Trigger alert, my size acceptance friends. I’m about to get into some of my techniques. I want to compare notes with my maintainer friends. I’ll also welcome your thoughts too, but you may not wish to read further, and I’m cool with that.
It was four days ago. I casually took my empty wine glass with me to the bathroom. I suppose I could have troubled my mother-in-law for a measuring cup (or just gone to the cupboards and found one myself), and she wouldn’t have thought me odd. She knows I work at weight-loss maintenance. I have bemoaned it to her before. She’s heard the “it’s-not-a-lifestyle-it’s-a-job” shpiel.
But I knew I didn’t really need a measuring cup, and I am self-conscious about drawing attention to my weight-loss maintenance unless someone else brings it up. Actually, even if someone brings it up. (It starts a whole it’s-really-more-complicated-than-women’s-magazines-make-it-out-to-be monolog, that I find embarrassing for its self-centeredness. And it’s nearly impossible to not sound braggadocios.) So rather than be caught using a measuring cup by some other family member, I used my other method.
I closed the bathroom door, filled the glass with water to the point that my father-in-law had filled it with wine. I took a deep breath, exhaled, and then . . . Gulp. Gulp. Gulp. Gulp. Gulp. Gulp. Gulp. Seven ounces. Here’s something I know about myself: one hearty-but-even gulp in a series equals an ounce. (Had the final gulp been a partial, I would have rounded down, but it was, indeed a full gulp.) Multiply that by 23 calories. My glass of wine had been 161. Round to nearest ten: 160. Reset the day’s total: I’m at 1660. Use the john, and rejoin the party.
Is that body wisdom or just body knowledge? Since I hide in the bathroom, is it a sign of disorder? I think it’s just being polite. When people see you pull out a measuring cup at a party, it can be interpreted as a judgment of their consumption. Or it looks like an invitation: “ask me about my weight-loss management.” I know that.
Am I ashamed that I do this? Not really. But I’m not proud either. I’m not ready to write a best seller, The Human Measuring Cup Diet, because I don’t trust that something isn’t wrong about this. Who knows, maybe this technique is already in someone else’s best seller. Right next to the technique where you hold your knifeful of peanut butter next to your thumb or you compare your mashed potatoes to a tennis ball (techniques that I use as well). But there is something different about this. And I’ll enjoy your commentary on precisely what that is.
I came about this particular piece of body wisdom/knowledge by accident. One hot day I downed an eight-ounce glass of milk in eight gulps and thought, “hey.” A little later, with some private experimentation, I confirmed my suspicion and perfected my technique. I can unwittingly get more than an ounce in a gulp, if it’s an isolated gulp. In a series, I can get less than an ounce if I don’t get in a good inhale/exhale before I tilt the glass. I know how to do this just so. Is this a good thing to know?
I trace the motivation for learning my funny technique to the “intuitive eating” class I described in my last post, a class in which I was encouraged to be self-indulgent in terms of learning my body’s relationship to food. While we were encouraged to reject the “diet mindset,” it really wasn’t a huge stretch to turn our pursuit of body wisdom into its own diet mindset. I merely started tying quantities to body cues.
Long before I learned how to measure liquids with my gulp mechanism, I taught myself how to count calories in reverse. That is, I ate when I was hungry, just barely, at the 4.5 level (as defined clearly in my intuitive eating class). This way I wasn’t distracted by the hunger, or pushed by it to eat more than I would choose, just informed by it. I ate until I was satisfied but not overfull. The trouble with satisfaction is that it has a broad range, at least for me. A 100-calorie banana could (and still does) quell my hunger immediately, and not to any over-full point, but so too could a 450-calorie turkey-and-cheese sandwich, or any number of food choices. And I couldn’t discern any difference between a level five or seven satiety. If I ate an enormous, Thanksgiving-sized meal, I might suddenly find myself at a miserable “ten” without benefit of any numbers in between.
So instead of trying to “get” satiety, I accepted that my cues were broken in that regard, and I simply noted the number of calories I took in, then I paid attention to when my hunger cues resurfaced at the precise 4.5 level. Handy for me, 100 calories (of nutritious food) equaled one hour to the minute. Two hundred equaled two. All the way up to 600 calories, which equaled six hours.
