aka You said, let go of the Food Rules book. Why would I want to do that?
aka Why do you eat standing up? I thought you’re supposed to eat sitting down?
It’s simple. Sometimes I eat standing up because I’ve been sitting down for a few hours and when I take a break to have something to eat, my body would rather by standing than sitting.
‘But is says in the book, ‘French Women Don’t Get Fat’, that one of the reasons they don’t get fat is because they always eat sitting down. Aren’t you afraid you’re going to get fat?!’
Standing up while eating doesn’t make you fat. It doesn’t even automatically make you eat more.
The reason why French women don’t get fat, in my book anyway, is because they are very present with their food when they are eating.
Get this, you can be present with your food whether or not you’re standing up or sitting down.
I will say this though. When I used to binge, it was often a stand-up binge. It somehow felt more transient, like it would be over faster, and less of a reality… as if it wasn’t really happening because I wasn’t purposefully sitting down. If I was standing in front of the fridge with the door open while eating, or walking back and forth between the kitchen and living room, it was as if I would have more of a chance at stopping.
So, as part of getting out of that cycle, it can be very helpful to make a choice such as, ‘I will only eat sitting down’, if that helps create a new healthy habit.
However, that new healthy habit can just as easily take hold over you and freak you out.
I got a phone call from a woman who was worried she was forming bad food habits because she was tasting food while she was preparing food for her toddler daughter. She had struggled with anorexia, and as part of her recovery, had learned to portion out her food and eat while sitting down.
And here she was 4 years later, grazing and eating while standing! She was driving herself nuts, throwing her head into a spin, and dove straight back into the grips of the good/bad mentality. Was this binging? Was she relapsing? Was it ok to taste test food while cooking it?
What about eating bits of food while encouraging your toddler to eat and then sitting down for an ‘adult’ meal afterwards? It’s like eating two meals one right after the other! Is that allowed?
We talked this through and she realized, the reason she was tasting the food was because
- it looked yummy and she wanted some
- she wanted to make sure it tasted nice before feeding it to her family.
- she was eating with her child to help facilitate her child’s eating
- she still felt hungry so she’d feed herself
Is there anything wrong with that?
In my opinion, no.
It was helpful for her to get clear on what she actually wanted:
- Make sure the food tasted good for her family.
- Enjoy the time with her daughter as she was growing into a new stage of life.
- Have quality time with her husband.
- Enjoy food.
We talked about the idea that some days, that might be eating with her daughter and her husband one right after the other. And other nights, maybe she is hungry early and so has a fuller meal with her daughter, and then enjoys a glass of wine sans food with her husband.
Getting clear on desires and intention helped her to navigate herself out of the spin she was throwing herself into in trying to follow the rules.
Personally, I’d rather play with my food, have the freedom to do what feels right at the time and suits my lifestyle, than be worried about ‘doing it right’ and feeling guilty afterwards when it goes potentially ‘wrong’.
Rules can definitely help, usually for a season. Getting clear on what you want will guide you for a lifetime.
So that is why sometimes you’ll see me eating while standing up.
I have a favourite spot by a south-facing window and my lemon tree. On a sunny day, I can transport myself to the Amalfi Coast when I am standing there. I love preparing a plate of food, and then enjoy it while standing and sunbathing, staring out the window, watching the world go by.
You’ll also see me grazing while I prepare dinner. Bite off the end of the carrot, munch on a celery stick and throw the other half in the soup. It’s fun for me.
My absolute favourite: I LOVE buying an ice cream cone, fresh and homemade ice cream please, and then lazily walk down the street, or along the beach, with it dripping over my hand as I lick the sides and end up with it all over my face. It’s the only way I’ll eat an ice cream cone: while standing up.
In fact, when we were travelling and we’d stop for ice cream, I’d boycott if I wasn’t able to eat it while standing up. Going back in the car and eating it while driving just didn’t do it for me. I’d rather go without.
I suppose you could say this is a food rule: ‘I won’t eat an ice cream cone sitting down.’ and ‘I won’t eat a packaged ice cream bar when I have the choice of freshly made scoops.’
As I mentioned yesterday, I’d rather give myself the full 10 of pleasure and enjoyment, than only meet it halfway and still be craving more. Because the craving isn’t actually for the food, it’s for the experience.
And this is why French women don’t get fat, because when they are eating: they are creating an experience with their food. It gives them Pleasure! It’s less about the food and more about the sensory stimulation throughout the meal.
