Weighty Matters

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Portion Awareness

One of the biggest challenges for me is assessing how much food to put on my plate.  We never really had the “clean plate club” or the “eat everything because children are starving in Europe” mentality at home when we were growing up.  However, we were eaters; if there was food in front of us, we ate it.

Combine that with the binge eating and compulsive eating disorder and I have a lifetime of not being able to clearly estimate portions.  I’m not good at knowing up front what amount is the right one for me when I’m serving myself and putting together a meal.

Pre-surgery, I could eat and eat and eat massive quantities – enough for two plus people.  It took a lot for me to reach the uncomfortable point.

My restricted stomach prevents me from binge eating, obviously.  I can no longer consume large volumes of food.  However, I’m still not always the best judge of what is enough or, more importantly, when my real hunger is satisfied.  Sometimes I’m one bite more than full and then completely uncomfortable.

I am actively working on improving my portion awareness.  There’s a disconnect between what my eyes and mind agree is an adequate amount and what is the reality for my stomach and nutrition.

It would seem that the obvious solution would be to weigh and measure everything.  I’ve discussed before how much I hate doing those things.  I want to learn to eyeball the portions first, then develop better mindfulness while I’m eating.  Ideally, I will develop my portion awareness to the point where I take just enough.  However, if I put more on my plate at the outset, but then reach satiety and have had enough, I want to stop eating – even if food remains on my plate.  There is no law, written or unwritten, that says every single bite must be consumed.

Some of the challenge remains mental.  I see smaller portions and think they will never be enough.  This is a holdover from the days when I was wildly out of control with my eating and, certainly, from before weight loss surgery.  Make no mistake; my portions these days are already definitely smaller than I used to eat, but I think I still start out with more than I need.

I believe the plan that I’m on helps with this balancing act.  The whole fat versions of dressings, sauces, etc., create a good mouth feel and increase satiety.  I’ve had the physical experience of this, but still fight the mental images and the familiar “It won’t be enough; it’s never enough” refrain that still runs through my brain far too often.

Those are the times when I need to remind myself to just do it; to try a little harder; to go with less and see how I feel.  Again, this effort presents more evidence that this is a process, not an event.  It’s a journey.

What a trip.


Food Judgment

I have a hang up about people judging my food — what and how much I might put on my plate and choose to eat. Even if people don’t notice and couldn’t care less, I imagine that they do and, in judging my food are also judging me.

No, I’m not just paranoid. In the past, people did indeed judge what I was eating. Not everyone, probably, but enough that I noticed. Still others actually verbalized their judgments. One instance stands out in my memory. Mom and I were having dinner with another family member at our house who’d brought a home baked pie with her for dessert. After we finished eating the main dish, the family member offered each of us a slice of pie. She specifically asked me if I wanted a piece. It was good pie and I said yes, please.

I went out to the kitchen to bring in coffee and tea. I plainly heard the family member say, “I can’t believe Mary’s going to eat dessert.”

Is it any wonder that I was such an accomplished sneak eater? I developed that ability at a very early age. It didn’t matter if people were right in the next room, I could open the refrigerator, a cabinet, or a squeaky drawer, open a package, and eat with nobody else hearing me.

But I digress.

During every diet I’ve ever been on, I know I ran into times when people monitored what I was eating or just looked to see if I was on track. I think when I wasn’t on diets, people probably looked at my plates. Maybe they wanted to understand how much food it took for a woman to get to my size. I don’t know, but trust me, no matter how subtle they might have tried to be, I was hypersensitive to it, so I picked up on the glances or outright looks. I also automatically assumed that they were critiquing my food choices, or my amounts. Whatever the case, these were not positive experiences. As a result, I rarely ate openly in front of other people. I took what I believed to be a “normal” amount of “proper” food and consumed it at the table and then pigged out when I was alone.

Ever since I had my weight loss surgery, I’ve noticed that I still wonder whether people are watching my food. I imagine that now they’re curious about how much I can physically eat and that they’re also assessing whether I’m eating what I “should” or eating stuff that I “shouldn’t”. If I’m out at a gathering and there are sweets, I assume that people will think I’m being bad if I take a cookie.

I’m much better off at work around my friends and people who know me well. They understand that, sometimes, a person just needs to have a small piece of chocolate. Nobody scolds me or smacks my hand. Nobody gives me disapproving looks. It’s safe.

Honestly, the whole question of whether people around me continue to make judgments about my food and eating could be an entirely false issue. I likely stress myself out about this without reading. Maybe my fear of being judged breaks down into False Evidence Appearing Real. At this point, I don’t know, but I realize that it’s better to live with less stress.

So, I need to be aware of my thought process and call myself on it. When it comes right down to it, my choices are my choices and it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks, does or says. Probably what I need to work on is to stop categorizing food choices as bad or good, inappropriate, or appropriate, etc. It’s like I’m the one that starts the judgment process and then anticipate that everyone else will do the same.

No matter what I choose to eat, I need to make it okay. My choices are my choices.