As I stumble through my life, learning a new lesson every day, I realize that one of my mission’s seems to be learning how to find balance. I’ve written about this subject before and feel I could probably touch on it once a week. As I watch the news, I’ve come to learn that all is not as it seems. I read articles and status updates on facebook and realize, we are a world of extremes and the sensationalism created by click seeking media outlets are making us all crazy. This is not going to be a series on the perils of social media and news sources, I just wanted to point out that we all seemed to be a part of this sensory overload and the ability to find a middle ground just doesn’t seem to exist. I’ve eaten crow enough times to know that there is always another side to a story, and the truth is somewhere in the middle. So my goal in life is to fall somewhere in the middle.
This blog post is one of a series of examples in my life where I’ve had to consider all sides and find myself somewhere between the crazy left and crazy right. I have a tendency to take anything WAY too far, just ask my husband. But hey, how can I really figure out where the middles lies if I don’t test the limits, right? I don’t have a plan for how many posts will be in this series, so I guess we’ll just have to see. This post is going to specifically focus on nutrition and my food journey. I’ve had a lot of questions about my diet recently, simply because I’ve lost so much weight. I was 165 lbs before I got pregnant, 215 lbs at the height of my pregnancy and currently weigh somewhere around 125 lbs. I don’t make it a habit of weighing myself because that is counter productive to me, but I wanted to see how much Ellie weighed one day and that’s where I came up with the 125. That was several months ago.
My weight loss journey is really no different than the ones you read in magazines or in an advertisement for (insert trendy diet here). I grew up a fairly normal weight, probably even a little skinny, although I always thought I was fat. I look back on pictures of my growing up and I was never fat, so where that thought came from, I have no idea. I had a warped perception about a lot of things, so why not add body image to the list. I didn’t actually start to struggle with weight though, until I got sober in 2000. I did what a lot of women do when they get sober; I replaced drugs and alcohol with food. I don’t even really mean that I ate food like I drank, I mean I replaced the obsession of alcoholism with the obsession of eating poorly, dieting, exercising and all that came with that. My weight didn’t become a problem until 2005, when I graduated from college. I had 5 years of sobriety, moved into an apartment on my own, and had a brand new job. I think at the height of my weight, I was around 170 lbs. I’ve always “weighed” more because I am a muscular person by nature, but this was an unhealthy 170. At that point, I started what I will call the “participate in the diet industry” phase of my life. I dabbled in different diets such as Weight Watchers, the Zone, semi- Paleo (although it wasn’t as popular as it is now), low fat, etc etc. I tried different exercise regimens including Tae Bo, the Firm, Crossfit, Running, and finally yoga. But none of it worked… why, because it wasn’t about the food. Here’s what I wish I could tell everyone in America, IT’S NOT ABOUT THE FOOD. If it were, we would stop eating poorly and start being healthy. It’s really simple if you think about it that way. Just like alcohol was for me, food is but a symptom and the drama of setting myself up to fail so that I had one more thing to beat myself up about was a perfect distraction from having to look at myself. I had a therapist ask me once, “what would it feel like if you didn’t worry about being fat? If you didn’t worry about losing weight or obsessing about exercise?” My answer was, “I don’t know and that is a scary thought”. I couldn’t even imagine it.
I can talk about that period of my life forever and ever, so if you have questions about it, let me know and we can discuss. For the purpose of making this post bearable for people to read, I will fast forward to the solution. Being in a 12 step program and that working so well for the alcohol/drugs, I decided I would try that for the food too. It didn’t really work, although I definitely think the healing from the past and digging into myself the way the steps require was a piece of the puzzle that was very important in my recovery of all things. I sought “outside help”, meaning I went to a therapist. She was amazing and helped me realize that I was using food as a distraction from dealing with myself. Once we realized that, we began to do exercises to help me learn how to be kind to myself. One exercise that I think of often went like this:
*I sit in a chair and have an empty chair in front of me. She says that one chair is for my “body”, while the other chair is me, my mind. I had to apologize to my body (my mind part of myself) for treating it so poorly over the years (yo yo dieting, compulsive overeating, negative self talk, over stressing it, disconnecting from it, ignoring pain, etc). I had to promise that I would listen to my body and that I would never treat it poorly again. I think of that conversation often and in times where I would begin the “I’m fat” negative self talk, I would say to my body, “I’m sorry for saying that and I will not speak to you like that again”. It sounds corny, but really, it has helped because I would never say anything like that about myself now.
I’m not going to say that I instantly had a health relationship with food and that all of the sudden, I was at a healthy weight and never ate poorly again, in fact, I did the opposite. I told myself I would never “restrict” myself again. I would eat what I wanted and learn to eat mindfully. I would exercise if I felt like it, but if I didn’t, I wouldn’t. The point wasn’t that I would get fat and lazy, the point was that instead of listening to what others told me I “should” be doing, I was to listen to what my body wanted me to do. There were some bumps along the way and then I got pregnant. Before I move on to the whole point of the post, the finding balance piece, I want to say that the best book I’ve ever read pertaining to this subject is called “Women, Food and God” by Geneen Roth. She is an amazing author and she basically says that when we eat poorly to the point of being unhealthy, it’s because we have a God sized hole that needs to be filled. She says that our relationship with food is a reflection of our relationship with God because we’re letting the fear take over when we overeat, or undereat, or throw up or whatever your disorder may be. So for me, turning over my will to God and asking for His guidance was crucial.
During my pregnancy, I ate a lot and gained 45 lbs, BUT, I learned how to be gentle with myself. I learned how to slow down and to be present. My eating was a lot about escape and not connecting with my physical presence. Regretting the past or living in fear of the future were always on my mind. I didn’t taste the food, I tasted the thrill of rebellion as I ate “naughty” foods. Being pregnant was the most connected physically that I’ve ever been. It gave me permission to treat myself well because I had to take care of my baby. I learned how to slow down. I got to see what it feels like to be present in my skin. Then Ellie was born and she had these food allergies. I had to do what I never wanted to or was able to do and that was go on a crazy strict diet. I lost all of my baby weight plus 40 lbs. I’m the thinnest I’ve been, really since high school but that wasn’t my goal. I honestly did not care about losing the baby weight once Ellie was born because my main goal was to be a present, happy mom to her. My goal was to breastfeed her and make sure I was healthy enough to do that. The gift that has come from the diet is not the fact that I’ve lost weight because who knows what will happen once I’m no longer breastfeeding, but it’s that I’ve learned how to think of food as fuel for my body instead of an outlet for not being happy. I don’t think about what I need to cut out of my diet, but what I need to make sure I get in and once I do that, I typically don’t have room for the other stuff. I can see how much better I feel when I eat the right balance of food in a day. 6-8 veggies is a lot of food! And I’ve found lots and lots of foods that I really love simply because I had to think outside of the box.
I follow a lot of paleo blogs because their recipes tend to leave out the 3 things I can’t eat, dairy, soy and gluten. The issue i have is that paleo people can get CRA-ZY with their paleo dogma. I see articles of how gluten is the devil and grains are killing us and I see where we’re taking it too far. I’m not going to die if I eat wheat. My stomach will get bloated and my face will break out so do I want to eat it every day, no. Can I have a sandwich every once in a while, yes. Does every single piece of meat I buy need to be grass fed, organic blah blah, no. I don’t have to be all or nothing, I can live somewhere in the middle. i cook most of my meals at home, and try to make them as healthy as possible. Sometimes, I eat a Krispy Kreme donut, you know what I’m saying? Food isn’t the devil. It’s what we do with it that is.