Thursday, August 02, 2007

Demand Feeding

I've been reading When Women Stop Hating Their Bodies, on the recommendation of Good with Cheese. I can only read a little bit at a time, because the issues it brings up are such powerful ones for me, and they either make me put the book down to think things through, or they make me put the book down because I'm so shaken, emotionally, by what I've just read.

One of the main topics of the book is demand feeding, where you eat what you want when you're hungry for it, and eat as much of it as you want, and stop when you're full. Legalizing all foods and responding to your stomach hunger is supposed to lead to the increased ability to really listen to what your body wants/needs to eat AND reduces frantic binges of "forbidden" foods, because nothing is forbidden. If you can have whatever you want, then you're not viewing food from a position of deprivation, and the previously forbidden foods will eventually lose their power over you, because you know you can have them any time you want. It's actually pretty fucking revolutionary of an idea in the face of Atkins and South Beach and Weight Watchers and the Zone and Eat Right For Your Blood Type and Sugar Busters and countless other diets that tell you what you can eat, how much of it you can eat, when you can eat it, and what you cannot, ever, eat, lest you flip out and eat your weight in Chips Ahoy cookies.

My initial response to demand feeding is, "Eat what I want? But I don't KNOW what I want!" That's the twisted beauty of a diet like Weight Watchers (although their schtick is "there are no forbidden foods!") or Atkins — they tell you what you're allowed to eat. You have a list of choices, and you have to pick from the list. It doesn't matter what you want; what matters is sticking to the list. On a diet, I know what I'm *allowed* to have, but I don't know what I actually *want.*

Then when I think about what I want, it's all foods that have been forbidden in the past (because although Weight Watchers says that there are no forbidden foods, you can't actually eat half a bag of Doritos and still be following the POINTS plan). Cheetos, Doritos, cookie-dough ice cream, Oreos, those wafer cookies that have the cream in the middle that come in brown (chocolate), tan (vanilla), and pink (I have no idea what flavor they were supposed to be). McDonald's hash browns and a sausage and egg mcmuffin (my love of which dates back to a high-school job at McDonad's). Little Debbie oatmeal cream pies (did you know there's a double-decker version? sweet sugary mother of god, it's snack food nirvana).

So I bought Doritos, and I ate them when I wanted them. And now I don't have the urge for Doritos. I got the McDonald's breakfast last weekend, and it was as full of fatty, tasty goodness as I remembered. And now I don't have the urge for it. (Well, I don't have the urge for a McMuffin. I *always* want hash browns.)

I've always had this fear, which has been encouraged and strengthened by the many diets I've been on, that if I ate what I actually wanted, then I would devour the WORLD. Well, I already wrote about this. But to really embrace demand feeding, I have to face that fear. I know, intellectually, that my fear is unfounded. I cannot possibly eat my own weight in Little Debbie oatmeal cream pies. I *know* it, but I still don't *believe* it.

I haven't gained weight, despite eating Doritos and McDonald's. I think it's possible that I've merely adjusted the rest of my food intake around the addition of the previously forbidden foods. And I don't mean adjusted in the sense of "Oh, since I ate this McMuffin, I'll have to fast on celery juice for the next 2 days!" I mean adjusted in the sense that eating what I wanted actually filled me up (imagine that — eating fat does what fat is supposed to do — satiate your hunger!), and so I didn't get hungry again as soon as I normally do. If that makes sense.

I'm still afraid that I'll devour the whole WORLD, but I'm going to stick with demand feeding for now, and really try to listen to what my body wants and needs.


Meowser said...

Demand feeding and legalizing all food really helped me, too. It was a concept I was first introduced to in Susie Orbach's Fat is a Feminist Issue books, although Orbach says the ideas in her books came from Carol Munter (who besides the book you name also co-authored its predecessor, Overcoming Overeating). Geneen Roth is big on this concept also; it comes up as a theme in all of her books, although I think both Roth and Orbach's books are more weight-loss focused than Munter's.

goodwithcheese said...

I am so glad you're reading that book. I understand where you're coming from, both with the terror and the confusion about not even knowing what you want to eat. It'll get easier, I promise. It's not going to be easy every day, mind you, but overall the process becomes very ingrained. Even when I'm having insane body issues, I still am completely committed to the demand-feeding because it continues to feel very natural. I guess because it is, huh?
Oh, and by the way, where does one find this fabled, double-decker Little Debbie oatmeal pie? Because that sounds like something I need in my life.

Teppy said...

meowser, I have almost all of Geneen Roth's books, and you're right — she does promote demand feeding. But since she does it with a stronger emphasis on weight loss, and I'm trying to shake the diet mentality, I totally blanked on the fact that Roth has long been a fan of demand feeding.

goodwithcheese, when the idea of demand feeding scares the crap out of me, I keep reminding myself how utterly healthy — physically AND psychologically— it's been for you.

Also, check gas-station convenience stores for the double-decker oatmeal cream pie. They only come in single servings (at least, I haven't seen them in boxes like the other Little Debbie goodies), but one was enough to satisfy even my legendary sweet tooth. They are wondrous things.

Nancy Lebovitz said...

IIRC, Geneen Roth recommends eating what you want, but on the low end of how much you want of it.

I've found that I'm better off if I consider how foods are likely to leave me feeling in the hours after I've eaten. I'm talking about digestion and energy levels, not emotions I have about what I eat.

Teppy said...

I've found that I'm better off if I consider how foods are likely to leave me feeling in the hours after I've eaten. I'm talking about digestion and energy levels

Nancy, I totally agree. If I'm craving sugar uncontrollably, I always feel better if I have the sugar with (or after) a protein-y food, like after lunch or dinner, or at the very least, a piece of turkey or some cheese.

Sugary food on its own, despite how much I love it, will inevitably make me crash and feel lousy within a couple hours. If I wake up in the middle of the night and devour something sweet, like ice cream, the next day I feel rotten, almost like a hangover.

Or, I suppose it *is* a type of hangover — a sugar hangover.

goodwithcheese said...

Nancy, that's one of the things they talk about in the book Teppy is referencing; they call it 'voting for the inside.' Like, if your brain wants 6 pounds of M&Ms, and your stomach wants an egg salad sandwich, you go with what your stomach wants. You can still have the M&Ms if you want them, but you try to feed your body, not your noggin.

Teppy, I'll report back on the Little Debbie quest.