As promised in my first post on Intuitive Eating, which introduced the concept and described the basics of what Intuitive Eating is, I’ve decided to do a follow up post. But because I’m actually writing a book on the subject (which will include my weight loss journey, the results of which you can check out on my About page), I have A LOT to say on the subject. Narrowing that down to blog post length was a challenge for me. As regular readers of this post know, I like to thoroughly and fully explore and explain topics in my blog posts, which means that they’re not generally, um, what you might call short. So, I asked around; I wanted to know what the number one issue was that people wanted to know about when it came to intuitive eating. And what stood out more than anything else was, “How do I implement this way of eating if I’m a super busy, sleep deprived, workaholic stress freak?” Well stress no more, freaks. I shall answer that question. Fully. Thoroughly. And lengthily. So lengthily, in fact, that I had to split this into two blog posts. Part II will be published this Sunday.
The Basics of Intuitive Eating
Just as a quick recap, Intuitive eating is the process of eating exactly what your body asks for and nothing else. Your cravings are actually designed to tell you exactly what your body needs, but have probably been completely messed up by eating food that isn’t actually food – i.e. chemical additives, preservatives, artificial flavors, and other nasty crap. But if you clean up your diet, and eat only natural foods (not packaged foods that say they’re healthy, but actual food from the produce isle and stuff), those signals will become accurate again. You’ll actually start craving healthy stuff. After that, you can learn to listen to those signals and use them to create the perfect diet for you.
Intuitive eating and the workaholic
Hello. My name is Melody and I’m a workaholic. I don’t act like one anymore, but perhaps it’s like alcoholism and drug addiction – once a workaholic, always a workaholic. What I’m getting at here is that I feel your pain. I get where you’re coming from. If you have to add one more stressful thing to your schedule, you’re going to start smashing in skulls with your stapler. You’re tense, you’re super busy, you need things to be simple and although you’d like to eat healthier, you just don’t have the freaking time to make it a priority.
I won’t bore you by explaining to you how when you eat better, you actually have more clarity, more stamina and more energy. If you don’t already know that, you won’t care. Even if you know it, it hasn’t been motivation enough for you to change your diet in the past. A candy bar and a diet soda are convenient damn it, even if they leave you feeling kind of woozy and sleepy. I get that.
But there is one thing you can do to make this way of eating possible, no matter what your work schedule looks like. And you’re not going to like it. You’re going to think it’s too hard. But it’s not, I promise. Here it is: Take your food to work with you. That’s right. That’s the key to staying on track, with any diet actually, when you work like a demon. And even if you’re not a workaholic, this is pretty much your key to food success in the workplace. Why? Because you generally have little to no control over your food choices when you’re at work.
You don’t control the timing (are you always hungry precisely at lunch time, or would your body naturally follow a different schedule?), and you don’t control what’s available. So often, you end up eating, not when you’re hungry, but when you have time to sprint off and grab something, which can mean that you’re absolutely famished and willing to eat almost anything. How else do you explain how those nasty meat pies in the vending machine (seriously people? Meat from a vending machine?!) ever get eaten? And because it’s unlikely that your job or the surrounding fast food restaurants (because you value speed above all else) have something healthy on offer, you’ll generally end up eating something that you know isn’t good for you, but which you’re willing settle for under the circumstances.
Trust me. I’ve been there. Here’s the alternative: Imagine with me, for a moment, that you took 10 minutes to put your lunch together the night before. Perhaps you made a tasty salad. Or perhaps you spend one evening a week, making and freezing your lunches for the next 5 days. I know, I know. It’s a logistics nightmare. I can hear your excuses and objections now:
- “When the hell am I supposed to go shopping?” – So, you’re telling me that you never go shopping now? You have NOTHING in your kitchen, not even coffee or cereal, or, and don’t even try to deny this: wine? Yeah… I thought so. You do make the time to grab the essentials. It doesn’t take that much longer to pick up a few extra ingredients. You don’t have to turn into freaking Donna Read (for the young ‘uns or non-US citizens amongst you, she was the star of a 50’s TV show and basically became the poster child for the perfect American housewife. Like perfect, causing women everywhere to feel guilty for not ironing their husband’s underwear.) Just plan ahead a little and make a list of what you need. Then pick up a few actual groceries the next time you go on a booze or ice cream run. Yeah. I know about the ice cream, too.
