4 Lessons I Learnt From 'Fasting' As An Intuitive Eater - Zest Healthy Eating

4 Lessons I Learnt From ‘Fasting’ As An Intuitive Eater

By jennifer@thinkingnutrition.co.nz | Diets Suck

Jul 09

“You’ll need to stop eating at 1pm until your procedure the next day….” 

“What?! This is NOT good news… I like eating, hang on no, I LOVE eating!”

As I scanned down the letter and read all the other instructions to prepare for a colonoscopy (you know, the ole camera up the rear end) I was horrified to find two days of low-fibre diet were also required. Diet?! Me?! But I’m an intuitive eater and I love food-freedom… sob, sigh, cry, stomp feet.

Okay, it wasn’t quite that bad. But I gotta be honest – I was not a happy camper when I discovered the food restrictions I’d have to face in order to prep my colon for a colonoscopy. Turns out gastroenterologists don’t like poop, even though they spend their lives delving into our poop-holes. They wanted me to be poop-free for my colonoscopy.

So on Monday I started my new, totally restrictive, boring, low-fibre diet:

  • Breakfast was cornflakes for breakfast, no fruit, no yoghurt, tiny splash of low-fat milk.
  • Morning snack was plain crackers and a plain biscuit with a cup of tea.
  • Lunch was 3 slices of boring white bread, two with boiled egg, one with honey (gotta get some sweetness into my day).
  • Afternoon snack, so boring I can’t even remember it… sigh.
  • Dinner was a skinless, flavourless chicken breast, served with roasted, skinless potatoes and kumara (boy I relished that kumara) and nothing else – no sauces, no other veges, no nothing.

Tuesday certainly wasn’t any brighter – much the same morning, and then the real fun began. And by fun, what I mean is the nails scraping down the blackboard, whining cat in the middle of the night, type of ‘fun’. Yes the 24 hour fast. 24 hours without food. How would I survive without my dearly, beloved food? (not to mention all that damn pooping thanks to the solutions they make you drink).

Well, it turns out I learnt some really valuable lessons by the time I hit the colonoscopy session.

1 – Fasting Impacts Precious Family Time

My fast started at 1pm, as the doctor ordered, and all was going okay until family dinner time arrived. Normally my husband, two sons and I would eat our dinner together and chat about the day. But tonight – I wasn’t eating. I decided to sit out the whole thing – better to just not be in the room.

But my husband thought I should come and sit at the table with them… I tried that for about 10 seconds, but the aroma of the cooked meal was too much for me – it immediately set off alarm bells in my brain (FOOD! FOOD! FOOD!), bells intended to save me from what it sensed was a dreadful, terrible famine… (cue Jaws theme music).

I retreated, with my tail between my legs, back to the lounge and the comfort of my glass of water. Need I say more.

It reminded me though, how much dieting and fasting really impact on precious family time and social time. We humanoids like to socialise over food. It brings us together. And when one of us starts following weird food (aka diet) rules that really hits our social life. We don’t meet our girlfriends at a cafe for a cuppa. We don’t want to share lunches or dinners with friends. We don’t even eat the same meals as our family.

Bit by bit, that nasty diet or fast breaks our connection to our loved ones. It sucks and it’s wrong.

We need connection, shared food connects us.

2 – Lack of Food Freedom Is Really Irritating

It’s been a long time since I did a weight loss diet (thank goodness). But boy was this experience a good reminder of why I hate diets (aside from the fact that diets don’t work).

Having your own damn food choices arbitrarily restricted by a list of rules on a piece of paper sucks. It just sucks.

Unless, of course, those rules are meant to save your life – like a gluten-free diet for a coeliac, or a low-fibre diet and 24 hour fast for a colonoscopy to make sure you’re not at risk of bowel cancer like your grandfather (who died too young from it, frankly).

Even then, let’s be honest, the rules suck.

Why on earth would anyone choose to willingly partake in a restrictive weight-loss diet?

Yes to lose weight, theoretically. Even though all the evidence shows that 95-98% of diets fail.

  • I love eating nuts for my morning snack, and I couldn’t have them.
  • I enjoy my wholegrain bread, not white bread.
  • I wanted some chocolate after dinner, but couldn’t have any.
  • I also felt like going out for a hot chocolate one day, but couldn’t.

