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“I Quit Overeating” is a 10-week program led by nutritionist Jessica Penner that teaches participants how to eat according to their bodies’ needs. I have the opportunity to participate in the program’s current session and will be sharing weekly updates on my progress. Learn more about the program here, then follow along on my journey!

Photo Courtesy of Smart Nutrition

Photo Courtesy of Smart Nutrition

>> See Michelle’s Q&A with program creator Jessica Penner here! 

WEEK 1: My first week of “I Quit Overeating” has been a powerful learning experience. The last 18 months of my life has been focused on eating the right foods but has also been spent depriving myself of many of the things I used to enjoy. “I Quit Overeating” is not aimed at telling us what we can’t do; it frees us to do what we know is healthy for our bodies, while savoring our food experiences.

The first focus was a daily goal of “crowding out” the unhealthy foods with vegetables and fruits, as well as water. I’m a teacher and drinking water throughout my day is a bit of a challenge, so finding ways to schedule in my water is really important.

beautiful-woman-drinking-glass-of-water

All good life changes start by setting goals. I was given the steps to create a SMART goal that I can measure over the course of this program. My personal goal is to develop a healthy relationship with food again. I don’t want to feel anxious about everything I put in my mouth, nor do I want to go out to eat and feel like I need to pack my food scale along. I want to enjoy making healthy choices and not fear the occasional treat.

The 10-week Journey Workbook, daily emails from Jessica Penner and private Facebook community is a constant source of support and encouragement. We individually set goals and started sharing our individual plans to learn how to eliminate distractions from meal times. This process is more than a program; it is a life change.


WEEK 2: As we head into week two, Jessica really digs into examining our hunger and fullness cues.  The “I Quit Overeating” Journey Workbook has a wonderful “Traffic Light Hunger and Fullness Scale” that really breaks down the stages of hunger and fullness. This exercise is proving to be my most challenging so far.

I have fallen prey to the philosophy of portion control. I weigh and measure, which is sometimes frustrating. I eat until my portions are finished, but I don’t always feel full. I am now charting my hunger and fullness levels at every snack and meal. I analyzed how often I eat to determine if I am eating often enough. I am excited by the freedom of listening to my body, not the guilt in my brain.

An amazing part of this program is Jessica’s daily program emails. She sends them out early in the morning, so right when my alarm goes off I have started the habit of getting my daily pep talk/instructions via her email. I work on my workbook during little moments my busy day. This helps me stay focused. I also, receive a great deal of support just reading what others are feeling and thinking in our private Facebook Community. “I Quit Overeating” fits into my life perfectly and is so adaptable to my busy schedule.

woman turning alarm clock off in bed

WEEK 3: Week three started with a challenge. I was given the job of taking a bite and counting to 30. I had no idea that 30 seconds was that long! The idea being that you fully taste your food, slow down and experience every bite. My overall opinion on food has really become healthy thanks to Jessica and “I Quit Overeating”.

Every week begins with  a focus on self-care. For many of us, this is a hard skill to learn. I spent a great deal of time reflecting on how I ate before starting to take hold of my health and about the restrictions I now place on my food intake. At Jessica’s suggestion, I examined Registered Dietician Evelyn Tribole’s food rules. Then, I was able to take stock of my own rules placed on food. I decided I need to focus on realigning my food rules with my new philosophy on food.

healthy woman eating salad in kitchen

I chose to focus on changing my mindset from “I count calories, protein and carbs” to “I will start every meal with my vegetables (or fruit if it is breakfast) and eat my protein second, followed by my carb.” This will ensure that if I respond to my body’s fullness cues properly, that I will have filled up on the good things first. This takes out my limits and free’s me to eat a variety of healthy foods while squelching a majority of my cravings for food I previously considered off limits.


WEEK 4: Trick or Treat!? This marks the beginning of the 6 months of the year that seem to be riddled with chocolate. Halloween, Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Easter make it hard for someone who loves chocolate as much as I do. Developing healthy eating habits that don’t restrict me, but cause me to be satisfied with healthy choices has been a huge life saver for me already in this candy-coated season.

candy copy

Jessica has a keen sense of what happens to people’s bodies and minds as the days grow shorter and colder and people are prone to eating for a variety of reasons beyond simple hunger. She scheduled a helpful Halloween review to cover the four strategies that we have been learning in the “I Quit Overeating” program so far.

Of these strategies, eating distraction-free has been one of my biggest challenges. I am a person who is constantly amping up for the next activity. I am usually making mental lists, writing emails, planning something with my husband or any number of other activities except enjoying my meal and reading my body’s natural hunger and fullness cues. With my new focus on slowing my eating, removing distractions, losing the restrictions, and re-engineering my environment to help facilitate healthier choices, I can enjoy my favorite sweets in moderation. I can do so knowing that I will be okay and that I can do this without going overboard and eating the whole bag.

family dinner table

WEEK 5: “I Quit Overeating” week 5 hit on a very important topic in my world of personal health and weight loss during this past week. Portion control is the center of my food universe and has gotten me into a place of weight loss but it’s also led to self-deprivation and has caused me to develop some semi-unhealthy views on myself and food as result.

