After reading Nicole’s post about imperfections the other day, I started to think about the things that I do to myself that undermine my goals. I love goals and plans. I have a lot of them. But I also have a lot of things that I do on a daily basis that get in the way and drag me back down. I’m sure everybody does this in one way or another, but that doesn’t make it any less frustrating or difficult.
It seems like often in the food and fitness blog world, there are people who are too perfect. Everything they eat is healthy, organic, clean, and wonderful. They love working out every day and never have a bad run, or a bad patch of workouts. I never like reading those blogs because it makes me feel like I am some kind of health and fitness failure. I know I’m not a failure at this. I’m normal, just like everybody else. We all struggle with things. Some days are good, others are not so good.
I’ve been fortunate to never have an actual weight problem. I say “actual” because I have been a healthy weight all my life, but I still deal with some major body issues to this day. Although I am only 5 feet tall, I’ve always been in a reasonably healthy weight range. At my absolute highest, I weighed 132 lbs – although nobody would have ever guessed it, because I’m fairly muscular (thanks sports!). I usually float anywhere between 120 and 128 lbs. Now, even though I know all of this, I still look at myself in the mirror, or feel that little roll around my middle when I sit down, and hate myself for it.
I didn’t always have this problem. And I still know the exact moment it began, where I was standing, what I was wearing, and what happened that made my brain start thinking this way. On one of my visits home during my second year of college, someone I am extremely close to and completely respect and love said something along the lines of “put on a little weight, huh?” I need to point out that at this point I was still in the perfectly healthy range, but yes, I had gone to college and gained about 5 pounds.
Before that moment, I never once thought badly about my body. Ever since that moment, I have not had a single day of my life where I have not thought about my weight, my body, and every morsel of food I am eating and want to eat. That was seven years ago.
As hard as it is to admit, I struggle with disordered eating on a daily basis. No, I am not anorexic (I love food too much to not eat!), or bulimic (um, yuck?). I struggle in a different way.
I love food, but any time I eat something that isn’t 100% healthy, I feel extremely guilty about it. I obsessively count calories and restrict my caloric intake to just within a “healthy” range – your body needs a minimum of 1200 calories per day just to support basic life functions. On days when I am “good,” I’ll eat around 1200-1400 calories. However, this catches up with me and whether it’s a couple days or a couple weeks later, I end up stuffing myself silly because I haven’t been eating enough. When this happens, I feel extremely guilty, or I try to eat without other people noticing (like before my husband gets home). Then I’ll go back to being “good” to make up for my “bad” behavior. (here’s a useful information sheet from the NEDA).
Now see, even though I know this is not a healthy mental state, I’ve been in it for seven years. Fortunately, over the last year, I have become extremely interested in fitness (even more than I was before) and nutrition – go figure. Now that I am educating myself on these topics, I am gaining the tools I need to readjust my mindset.
A couple things I’ve done…
I started by getting a copy of “Intuitive Eating” (by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch). I’m not usually one for “diet” books, but that’s the thing with this book – it’s NOT a diet. It’s actually very anti-diet. Eating intuitively is about thinking about your food, your hunger cues, and paying attention to how you are feeling before, during, and after eating. Since reading this book and paying more attention to how certain foods make me feel, I learned how physically awful I would feel after I would eat junk.
Since becoming a vegetarian, I’ve really started to love cooking and trying new foods. I’ve found a lot of healthier alternatives to things that I used to gorge myself on, and because of intuitive eating, my tastes have also changed.
I read a lot of great food and fitness blogs, and Katie had a great idea a while back. Whenever I think I want to eat something, I ask myself “am I hungry enough to eat an apple?” Unfortunately, I now love apples (thank you, vegetarianism), so this isn’t always the best question, but you get the point!
Now, I know this one seems to go against trying not to obsess about my food, but I promise there’s a point…
I also started using my Bodybugg again. Since I am training for a marathon and running 20-40 miles a week, my daily calorie burn has significantly increased. However, with my food obsession, I was still trying to restrict my food to 1200-1400 calories per day. This was resulting in me feeling fatigued, weak, grumpy, nauseous, you name it. Since I wasn’t sure how many calories I was actually burning with all that running, I pulled the Bodybugg back out from the closet and started tracking that again so I can get my food intake to match my activity level. So even though, yes, I am still counting the calories, it’s so I can make sure I eat enough to fuel my runs. I hope that makes sense… Once I get myself to where I have a good feel for how much I should be eating, I’ll stop the counting and go back to eating intuitively.
I’ve also started talking about my internal struggle – with my best friend (who has also had quite a journey), and now here. Sometimes just verbalizing these things makes them more real, and seem more manageable. When it’s all in your head things can get blown out of proportion. I know that I can get myself through this. I’ve already made great strides forward just in the past year. I’ve never gotten to the point that my physical health was in jeopardy – it’s just been my mental well-being that has been beaten up over the years. But sometimes that can seem just as daunting.
Anyway, I know this was kind of rambling. Thanks for sticking with me. I’ve been sitting here tonight feeling like I wanted to write something, but I didn’t know what. And then I realized it was this. So I rambled a bit.