But then my experiment faltered. I learned that over 600 calories my results would be inconsistent. Sometimes 700 calories would equal seven hours, but sometimes it was only six and a quarter. I don’t know why this is, and I decided it was okay anyway. I cut my pursuit of body knowledge short. The inconsistency probably has something to do with food composition. Too many carbs versus too little protein/fat probably affects the time factor. Missing macro- or micro-nutrients may also cue my body to eat again before the clock would predict. Who knows? Personally, I wasn’t willing to control my food composition so tightly to make the equation consistent. I was, however, willing to accept some unknowns and work within a 600-calorie frame, as long as it maintained my weight loss and allowed me a fairly normal life.
This is why I call myself an intuition-assisted eater. I often use the intuitive eating scale to cue me to eat. (But I don’t wait till I reach level three. Body wisdom has taught me that now that I’m weight reduced, “real” hunger at a level three and below, may result in a cavalcade of “eat” impulses to follow for days, like aftershocks from an earthquake.) In homage to intuitive eating, I also eat what I want, which most of the time is healthy and balanced against other things I’ve eaten recently. Wanting (mostly) what my body needs was probably a gift that happened as a result of practicing intuitive eating, so I dutifully tip my hat.
However, I also eschew intuitive eating much of the time, since it is impractical (and selfish) for me to eat only to my own cues and ignore my family and work obligations. In the comments on my last post, two people talked about Ellyn Satter’s Eating Competence model, which, appears much more realistic than pure intuitive eating. (Thank you, Living 400 lbs, for the link, if you happen to be reading now, which I doubt.) I’ve heard good things about Satter, but I am unqualified to address or recommend her protocol.
I find many aspects of pure intuitive eating discomfiting. Tribole and Resch, as I mentioned before, have succumbed to the diet promotion model (the word “Revolutionary” in their book’s title is an example), but they deny it. Even if Tribole, Resch and other HAES/Intuitive Eating proponents make no weight-loss promises (or only modest ones), they also provide no protection from those who would use their work to make those promises. They tell us to “throw out the diet books and magazine articles (except for theirs) that offer false hope,” but they remain silent when their concepts are used to offer false hope.
Moreover, and more importantly, they need to look at their core beliefs critically. What they advise by way of “mindfulness” is clearly capable of crossing the line and becoming a diet mentality (or worse). By not acknowledging this they create room for the same blame-the-victim guilt that we recognize from weight-loss diet culture. Diet culture tells us “it’s your own fault” if you cannot lose weight or maintain your losses. Intuitive eating tells us “it’s your own fault” if you can’t get in touch with your body wisdom enough to recognize your cues.
I proffer the following example of “blame-the-victim” absurdity: A few years ago, I contacted a popular HAES proponent with a recognized program. I wanted to show her DVD and make available some of her printed materials on International No Diet Day at my YMCA. She tried to sell me on becoming a “certified” counselor for her program. I was flattered, but I admitted to her that I could never fully embrace intuitive eating. I explained that among other reasons, my satiety cues just don’t work properly. As knowledgeable and masterful as I am at this stuff, I still can’t stop on a dime at a specified satiety cue. She told me that I just hadn’t been instructed properly, and my cues would become clear if I gave it another try using her program. She was as willing as any other diet promoter to dishonor my experience (Me! The HUMAN MEASURING CUP!) and try to persuade me that it’s my own tenacity or knowledge base that is broken or lacking.
Well, perhaps I do have a splinter in my eye. I’m willing to accept that I’m disordered even. But intuitive eating proponents have some logs in their own eyes they need to address.
Maintainer friends: weigh in. Are you, too, human measuring cups? Do you use and abuse intuitive eating or other techniques? Should I go ahead and write The Human Measuring Cup Diet? Will it be a best seller? (Note to Debby, I know you’re off on adventures. When you return, feel free to comment. I’ll wait patiently for your response.) Other people, if you’re still reading, does the intuitive eating crowd have an obligation to protect its franchise against weight-loss promotion? Or do I just need to go get some, er, personal counseling.