Jessica introduced us to the fact that “portion size affects how much we eat.” That seemed logical to me, but what is a bit frightening is what restaurants of today consider a “portion.” “Hand-jive” serving sizes are a huge help for me in terms of keeping a handle on how much I am eating. I no longer need to travel with a scale or feel compelled to over eat when I go out. I think most of our parents taught us to eat everything on our plate… not such a good idea these days.
portion control plate
This new portion technique is no guarantee that I will stop at that amount each time. That will depend upon the fullness cues my body sends me. What it does mean is that if I slow down, enjoy my food, monitor my body’s signals and am mindful or how much I am eating, I can self regulate my body to avoid overeating.

WEEK 6: This week in my “I Quit Overeating” journey, I was introduced to the strategy “eat your meals in courses.” It sounds like something reserved for elegant restaurants with linen napkins, but when you realize that just because all of your meal components are grouped together on one plate doesn’t mean you shouldn’t eat them strategically.

My mom always made me eat my main meal first before dessert so I wouldn’t fill up on the sweets. This is why my dad, the fun guy that he is, took me out for ice cream before dinner when he wanted to spoil me. Mom was wise, and her wisdom pairs nicely with Jessica’s strategy. If you fill up with high volume foods which contain fiber, water, or air first, it prevents you from overeating. If you are going to get full you do it on those foods first. So, my goal this week is to challenge myself to eat my salad at lunch first, before any other course.

Jessica also presented a challenge to “get inspired”. People get bored eating the same things. There are so many variations on salads that I decided to follow her challenge and look for new salad recipes that provide me all of the nutrition I need, but new bold flavors that will entice me to eat that course first.
>> Recipe: Quinoa Mexi-Lime Salad [VIDEO below]
WEEK 7: This time of year is always a difficult one when it comes to making healthy food choices. So, rather than fall into old habits, it is time for me to use my experience with “I Quit Overeating” to establish new habits. Relying on the healthy food first to fill me up has helped me tremendously, but I love to cook so I am always looking for new inspiration.This week I took a close look at the importance of protein and fiber. I analyzed my meals and tried to find ways to incorporate new sources of both particularly into my afternoon snack. My hardest time of the day is after school to dinner time. It is then that I want to reach for those fun size candy bars left over from Halloween, but know that really isn’t the best choice.My first go-to is my water, though while teaching I don’t always drink enough of it. Am I just dehydrated? My second step is to make sure that I actually ate my snack. Am I hungry? Last, did my snack contain protein?  I decided to start adding nut butter and/or hummus to my snacks to boost my protein. That way I can choose chocolate as a treat for the right reasons instead of out of hunger and thirst.

>> Recipe: Mediterranean Herb Hummus [VIDEO below]

WEEK 8: Thanksgiving is a wonderful opportunity to reflect on the many blessings I have in my life. It’s also a time to enjoy a traditional meal with my family and extended family, but this year was different.

A well timed focus in “I Quit Overeating”, was the concept of “limiting your food options”. Thanksgiving is a particularly challenging time for this skill, but it worked! It’s hard not to be overcome with cravings for sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes and gravy, rolls and more. So, I thought carefully about my favorite dishes and picked my top three in addition to the turkey. Then I found ways to create healthier versions of those dishes.

Thanksgiving Turkey

I ate a variety of healthy and flavorful foods. Not only was I able to enjoy a traditional meal, but I escaped the usual post turkey collapse on the couch. I was satisfied not stuffed. Guilt free eating on the holidays is wonderful!


 WEEK 9: One of the most powerful lessons from “I Quit Overeating” is that my food choices don’t define me! I’m not good or bad because of how I eat. Foods are not characterized in that way either, at least not in a healthy food relationship.

There are, however, sometimes foods and everyday foods. The sometimes foods are not hidden away under lock and key, they are simply not in direct sight. How empowering is it to know that you can eat the foods you want, just in appropriate amounts?

pantry

The less judgement we place on the foods we eat, the less likely we are to feel deprived. If we don’t feel deprived we are less likely to over eat through binging.


WEEK 10: My life as a teacher has taught me the importance of looking at where students are functioning when they come to me and where they’re functioning when they move on from my class. My content area is science. The scientist in me chose to approach my journey with “I Quit Overeating” in much the same way.

woman getting organized and writing in her planner

Our course began with a self-assessment and as our program is winding down, we took a post assessment. In reviewing my results from the two, I found that in the beginning my biggest areas of need were:

  • to eat without distractions
  • to not restrict myself from food or beverages that I enjoy eating or drinking
  • to not view foods as good or bad
  • to eat more fruits and veggies
  • to drink more water

While I also set the goal to lose my few remaining, stubborn pounds to get to my goal weight but I can say I have not achieved that. I have, however, achieved so much more! I have been able to free myself of the fear of certain foods. I eat what my body needs and if I want dessert, I have it! I don’t overindulge because my body is satisfied with the healthy choices.

I rejoice in the feeling of good health and sustained energy because of my food and exercise choices. I fully enjoy my food because I have learned to savor it. My foods have variety because I have given myself permission to explore new cuisines.

woman eating a big dinner

Above all, I can now listen to my body and follow its cues. I highly recommend this program to anyone who is looking not only to lose weight, but to reshape their lifestyle into something healthy and nourishing, both physically and emotionally. Jessica’s program is truly a lifestyle change, with all of the support needed to be successful no matter what your life looks like.