Saturday, March 1, 2014

Eating Without Rules

As I mentioned recently, I have been trying to change my relationship with food and exercise.  What started as an innocent attempt to start being more "healthy" a few years ago, turned into an unhealthy addiction to exercise and too much calorie restriction.  I listened to all of the stupid diet "rules" I would read in magazines.  My A-type, perfectionist personality fueled my ability to follow these rules strictly - I began to totally ignore my body and it's natural needs, cravings, and cues. 

Here were some of my rules:

Sweat every day
Don't eat after 8pm
Only one small sweet per day
No eating lunch before 1pm
The only legitimate breakfast foods are egg whites or oatmeal
No more than one 100 calorie snack in the afternoon
Dinner MUST contain 1-2 servings of vegetables
Only nonfat dairy it edible
Ice cream is evil
Salads cannot have dressing
Sandwiches cannot have condiments
DO NOT eat over 1400 calories a day

There were times when I would allow myself to break the rules, especially around other people.  But it was most often followed by internal feelings of anxiety, guilt, disappointment and sadness. And it would mean I needed to add an extra mile....or three to my workout the next day.

Thank god I refused to follow all of the "no alcohol" rules, or the "only wine or light beer" rules I would hear a lot.  I would have been even more miserable.

I was also working out an average of 90 minutes per day.  I was always hungry.  But I learned to ignore it and it would sometimes go away.  Or I would eat a rice cake or a piece of fruit.  "Because nothing tastes as good as skinny feels", right? 

I was withering away.  I started to avoid social events. I would be anxious about eating out, scouring the menu for the most "healthy" option available.  I avoided happy hours, lunches with coworkers, anything that would interfere with my mission.  I would have meltdowns over eating dessert.  Once I almost sobbed at a restaurant when I realized the dish I ordered had a cream-based sauce on it.

Then I decided to stop living like this.  

Since I began pushing these boundaries and letting go of the rules, my body has responded lovingly.  My mood is better because I am not starving.  I am not obsessed with thoughts about planning my next meal, I enjoy dinners out and order what I crave.  I feel strong, I feel happy, I can focus on other things, I like the way I look (on most days). 

Diets are the worst idea ever you guys.  Living a healthy life is about listening to your body and fueling it with a variety of carbs, fats, protein and even cookie dough if you want it.

So when you are hungry, eat.  Even if it is midnight!  When you are not hungry, don't eat....unless there are truffle fries in front of you, then you should eat them.  And then move on.  If you want pizza, have it, just stop when you are full.

Re-learning to listen to my body has not been easy, and I still push through some uncomfortable feelings and guilt.  I have a hard time gauging how hungry and I am and how much to eat - I had ignored my natural cues for so long, relying on counting calories and measuring servings, so sometimes I feel lost.

But it gets easier and better each day and I know it will all be worth it.

Anyone else get caught in the diet trap?


  1. I relate to a lot of what you have experienced with "healthy" living and dieting. I recently came across an old gchat convo with my ex boyfriend from like 2 years ago where I basically blew up at him and complained about how my whole day was ruined because I had forgotten my lunch at home and had to eat out. That is nooooott healthy! I'm convinced my worst digestive problems of that period of my life actually stemmed from hunger.

    Like you said, it's most important to listen to your body and just give it what it wants - indulge, but don't indulge too much. Easier said than done, but it sounds like you're getting the hang of it :)

    1. It is so cool that you can look back at your old self and realize you have come so far. I am starting to learn that a lot of my "problems" have been stemming from under-fueling. When you are so active like we are, you have to make an extra effort to add to your diet, and that is exactly what society and all the "diet" talk tells us not to do. Thanks for the encouragement, it is definitely not always easy!