Let's Talk About Food.
How do I say this in the most flowery language possible in order to completely remove myself from the story? How do I convey the message without writing about my experience? I can't. So here it is. In its most base form. No surprises. No twists. No miraculous life journey or Kilimanjaro sized obstacle here. Just a story about me and where I've been and where I am and where I hope to go. It's all been said before. But maybe you'll get something out of my experience.
I've been avoiding writing this post for months now. I've been waiting for the perfect moment where I could confidently say, "I am cured of my issues with weight, and let me tell you how I did it!" But in the effort to maintain the perfect weight, nutrition, and athletic body, the further I have drifted away from the stability of it all.
Two years ago, I woke up to the realization that I completely lost control of my relationship with food. I ate to be happy, to reward, to punish, to feel, to stop from feeling. I used food as a coping mechanism to alleviate every day pressures. I'm not alone in this; it's an all too common experience. But this habit took a toll on my health, and I knew I needed to fix the problem.
In an effort to change my perception of and bond with food, I educated myself about nutrition. I learned about the balance of macronutrients, the importance of eating protein with every meal, the beauty of eating clean, nutrient dense foods. My eyes finally opened to the potential of using food as fuel and a way to maintain balance. Once I started eating clean, my whole life became more bright. I became more athletic. I wore clothes I wanted to wear. I felt alive. And for the first time in my life, I had a societally acceptable body. I had a functional and strong body, full of potential.
This lifestyle change carried me pretty far for a long time. But, as is true with everything in life, obstacles get in the way, balances shift, and the old, destructive habits begin to surface once again. I masked the problem of using food as a coping tool, and I never gave myself a chance to really fix it. I recently experienced such a life shift, albeit a good one, but nonetheless a change. And this change sent me in a sort of tailspin through experiences I thought I left so far behind. I began to eat to cope, eat to feel, eat to forget, eat to remember. I used food for fuel AND for comfort. Though my choices in food significantly improved, the use of food remained the same. It was a coping tool. And to be completely transparent, it still continues to be a coping tool as I'm writing this. I did it this morning. I did it 5 minutes ago. I am still struggling with it.
SO, now that I got that business out of the way, let's talk about what I'm going to do about it. Because proactivity is more exciting and fun to think about than worrying about the problem, right? Here are a few things that I've focused on to help me through the habit relapse:
Focus on what lights me (you) up
Since my big life shift mentioned above (spoiler: I moved to a new city!), I have been so extremely focused on discovering and holding on to all of the things that light me up. For anyone who knows me, CrossFit is an activity in my life that gives me so much joy. It's so empowering to be able to lift heavy shit, run around, and perform gymnastics like an eight year old and do it with such unbridled enthusiasm. CrossFit gives me that outlet to be myself, try out new skills, and be so fully immersed in an activity that I can't even focus on weight or food or body image. (Though, if unchecked, it is possible to develop a negative body image due to the ridiculously high expectations the fitness industry places on how the "perfect athlete" should look; check out this body positive message from one of my favorite CrossFit Games athletes, Jamie Hagiya.)
Aside from CrossFit, discovering new coffee shops really gets me going. I love taking mini-road trips to great spots where I can sit and write and sip. (Follow Cat and Cloud and Verve on Instagram to pick up some caffeinated inspiration!) I find it so comforting to be able to spend a morning all to myself, hunkered down, hammering away at a laptop or immersed in a good book, hot drip in hand.
Another thing that lights me up? This blog! I love sharing recipes of deliciously good and nutritious foods. Just because I use food as crutch at times doesn't mean I should avoid appreciating it all together. In fact, being inspired by good food can help me view it in a better light, and it is less likely to be abused. I also love writing, so this space on the internet allows my creativity to flow.
What else? Farmers markets. Discovering new music. Quiet hikes. Teaching someone something new. Okay this is starting to sound like an online dating profile. Moving on...
A big fear I had with nutrition and weight loss when I first started this journey was that I would be deprived. I thought I would need to starve myself in order to get the desired results I wanted. I equated deprivation with pain and pain with no sustainability and, ultimately, failure. But now, looking back, the boundaries I set for myself in the form of portion control and food choices actually made me feel more secure.
Remember in elementary school, when we all at one point or another got the assignment that basically prompted us to, "write about anything"? Yikes. That was nearly impossible. Without any boundaries, and with limitless options, we can sometimes be paralyzed with our own indecision. I've found that's the case with eating. Given enough leeway, we can be surrounded by so many choices and opportunities to eat whatever, do whatever, think whatever. And this freedom can ultimately lead to a total free fall, which opens the door to let those bad habits come out again.
Boundaries give us a road map that can guide us to accomplish our goals. At the very least, it gives us a way to compare SOME direction to NO direction. Boundaries also allow us to be present in our decisions and help us avoid living by default.
Meditate, stretch, drink water, and sleep
This one is a tough rule to keep because these activities are often associated with helping you go from feeling worse to better. But when you're feeling on top of your game, these little daily habits seem inconsequential. Why drink water when you don't feel thirsty? Why stretch when your body feels good? Because when you don't, oh boy, your body will retaliate. And it's a lot harder to get back on track once one of these habits is out of alignment. You know how it feels to have one bad night of sleep which results in a week's worth of exhaustion as your body tries to catch up? Believe me, keeping these in check will make the whole body/mind unit run like clockwork, and this will leave less room to have those negative feelings that require soothing.
I'm not even close to being perfect with anything listed above. I'm still working on all of it. But just being aware is a start, really. I'm curious to see if you have any other ways you deal with your struggles with food, emotions, stress, productivity. And I want to see if you're able to implement any of these little habits. Life, man. It can get messy. But at least we're all in this together. I'll keep you posted on my journey. Keep me posted on yours.