More of that please!
Which leaves my food rule book empty except for these two questions:
- What do you want right now?
- Why do you want it?
As long as my ‘why’ isn’t to mask some emotion; stress, boredom, nerves, vulnerability, frustration, etc, then I’m OK with giving myself what I want.
Sometimes that is a green smoothie for breakfast. Sometimes it’s no breakfast. Sometimes it’s eggs on toast.
Sometimes it’s sitting down with a knife and fork to eat a gorgeous salad for lunch. Sometimes it’s having cheese and crackers by the window.
Sometimes it’s a really nice homemade dinner of roasted veg, steak or lamb, and garlic & rosemary roasted potatoes. Sometimes it’s a more playful meal of homemade crispy squid (deep fried in oil), smoked paprika swede or sweet potato chips, and a Jamie Oliver inspired yogurt dip. Sometimes it’s take out from the curry house, or pizza from the shop.
Sometimes I share a plate of dates and walnuts and dark chocolate with my husband while watching our Amazon Prime show of the week. Or we make popcorn, or ice cream on crumble (I will eat it as an accent :)), or a couple of biscuits from the shop.
And, sacrilege, sometimes my stomach is rumbling at 10:30 or 11pm before I go to bed, and I eat a handful of nuts or dried apricots within 10 minutes of climbing into bed.
As opposed to rules, I suppose you could say I’ve adopted guidelines for the playground. Signposts to reflect my core values, my quintessential self. These include things like:
- Know what is in the food so that I know what I’m giving my body. I value real food. Which has led me to expand my cooking horizons; making bread, granola bars, and chicken stock from scratch. You’d be surprised at how much cleaner your poo is when you eat natural ingredients.
- Treat myself. I value variety and nice things. When eating out, I’ll order the meal and dessert that sounds amazing and I probably would botch at home.
- Listen to any cravings. I value my desires, whether one of the soul or stomach. These don’t have to be intense, all-consuming cravings, but if I feel like having a piece of chocolate in the middle of the day, I’ll listen to it. Why fight it?
- Make space for connection. I value connection and beauty. At dinnertime, I’ll clear the table of any work related clutter so I can focus on my husband and our conversation in a beautiful space. When there is a real connection with someone while eating, the food adds to an already great experience.
It boils down to two things: Is this nourishing? Will this give me pleasure?
Recently I noticed that I am still carrying a fear that was showing up with food.
The fear of ‘running out’. Whether this is of running out of an ingredient in the cupboard, or food on the table, or money in the bank, or creative ideas, or energy with clients, this fear was pervasive across the board.
A great example of, how you do anything is how you do everything.
I realized it first with food. I noticed I’ve been skimping on using the full measurement of certain ingredients that were more expensive or harder to find, or that I somehow thought of as ‘special’ or pleasurable. Like raw cacao powder, or coconut oil, or butter, or even just a normal spice if we were getting close to the bottom.
I’d try to hold on to what we had and deprive myself of some of the pleasure the ingredient brought to the recipe. As opposed to believing and trusting that there is more where that came from, and receive it fully.
The idea of a never ending flow of abundance or love is a new one I am still wrapping my head around.
So now a couple new guidelines are:
- Slow down. I’m learning to value each moment for what it is without worrying about tomorrow. Chew more slowly so that I am enjoying each bite instead of racing to finish in time to have seconds before they run out.
- Use the full amount. I’m learning to value my worth and the art of receiving. Let myself experience the full amount of flavour and pleasure that the recipe calls for, just because I can and I’m worth it.
What I love about this, is that playtime now extends beyond food.
As part of healing my relationship with food; ditching the good vs bad, the can vs can’t’s, I’ve opened a door to another 3rd option: playfully and lovingly creating what I want.
Something to think about: What’s your take on rules? How do they serve you? What are some rules that aren’t serving you anymore? What parallels can you draw between your relationship with food and other areas of your life? What is a desire, intention, or value of yours that you want to start listening to?
Your story matters. As part of ‘Bulimia Uncovered: 29 days to being your Quintessential Self’ we want to hear from you. How can you relate to what you’ve just read? Leave a comment below and share your related stories and pictures however you do best. If using social media use hashtag #bu29days and tag me so we can follow. We’re also inviting stories to feature on The True You Project. Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like yours shared there.
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