"80% Diet, 20% Gym? Ok I guess that's how it works! But mannn.... I just ate 10 oreos.. so my diet portion is messed up. Well I guess I messed up my day anyways, a workout isn't going to help anything, so I'm not gonna work out today."
How many times have you ever had these thoughts, or similar runs, running through your head?
Don't you wish you could just Eat when you're hungry and just STOP when you're full or satisfied? Why do we feel the need to just STUFF STUFF STUFF when we're not even hungry?
Here's a timeline of my Strict Eat Clean/Restriction to Binging to Restricting again to Binging to IIFYM to Binging to Intuitive Eating + No More Binging:
- Summer 2012: Strict Clean Eater, Low Carb, 700 calories a day, 2 hour workouts a day. Killing myself, not just physically but mentally as well. Couldn't do any activity without feeling weak, tired, lethargic. I couldn't see that I was slowly withering away, making myself weaker and weaker. My family talked with me about what was happening, and so By the end of the Summer, I started to increase my food and try to get to a higher weight.
- Fall 2012: Hired a personal trainer who put me on a restricted meal plan, same foods every day, 1000 calories with intense weight training sessions that burned 600+ calories every day. With the restriction of the summer and the restriction of the workout plan, my mind couldn't take it anymore. "Why are you taking everything away from this body? Why are you putting me through so much stress?!" And that's when I just let go. Started having treats here and there, the temptations of being a sophomore in college didn't help, with all my friends eating their delicious "naughty" foods and not caring at all about the calories, macros, how "fattening" it all was, because at that time, I thought any "bad" food would immediately cause me to blow up. Which I now know is not the case, but I will talk more about that later. I started with eating some cookies, to eating the whole box. From eating a peanut butter sandwich, to eating the whole loaf and a jar. From eating a slice of Pumpkin Pie to eating 3/4 of it on Thanksgiving. It was a terrible time. If anyone's experienced binging, you know it's a dark place. You have no control, you just want to eat. I think my body was just fed up with being deprived for so long, that it got a taste of the good stuff and said:
I swear.... my mind actually thought that, and of course whatever the mind believes, the body falls in line.
- Fall 2012 - January 2013: Binging continued. Kept saying I'd start over, start clean, but then would fall right back into place. Over break, I would eat til I was stuffed all the time. Came back to school feeling like a bloated whale and I couldn't stand it. Again I said, "this time is different. I'm going to stick to a plan, get fit, get healthy, get to my goals". Maybe I'd last a few days of "being clean", but then fall right back into the vicious cycle of binging again.
- February 2013: Decided to buckle down and prep for my first Bikini Competition. I thought, "HEY, if I can force myself through this discipline, I can conquer my eating and can do ANYTHING!" Probably the worst possible decision I could make at that time.... still mentally weak, still vulnerable, thinking that restricting FURTHER would help me gain control in the long run? PSHHH. That obviously didn't work. I did have a FANTASTIC coach though, I just wish I had been stronger for him mentally to see it through. He first introduced me to macros, getting a set number of protein, carbs, fat, and fitting my food intake for the day to fit those numbers. Check out my past posts on IIFYM to read more about that. He never had me on too low cals or deprived carb macros. But simply the IDEA of being restricted got to me, and of course, I backed out of the competition because I couldn't stick to the eating portion of the plan. I felt defeated, weak, like a quitter.
- March 2013 - May 2013: Finished out my Sophomore year miserable. Continued down the spiraling path and cycle of clean vs binge. I couldn't control myself and I hated it. I knew I needed to make a change, but of course I kept looking for the quick easy ways. Tried to do low carb, tried to do Keto (high fat and protein, low carb), tried to do clean, of course all ending back to square 1. I thought I'd never get out of it.
- May - July 2013: I lived back with my family for the summer, ate their delicious food, didn't workout as much. Was just fed up with the lifestyle of trying so hard and just failing. I wanted to quit honestly. During this time I just ate on their schedule, started to not binge as much, I think my body was like "Ok, we got all the good stuff. It's not as exciting anymore, so we can chill." I realized the less I cared about "dieting", the less my body cared about binging. I didn't have a thought anymore about restricting, and I let myself eat freely. I began to eat like a "normal" person again. Sure, maybe some of my portions were too big or I snacked a little more, but I definitely didn't binge as much. I started listening to my body, feeling its cues of hunger. I wasn't perfect, but I wasn't stuffing cookies down my throat in the wee hours of the night to satisfy my crazy cravings.
- July - August 2013: I realized I still had goals to reach. I was at a good place... hadn't binged for a few months, but still wasn't happy with where I was at. I looked up IIFYM, hired a trainer who gave me macros to follow, and I started doing that. I have to tell you, IIFYM did save me. I felt free to eat what I wanted, while still getting to my goals. Read all about THAT HERE. But of course... nothing lasts.
