I am finally hearing the signals from my body. After a year and a half of the Martha Beck exercises from her Four Day Win book, I finally hear what my body is telling me. The body doesn’t speak loudly, it doesn’t scream the way your mind does. It speaks softly, gently, subtly, which is why it is so easy not to hear unless you train yourself to listen. I have yet to lose any weight, but I am breaking many food-related habits. I have lost the capacity to binge. I used to think, “Oh, once I get started eating (ice cream, cookies, chocolate, etc.) I’ll never stop!” But I don’t do that anymore. I’m not saying my eating habits are completely healthy yet, but I don’t binge to cope anymore.
I used to go on restrictive diets, and suddenly I’d be craving whatever I was not supposed to have - carbs, sweets, potatoes and bread. If I had cleaned out the house of all offending food items, I only wanted them more. Martha Beck says she can’t go on restrictive diets, either, or her Wild Child flies into a rage and she will scarf down whatever is not allowed on the diet, even if she doesn’t like it. Calming the mind and body is much easier than trying to force it with an iron will. Those restrictive diets never lasted more than a few days.
I have occasionally in my life eaten an entire pint of ice cream (either Ben & Jerry’s or Haagen-Dazs – I don’t buy cheap ice cream – “You’re buyin’ air!” as Emeril used to say.). Steve and I often split an entire pint. Over the last year, we have been dividing the pint into four servings. Last week, after a few bad days, I went into the kitchen and served myself about half a container of Ben & Jerry’s Americone Dream. And I shocked myself when I discovered I couldn’t finish it. Me. Yes, me! Eating is a very big stress coping device for me. Specifically eating a lot. A year ago, I would have kept eating, whether I was full or not. Now: I couldn’t finish it. (Steve did.) This is new for me. Surprising. Shocking. After all of the relaxation and self-examination exercises, changes are occurring, albeit very slowly.
Here is what it feels like when my body tells me it’s full:
We used to have a cat named Emmett, the one pictured. He was our favorite cat – a big fluffy black and white with a calm personality, and very smart. We had just lost our other smart cat Griffin, who was very, very bad. Griffin would swipe a potato chip right out of your hand before you could take a bite. He was aggressive and ornery. He got sick and died in 2001, and a few months later we acquired Emmett at the Seattle PAWS shelter.
When Emmett wanted to beg for food, he would just rise up on his hind legs and gently touch a knee with his paw. He wouldn’t meow, or jump up on our laps or on the table. He would just lightly tap a knee. If we didn’t give him anything, he’d tap our knee again, like: "Heyyy! Got anything for me?"
The first time I heard my body tell me it was full, it was as subtle as Emmett’s tap on the knee. The body doesn’t scream, “I’M FULL STOP EATING!” By the time you hear that, you have overeaten so much that you are probably in for several hours of discomfort. The body is quiet, which is why Martha Beck spends several chapters just trying to get us to quiet our minds and listen, so we can hear what our body is telling us. Because I never heard it before.
Now, I hear it. And I see how easily I ignored it for many, many years, continuing to eat well past fullness. The body is a creature, not a machine, not a computer, not like the mind. It’s been a quiet revelation to finally pay attention and hear its quiet whispering.