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Tips to Avoid Stuffing Your Face Daily

I know a great deal about stuffing my face. I did it compulsively for years, even as a teen, when stuffing my face had far fewer drawbacks. Oh, high metabolism, thou art missed. Now, we all define stuffing our faces differently. For me, it meant eating unhealthy foods for most nights of the weeks, and for lunches as well. I did not always eat to excess, but I was not making the most of these eating sessions to treat myself to delicious, carefully prepared foods that would please my senses and support my body.

Long about the time I discovered I had a thyroid disorder and that part of my weight gain might be due to a lack of hormones, I also resolved to change how I ate. My thinking went something like this: “I can try dieting and see if I’m in a better place after one year, or I can do nothing and know for a certainty I’ll hate where I am.”

However, the combination of personality and low thyroid hormone led to intense cravings. I still get these intense cravings. It generally involves candy and doughnuts. Y’all, I love doughnuts so much. Trips to the grocery store became gauntlets for me: could I get what I need and not walk out with a doughnut mashed between my teeth? Could I eat healthfully all day and then avoid the temptation to splurge on a dessert? Could I maintain my diet while I worked from home, when no one was around to see me cheat?

The answer ended up being “yes,” but not without developing a few tactics first. Below, find the tips that brought me success.

It’s Okay to Eat

People at parties or events will often see me putting some potato chips on my plate or enjoying that lemon truffle. I discovered that forever denying myself the things I love is no way to create long-term success. I need to know that I will get to consume these delicious treats again in the future. To that end, I eat whatever I want at parties and events. I don’t always go overboard, surprisingly, but I also don’t attach much shame to myself when I do. Ultimately, I know that I will wake up the next morning and be right back into my healthful habits. This is so freeing. I often see people tormenting themselves at a Christmas party. The frustration will grow, they’ll splurge, feel so ashamed that they’ll never want to get back on the wagon. But healthy living is a long-term goal, not a short-term one.

Eat before Shopping: No, Really

This fact may be common knowledge, but for me, it is crucial. If I go to the store hungry, I’m setting myself up for disaster. The candy looks too good, the doughnuts too moist and delicious. I’ll grab an extra pound of cheese; my hands will itch to grab a carton of chocolate milk; the box of cheese crackers will become damn near impossible to resist. So before I go, I fill my belly. Suddenly, I have the mental space to consider getting pears instead of pez. I can pass the chip aisle with only a passing glance.

Practice Mental Practicality, Not Shame

I draw a thick line between a shame cycle and thinking realistically about what is going into my mouth. Shame has nothing to do with a healthy lifestyle and I left it at the side of the road long ago. What I do have is a cost-benefit analysis of my choices. So many of us try to hide reality from ourselves when we overeat; for me, it used to be habit. Whenever “Should I eat this?” rose in my brain, I would push it out of my mind and consume. Now, depending on the degree of my craving, the length of time between my last cheat, and my upcoming schedule, I will often assess that question and answer, “Yes, it is acceptable to cheat today.” Or, I may decide that the potential one pound weight gain just isn’t worth it, and I’ll decline. After nearly one year, I’m still at my goal weight because I’ve allowed myself the ability to enjoy food and life without the emotional badgering that leads to shame eating.

Think about Dinner in Advance

If you have plans made, you will be less likely to break them with something else. For this reason, I always try to think about dinner in advance. Sometimes I get distracted on Sunday nights and don’t plan a meal menu. Other times, I’m working so hard all day I don’t consider dinner until it’s upon me. When this happens, I notice that I’m far more inclined to splurge. Thinking is hard, especially at the end of the day. The best way is to plan ahead, either with a menu or as part of a morning routine. Planning also helps to prep the appetite for the meal and reinforce the healthy choice.

 

What tips do you have for maintaining a healthy relationship to food?

 

 

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Michelle Miller

Michelle Miller is a twenty-something blogger, cook, freelance writer and editor living in Seattle, Washington. She’s a feminist trying ever-so-hard to embrace her spaces, conventional or not. She looks forward to numerous bad hair days, burnt cremes, a soapbox or two, and maybe (just maybe) a yellow polka-dot bikini in the years ahead.

15 thoughts on “Tips to Avoid Stuffing Your Face Daily”

  1. I’ve talked about this before, but I’ve developed some general rules for healthy eating that work REALLY well to me, and are pretty similar to what you’ve got up there.  I mostly started this because I noticed I was getting really lethargic from not eating well, and when I started running, I started thinking in terms of properly fueling my runs.

    My general rules are these: eat lots of fruit, veggies, protein and fiber (I used to have a serious carb/sugar addiction, so this is mostly to and balance out my simple carb intake.)  Try to eat mostly healthy food that I like.  Never deny myself something I really want to eat.  Never eat something I don’t really want to eat.  Eat when I’m hungry.  Stop eating when I’m full.

