleeping friend—unconscious, but not deeply so, and waiting to be wakened.

Unfortunately, each of us also carries around vicious food prohibitions—notions imposed on us by others. We absorb these rules and regulations, which may not be right for us, in the effort to do the "right" thing or look the "right" way. Along with these rules are pieces of misinformation and misconceptions about how our bodies work. We also carry the feelings associated with them—shame, guilt, even fear. All those layers of misinformation and bad feelings must be recognized and peeled away before we can rediscover the memory of how good it feels to eat naturally and intuitively.

In this book, we will help you wake your intuition about food by combining:
  •  facts about the way bodies work, how emotions influence bodies, and the role of food in the interaction between the two. This information will help you understand why you just haven't been able to do what it is you thought you were "supposed" to do with food. This knowledge will also give you "permission" to risk eating more intuitively.
  •  activities to help you explore your inner knowledge, allowing you to recall old food-related experiences and create new ones. These discoveries will help you reorient your thinking about your body and the food you use to fuel it. They will also help you learn to make food choices with confidence.
  • Intuitive eating is a journey. This is its beginning. Expect the exhilaration and excitement of any journey, along with its discomforts. Anticipate moments of insight and surrender. The good news is that you need not make this trip alone. This text will be your guide. And your intuition, too, will journey with you. Now it is time to wake your intuitive eater from its slumber.


Chapter One


"Plato argued that learning is basically recovery and recollection—that in the same way that bears and lions instinctively know everything they need to know to live and merely do it, each of us do, too. But, in our case, what we need to know gets lost in what we are told we should know."

Dennis Warren On Becoming a Leader

Isn’t that the truth . . . especially about food and our bodies. One of the first things we often do with clients is invite them to set aside their beliefs and allow some space for other possibilities.

Unlearning is often the basis for true understanding. Unlearning old food patterns is absolutely essential to discovering what foods, in what amounts, eaten at what times feel right for each of us.

The following activities are designed to help you recognize where you may be getting messages about what to eat and how chock-full of all these voices you are. You have little room to make sense of these messages, much less to hear the voice of your own intuition. Exploring is the first step of unlearning.

Hint: You may want to turn off the phone and television and find a quiet corner to complete this activity.

Imagine yourself in the TV section of a local appliance store surrounded with television screens full of talking heads—faces and voices blaring.

On one, a talk show host tells you to do what she has done for her weight; on another, a competing talk show host sells her approach to eating and health; on another, a model demonstrates weight loss exercises you ought to do. Don't miss the screen of your parents—their eyes rolling at even the thought of you wanting seconds of your favorite food. Of course, one screen has your co-workers discussing all the pounds they've lost on their latest regimes. Your spouse on the next screen reminds you what your body could be like—if you would just do what he or she does. Competing with these, a screen flashes a magazine listing of low-fat foods you should eat. The next screen babbles with an interview of a researcher about a new anti-food diet. And, finally, you fill in the rest of the screens with other messages you've received that we haven't suggested. Who else polices your food? What else pressures you to eat a certain way?

Now, surrounded with all the flashing screens and blaring voices, pick up the remote control, and, one by one, shut off each screen—zap, zap, zap . . .

With all the screens blank, take a moment just to feel the silence. This quiet space is where unlearning begins. This quiet is where you begin to discover and explore your own inner wisdom about food. This quiet is where you can begin to hear your own voice, rather than what the latest talking head tells you to do.

What foods make me feel satisfied? What amounts of different foods give me energy? When am I hungry?

We all have many opportunities to collect more and more voices and talking heads. It's so noisy and confusing we don't even notice one more . . . until we take time to be quiet.

This might sound simple. Yet, it is often scary to experience such silence and not have any direction or guidance about food. It’s difficult to feel comfortable moving around in the uncharted territory of self-discovery. But, once you do, you will be able to decide from your inner knowing rather than from absorbing information.

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