Sometimes It’s Just Hard Work

I went through this whole intuitive eating/ movement kick earlier this year. Renouncing diets (still do) and advocating doing what you feel like doing. I gained roughly 25 lbs. I know because I went back to weighing myself occasionally but without judgment and criticism. I noticed my clothes were getting tighter. I felt crappy. I was happier because I was free from diets but what these ladies preach may not be completely great for me.

My employer is participating in the Global Challenge where you set up teams of seven of your co-workers and record your steps each day trying to outdo one another. You get this little digital pedometer that syncs with an app to your phone. The challenge runs for 100 days and I’m 51 days in. My daily goal has been 10k steps the first part and now it’s 10.5k steps. I know I have to set achievable goals or I will drive myself crazy with the failure of it.

Many of these anti-diet promoters also promote moving when you feel like it along with eating what you want when you’re hungry. However, participating in this challenge lead me to an interesting discovery. The first week of achieving 10k steps a day was definite a struggle I’m not used to being that active every day. I also discovered how little I move when I’m at the office. If I reach 3000 steps in my work day, I’m lucky. This has prompted me to really push to get out of my chair and take a walk to the other side of the facility. Or walk uptown for my once a week lunch date with my BFF. Or walk a few laps around the building.

I didn’t feel like doing this most days and really had to push myself. So if I followed the advice of the anti-diet, intuitive eating crowd, I’d never really exercise much because I just wouldn’t feel like it. Another interesting result is the daily 10k+ (I’m currently averaging 15,500 steps due to frequent cycling – 229 steps per minute for moderate cycling) is that the exercise has quenched for the most part my desire to eat when I’m bored, stressed etc. It’s counteracted my overactive appetite. Seven weeks in, my ravenous appetite hasn’t returned. Not that some days I’m hungrier than others, but I’m not binging much on snacks and such anymore for just the activity of eating. Which with exercise has netted me an 11.2 lb loss without dieting at all.

It’s not easy to get yourself up and move like that every single day. I’ve fallen short 3 times out of 51 days but my average step count has kept consistent. I haven’t jumped for joy to get up on my bike another time when my inner thighs have painfully chafed because I got rained on the day before and my wet bike shorts rubbed against my delicate skin. I put on some skin protectant and got my happy ass back out on that bike the next day because I didn’t have the almost 2 hours to walk to get in my steps. It take 44 minutes of cycling to hit 10k steps at a moderate pace.

Tonight, I wanted to go up and lie down because I haven’t been sleeping well at all. I forced myself to gather up my dog and my walking shoes. Then I drove to the lake and walked 3 miles to get over 10k. I had to really push myself to walk that far. I picked out a shelter house in the distance along the path and made it my turn around point. When I got back into the car, the skies opened up and it poured. Tired and sore, I smiled to myself with the accomplishment of making my step goal and moving. Also, I was rewarded with a brilliant rainbow over the lake when the sun peaked out. The result – happiness.

Living a healthy lifestyle is work. Eating healthier takes thought and planning. Exercising every day definitely requires planning and dedication. It’s hard some days. Really hard others. I still believe in not dieting, to intuitively eat but I’ve also started focusing on eating more veggies and fruit just because it makes me feel good. As far as moving when I feel like it, joyful movement, eh. I believe you need to choose activities you enjoy, mix it up, try new things but this one you have to really prioritize and make it part of your life. Few of us are so super happy to exercise every day but it is so worth the effort.

My weight loss is just a marker and has not been my goal. I haven’t tried to lose weight at all. I just find it interesting that it happened without dieting. Just to be clear, I don’t believe you should measure your success by a scale. But I do love that my clothes are getting looser. But even more, I love that I feel good (outside of being sore some days), I’m out in the world more and experiencing cool things like rainbows where I may have missed them.

Like the old adage “nothing worth having ever comes easy” or however it goes, is so true. Sometimes I want everything to be easy but easy doesn’t pay big dividends.