    It took a long time to get into the habit of eating by these rules, it really did.  I had to break YEARS of conditioning and listening to my tongue (and my brothers) over my stomach to learn to stop eating when I was full, and it took several years to break the carb addiction.  But things are going well now.  For instance, my sweet tooth is almost entirely gone – the less I ate, the less I wanted (I was serious about the sugar addiction before) and now sweets almost never fall into the category of things I really want to eat (except ice cream.  I’ll rarely say no to a double scoop in a sugar cone.)  I never feel deprived.  I only binge eat when it’s an especially delicious food or I’m with my brothers (hilariously, we all eat super well on our own, but you put all of us together and we revert to old habits.)  And I generally have enough energy to do what I want.  AND, because I’m properly fueled most of the time, when I do have to go without food (I’m looking at you, TEN HOUR WORK SHIFT ON MY FEET WITHOUT A BREAK) I can still function, even if I’m ravenous at the end.  And because I feel good about what I’m eating and how my body functions, I rarely weigh myself and never calorie count anymore, which are things I used to do quite a bit.

    Obviously I’m coming from my own place health-wise and I don’t know if this would work for everyone, but I’ve been pretty happy with my system.

    1. Shame-free is the way to be, imo!

      I like the idea of thinking in terms of fueling a run. So strange to think of food as fuel, but that’s what it is, truly!

      For the record, get my four siblings and me together and it’s dinner time at the Miller table all over again, too. I think old family habits die slow and hard. :)

      1. Picking up running really changed the way I thought about food, for sure.

        And it’s funny, because I live with one brother now, and we’re just fine.  If anything, he eats even more healthily than me.  Three seems to be the critical mass – it doesn’t require all four of us (or my dad) but get us in any set of three, and we start to eat like when we were teenagers again.

    1. YES, EXACTLY THAT!

      I often find that when I splurge, I make the dessert myself just so I can make sure its worth the indulgence. Like, I am *not* putting that crappy-ass truffle from Safeway in my mouth. I’m making some ultra-quality, high-fat deliciousness at home!

      And a good chocolate cake is so worth a week or two of careful eating. >_<

  2. I just wanted to say that I appreciate how much the food/health/nutrition posts on persephone are done from a healthy living perspective rather than the”hey let’s try this cleanse so we can all lose 15 lbs in a week” way which seems to be how most women’s publications write about food. And I think that as long as you stay focused on talking about health rather than being skinny/trying to be skinny/shaping up for beach season/any other obnoxious permutation thereof then it is possible to have really productive conversations about food and eating and health…without guilt ,shame, and hurt that often goes hand in hand with the dieting industry. I feel like this article does this really well.

    Intuitive eating is all well and good until you have some sort of health issue that interferes with huger or digestion. I know for me, with my intestinal issues, that if I ate intuitively I would consume only bread/simple carbohydrates (and die of scurvy) because those are the foods that are super comforting to my tummy- I would also eat well above what a woman my age and size should eat because the fullness one feels from carbs only lasts a  small amount of time. Thinking about what I eat and how and when I eat it has helped me find foods that are a) healthier for me (as in they have protein and vitamins) and b) still don’t hurt my tummy. My overall health and wellbeing has improved dramatically since I started really thinking about my choices around food.

    1. Thanks for your thoughtful response!

      I think I gave up on being skinny when the doctor told me to my face that my hips were never going to fit in size 2 jeans. She wasn’t being cruel, just realistic. It’s amazing how freeing it can be to put aside the “HOW TO BE SKINNY” language and adopt an attitude of “I Just Want to be Healthy.”

      I’m so with you on the intuitive eating thing. I have to count calories and be mindful of the vitamins and nutrition available in the foods I choose. My thyroid makes sure of that. If I ate intuitively alone, you better believe I’d be in the bread aisle, too!

      1. Oh man, getting rid of the “I just wanna be skinny” mentality has been so productive for me and only really happened in the last two years or so when I started martial arts. I think I am a better athlete (I gain muscle mass super fast, and I am short so being a little tiny stick of a gal is not a remotely realistic goal and would make me worse at the sport I love) and healthier person (in that I think more about what I eat/how to eat healthy) for it.