The number of times I had to ditch my own desires, my own plans, in order to meet the rules on the paper was astounding. And I’ve never been more aware of it (and more annoyed by it), than I was this time as I faced a diet as a non-dieting, intuitive eater.

Intuitive eating teaches you to let food rules go. So when rules turn up, they feel clunky and uncomfortable, like boots that are too big and you want to take off. Every step a big, clunky, awkward step in the wrong direction as you struggle not to fall over.

I don’t want those boots. I don’t want those diet rules.

3 – Some Of My Food Choices Are Just Habits

Like the desire to have a chocolate biscuit with lunch.

I’d fooled myself for a good year that this was a deep, desire coming from the very essence of my in-tune, inner little intuitive eating soul.

It wasn’t.

When I couldn’t have the chocolate biscuit during my low-fibre diet and the 24-hour fast, I just went on with life without a second thought.

I didn’t feel unfulfilled. I didn’t really care too much to be honest.

Honestly, he chocolate biscuit with lunch was a habit I picked up when I started intuitive eating. “I can eat whatever I want for lunch now, right?” that newbie intuitive eater said to herself. So I was going to have that biscuit with lunch, thank you very much.

I have no problem whatsoever with eating a chocolate biscuit, it’s no better or worse than eating an apple. But it seems my choice to eat it was probably a habit. Not a true desire.

So, can I tell the difference between a real desire and a food habit now? I’m not too sure, but I do know this…

I did have a big problem with my post-dinner chocolate restrictions. I wanted that chocolate. I was annoyed. I thought about it throughout each evening. I was counting the days until I could have my chocolate back.

And yeah normally, there are some nights – usually when I’m busy or out – that I don’t have chocolate after dinner. But most nights I enjoy that post-dinner, quiet time when I get to enjoy chocolate after the kids are in bed (it’s not the same if they’re up and around, no idea why, maybe because I can’t focus on savouring and enjoying the chocolate with all the “mummy, mummy” requests?).

So I’m quite sure some of my food choices may be habits. So I’m going to be more mindful about all of my food choices now, to stop and really ask myself what I feel like eating in that moment, rather than just grabbing something because it’s a habit.

4 – I Was Relying On Food For Joy Too Often

Good food does bring joy – it alters our biochemistry in a positive way and that’s great!

We need joy, we need to have balance in our life – things that produce endorphins to balance out the stress of everyday living.

But food shouldn’t be the only source of joy in our life.

We know that stuff like exercising, massage, yoga, upbeat music, singing, laughter, sex, being in love and thinking about things you enjoy, can all create that same joy inside you.

And we need to have a balance of all that great stuff in our life – rather than just relying on food for joy.

But I feel like my three days of food restrictions and fasting, showed me how much of the time I’m turning to food for joy. This probably comes as no surprise to me. I’ve found myself over-working, stressed out and struggling with the juggle that is being a working mum.

Those few days have reminded me that I really need to create some new routines and opportunities to bring more joy into my life. I normally go for a walk every morning, taking my kids to school and then taking the long route home – I love that walk.

But aside from walking and food, what else do I do for joy? I hug my kids and my husband. But other than that, not a lot.

I Need To Find My Joy Again…

I don’t have any hobbies. I don’t catch up with friends regularly, except for saying hi in passing at church on Sundays and the odd brunch or dinner or movie here and there.

I’d love to do a zumba class, or a dance class, spend more time with my girlfriends and have more fun. I’m just mulling over ideas in my head and trying to work out how to make this happen.

During those 3 days without my normal eating, I really got to see first hand how much I was relying on food for joy instead of anything else. I’ve kinda always known I need to do something about that, but now it’s really obvious and more of a priority.

So in a crazy, crappy (literally) kinda way, those 3 days of dieting/fasting, have definitely had a silver-lining for me, as I’ve learnt lots about myself.

Does any of this resonate with you? I’d love to know.

Jennifer.

P.S. And the good news is – my colonoscopy was all clear, yay!

 

About the Author

Hey, I’m Jennifer. I work with women who are sick of dieting & feeling guilty about what they eat. I help them create a happier way to eat healthy & embrace their changing body.