I’ve been mentally writing this post for awhile now, ready to share some big changes in my life that have occurred recently, yet have been a looong time in the making. You probably read the title of this and thought, “Huh? Isn’t this a healthy recipe blog? Why are you talking about feelings and gaining weight?” The truth is, I want this blog to go in new directions. I want to share delicious recipes, many of which are certainly full of healthy, good-for-you ingredients. Yet I also want to spread a message of eating what your body craves, what you WANT to eat – rather than what you think you SHOULD eat due to diets, calories, or any other reasoning.
I am going to start by saying that I clearly have not always been thinking this way about food. When I started this blog about 3 years ago, I wanted to share my love for nutrition with my newfound passion for making “lightened-up” recipes. At that point in my life, I had lost weight after college by eating “healthier” (but really just low-calorie) and exercising. I had pretty low levels of stress in my life at that time and I threw all my energy into making myself the smallest, skinniest version of myself that I could be.
At the time, this behavior seemed normal to me. I substituted all my favorite foods with the lower-calorie, lower-fat, lower-FLAVOR version. If it wasn’t “light” or “whole grain” or “low-fat” I probably wasn’t eating it. I worked out at least 6 days per week and counted calories using a tracking app. I based all of my self-worth on comments from others about my “dedication,” my thinner body, my ability to say no to dessert. I was going to school to become a dietitian, so I had all of the science and knowledge to “know” how to eat well. To others, it seemed like I was doing everything right.
But this is what my life was really like. I remember eating Oreo Thins one night because I only had about 60 calories left that day and they were less calories than an apple (clearly nutrition was NOT the priority). I once took diet pills, which were banned by the FDA for containing a powerful stimulant, because they reduced my appetite and made me proud of being able to go until 1 pm without feeling hungry (yup, I risked heart problems to lose weight). I said no to gatherings or dinner with friends because I had my own food prepared, which was already calculated into my daily calorie allowance (my social life took a backseat to food and my obsession with controlling it).
Over time, I let up on this rigidity as other stresses entered my life – work became more demanding, I started a rigorous graduate program, I moved into my own apartment. In this new season of my life, the opposite behaviors started happening. I began binge eating at night and when I was alone. After being gone all day at work or school, that became my one time to relax, and I began to equate relaxing with eating. At gatherings with lots of “unhealthy” foods, I would eat as if I had never ate before, stuffing myself until I was wayyy past the point of uncomfortably full. Eating became an emotional thing and not a nourishing thing. I would wake every morning thinking, “Today I’ll be good.” Inevitably, something would be “bad,” and I’d be ending the day with a binge. How could I change this mentality of all or nothing?
Fast-forward to today, where I finally feel like I am comfortable in my own skin and food no longer rules my life, due to either restriction or overeating. I eat what I crave and what my body wants; sometimes this is pizza, sometimes this is a salad, sometimes this is chips and salsa for dinner. If I say no to dessert, it’s because I’m full or don’t want any, not because I “can’t” or “shouldn’t” have it. I go out to eat and enjoy whatever on the menu sounds good to me, without checking the menu ahead of time or looking up calorie counts. This has been a long journey, but one that was SO worth the wait. I want to share a few things that have helped me get to this place, in the hope that it can help someone else out there who can relate to my story.
Hot and Healthy Habits: This group has been LIFE CHANGING for me. I blogged years ago about being part of the Amanda Adams Bikini Body program. Basically, that program had the same transformation I did: “Here is what you should eat and how you should exercise,” “But I still don’t feel happy,” “Wait this is a diet and diets don’t work,” “Let’s change the thinking to be about healthy habits and loving yourself versus control over food.” I went to the retreat in Nashville last month and it was exactly the amazing, mind-blowing experience I hoped it would be. Hearing from speakers who embrace themselves, regardless of size, and preach the anti-diet message was beyond eye-opening. I met friends from all over the country and have new role models to inspire me daily. My favorite quote from the retreat was, “Your weight is the least interesting thing about you.” Can I get an amen?? Click here to learn more and read about next year’s retreat!
Intuitive Eating: This is something I have only started recently but it has seriously changed the way I think about food and the emotions that are often behind eating. Intuitive eating is not just about eating whatever you want, whenever you want. It’s about listening to what your body wants, stopping when you feel full, and really enjoying the eating experience. Basically, going back to the way you ate as a kid, before society and dieting and all that other crap got in the way. I recommend that everyone read the Intuitive Eating book if you’re interested in learning more about it!
Surround Yourself With Positivity: As I have gone through this journey, I had to make sure I surrounded myself with positive influences. That meant purging my social media to unfollow people promoting diets, people posting about “cheat meals,” people praising the “no pain no gain” mentality in regards to workouts, all of that. It also meant distancing myself from unhealthy relationships, removing myself from diet conversations, and moving my body in ways I love (not just because I need to burn calories). One great blogger to follow is Robyn at The Real Life RD…she discusses intuitive eating, what dietitians REALLY eat, why your weight doesn’t matter, and she’s just so down to earth – I love following her stories and her journey. I have also been trying to be an anti-diet gladiator myself by changing conversations to ENCOURAGE people to enjoy food, to love their bodies, and to make their weight the least interesting thing about them. It’s hard, but an important task that I try to work on every chance I get.
So if you’ve read through this, I wish I could give you a hug or a cupcake or whatever for sticking with me as I describe why I want this blog to change. I want to encourage people to eat what they WANT, what tastes GOOD, what the body CRAVES. As a future RD, I am excited to preach the intuitive eating, Health At Every Size way of viewing food. Food should be enjoyed, and I for one can’t wait to keep cooking and sharing with you all. As hard as it is to get out of my comfort zone and post this, it really is important to me that I be honest and open with everyone while hopefully starting some new conversations! So to go back to the title of this post: yes, I have gained weight (although I don’t weigh myself) and I am now the happiest I have been in a LONG time. Cheers to a life free of obsession and full of sequins and sushi 😉