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Surprising Revelation After Letting Go of Diets

Just a quick check in as I’ve stopped journaling about the whole food peace journey and wanted to let go thinking about it all. It’s been about four months since I embarked on this new way of life and no, I have not suddenly become thin. Actually I’m the same size. While this may seem like it should be disappointing, when you let go of worrying about your weight and body size, there is a surprising outcome when you let go. Happiness. Acceptance. More time to focus on things you enjoy.

I was inspired to write this short post when I was walking by the full length mirrors in my bathroom and I didn’t cringe, I didn’t criticize my body (even in my own mind) and I felt happy looking at myself. My body hasn’t changed. I haven’t miraculously become thin or super fit. Actually, I’m pretty fit for a fat girl and working on getting even fitter (not thinner – if that happens it does, if it doesn’t so what). Since I have stopped judging myself, my body, my weight and my appearance, I feel so much better about myself and my body. I see more positive rather than negative things about it and 0 has changed about my body. I actually like my body, fat, cellulite, freckles, scars, stretch marks, and muscle. I love what my body can do and I want to train so I can do even more. Not to mention I love just eating food without restriction or worry. You stop thinking about it so much and free up even more time.

Most of us as kids, go through a phase where we are fascinated with ourselves in a mirror. We look at ourselves, trying to figure out how we fit together. We didn’t stand there and say, OMG, my knees are fat or something silly like that. We are a wonderful, amazing machine of flesh, bone, blood and organs. It feels really great and freeing to look in a mirror and not criticize something about myself. To feel as if I don’t measure up with the other humans. That I should hide my body and hide myself because I’m fat or whatever.

I’m so dang happy about this. I can’t even express it. I also find I treat myself better in general. I pay attention to eating a little more healthy just because I want to feel my best and nourish my body. I don’t put off buying clothes until I’m smaller. Actually I’m going to sign up with one of those services who send you clothes that you can pick and choose from. I eat what I want when I’m hungry, when I want it. I still emotionally eat a bit but I don’t go overboard because I’m feeling bad about doing so. We all do it from time to time. It’s ok to comfort ourselves sometimes.

Come on guys, life is too short for diets and feeling bad about yourself. You deserve the very best and you deserve to be loved for who you, as you are, today. If you have to change your body for someone to love you, that’s just bullshit. Love yourself. Treat yourself well. Don’t put up with other people’s crap. Stand up for yourself, fat or thin, who cares. You’re awesome and beautiful and wonderful just the way you are. We need to be kind to others but also to ourselves. Especially kind to ourselves. Let go of the crap, let yourself be happy right here, right now, in this very moment. We only have this one life.

If someone said something hateful to you about how you look, who you are, well F*ck them. They aren’t perfect. They have their own flaws, one being that they are an insecure ass who has to put others down to feel good about themselves. Other people’s opinions are none of your business (not my saying). Stop reading those fitness and fashion magazines and articles telling you how to dress, weigh, and so on. Just do what you want. Who cares? I’m fat and I’m going to wear horizontal stripes. I’m almost 50 but I’m not going to dress like I’m ready for the nursing home or like I’m 20. I’m going to dress in what makes me feel good and happy. Screw those rules for how to dress when you’re 30, 40… Who said these people anyway? They aren’t the boss of me. They just want to sell products and magazines. Just like the diet industry is in the BILLIONS of dollars. Stop being their puppet. STOP IT!

Let go of the crap and let yourself be happy, right here, right now. You are beautiful, wonderful, amazing and loved right in this moment. Enjoy it. Set yourself free. It’s one of the best things I have ever done for myself, I hope you find that way as well. Ciao!

Week 3: Peace With Food Journal – Stay Strong!

This week has been about being very mindful of diet mentality and behavior. It has also been about not weighing myself eve though the urge to “check” and see if I’ve made any progress is powerful. But I am afraid if I give in to my urge to step on that damned scale, I turn my intuitive eating lifestyle that I am cultivating into a ‘diet’. All these years of judging myself based on what I weigh and my size is going to take some time to overcome. I wish it was overnight but it’s going to take hard work. I can’t undo years of thinking that my weight and body size define who I am as a person. Smaller = better person & happier. Bigger = Miserable failure.

