Just Eat It

But figure out when you're full, says Signe Darpinian.

If Signe Darpinian were to eat only fast food for a year, she might
develop cardiovascular or skin problems. “But I wouldn’t have a weight
problem,” she insists, because unlike many fast-food fans, she knows
exactly when to stop. “We worry too much about what we eat when
resolving body issues long-term is all about how and why
we eat,” says the licensed marriage and family therapist whose My
Weigh
(240 Third St., Suite 2, Oakland) intuitive-eating center
opened in Oakland this spring.

Recognizing and honoring the body’s empty-and-full cues should be
automatic. Sadly, it too often isn’t.

“Intuitive eating is the way babies eat,” Darpinian says. “When
they’re full, they stop. My newborn is equipped with a self-regulating
system. You can’t overfeed her. We’re born this way, but somehow in
this culture we’ve all been pulled out of our bodies in general —
so disconnected that lots of people go around thinking: I need
somebody telling me what and when to eat.”

Diets — whether they’re low-fat, low-carb, or low-calorie
— are based entirely on the what and the when. “They don’t
work because they don’t address those emotional drivers that pull you
toward food in the first place,” Darpinian says. “We need to learn to
regulate emotions in ways other than with food.”

In a typical scenario, someone who ate a hamburger at 4 p.m. arrives
home from work at 6 p.m. “And where’s the first place they go? The
fridge,” Darpinian says. “A couple hours after a good hearty hamburger,
this isn’t about being hungry. It’s about making that transition from a
busy day to the stillness of the evening,” which spurs a mental rather
than physical need: loneliness, say, or boredom. “Maybe you eat to
quell the boredom, but the minute you stop eating, that boredom’s going
to pop right up again” — like the “mole” in a fairground
“whack-a-mole” game, she explains — “because feeding an
emotional hunger with physical food will never satisfy it. Instead, sit
down and watch a movie. Call a friend. Or just celebrate the discomfort
of being bored. You’ve got to hang out with the emotional driver to see
what it wants and how it works.”

When to eat? When hunger strikes. When to stop? When you’re
satisfied. “But ‘satisfied’ is kind of tricky,” Darpinian admits. “It’s
a subtle cue, whereas ‘stuffed’ is a loud cue.” Eating only half a
sandwich and leaving the other half while trying to discern whether
you’ve had enough “requires a lot of self-exploration and a lot of
commitment. That’s why it’s all the more important to eat, whenever
possible, in a calm environment.”

At My Weigh, whose animal prints and rococo overstuffed chairs evoke
what she calls a “rock-‘n’-roll therapy” ambience, Darpinian offers
private sessions and workshops. Her “Fall Into Your Natural
Shape
” workshop on Saturday and Sunday, November 21 and 22, offers
tools for making wise how and why choices during the
holidays.

“The standard care for obesity is still a diet,” she marvels. “Yet
the more we diet, the fatter we get. Diets are about deprivation, so
they’re like holding your breath — and what happens when you
hold your breath too long? When diets fail, people often turn to more
compensatory behaviors such as anorexia or bulimia. So really, diets
are a gateway drug.” 10 a.m.-4 p.m., $300. MyWeighFamilyTherapy.com

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