Andrea and Heidi at Muir Beach, October 2013

When you read this, my sister…my naturally thin sister…will be visiting with me. This year, I have had the opportunity to enjoy her company more than in the previous ten years combined!  I have no doubt that the visit that I have with her for Christmas will be filled with yet more lessons of what it is like to be an intuitive eater like her.

Whenever I am with Andrea, I learn something about how a naturally thin eater navigates the waters that are murky and challenging for me.

Some of the things I have learned from her are:

1.) A naturally thin eater doesn’t use a bathroom scale. Andrea has never owned a bathroom scale, yet when she goes to the doctor she is the same weight as she was 45 years ago (NO JOKE!).

vs. me…how many years did I struggle with letting an ever-changing number—if not on the bathroom scale then a pants size—determine my value, worth, “success?”

2.) A naturally thin eater doesn’t have “off limits” foods. Andrea typically likes to eat whole foods and vegetarian because of her conscience. She isn’t bound to rigid dieting laws, however. She bends and flexes according to her conscience in the moment. She and I have enjoyed decadent Mexican food, homemade pizza with lots of toppings, cheesecake, homemade ice cream sandwiches, hot fudge sundaes, and the list goes on and on.

vs. me…I often feel like I need to make some foods off-limits because I fear losing control. I want to grow up to be like Big Sister!

3.) There is virtually nothing that a naturally thin eater won’t taste and enjoy.

vs. me…I seem to feel like I “need” so much more than a “taste” of the foods I enjoy. I am eager to grow up in this respect, too.

4.) A naturally thin eater may choose not to have some foods in her house. This may seem to be contrary to item 2, but while she may not have these items in her house by way of routine, she can, on occasion, if she chooses. She just rarely chooses. To be honest, this one  surprised me, but apparently, my sister has, over the years, just decided there are some foods she doesn’t need to have access to freely. She doesn’t seem to miss those foods when they aren’t in her house. She doesn’t buy them and really never has.  That said, she had a king-size, organic, dark chocolate raspberry truffle candy bar in her cabinet last time I visited. She sucks half a chocolate rectangle…and makes the chocolate bar last for a couple of weeks or longer!

vs. me…If I have a chocolate bar in my house, I typically won’t stay out of it anytime I am hungry. It is likely to be gone within a day or two—at the most three. The last time I came back from my sisters, though, she gave me a chocolate bar of my own to “practice” her “techniques” with :-). It lasted 10 days!!! It is amazing how satisfying it was to eat it that slow. I was able to be grateful and mindful.

5.) Meal preparation is a big event for the naturally thin eater. I compared notes with my daughter on this one and it is true in her experience as well—Andrea does everything related to food (even shopping!) with care, focus, and time. She is mindful when preparing coffee, when peeling and cutting fruit, when stirring the yogurt, when toasting the bread. Everything is done with great intentionality. The eating of the meal is only part of the enjoyment for her. She truly takes a lot of time to prepare the food…even food that we wouldn’t ordinarily think would require that sort of time.

vs. me…I can’t prepare the food fast enough when I am hungry!

6.) It could go without saying, but a naturally thin eater eats very slowly. My big sister takes a bite of something and savors it just like the half-rectangle of dark chocolate I mentioned previously. I can say with relative confidence that she does this with all the food she consumes.

vs. me…I have always claimed to be a “texture” eater…thus the reason why I chew chocolate and, yes, even ice cream! But what is TRUE? What is TRUE is that a great deal of enjoyment can come by slowing down and sucking on the chocolate (for instance) or ice cream. By just allowing the entire experience to take a bit more time. 🙂

7.) A naturally thin eater removes the emotion from pre-meal preparation anticipation. Actually, I am not even sure how to categorize what I am talking about here. While Andrea enjoys food tremendously, she nevertheless refers to meals as “feedings.” She has asked me when I stay with her: “When do you want our next feeding to be?” I have given this some careful consideration and there is something about the term “feeding” that reduces the emotion behind anticipating a meal. What I mean is when I am hungry and actually preparing the meal, the emotions and joy are allowed to flow, but beforehand, referring to the next meal as a “feeding” seems to remove the emotion from the event, thus making it less about lust 🙂 and more about the needs of my body, if that makes sense. I am not as likely to pre-empt hunger. Maybe it is because I think of a “feeding” as something that is done for animals who require certain nutrients…not for recreational enjoyment of food! I know we aren’t animals, certainly, but I do think the term is helpful. When I think of “my next feeding,” I think in terms of what my body needs, instead of what my taste buds want.

vs. me…I sometimes get excited thinking about the next meal or the next time I get to eat. Sometimes, then I will eat before my body needs food. Using Andrea’s term of “feeding,” removes some of the super-charge from the anticipation.

8.) A naturally thin eater sometimes overeats, but doesn’t get upset about it.  It’s true! When I asked Andrea about the quantity I have seen her pack away on rare occasion 🙂 she reminds me that she doesn’t eat like that very often.  When she does, she doesn’t think much about it after the fact. She waits until she is hungry again and eats her normal portion size.

vs. me…I tend to beat myself up when I overeat. Or, in the past, I have tried to exercise to make up for overeating.

9.) A naturally thin eater eats sitting down at a table.  Andrea mentioned this to me during one of my recent visits. Although this is definitely one of the Keys to Conscious Eating, I nevertheless found it strangely reassuring that even a naturally thin eater sits for any “feeding” :-). It isn’t just a “rule” for me. It is wisdom. People, like my sister, who I admire for the way that food doesn’t own them, just take a load off to enjoy their food.

vs. me…I have been known to walk through the kitchen and mindlessly grab something. It seems like when I eat something standing up, it is likely that I am breaking my 0 to 5 boundary. Like it doesn’t count when I eat it standing! Sitting down, I own up to the moment being an eating occasion…even if it just a cookie. By sitting down, I slow down, am mindful, and enjoy the experience more. I am less likely to pre-empt hunger if I uphold this secondary boundary!

10.) Naturally thin eaters keep temptations that are present in their home wrapped up and put away out of sight. One of the reasons why the chocolate bar that Andrea gave me lasted so long was because I followed her advice…I wrapped it up and put it out of sight.

vs. me… In the past, I often left foods like cookies, brownies, etc, on the counter. The truth is, if it sits on the counter, I am likely to be reminded of it even when I am not hungry. Then it becomes more of a battle for me than it needs to be.

11.) Naturally thin eaters exercise for enjoyment and general feel-good health benefits, rather than out of fear. Andrea does Yoga and walks around her neighborhood. She does so because she enjoys it.

vs. me…over the years at various times, I have exercised out of fear or to make up for what I have overeaten!

How About You?

Can you adopt any of these practices? Do you have a naturally thin relative or friend? What other practices have you noticed are a part of their life?