When I first read the fourth of Orla Walsh’s 10 pillars of intuitive eating — give yourself unconditional permission to eat — I was aghast. The very idea seemed subversive and dangerous. What sort of witchery was this? And what unholy hell would be unleashed if I was given unconditional permission to eat?
Last weekend, before Fit Summer began, I used Orla’s maxim for bad. In true ‘yo-yo dieter we are starting on Monday’-style, I devoured every last piece of chocolate in the house.
I repeated it happily to myself on Sunday when, whilst doing the weekly shop, I spied a display of limited edition Pulled Pork Burger Pringles. “Mmmmm, pulled pork,” I thought to myself as I put a tube in my trolley. And I made sure they were gone by sundown.
On Monday, it was time to put the Fit Summer plan into action. Instead of doing my usual — which was having a cup or two of coffee and nothing else before lunch, I sat down and had overnight oats for breakfast with the kids. I had an apple mid-morning and I had a toasted sandwich for lunch. Dinner was a large chicken salad.
This might sound like a perfectly ordinary day’s menu, but to me it was highly unusual. Because I am a bona-fide carb-phobic. About 10 years ago I lost three stone, through weight-training and a low-carb diet. And I kept the weight off for years.
Even after my eldest daughter was born, I managed to get back to my very low-carb diet five days out of seven, and to train for at least an hour four times a week, fitting it into my work day. I ate whatever I wanted at the weekends. Which meant lots of chocolate, crisps, pizza and other carb-tastic treats. So, for the guts of five years, I was ‘good’, ie low/no carb during the week, and ‘bad’ at the weekends.
But as life got harder and harder — juggling a demanding job with a growing child and then a couple of years of infertility treatment — I was unable to control my eating. I would get up each morning with a pit of guilt in my stomach and tell myself that today was the day I would change.
I would eat eggs for breakfast, meat and salad for lunch, something else low carb for dinner and, then, as soon as I sat down in the evening, I was straining at the bit and I would satiate myself with rubbish.
After my younger child was born, I used breastfeeding and having a new baby as an excuse to continue this unhealthy pattern, and since then I have put back on every pound of the three stone I had lost — plus. I am almost in the obese category.
As someone who had a baby at 43, that isn’t ideal. My chances of being hale and hearty at her 21st birthday reduce with every extra pound. And I have to do something about that. And I know we are not supposed to care about what weight we are these days, but I feel ashamed and embarrassed that I am overweight.
I don’t want to be in family photos or do a lot of things I used to do, as I don’t want people to see me. And I hate so much that I feel this way. I despise myself for caring so much about the physical appearance of carrying extra weight. I can’t stand listening to anyone else talk about something so superficial and unimportant, yet here I am. With my disordered attitude to food.
So, taking Anna Geary’s suggestion to pick one thing each week that you would like to achieve, I decided to start with my biggest challenge: to have faith in Orla’s considerable expertise, declassify carbs as verboten and listen to my body. Instead of killing my appetite with coffee in the mornings I ate breakfast. If I was hungry before lunchtime, I had an apple or some nuts. If I was hungry during the day, I had more fruit.
As I had shopped with a shopping list, I had plenty of healthy options for lunches and dinners. I took Siobhán Byrne’s advice and ate early — I had my dinner at five with the kids instead of waiting for my husband. And I don’t want to jinx it, but I think I have made some progress. For the first time since well before Christmas, every evening last week I sat down on the couch and watched TV without eating.
And it was no effort. I didn’t do so well from an exercise perspective — I managed Siobhan’s workout twice — but I will build on that this week. I am so excited to get back into the gym, more so since I received my first vaccination on Tuesday. Until next week!