As many of you know there were about 10 years of my life where I yo-yo dieted. Years of binge- restricting, eliminating food groups at a time, trying all.of.the.diets. Of course there were years where I lost an upward of 20 pounds but there were some years where I gained that too. My weight would fluctuate so much between going on the diet and “falling off of the bandwagon.”
As a result, my exercise routines varied as well. I would go balls to the walls crazy with exercise during my diets and restriction moments. I would spend hours doing movement that I hated at times. It was all about how many calories can I burn... never for the actual enjoyment of the exercise. And because of that, I would protest working out during my moments of falling off of the bandwagon and during my moments of bingeing... then it would start all over again. A cycle of pure miserable hell that never actually got me anywhere.
In late 2015 and early 2016, my journey with food and exercise started to change. I started learning how to listen to my body and look at food/exercise differently. I didn’t deprive myself and for the first time, I was able to lose weight and keep it off… WITHOUT restricting or eliminating food groups and without spending hours hating every minute of my workouts.
Here are some of my takeaways/key learnings:
All of our bodies are different and react differently to food. So who is to say that something like paleo will work for every body? I learned that I needed to figure out how to listen and trust my body again and determine MYSELF what foods sit well with me and which ones don’t. A few examples:
Carbs work for me so I include bread and pasta in my weekly meals.. Too much of it in the middle of the day though makes me tired.
Certain meats (like red meat and chorizo) make me feel like shit if I eat too much of them, so it is a once and a while kind of food, not something I include in my weekly meal prep.
Lentils, beans, and hummus make me bloated.. I avoid eating too much of them
I LOVE ginger and lemon. I include them in my everyday foods.
Too much overly processed food makes me feel awful, I try to stick to whole foods for most of the week.
I like bacon, sausage, ice cream, pasta, pizza, egg yolks, cheese, and bread. I still eat all of these things, some of them on a weekly and even daily basis.
I have learned to look at food as food that fuels vs food that doesn’t fuel rather than good food vs bad food.Every single time I go to eat something I ask myself “will this fuel me right now?” If I have a long day of work or want to feel alert/active, I will choose the foods that I know are fueling (like a big salad with a piece of whole wheat bread) rather than a big ass burrito or a huge bowl of white pasta. If it is a lighter day (usually a Friday) or a weekend night I will choose the burrito or the pasta or the big brownie. The minute I place a restriction (like a can’t or this is bad) I think about that food 24/7 and risk going into "binge mode" the minute I get my hands on it. When I tell myself it is okay to have that food, I just choose when I want to eat it, it eliminates the “shiny object syndrome.”
I learned to ask myself, "why am I eating this?"
Because I had a long day and I don’t want to think about how stressed I am or about any of my problems.. (emotional eating/numbing out)
Because I haven’t had cookies in so long and I couldn’t stand it for one more minute and I need to eat all of the cookies (restriction… bingeing).
Because I am with friends and we are watching a movie and a bowl of ice cream would enhance this entire situation (pleasure… which is GOOD).
Because a salad would fuel me over pizza for lunch (listening to my body… AWESOME!)
Can you see how all of these answers can give us information about our bodies and food????
I made eating realistic.There is no freaken way I was never going to eat pizza or brownies or ice cream or pasta again. It just simply is not true. If I want a bowl of ice cream at night, I eat the bowl of ice cream. By letting myself know it was okay to have certain foods, I learned how to not binge on them. I was able to buy pints of ice cream and make them LAST A WHOLE WEEK (something that was UNHEARD of during my binge/restrict/dieting days).
I found movement that I LOVEDAs soon as I discovered things like climbing, yoga, mountain biking, skiing, and trail running it made it so much more fun to move my body. I wanted to work out. (this could be dancing, group fitness classes, early morning runs/walks by the lake.. anything). Seriously, finding movement you love is a game changer.
I learned to take days off!!!!!!!!!!Your body NEEDS rest and recovery. If you push yourself past the point of exhaustion just to get that extra workout in, you are doing more harm than good (can lead to injury, sickness, and just plain exhaustion). I take at least one day a week to fully recover.
My workouts and food do not define me.This is huge. By understanding that the quality or quantity of my workouts/food do not define me as a person and do not determine my worth, I am able to more easily move through the days where I may accidentally binge or eat emotionally. This one took some time and is still something I have to actively remind myself/work on.
Through all of these practices, I have been able to maintain my weight for over a year now (sure there may be a 5 pound fluctuation depending on the time of year but that is NORMAL).
Yo-yo dieting can cause more harm than good when it comes to weight loss (cardiovascular damage, altered metabolism, a lower functioning immune system) and I can promise you it does not work.*
Learning how to listen to my body and discover what makes me feel good has been the secret to maintaining and even losing weight this entire time.
Setting all of the diets and workout plans aside, what is it that makes you feel good? What is it that makes you happy? Be mindful about what you put in your body, how you move your body, and how all of that makes you feel. It is a slow process but I can tell you taking a year of my life to get it figured out is soooo much better than 10 years of dieting.
What is your body telling you?? Are you listening??
(PS: These are ALL things I help with in my Move with Radiance program - check it out here. More info coming soon.)
*ACE's Essentials of Exercise Science for Fitness Professionals pg 193