Heather, Thea and I hosted a small group discussion at Fitbloggin’ Denver this year called Eat, Move, Love: Finding Yourself without Losing Your Mind. The session went really well. And although we didn’t necessarily get to discuss all outlined bullet points behind the topic we still had an hour long session filled with great ideas, comments and feedback. I really enjoyed it and you can read a recap of it here.
But because this topic is so meaningful to me I wanted to pull the themes we based it around into a recurring blog post. Today’s theme will be: food- getting educated about food without falling for the hype.
I should start off by saying that although the session was led by myself, Thea and Heather the opinions shared regarding topics I discuss here are my own. Not saying that Thea and Heather disagree, just saying that I am the only one contributing here.
Ahhhh….food. Pretty much my favorite thing. I love eating and I love cooking. I even love growing my own food. Oh and did I mention I love eating.
But do I love food as much now as I did when I weighed nearly 300 pounds? Probably more so and I say that confidently. Why? Because now I understand the value of food. Now I not only eat for enjoyment but I eat for the health factor, too. I get pleasure from the actual eating process AND from how I feel afterwards. That is one thing I did not have back in the day.
You see, in my previous lifestyle I ate a lot and I ate a lot often and I ate a lot often for many reasons. I loved cooking and would prepare decadent and rich foods that I would eat entirely too much of. I would become consumed by the flavors and the tastes and I could not control myself. I ate when I was bored, you know mindless snacking in front of the TV hand-to-mouth on autopilot not even recognizing the volume of food I was ingesting or even if it tasted good. I ate to mask my feelings, so much more the larger I got. I ate my sadness and shame and hurt and anger. And then I ate my happiness, too. Every celebration was cause for dinner out and drinks, of course. I honestly don’t know how I didn’t weigh more than I had.
But here I am over four years later and I guess what? I still love food. That is something that losing 130 pounds didn’t change. But like I noted earlier was that what did change was my perception towards food. Now, I am not here to tell you to be like me and follow a plant-based diet. I am not here to tell you what is ‘good’ and what is ‘bad’. That’s not my place, frankly it isn’t anyone’s place to tell you what you should or should not eat. That is entirely up for you to decide given your access to food, ability to cook vs needing convenient options, and of course the resources you have. Now, I will say that I think it is important to educate yourself about options and alternatives. Make sure you are able to determine some of the better choices available that can meet your dietary needs. Also, become an expert at knowing your body and how it processes the food that you eat. Understand how diet plays a part of your goals and needs and try to make the best choices to support them.
I used to primarily eat for the sensory feelings I had during the process. I was all about how I felt in the moment and what I could eat that would help heighten or dull. I didn’t ever really think about the aftermath and I don’t just mean weight gain. I never saw food as a drug or as a medicine. I never thought about the damage my choices were doing internally and I never really even considered that the foods I was eating were responsible for my moods, my IBS, or my lethargy (to name a few). I was purely an in the moment kind of gal. And it was literally killing me.
But then as I started to work on losing weight and changing my habits I started to become more concerned with nutrition, health, recovery, sleep, mental health, and through food journaling I started to find some foods that were working against me. I chose to adopt a vegan diet for one week- just as a test, a trial run based off a hunch- but something changed for me in that week. Well, a lot of things changed. And after that week I realized I needed to be more focused on food as my medicine, food as a way to heal my ailing body. But I knew I couldn’t stick with it (not just being a vegan but eating healthily with intention) if I didn’t enjoy the foods I was eating or if I felt deprived. I wanted to press forward in this evolution of my eating habits but I knew that I couldn’t stomach gross or bland foods day in and day out and I knew I couldn’t go very long cutting out foods entirely.
So my diet followed that path, and has for the most part, for four years now. I eat with intention. I recognize foods that make me feel crappy and try to avoid them. I think about the lifestyle I want to support and what I need to consume in order to do so. I also have to balance that with being a FT employee, FT student, planning a wedding and now being a Big Sister (you know Big Brothers/Big Sister) and knowing my time is some days limited. I need to rely on convenience foods but when I do I try to make the best choice I possibly can. Trust me, I like to cook and prefer to eat meals at home but I can only do so much. Sometimes (most times) buying soymilk is easier than making it. I just make sure to grab the unsweetened organic. Sometimes (most times) I want to have a sweet treat at night so I opt to keep dark chocolate on hand and pair it with some herbal tea for a decadent treat.
You see, I still eat/drink processed foods. I am not yet at the level of full pioneer hippie woman growing, harvesting and making everything I eat. I doubt I ever will be. I do the best I can with what I have. I have limited time and limited funds-I think most people can relate to that. So I say this to anyone looking to change, tweak, and overhaul their diet or to anyone feeling shitty because they can’t do ‘enough’ or they eat too much ‘crap’. Find what works for you, at a holistic level. Try to make choices that you both enjoy and still help support a healthy lifestyle. But don’t feel guilty for buying store-bought foods or relying on convenience foods when you need to. Just understand the difference between needing to or wanting to. And also know that there are tons of resources out there that will help you eat less processed, more whole foods on the cheap. There are even resources that will tell you which are the healthier options at fast food and sit down restaurants. Educate yourself. But also, make sure you are making food choices for the right reasons. Think about more than the now. Choose with intention. Let food by thy medicine.
So my advice to you is this...
Try not to get caught up in the hype of new fad diets or food trends. Find foods you enjoy and are good for you and make them the staples of your diet. Try to eat whole foods when you can but if you have to opt for convenience make the best choice out of what's available. And know that every step you make with intention is a step in the right direction.
Love and hugs,