Book: On Eating, by Susie Orbach

I read this book a few months ago after I finished Grace Bowman’s Thin.  At the time when I read it, I was completely ready to hear it.  My mind was open.  And it spoke to me and added the missing ingredient to what I had learned over the previous two years about weight, food and body image.

Eat When You are Hungry.

This is the first key.  To some, it may sound incredibly obvious.  To others it may seem difficult and dangerous.  To me, it caused something to finally click.  It seems that what I have been learning all along is that I can trust myself.

Throughout my life I have eaten for many reasons, but hunger was generally not one of them, or at the most it was a secondary consideration.  I had said the words “I’m hungry” many times, but “hunger” once had a much different meaning to me than it does now.  Hunger used to be many things in addition to stomach hunger, from boredom to loneliness.  “I’m hungry” was just as likely to mean “I’m angry” or “I’m sad” as “I need nourishment for my body.”

So now I practice eating when I am hungry.  I find my hunger signal is not broken as I once thought.  I just didn’t know how to listen to it.  Instead I listened to my emotional mind and my taste buds.  If you asked me why I ate, I would have likely told you, “because it tastes good.”

Eat the Food Your Body is Hungry For.

In addition to telling me when I am hungry, I have learned that my body tells me what it is hungry for.  When I eat the right foods, the nourishing foods, and of course the appealing and tasty foods, my body rewards me by feeling good.  I feel energetic, my mind feels clear, and I feel emotionally happier.  When I eat the wrong foods for the moment, or foods that are too sweet or salty or greasy, or when I do not eat enough, my body punishes me by feeling bad.  I feel lethargic, nauseated, and grumpy.  This has always been the case.  But in the past I let tastiness override all other effects.

This doesn’t mean I never eat cake or french fries.  Sometimes you really and truly desire a decadent chocolate.  At those times, I have what I desire.  But I wait until I am hungry to eat it and I make sure to enjoy it fully.

Find Out Why You Eat When You aren’t Hungry.

I spent the previous 2 years figuring that out.  I think I have a true understanding of it now.  The understanding set me free.

Taste Every Mouthful.

I’m always working on this one.  In my family, we didn’t sit down to dinner very often.  We generally ate separately or at different times.  I usually ate in front of the TV.  I still eat in front of the TV sometimes still, but I’m much more conscious of enjoying the food I am eating rather than mindlessly eating it without really savoring it at all.

Stop Eating the Moment You Are Full.

I’ve eaten too much, I’ve eaten too little.  I lost the weight by eating by number.  I ate a specific number of calories every day and I ate at specified times throughout the day.  I planned most meals the day before.

Now, I eat until I start to feel full.  Just like there’s a specific physical feeling for hunger, there’s a specific physical feeling for fullness.  My body knew the right thing to do all along.  I only had to listen.  One of the most useful things I learned from the book was that if I start eating when I’m not hungry, I will never get the signal that I am full.

I can’t recommend this book enough.  I might not have been ready for it until this moment.  I may have needed the practice of eating by number and learning what the effects of healthier eating felt like and knowing that reward is coming if I choose to eat right.  I may have been skeptical that it could be this simple in the past, but I’m not now.  It works.  It is incredibly freeing after putting so much focus on the tedium of eating and letting it be more free-flowing and enjoyable as well as much less mind-consuming.

5 thoughts on “Book: On Eating, by Susie Orbach

  1. I’m glad to see you’re still posting on your blog; how wonderful! I adore everything that I’ve been reading, and it definitely sounds like a lot of FS journal entries these days. I love that I now really trust myself. I recently stopped logging food, and stopped weighing so much. I was using a daily weigh in as a maintenance tool (which I think can be super effective), but I was finding it wasn’t a healthy (mentally speaking) choice for me. Even though there are normal weight fluctuations, and I know this intellectually, it was sort of driving me crazy. But then I realized: I am training for a marathon. And, although I don’t count – I know that I eat anywhere from 1500-1900 calories a day. I am NOT GOING TO GET FAT eating this much and running this much (on top of which, I walk about 20 miles a week, ride my bike instead of driving when the weather is nice, play a coed football team AND play kickball). Honestly, I think I may actually gain a bit of weight from my marathon training (I’m 5′ 5″, large frame, size 6, and my lowest was down to 134, and since training have gone back to 138 – where I actually was maintaining at for some time.) I was pretty annoyed to go back to 138, but when I looked at myself I realize I am actually slimmer (goodbye baby tummy pudgy) and looking stronger! It’s been tough to come to this place where I don’t care what number the scale says! Because, damn, I look good! Who would want a smaller number on the scale and look less fit verses having a bigger number on the scale (which no one sees!) and have a much fitter body?!

  2. Hey K8yk, I’m so happy you keep in touch with your blog as I much admire you and would be amiss if you suddenly went Poof and were totally gone. I still struggle with mindless eating but am learning to be honest with myself so I can get to the bottom of what causes me to over-do. Some days I am my worst enemy, but I am experiencing more days out of the year when I AM THE BODY WHISPERER, and this kind of connection makes me feel so empowered, tuned in and turned on with a great zest for life. I understand and like what you are saying in this blog and am glad you continue to write about your mind body connection as it is very inspirational for me. TOWANDA!!!!

  3. P.S. Thank you, thank you. You hit the nail on my head as to why I OVER-DO and although I knew it all along It didn’t click until now. It is emotional hunger (I was feeling overwhelm and the blahs) my emotions and taste buds sent me into an all to familiar sugar coma after I shamelessly nose dived into the fudge and candy I gobbled down on this day. My desire is to develop a stronger BODY MIND and listen to it as I train my emotional mind and taste buds to shut the heck up and deal with my feelings and or problems without the use of food. Habits are hard to change but where their is choice there is a way. Much appreciation:) TOWANDA!!!

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