I reflected over my life and think of all the diets I’ve tried, the millions of magazine articles I’ve read, all the health tips and studies which the next year, they are saying oh never mind, it’s actually okay in moderation. Coffee won’t really give you diabetes or whatever. Or eggs won’t kill you. My great-grandmother, Sadie, always said everything in moderation. She lived to be almost 101 years old. The only thing I remembered she would do is eat a banana and drink orange juice every day to keep her mind in good shape as she aged. It certainly didn’t hurt her. I mean there are some things you don’t want to have ‘just a little’ of such as crack and heroin. But as far as food, unless you have a severe allergy or medical issue forbidding a food, I can’t think of anything that if you just had a bit of it, that it’s going to kill you.

In other words, food isn’t the enemy. Food is our friend and we’ve been villainizing it for years. And then there are the ‘miracle’ foods that I have yet to have experienced a miracle from eating grapefruit 2x’s a day for weeks. Common sense need to take over here. If diets worked, I wouldn’t be fat. If all the drinks and diet aids etc. companies want you to push worked, we wouldn’t be fat and then we wouldn’t need these products. They want you to feel you must be dependent on them and keep buying them because they want their cut of the billions spent in the diet industry. Think of what would happen if we all took the money we spent on diet products/drinks, diet books, programs, gyms we hate, etc. and put toward world hunger? Billions of dollars to feed the starving in our country and other countries.

Billions. Billions. According to Time Magazine, 66.7 BILLION….. What good could we do in the world, in our neighborhood, with that money? Remember the diet industry doesn’t want you to get thin without having to continue on their meetings or products because they want your money. That’s all it is about, the almighty buck. There isn’t some team of corporate board members sitting at the fancy conference table saying, ‘Gee, Bob, I really want to help people who are overweight, let’s find the fix for it and give it out at low-cost without any maintenance products, etc. to keep funneling money into our pockets. We will cure obesity.” I mean maybe there is, but I highly doubt it. Scientifically, this may be happening but they have yet to find the ‘fix’ for obesity just yet. I’m going to find out if my ‘fix’ is just to trust myself and my body for what it wants.

Also, I am working on my ‘good’ and ‘bad’ food labels that are burned into my brain much like the grape jelly the other week. I ate grape jelly and my health did not come to a sweeping halt. Grape jelly isn’t ‘bad’. Yes it has sugar in it and not a lot of nutritional value but it tastes so good. And guess what? I didn’t binge on grape jelly by having it. No giant spoon in the jar taking huge bites of nothing but wiggly dark purple grape jelly. One day at work this week, I had the distinct craving for little cookies that come in the vending machine. So I took a handful of change, wandered down to the break room and studied the offerings. The little vanilla cream sandwich cookies or the tiny choc chip cookies? Chocolate chip won. I took them back to my desk, put down a napkin and opened is so the cookies spilled out the bright blue packaging. Then I slowly enjoyed and savored each cookie. I didn’t shovel them into my mouth like I had to hurry up and eat them before someone saw the fat girl was eating tiny cookies. I debated on whether to go get a second pack. I scanned my body to see what it wanted and one pack was just fine. World didn’t end. I didn’t go up a size. And I was happy.

So essentially this week is just staying strong. Keeping on the path of teaching myself to listen to my body, using intuitive eating. While it’s a simple theory, overcoming years of dieting behavior and judgmental crap makes it more difficult than one would think. The other thing I continue to work on is showing myself kindness and not judging myself. If I eat a little too much at a meal and am overly full, I stop myself from saying things in my mind like “OMG, you just are such a pig” and replacing them with gentle prompts like “I wonder why I ate too much?” I am trying to replace the judgmental with observational kindness. Learning from the moment rather than beating myself up. I wonder if all the beating myself up over the years has contributed to my overeating? I feel bad for eating too much, beat myself up mentally or sometimes even out loud, then I comfort myself with more food. I can see how that could easily be a cycle.