        We’ve often talked about emotional ramifications of dieting/fashion magazines/cosmo/the industrial complex of shaming women but I think those industries have huge negative impacts on the physical health of everyday women because it makes people think less about their actual bodily health, and more about being a “Skinny Bitch”**

        ** In reference to “Skinny Bitch”/”Skinny Bitch in the Kitch”  and all other awful permutations thereof.

    1. I can definitely understand this comment, since basically, all Cosmo EVER talks about is how to lose 5 pounds (before a date, for your man, for the job interview, in prep for a wedding, et cetera until you barf). I hope, though, that you at least see some value in discussing the relevance of the matter as a health issue due to the absurd obesity rates in the US. I went my whole life buying into marketing campaigns that shamed me for eating but encouraged me to continue the cycle, so tips like these really empowered me to break the cultural cycle and be healthy. Not thin, because I’ll never be thin, but healthy.

       

      Just my $0.02, though!

      1. I think I can fill in some of the gaps that are happening here, because Cherri and I have had some conversations on this very topic that I’ve really respected and that have filled in some missing gaps in my own understanding of the whole situation, and I know Michelle really well, too.

        Cherri is coming from the perspective of Health at Any Size, which argues – in general, and forgive me if I’m misrepresenting here, Cher – against weight loss initiatives in general for their own sake (as the vast world of data available on dieting and its long term effects is not supportive). Cherri has been really instrumental in my own understanding that – as you discovered through your doctor and other helpful experiences, Michelle – most bodies are not meant to meet some weird skinny ideal, that health comes in all different shapes and sizes, and that what matters most is that you are taking care of yourself by feeding yourself all of the nutritional goodness that you need and that you are moving your body because your body wants to move. This DOES mean rejecting things that are harmful to your health: both eating nothing but processed junk and eating nothing but lettuce are harmful; both sitting around 24 hours a day without any movement and engaging in boot camp-style body punishment sessions are unhealthful. I think where Cherri is coming from is that the language of the diet industry, the weight loss industry in general, is often geared around really negative mindsets, and that even couching things in terms of weight loss immediately brings that whole rigmarole to mind for many women. Hence the Cosmo reference – that’s where the phrase “weight loss” or “stuffing your face” takes a lot of people.

        Michelle is coming from a place wherein her unhealthy eating choices directly resulted in, among many other negative health effects, weight gain significantly above where her body rests comfortably, and she is using weight loss as one of many indicators that her choices for her health – as the top priority – are working. Michelle isn’t torturing her body to get to some “ideal” size, she is just retraining her eating habits to control a thyroid imbalance, deal with sleep disorders, severe stress disorders, and weight gain that was putting too much strain on her system. For HER body, for HER situation, weight loss was a natural result of making healthy choices. Not everyone who eats healthy food and exercises healthily loses weight, because their body is already at the place it is supposed to be. That’s kind of how I understand it.

        So, yes, Michelle couched her article in terms of weight loss, but I don’t think that the ideas she presented in it were unreasonable ideas – eat balanced and DO eat and DO treat yourself and don’t shop on an empty stomach (bad for your wallet if nothing else) and check shame at the door and plan your meals ahead are all about mindful eating, not about weight loss. If they happen to result in weight loss for people, okay, but at least it will be a healthful weight loss and not an eating disorder or a trick to make your body rapidly change to a shape it was never meant to be. I think that’s what she’s trying to say here.

          1. Hey, sorry for not responding sooner. Ironically enough, I was at the gym. Also sorry for being dismissive, that was uncalled for.

            Ruby is, per usual, spot-on. I found language such as “stuffing your face” “splurging” and, most of all, “cheating” to promote the “eating food deemed unhealthy is a personal, moral failure” school of thought common to the mainstream dieting industry. And while you do talk about eating without shame, I found that the language you used throughout the piece did support the idea that eating “unacceptable” foods should be shameful.

            There’s also the idea that health may not be the most important thing, and if a bunch of doughnuts or Doritos on a regular basis are going to bring you joy, (or if, say, your Big Mac at lunch is the single ray of light in your horrific work day) maybe that’s more important than health. You do what you need to do to get yourself through the day. But I do realize that’s sort of an extremist view.

            That said, Ruby’s right (again) – everything you said was totally reasonable, and essentially good advice for balanced eating. I just kind of saw “avoid stuffing your face” and it made my brain explode a little.

            1. If there were a like button around here, I would press it for your comment.

              *presses imaginary like button for emphasis*

              Truthfully? I chose the incendiary title purposefully. I suspected it would rub many the wrong way (hell, it rubs ME the wrong way), but I also hoped to capture those readers who see that sort of phrasing on a Cosmo magazine and buy it. I’d much rather they replace that language with a message like “DO NOT FEEL SHAME, BUT BE PRACTICAL, EAT TRUFFLES AND DOUGHNUTS AT PARTIES BECAUSE THEY’RE PARTIES DAMMIT.”

              I would have paid dearly as a food and body-shamed teen to hear a little of THAT once in awhile, amiright!

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