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Dustin LindenSmith

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1.) Eat when you are hungry.

On the advice of a trusted advisor, I'm reading Geneen Roth's book Breaking Free from Compulsive Eating (author on google | book on amazon.com | amazon.ca). Unlike many non-fiction books I've read lately, I find it difficult to read this one quickly. It's because there's so much insight on every page it warrants a slower read.

Admittedly, the book's not for everybody. For example, anyone who makes it a scarce habit to eat for any other reason than being hungry wouldn't get much from it. But anyone who has observed in themselves the propensity to eat too much or too often and always for some other reason than being hungry (or for no reason at all) would find wisdom in these pages. I know that I have.

My reading notes from Chapter 1, which deals mainly with the concept of hunger, are below. Material quoted directly is italicized with page number references or else set apart in a citation blockquote (w/blue sideline).
The first step in breaking free from compulsive eating is to eat when you are hungry (page 6). In recent memory, I recall eating mainly without any regard for my actual level of physical hunger at the time. The mere evaluation of how hungry I might be at any given meal time is practically an alien concept to me.

The fear of hunger, like the fear of loneliness, seems to be connected with emptiness, echoes, endless wanting (page 7). I don't think I have a fear of my own hunger per se; more to the point, I'm not even aware of what my own level of hunger is at any given time.

Beginner's exercises.
Keep a log of what you ate, when you ate it, and if you were hungry when you ate (page 8).Log your feelings about eating as you go. Watch for: forgetting to log meals you ate when you weren't hungry; forgetting to log 'bad' meals, random snacks, or binges; excessive self-judgment or congratulation for 'bad' or 'good' eating. Ask yourself: how often do you eat when you are hungry? Can you recognize your own signs of physical hunger?

Don't eat at your regular meal times for a day or two (or longer) to help get in touch with your hunger (page 9). Observe if you anticipate your hunger or if you want to be hungry before you actually become hungry. Note: This exercise may require some advance planning so that you're sure to have food on hand when you are actually hungry (i.e. you may not feel like eating at your regular meal times).

Pay attention to the bodily sensations that you recognize as hunger (page 9). When you feel hunger coming on, stop what you're doing and observe it fully. Where do you feel it in your body? What does it feel like? What happens to you when you feel yourself getting hungry? What do you do, and what do you want to do, when you feel hunger?

When you've decided that you are hungry, rate your hunger objectively on a scale from 1 to 10 (page 10). This will give you an objective way to assess your current level of hunger, and over time, to compare it with past levels of hunger. Until now, we have probably been overlaying a lot of subjective criteria on our perceived hunger levels; using the 10-point scale helps us to unravel that a little.

When you are not hungry and decide to eat, choose a food that you ate that day when you were hungry (page 10). Whoa, this one is heavy. Deserves its own chapter: when you are not hungry and decide to eat? Isn't that like most of the time? In this situation, she goes on to ask us to be aware of:
   -- how the food tastes
   -- how the taste was different when you were hungry
   -- if you enjoy it as much as when you were hungry
   -- what, since it's not hunger, you are feeling
   -- how you know when to stop eating

Common themes, questions and fears.
   If I eat when I'm hungry, I'll eat all the time.
   If I eat when I'm hungry, I'll gain 50 pounds and nobody will love me.
   Your body gets hungry. When you feed it, it gets satisfied. There is no magic about it. It might take a while to sift through the various sensations you feel and distringuish hunger from sadness or loneliness, but that's because you're not used to recognizing hunger -- and not because your body doesn't feel it or because your hunger, if you let yourself recognize it, would be insatiable. No on has to tell you when to eat; your body will tell you. No on can tell you when to eat; they aren't in touch with your stomach. And if you are listening to your body to tell you when to eat, you can also hear it saying "enough."
   If I only eat when I'm hungry, I won't be able to eat as much as I want or when I want it. That's true. But the amount that you want is often not as much as your body wants.
   Ask yourself: What is it that you want from food beyond its nourishing your body?
   Ask yourself: Do you want to eat as much as you want more than you want to change how you deal with food and feel about your body?
   When I'm not hungry and good food is around, I feel that I'm missing something very special if I don't eat. When you are not hungry and good food is around, what you do miss by eating is the chance to take care of yourself, to see that the world won't end if you don't eat the cheesecake. You miss the chance not to get sick, to be so full you can't sleep, and to wake up in the morning wishing the night had never happened. When you are not hungry enough to begin eating or too full to continue, you miss the taste of food anyway.
   I'm afraid to let myself get hungry; I feel so empty. The sensation of hunger is sometimes accompanied by a corresponding physical sensation of emptiness and hollowness; as such, it can sometimes evoke the emotion of hunger too. When physical hunger activates our yearning or aching, we feel frightened and want to push it away. Often we push it away and repress that feeling by eating.
Closing words from Chapter 1.
Physical hunger is of the body. Physical hunger asks for food. Nonphysical hunger is of the mind, the heart. When you see that your physical hunger is capable of being fulfilled, you can begin to allow that same possibility for your emotional hunger.

When you don't allow yourself hunger, you don't allow yourself satisfaction.

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blue_by_you March 16th, 2006
Clearly I need this info. I wasn't even thinking about food until I started to read your post, and then I went to the kitchen and got myself a piece of cold pizza to eat while reading it. Totally mindless.

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