From French Toast to Intuitive Eating

I love French toast. There was a hotel in Las Vegas back in the day, the Thunderbird, where the French toast was thick and dusted with powdered sugar. No menu necessary for me, when we piled into a cab and made the drive down The Strip to the Thunderbird for breakfast I knew what I would order. Thunderbird (according to Wikipedia) means “The Sacred Bearer of Happiness Unlimited” and that pretty much described the mix of maple syrup, powdered sugar and bread in my mouth.

That was before I developed the “weight problem” that I tried to fix with diets over the next decades: If I just don’t eat the French toast I’ll be okay!

Little did I know that resisting the foods I craved would send me down a rabbit hole of self-loathing that only led to more eating for years to come.

When I chose poached eggs and dry toast over French toast I felt virtuous for a moment but mainly I felt deprived, so later I would overeat to assuage the deprivation. Shoulda just had the French toast!

That’s the moral of this story: Eat the French Toast! (or whatever it is that you’re depriving yourself of).

That’s how you transform deprivation into self-empowerment and self-care. You allow yourself to eat the foods you want, that’s the fun part, but it’s only 1/2 the process. If you skip this next part you’re using Intuitive Eating as an excuse to eat whatever you want: pay attention to your body, how does it feel after you eat [insert your favorite forbidden food here]. Ask yourself: does it energize or drain you? are you hungry soon after or does it sustain you? do you get a headache, or stomach ache, or does it settle well?

There is a paradox inside the healing of emotional eating that can be confusing. In asking myself those questions I often found the foods that made me feel bad physically also made me feel bad emotionally while at the same time I was learning that I needed to develop self-compassion and non-judgement around my eating. So how do those two things square?

It takes a long time to develop the muscles and skills of self compassion and non judgement, and the process involves noticing and naming the feelings that come up. Shame, guilt, self-deprecation, judgement, sadness, anger, to name just a few, showed up for me and it wasn’t after eating poached eggs and dry toast! Noticing and naming the emotions is how we develop the tenderness needed for self-compassion and not judging ourselves.

So don’t shy away from the feelings because you think you’re not supposed to be feeling bad about what you eat. On the contrary, immerse yourself in them, the noticing and naming of your emotions is how you develop the skills of compassion and non-judgement.

If you notice there’s a correlation between the foods that make you feel bad physically and emotionally file it away and the next time you’re considering French toast you may decide you prefer not to pay the physical and emotional price.

I still love the taste of French toast, and if you order it I’d love a bite, but my latest fave is the huevos revueltos in tomato broth at a little place here in Mexico where I’ve been lucky enough to spend the last few months.

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