- Fall 2013: When I went back to school for Junior Year, of course all the temptation of friends, partying, socializing, FOOD, treats, got to me. IIFYM was difficult in the college environment. I was tired of having people wait on me to eat because I had to weigh my food. I was tired of having to sneak my phone at dinner to check My Fitness Pal to see how the macros were on the restaurant's dishes. I was tired of being stuck and controlled by numbers. So guess what? BAM you guessed it... THAT kind of mental restriction caused me to bounce back AGAIN. I ate, and thankfully it wasn't as bad compared to my past binging episodes, but I did start to overeat again. Not to mention I started seeing this guy, my current boyfriend, and with that comes dates, and food, and movie nights with popcorn, etc. I thought to myself,
- I seriously thought that IIFYM would've fixed all my issues... but it didn't. The thought of being restricted... even though IIFYM is awesome in the way that you can fit WHAT YOU WANT as long as it fits your macro numbers.... I still felt restricted due to an app on my phone, a food scale in my kitchen, and macro numbers dictating what I could eat. But following these numbers caused me to sometimes eat when I wasn't hungry in order to fit the numbers, or eat too little when I was super hungry that day because once you hit those numbers, you were done for the day. Again, came the thoughts of "Oh I already messed up my macros, so who cares, go crazy" or "Man, I went over on ___ macros, so I'm just going to quit for the day". It was that black and white mentality.
- Winter 2013: For winter vacation my family and I went on a cruise, and of course with that came the delicious nom-tastic foods. While I was on the cruise, I read the book: Intuitive Eating and it was a life changer. What is Intuitive Eating?
The things I read in that book seriously opened my eyes to WHY I've had a horrible mind-body-food connection, why I was in the cycle of diet/binging, and HOW I needed to stop. I seriously do recommend anyone with any sort of dieting problems or eating disorders to read this book. There are so many good tips and material that I couldn't even sum it all up if I tried. The basics of it: STOP DIETING. STOP RESTRICTING. STOP SAYING NO TO YOUR BODY'S INTUITIVE CUES. The more we deprive our bodies of what it wants, the more it'll lash out against us. The more we believe food is black and white, clean vs dirty, the more our body is going to be confused. Let me just say this right here right now:
NO FOOD IS A FATTENING FOOD. ONE FOOD WILL NOT INSTANTLY MAKE YOU FAT. IT'S HOW MUCH YOU EAT THAT ADDS TO FAT OR LOSES FAT.
Being in a surplus of calories will add fat, being in a deficit will lose fat. Eating one candy bar will not cause you to gain 4 pounds of fat. Maybe eating 40 candy bars will. It's not about the food, it's about the QUANTITY. With that said, of course we want to fill our body with NUTRIENT DENSE AND ESSENTIAL NUTRIENT DENSE FOODS, but just saying, eating a candy bar won't kill you. I made myself believe that a cookie was the worst food in the world, and because I consumed one, then hey why not, might as well just eat them all because they're all the same "horrible fattening foods" as that one cookie I ate. Now that I'm focusing more on the AMOUNT, eating 1 candy bar isn't going to kill me. I simply move on after I've had my treat!
- Spring - May 2014: I worked on my mind-body-food connection. I said no to macros, to counting calories, to counting anything and restricting anything. I worked on being social with friends, doing well in school, being with my boyfriend, and didn't focus too much on being strict with my foods. I relaxed, I lived, I took a breath and looked at life and saw that it's not about being OBSESSED with foods or OBSESSED with fitness. It's about balance. Balancing the lifestyle you've chosen. Working out when you can, because you want to, not because you're forced to. Eating what you want when you're hungry, and stopping when satisfied. Eating a salad when you WANT to, not because you HAVE to or are FORCED to. Eating some candy when you're craving, because if you don't then you KNOW you'll end up going back later and eating the whole box. I realized after a few months of eating this way and living this way, my body wasn't craving Binges anymore. There was simply no more NEED to. I wasn't restricting, I wasn't telling myself I had to not eat this and had to only eat this. The foods I loved weren't a "new and exciting food that I had to scarf down" anymore. My body got used to eating the foods I loved everyday, so it was like,
- Summer 2014 (Current): I've been living at home with the family, eating intuitively still. NOT restricting, not "dieting", working out most mornings, and if I miss one, it's not the end of the world. Of course I do have urges to go back to counting and back to IIFYM because I reached my ideal body type when I was on it, but then I think about all the pain and hurt that came after it and after restricting, and I said, no, it's really NOT worth it. So I continue every day to be an intuitive eater, listen to my body, and still work hard to achieve my goals. Yes, some days I still overeat, some days I'm not my best, but I can honestly say I can't remember the last time I've had a huge binging episode. And I'm SO SO SO happpy that I can say that. It's a terrible thing, a terrible feeling, the scary black hole that it puts you in, but to come out and leave it behind you, it's amazing. And if any of you are struggling with this same thing, DON'T WORRY. YOU WILL GET THROUGH. I used to think I'd NEVER be able to stop. That I was stuck with it. With all the yo-yoing and back and forth, that I'd grow up, grow old, and pass on with this problem. But No, it stops. It ends. You just have to make the effort to fix your mind-body-food relationship. And you CAN.
