Passover Was an Experiment in Intuitive Eating and Diets
Last week I celebrated Passover, the Jewish holiday of springtime and liberation. During Passover it is traditional to stop eating all leavened foods (hence the matzah).
I don’t always keep Passover but this year I decided to. It turned out to be a mini experiment in diet culture and intuitive eating.
Here’s what happened:
Before Passover: In anticipation of cutting out bread, I avoided foods I knew I could eat during Passover while trying to eat as many extra things I wouldn’t be able to eat (aka ALL THE BREAD).
During Passover: I felt excited about the foods I could eat. I found myself more likely to eat past the point of fullness, trying to compensate for the (light) feeling of deprivation.
Right After Passover: I delighted in a very bready meal, with little other food groups involved. Even though my body was asking for vegetables, I was like, “Hell no! We’re eating pizza!”
A few days after Passover: Things restabilized: I remembered that I can eat bready things whenever I want them, which means I don’t actually have to eat them all right now.
What does this Passover experiment have to do with intuitive eating? I’ll break it down step by step:
Before starting a new diet or eating habit: I remember so well the nervous excitement I felt at the beginning of a new eating habit. I was ready to gain control. But it also made me anxious, and I would tend to eat a lot of the thing that was soon to be forbidden, (presumably forever).
During: At the beginning of the new diet it felt easy, but soon the feelings of deprivation crept in. We are built to avoid famine, and our cells don’t know the difference between real and imposed famine. I thought about food all the time. Eating felt like a repetitive game of trying to get things under control. I didn’t trust my body’s hunger signals and tried to ignore them, but often ate past fullness.
After diet/Start of intuitive eating: When I first learned intuitive eating, I let go of all the food rules. This led to an initial period of eating all the previously “forbidden” foods all the time. I also avoided foods I had once deemed “healthy.” It was both freeing and scary because I felt “out of control.”
A little while later: Eventually I relaxed. My body began to understand that I was listening, that I wasn’t going to deprive it again. I started to sink into my new reality; in which all foods are available to me and in which I know I'm not going to start another diet. It became easier to listen to what my body was asking for and to eat in ways that make me feel good.
P.S. This is not an anti-Passover post. I'll likely keep Kosher for Passover again next year, understanding this will probably all happen again too. It's cool cuz I trust my body and know we'll figure it out together.
P.P.S. If you're thinking, "But what about people with a real gluten allergy?" I'll cover that topic another time!