I’ve continued to listen to my podcasts as much as possible as they are much like going to a support group without the awkward circle of chairs and all that sharing. On one of the podcasts, the dietitian suggested to look at pictures of people of larger bodies having fun, and being happy to reprogram ourselves from shying away from these images or in real life. You can follow ‘Be Your Own Beloved” campaign on Instagram as well if you want to do this. I thought this was an interesting point because I never really thought about if I was uncomfortable looking at people with larger bodies including myself. I’m better at looking at myself in the mirror and being less judgmental than ten years ago, but I’m not really completely comfortable with how I look. I rarely post any full body shots of myself on social media perferring headshots as it hides my body. So I think it’s a good project, working on being more comfortable with myself and other people in larger bodies. Cringing at myself in the full length mirror because I have a belly is not accepting myself!

I’ve adopted the mantra ‘stay strong!’ as a reminder to keep following the principles of intuitive eating, to trust my body, to fight my long engrained diet mentality, to let go of judging myself by weight and size. Though, I have to remain vigilant right now just about every waking hour to fight my old habits, I imagine eventually it will become natural for me. Not that I won’t have setbacks or fall back into dieting mentality. One of the podcasts I listened to this week on Love, Food, was where this woman had been doing very well for a few years with intuitive eating and then suddenly had the impulse to go back to dieting because she saw herself in some photos. She didn’t look the way she thought she should look and it was enough to send her back to dieting for awhile. So, I don’t believe that I will just magically be fixed and not have moments where I slip.

So the bottom line for Week 3:

1. Stay Strong – Keep the faith, stay alert and keep pushing on.

2. Stay Kind – Don’t get upset or angry with yourself. It’s hard sometimes but show yourself love and kindness.

3. Enjoy Food – Eat when you are hungry and only what you want (or the closest you can get to at the time)

4. Stop when Satiated – I’m still learning my cues of when I’m full but noticed this week I wasn’t uncomfortably full but once.

5. Stop and Take Note – If you find yourself overeating or eating when not hungry, stop for a moment and scan what it is you really need, feel or want. Be gentle.

6. You Deserve Love – We are all worthy of love for ourselves as well as love and respect from others no matter what our size. If someone is being disrespectful or harmful to you, you can take charge of the situation. You can’t fix or control their behavior but you can make the choice to speak up for yourself, distance yourself or ignore their stupidity.

That’s it for Week 3. More later. Happy eating! 🙂

Old Habits Die Hard…

Though I haven’t written about it for a long time, diets were something I gave up because they simply do not work, especially for me.  I’ve had different eating disorders off and on in my life, usually ‘mild’ cases of them but my biggest struggle was always emotional or compulsive overeating.  I got bored, I ate.   I got upset, I ate.  I got sad, I ate.  I was disappointed, I ate.  I got hurt, I ate.  You get the idea.  When I was in my mid 30’s, I was close to 300 pounds and completely miserable.  I hurt, I was out of breath walking across the room, I hated the way I looked.  My marriage at the time was horrible to put it lightly and I was fighting depression.  But then I finally got treatment for depression and the sun came out once again except I stil weighed almost 300 pounds.  

Dealing with my depression made me aware that I was using food for comfort and other reasons other than when I was just hungry.  I was in the bookstore one day looking through the self-help section when I found Geneen Roth’s book, Breaking Free From Compulsive Eating.  I went on to read all the titles of hers I could find and I follow her FaceBook page to this day reading her occasional posts.  I lost weight, and settled into a place where my body seems to be comfortable (though far from thin, I am fit to the point I baffle my family doctor). After years of ups/downs on the scale I was then diagnosed in 2009 with hypothyroidism.  People believe that once you start taking medication for hypothyroidism, the weight just falls off.  I have yet to meet a person that this has happened to without strict dieting and exercise.  So I just decided, screw it, I’m going to be happy the way I am, go out and ride 100’s of miles on my bike, hike, swim, jog or whatever makes me happy.  I thought I was good. I had a handle on all this.