- “I don’t have time/the energy to make my lunch the night before. I come home late and exhausted.” – Suck it up. Seriously. You need to make your health and how you eat at least a teensy bit of a priority. I’m not asking for an hour a night. You don’t have to make a pot roast or bake a pie from scratch. Where do you even come up with these ideas?! Make a salad, or stir fry a few veggies and add a bit of chicken or beef or some frozen prawns (frozen. That means easy and still better than processed!). But whatever you do, make it from scratch. Don’t buy processed food and pass it off as healthy. Even if it says so on the box, it’s not. Yes. They are lying to you. Bonus: You can eat the same thing for dinner and lunch. So, if you make a quick meal for yourself at night, and you haven’t eaten, eat half then and take the other half with you. Now you’ve had two natural meals!
Making your food at home and taking it with you does represent a change to your routine. I get that. But it doesn’t have to be a huge hassle, and usually, you think it’s going to be a lot harder to implement than it actually is. That’s how it was for me. I always thought it would cost me tons of extra time and energy that I just couldn’t spare (I was working 18 hour days…) But then, in a moment of supreme will power brought on by enormous frustration with my body, weight and health, I started to make my lunches. And you know what I found? Not only was it a lot easier to work it into my routine than I thought, but having my lunch at work made my life a lot easier instead of harder.
- With my lunch at work, I could eat when I was hungry, not when I somehow could fit it in. I would be on a conference call, put myself on mute, and munch away.
- Instead of eating one big lunch, I’d have a small lunch and several snacks. I’d basically graze all day, when it was convenient and when I wanted something. This actually helped me to hear when my body wanted food. I no longer ate according to some arbitrary schedule, but when I wanted to.
- Because I was eating something healthy, and eating several times throughout the day, I didn’t have that customary afternoon energy crash. In fact, I had a ton more energy.
- I saved time – the time I would’ve taken to run out and grab some horrible food I didn’t even want. If that doesn’t make your workaholic heart sing a little, I don’t know what will.
Start with what you know
“Ok, Ok”, I hear you saying. “But what am I supposed to buy? I’m too busy to come up with some plan and learn how to make a bunch of new recipes.” Why do you always have to take everything to the extreme, huh? Well yes, I understand that as a stress freak, that would be your M.O. Touché, freak. You win this round. But you don’t have to revamp your entire diet in a day, or learn how to cook things you’ve never heard of. That would be overwhelming, which is what I know you’re afraid of.
Start with what you know. If you know how to make a simple salad, start with that. If you know how to make a simple stir fry, go with that. If you don’t know how to make anything, eat mono-meals (where you eat one thing only in that meal, like Oranges, or cooked potatoes, or whatever). That’ll get boring pretty quickly and then you can look for A recipe, as in, one new one. Find a recipe that uses only ingredients that you’re familiar with and incorporate that into your meal plan. If you want to eat the same damn thing every day for lunch for a while, do it. Then, start incorporating new things, as you’re inspired to. At some point, you’re going to think “I really want something different.” And then you’ll go and find something different , one new recipe at a time.
This doesn’t have to be hard or overwhelming. It doesn’t have to take a lot of extra time. Do this gradually and gently. But as you make a change, like taking your lunch to work with you, even if it’s not perfect yet, you’ll see how doable this is. You’ll feel organized and responsible and healthier. And those changes will beget other changes, and they’ll all add up. Then, a few weeks later, you’ll realize that you’ve successfully completely revamped your diet, one small change at a time.
This is the end of Part I on Intuitive Eating for Stress Freaks. Now, I get that you may be thinking “where’s the Intuitive bit?” and you’d be right. So far, these are more general tips on how to change our diet. The thing is that Intuitive eating is a vast subject, which combines nutrition, diet tips AND much more importantly, energy. I believe it’s all connected. I could tell you to meditate and take lots of time to listen to your body, but chances are, if you’re a busy, stressed out individual, that will sound good, but you’ll never actually do it. That’s just not the way you roll. You need to start with an action journey and then get more intuitive from there, instead of the perfect in theory other way around. That’s why I’ve structured this two part post the way I did – a bit of action first, to help get some energy going, and then, when you’re ready, the softer, intuitive bit. Trust me, there’s a method to my madness. Buwahahahaha.
Was this info helpful to you? I realize that as stress freaks, you may not take the time to comment here, but think of it an investment: The few seconds you take to give me feedback will help me to help you. And then Jerry McGuire can finally get his wings*.
Oh yeah, and don’t forget to SHARE, SHARE, SHARE this post! It will make me think you’re awesome.
Image Credit: Shoppedornot.com
* = “Help me help you” is a line from Jerry McGuire, a movie starring Tom Cruise when he was still cute and not creepy at all. I can’t believe I felt the need to explain that. That’s it. I’m no longer going to explain my obscure references. Y’all know how to use Google.