Intuitive eating and WLS
So for the past few weeks I’ve been struggling with how intuitive eating does or does not fit with weight loss surgery. I don’t have a healthy relationship with food to start with, so I’m admittedly at a disadvantage. We grow up with certain foods being labeled as “bad” and “good”, and some foods being held out as “treats”. Someone I know posted this week, “Treats? What are we, dogs?” It certainly made me think about how our society programs us for unhealthy attitudes about food. I want to get away from that.
I agree that intuitive eating is a healthy approach to food. Do I want chocolate cake? If so, I should eat chocolate cake. Thinking that I can’t have the cake, or that it’s forbidden or “bad” increases the likelihood that I’ll binge on it. Checking in with my body about what it wants and needs is certainly a good approach. Food is not a moral issue. Food is not good or bad, it’s just food.
Most of the WLS community is sold on low-carb eating, many advocate a ketogenic diet. The discussions on the boards frequently label anything with carbs as “bad” even including fruit and starchy vegetables. Anyone discussing eating bread or rice is quickly informed that those foods have no place in our diets during the weight loss phase. I find that kind of labeling problematic. Especially given that I cannot eat low-carb. Going into ketosis makes me incredibly ill for weeks, where most people get over the “carb flu” after 2-3 days. So carbs are part of my diet, though I do try to eat mostly whole grains, fruits, legumes, etc. for my carbs and limit refined flour and sugar products. But occasionally I want half of a bagel with cream cheese, dammit. I refuse to start labeling food as “good” or “bad” just because everyone else does.
My sleeve actually is helping with part of the intuitive process. My newly rearranged tummy has definite ideas about what it likes. If I eat too much sugar, too much fat, too fast, or don’t pay attention to when I’m full, I physically feel very bad. Certainly reinforces the whole “listen to your body” thing. My tastes have changed, and I’m having to re-learn what foods I do and don’t like. I am trying foods I would never have tried before this whole process started, as well. Definitely steps in the right direction, I think.
Then there’s the “have to” pressures. I “have” to eat a certain amount of protein every day. I “have” to drink a certain amount of water every day. I feel pressure to eat vegetables and fruits, even the ones I don’t like because they’re healthy for me. There are days I don’t want another protein shake, or another chicken breast, or whatever. There are days I just don’t feel thirsty and the water just tastes awful. Because I don’t have much of an appetite anymore, if I practice completely intuitive eating, I can subsist on shockingly few calories and little hydration for several days before I’d feel the need to eat or drink more. That doesn’t seem healthy, but is it good to force myself to eat or to eat something I just don’t want? Is that any healthier?
Sometimes we have to hold our nose and take medicine that tastes awful. There is a school of thought that food is medicine, and we should essentially hold our nose and eat what is healthy for us even if we hate it. That school of thought is what has made me miserable for most of my life around the so-called “need” to eat vegetables. While I see the logic, it’s just not going to work for me.
So what am I supposed to do about the protein requirements and the fluid requirements? My therapist asked me last time what the consequences were for not meeting the minimums. If I don’t drink enough fluids, I get migraines to start with, and other issues also arise. So in order to stay healthy, I have to drink whether I want to or not. All I can do is add flavorings to my water to make it more palatable. With the protein, I suspect that missing a day here or there isn’t a problem, but on an ongoing basis I’ll start losing muscle mass. So it’s best if I strive for the protein goal every day in order to stay healthy and active.
As with so many things in life, I think that there’s just no black and white answer. I need to find ways to get all of my needed macro nutrients into my diet, most days anyway, to keep moving toward a healthier place. Forcing myself to eat things I just don’t want however, is going to push me back into an unhealthy relationship with food. The best answer I have come up with so far is to start thinking of every food option for these macro nutrients so I can give myself options. Like having different flavorings available to make the water more enticing, I need to have different options available all the time for my protein to give my tummy and taste buds plenty of variety to choose from. Maybe the message my body is trying to send me is “enough with the freakin’ protein shakes!!” and it’s not about the protein per se because hummus or a nice bowl of lentils could meet the protein needs without forcing myself to drink another shake. Maybe I’m just not listening ENOUGH to my body, even though I’m doing much better with it.
Food for thought. (Pun completely intended.)