Except a few years back Weight Watchers came to our employer and I got the bright idea to join it.  I am the one person who gained weight on WW.  Slowly but surely since that time, the dieting mentality has come back into my life.  Over the winter, I did not join a gym, my Wii fitness board broke, I found I hate riding my cycling rollers and I dislike doing anything other than yoga, walking/hiking outdoors when it isn’t frigid so essentially I quit moving.  Though I always gain a bit over the winter after the riding season, this winter it was a bit more than usual.  When I went for my yearly OB appointment, I stared at the red LED numbers on the scale in disbelief.  I had not weighed that much for years.  I can’t even blame it on riding and adding more muscle weight.  I look like the Pillsbury dough girl around the middle.  When I went to my family doctor a few days later, the number was confirmed, sadly.   

So I broke out my food journal app and started to track what I ate.  Another dieting mentality come back to life.  Then I did my 6 month blood test for my thyroid and got the call from my doctor’s office.  I needed to come in.  Seems my levels were up and therefore my dosage was no longer enough.  Battling two things at once.  Well at least that explained why I had not felt like doing much, or in other words why I felt like a big fat slug.  Two days into the higher dosage and I’m feeling my energetic self again, not the self who is wading through waist high concrete all day long.  This will help get me up and moving again as exercise is not an issue for me usually except during the winter though lately I haven’t wanted to do much at all.

When I started thinking about how I had been eating, it dawned on me that I had slipped back into that place of ups and down, deprivation, eating when I’m not hungry and so on.  I was reading Roth’s FaceBook posts and thinking oh that’s not me anymore and well, it is but at least not on the same degree as it once was.  No this time it was just a little bit more sneaky.   I didn’t realize I had lost the core instructions Roth preaches over and over in her books.  Trust yourself, trust your body to tell you what it needs, eat when you are hungry, you will not go stark-raving mad into a binge if you listen to what you body needs and you don’t restrict any foods.  You need to stay with your feelings, feel them, experience them rather than cram them into whatever coping mechanism you may have.  

For different reasons over the past years, I had forgotten a lot of what I learned to be true. I went back to not trusting myself to know what I needed or wanted.  I quit enjoying what I ate or even thinking about what I was truly hungry for or even if I was hungry at all.  So I pulled Roth’s books back out, downloaded every one of her books available that I could find free via my different library options and started my compulsive eating refresher course.  The interesting thing about reading these books about 10 years later, my life has changed so much that I’ve learned new things from them that I didn’t pick up before because I had not experienced certain tragedies and difficulties at that age.  

Day 1, I focused on what I wanted to eat and found that my normal menu fare that I lazily eat every day wasn’t really what I wanted, so I simply didn’t eat that much.  Day 2, I really thought about what I wanted to eat during the day before I packed my food for work.  Amazingly, I didn’t eat all that I packed since I was more satisfied with eating what I really wanted.  Day 3, I believed I wanted that donut for breakfast and since this food was no longer off limits, I ate it and enjoyed it.  Later I felt sick and thought why the hell did I eat that sugar filled stick.  I felt miserable.  So had that much changed that suddenly I was having these great epiphanies?  Nothing really, I just was asking myself: Are you hungry?  What do you want to eat? Are you enjoying what you are eating, does it taste good?  If the answer was “no”, then I stopped eating it and tried to decipher what I did want. 

Last night I went out to eat and found the food lacking so I simply did not eat much and went home and ate something I wanted more.  When I stop focusing on calories and on what I want to eat rather than what I shoud eat, something miraculous happens.  I really don’t turn into this raving eating machine that shovels everything into her gullet that is within her grasp.  I even turned down ice cream last night and I LOVE ice cream.  I wasn’t hungry so it wasn’t the right time to eat it but that doesn’t mean I can never have ice cream.  Life is too short to not enjoy what you eat.  Just within a few days of getting back into this mindset, I am a lot happier and find I am no longer compulsive eating.  

This doesn’t mean that I will magically become a supermodel and have the perfect body, it just means I’m not cramming stuff down that I don’t want or even need.  If I truly want pie for breakfast though, I am going to sit down and enjoy that pie.   The anxiety surrounding food has dissolved and it no longer has the power to make me so miserable and unhappy when it should truly be enjoyed.  As long as I keep asking myself those questions and being mindful of what I am eating or am wanting.

Lesson learned:  When I think I have it all down pat and I know it all, it is probably the moment I need to stop and check myself.