Health and fitness is my main passion. Therefore, I am exposed to all the different diets, workout plans, newest research regarding fitness, weight and body composition.
I also read multiple blogs about different fitness lifestyles. They tend to fall into two camps-the first is those who are chasing after an ideal body image and are not satisfied until they achieve that body. Typically, they are figure/bikini/body building competitors who follow strict diets for 12-16 weeks at a time, achieve an impossible to maintain physique and then find themselves gaining weight and regressing because they’re eating to compensate for the deprivation they felt over the past 4 months. After reading these blogs for awhile now, I’ve really noticed a pattern. Deprivation, feeling crappy, lusting after certain “forbidden” foods followed by bingeing on unhealthy snack foods, gaining weight and then feeling like they have to be even more strict “next time” so this won’t happen again.
The second type are those who look to health and fitness as a whole. They eat healthily and exercise but they don’t deny themselves desserts or snacks and they tend to maintain an healthy body weight and a good level of fitness. Are they ready to be on the cover of Muscle magazine? Nope, but you can look at them and tell that they are committed to fitness and health. They may not be ripped, but they are lean and muscular and still feminine.
For years, my thinking fell along the lines of the first group. I never achieved that “competitor” look but I thought that in order to meet my fitness/composition goals I had to adhere to a strict diet, strict exercise program and no cheating allowed. The stricter I became, the more difficult time I had maintaining. When I would try to lose a few pounds or lean out a bit, I ended up gaining weight. It was always a battle and I never could get where I wanted. The scale and I had a constant love/hate relationship. I weighed myself daily and punished myself mentally if the number wasn’t good and celebrated when it was “good”; though the bad days were far more numerous than the good. A bad “number” could literally ruin a day for me. I’d get discouraged and think, well what’s the point and start eating junk food. Then I’d feel guilty and set up an even stricter plan, which would of course back-fire as I became deprived and finally one day would binge on crap till I felt sick.
To be clear, I was never “over-weight” or “fat” or in anyway needing to lose those pounds for health’s sake. This was vanity weight that I wanted in order to look good in bathing suit or feel better in my clothes.
This obsessive cycle continued for years…till one day last October I had been on yet another self imposed strict routine and I had gained 10 pounds beyond the vanity weight I had been trying to hard to lose….and I just decided, I’m tired of this. I want to live in group 2. Those women seemed happier, healthier and freer. What would life be like if I could unchain myself from my scale and be okay with ordering the french fries or the dressing on top and not on the side? What if I allowed myself to take breaks from working out without feeling guilty or planning to do double workouts next week to make up for it?
I’d like to say that was it and I was immediately healed, my body weight settled into an acceptable range and I never looked back….but that wouldn’t be the truth, nor would it be realistic. I had several set-backs over the past 9 months where I would fall back into the old patterns.
Intuitive eating is how I refer to the way I eat. I eat when I am hungry and I don’t eat when I’m not. I make good healthy choices 80-90% of the time and when I’m craving junk food or dessert I allow myself to have some. After time the feelings of deprivation faded, the need for junk food is much less and my cravings for healthy foods has increased. I’m learning to let go of guilt when I eat something crazy fitness fanatics would label “bad”.
If I eat breakfast at 0700 and feel hungry at 0900, I don’t force myself to starve until 1200 as I would’ve done in the past…I’ll have a snack…then I don’t tend to overeat at my next meal. I no longer avoid social situations in which there will be snacky food; I have a much better self-image; I am a happier person to be around(hubby put that in there!) and my snack binges have decreased to nearly zero. My weight has also finally settled itself at a normal healthy number. I have more energy for my workouts because I’m fueling my body properly.
The human body is an amazing machine. Give it what it truly needs and it will do what it’s supposed to do. I used to believe I needed massive quantities of protein in order to be lean and fit. Now I eat a mostly plant diet with the occasional egg thrown in their. I don’t drink daily protein shakes(and if I do I use soy free vegan protein powder) and yet I am lean and have more definition than I have ever had.
Now I am not saying that this works for everyone. Eating a plant based diet is a very personal choice and I would NEVER force my way of eating on someone. Nor do I think that intuitive eating is necessarily going to work for someone who has a lot of weight to lose. You need to know the right types of foods and portion sizes to eat before embarking on an eating plan like this. Calorie counting/weighing/measuring your food can be extremely helpful in losing weight, but once you achieve your goal weight or close to it, do you really want to be measuring for the rest of your life?
In my dieting high days I would have never believed that trusting my body and giving it what it wanted when it wanted it would allow me to experience such a sense of freedom and keep me at a normal healthy weight. It takes a lot of trust to allow yourself to eat this way…but trust me, eventually you won’t need to eat 5 cookies if you are allowing yourself to eat cookies daily. Often times 1 cookie will be more than sufficient. And sometimes, you may not want a cookie at all.
So now, let me ask you: can you trust yourself?