After I got back from my trip to Vegas last week, I realized not once did I overthink food on my trip… and that was an extremely exciting realization.
Let me explain.
During my years of disordered eating and exercise addiction about 90% of my day was focused around food and exercise.. If I wasn’t exercising I was thinking about exercising, making sure I had enough hours to exercise, obsessing over what I should work out that day, calculating how many calories I would burn/need to burn during my sessions.
With food I was either thinking about my next meal, counting calories, measuring my food, feeling guilty about food, feeling hungry, making 100% sure I had my guilt free food available, or thinking about the food I wanted but wouldn't let myself have.
Needless to say, it was exhausting.
These thoughts were always heightened during or before leaving my house for an extended period of time. Where I knew I was going to have to eat at restaurants, that I was going to be constantly tempted by food, and where the opportunity to binge alone in my hotel room was definitely an option. Where exercising would become limited due to the unfamiliarity of the hotel gym and unfamiliarity of the area itself. I would completely stress myself out.
If I “fell off the wagon” I would let myself go the entire trip.. Saying “oh well I already messed up, I might as well eat all of the things and forego the gym.”
While I haven’t had those kinds of thoughts in a few years, for some reason it really hit me after coming home from Vegas, that I managed to not only avoid those thoughts but still eat “normally.” I also managed to workout BECAUSE I WANTED TO not because I felt like I had to. Through the whole trip I just used my everyday philosophy around living life in general.. By using the question “what would fuel me right now?”
I have not gone on a diet in 2 years. That means no food group elimination to lose weight, no counting calories, and I still eat all of the foods I love. These two pictures are the result: one being from early 2016 and the other being about a week ago (even after the holidays). Specific muscle groups will change based on the season and the type of activity I am participating in but overall I may have differed in 5 lbs over the course of 2 years.
The photos below show changes from 2013-2015. It is virtually the same time period (2ish years) and I fluctuated about 15 lbs. During this time period I was dieting (did vegan, vegetarian, no carbs, counted calories, eliminated sugar, did juice cleanses, struggled with workout moderation). The result lead to rapid weight loss followed by rapid weight gain when I “fell off the wagon.”
What changed from then to now?
It sounds way too simple but really it was the question “what will fuel me right now.” Yes, it was hard at first and there may be a little bit of weight gain in the beginning while figuring it all out but once I started learning how to listen to what my body was really asking for, I just started naturally being able to make decisions that are fueling and healthy at the same time.
This question allowed me to stop obsessing and just live and discover what works well for my body (rather than trying to follow all of these food/exercise plans that may work really well for someone else's body and not my own).
What has been the result?
I have stopped labeling food as good vs bad. I have stopped fearing certain foods, I feel less hungry, I also feel satisfied. But the craziest? I now crave the good, whole foods I was forcing myself to eat during my disordered eating times about 80% of my week. And the other 20% of the time I eat things like a cheeseburger and fries, or mac and cheese.
But the biggest difference?
I eat when I am hungry and stop when I am full. Those fear foods that I wouldn't let myself have because I was afraid of eating the entire thing in one sitting, I can now have a normal portion of. I don’t feel the need to scarf down 10 lbs of fries and squeeze in a milkshake and stuff myself full. Having the mentality that these foods are not off limit eliminates the need for me to want to binge on them, because I know I could have a cheeseburger next weekend if I want.
I have also learned that an hour of exercise a day is PLENTY... heck even 30 minutes is awesome. And I work out in the way that feels fun and/or resonant to me.
In Vegas, I ordered food based on what would fuel me in that moment, and for dinner one night fried truffle and prosciutto mac and cheese sounded amazing.. as did a side of asparagus along with it. That same night the table ordered 3 desserts to share. I had a few bites and STOPPED WHEN I WAS FULL, while in the past I would have finished off those desserts no problem knowing that “I was completely off the wagon so fuck it.”
I also did a 40 minute run one day, a quick 20 minute circuit another, and took a rest day. When I came back, sure I was excited to cook my own meals again but I didn't feel the need to punish myself or go on a diet in order to make up for the things I ate.
That question has taught me what foods feel really fueling to eat (I LOVE broccoli and whole wheat pasta with some parmesan.. Or egg casserole with a bunch of veggies) and has helped me find foods that don't agree with me so much.. Like beans, or squash (makes me super bloated and I don’t like that feeling). It helps me choose a salad over a burrito some days because I know a burrito will make me tired in the afternoon and a big fresh salad or a big bowl of veggie soup with a piece of whole grain bread will give me focus and energy.
If you can start making decisions based on how that particular food or movement will make you FEEL then decisions start getting easier and you naturally make decisions that will be healthier and feel good to your body.
Changing the relationship I have with food and exercise has allowed me to move forward, to stop obsessing. I learned to trust myself with those things - that my body can tell me what it wants rather than my controlling brain trying to tell it what is best.
So, today I challenge you to try the simple question “what will fuel me right now.” See what it feels like to make decisions solely based on that question. See what your body would naturally choose rather than letting your head make all of the decisions. Just tune in.