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Dustin LindenSmith

father | musician | writer

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The Eating Guidelines, by Geneen Roth

1. Eat when you're hungry. Or more specifically, eat when your body is hungry.

2. Eat what your body (as opposed to your mind) wants.

3. Stop eating when your body has had enough. (My addition: if you're bingeing, stop eating when your mind has had enough, a.k.a. when you become consciously aware that you're bingeing.)

4. Eat sitting down, in a calm environment. This most emphatically does not include the car (my personal favourite eating place).

5. Eat without distractions. Distractions include reading material of any kind, radio, TV, anxiety-producing conversations, or loud music.

6. Eat with the intention of being in full view of other people. To illustrate this guideline, if you're eating and someone walks into the room while you're eating, you don't hide the food.

7. Eat with enjoyment, gusto, and pleasure.
I'm currently listening to the fantastic audio lecture series When Food Is Food And Love Is Love by Geneen Roth, which is in part based on her book Breaking Free From Emotional Eating (for more info, please see Roth's search results on amazon.ca or amazon.com). One of the most important things she discusses in this audio series is that these guidelines are an end in themselves; that there is no 'program' you can follow aside from these guidelines that won't end at some point and then leave you back where you started, eating-wise.

Having been a yo-yo dieter for the past 15 years or so, I recognize the validity of what she's saying. Having gained more weight in the past 2 years has also reminded me painfully of that fact: no matter what diet I go on -- presuming I'm successful at following it -- once the diet is over, I eventually migrate back to my regular eating habits and begin to put on more weight. It's a classic vicious circle.

What I like about Geneen's eating guidelines is that, provided you're prepared to do some objective and accurate witnessing of your own eating habits, they represent a way to slowly but surely break apart the incestuous and non-nutritive relationship I have always had with food. And her last guideline is the one that makes it all worthwhile, because it doesn't take away the pleasure of eating, which has also always been a big part of my life.

Accompanying these guidelines is a fair bit of coverage on the emotional reasons for why we eat when we're not hungry, and she does a good job of helping you try to figure out what those are and move past them. Now let's face it, the most people are overweight or obese is precisely because we're eating when we're not hungry, and it's not easy to look within to identify why we're doing that. But there's a huge benefit to doing it: as soon as you start to shed light on the very fact that you're eating when you're not hungry, you start to make progress. And each and every meal or bite that you take while seated, while quiet, and while calm is one which moves you directly towards attaining your natural, healthy body weight.

Another really positive thing about these guidelines is that they don't require you to follow any sort of eating plan. The content of your meals is totally up to you. So long as you follow the guidelines, you cannot help but restore your natural weight. But despite the simplicity of the guidelines, I recognize that they're also difficult. And you kind of need to be following most of them most of the time to see any results. But I believe that if I'm mindful of the guidelines each day (I have them memorized now and try to think of them before each meal) then I'll slowly start getting better at making them a regular part of my lifestyle. It will happen, if I stay focused and don't get too judgmental.