Tips I've Learned:
- Give into your craving: if you're feeling like a bag of chips or some cookies, EAT IT. Don't try to eat other things in its place to fill the hunger/craving. If you want a cookie, EAT it! Don't eat celery instead. Because you know what will happen? YOU'RE STILL GOING TO CRAVE IT AFTER YOU STUFF YOUR BODY WITH "FILLER FOODS" IN ORDER TO AVOID THAT CRAVING! And then you're going to go back anyway and eat more cookies than you would have eaten if you had just listened to your body in the first place and intuitively eaten that one cookie.
- Get rid of black and white:
I know I was stuck in this style of thinking too. Too many diets messed up with my head, giving me rules to follow and guideline to live by. With one misstep in the wrong "diet" direction, I was saying those exact words at the beginning of this blog post.
Well, I've snapped out of it. Trust me, it wasn't over night. It took me a long time to battle the "Clean vs Dirty" and "On Point Diet vs Binging". Every time I messed up, you'd find me in the kitchen scarfing down whatever forbidden foods I had hidden away. If I missed a workout for the day, I'd continue to be lazy and gluttonous because I had already messed up, so what's the point right? WRONG. EVERY LITTLE THING you do matters. I don't care if you had a hotdog or an oreo or a cookie. YOU KEEP MOVING ON. Don't let slip up dictate the rest of your day. You have the power to change your route, to move in the direction you need to go in. To simply say, "Ok. So I had ___, but now I'm still going to treat this day as if it were every other day and kick butt in the gym and in the kitchen".
- Balance your foods: So I know I said I don't restrict, and I DON'T, but I'm still aware of what I'm eating. If I've eating not so nutrient dense foods (sweets, goodies of that sort), I still make sure I get all my greens and nutrient rich foods in as well. I have my power smoothie in the beginning of the day, and fill my foods with lots of greens and healthy fats and complex carbs, and then I also get to have my fun simple carbs like candy too. I never let 1 day go FULLY "naughty" foods, and every day I do let myself indulge in some kind of treats. Also, if my day has been Carb Heavy (like lots of rice or pastas or breads), I'll try to balance it out by not eating too many carbs at night. Same goes for fats as well. Protein, I always keep that high! Want to keep all the lean muscle I can. Again, this isn't necessarily RESTRICTING by balancing out my carbs and fats and "naughty vs nice" foods, it's just being aware of what I've eaten that day and finding ways to balance it out.
- Eat Slowly: you'll be surprised that if you eat slowly, you can actually be more in tune with intuitive eating. It takes time for your stomach to feel full or satisfied, so give it time before scarfing down too much food too fast!
- Get Rid of Triggers: if you KNOW that a certain food will trigger binges for you, then get rid of it! Or if you know that having a full plate stacked high will trigger you because you're used to finishing a whole plate at meals, then make your portion smaller. Don't tempt yourself if you know it'll end badly.
- Read and Research: I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be where I am now if I didn't read Intuitive Eating. Get to researching, expand your knowledge on how to fix your problems. There are lots of help books out there about food-body relationships! Another good book I've heard about but haven't gotten to finish is Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat
- Let People Know: It's difficult going through this on your own. I spent my whole sophomore year with this, alone, struggling to find support, and it was miserable. This year, I've let my family know, I let my boyfriend and roommates know, and they've been so supportive with advice, with watching me to see if I'll rebound. Having a support system is always great!
- Do it because you WANT to, not because you HAVE to. Once you put it in your head that this is a task, or that you HAVE to do this, do a workout you hate because you have to, eat foods you hate because you have to, then of course you'll rebel. Find exercises you enjoy. Find recipes that will taste good and be good for you. Don't torture yourself through this lifestyle.
- You don't have to think about quality all the time; sometimes it's about the quantity. I had said earlier in this post that there is not one fattening food that will cause you to blow up. You can have that candy bar and be fine, or those cookies and be okay. Just be aware of the AMOUNT. I'll allow myself to have a candy bar or a few cookies, but now I no longer stuff them down to get all I can get. Now I know that a day isn't over because I've had 1 or 2 cookies or chips or whatever, but I do still keep in mind that eating SURPLUS of those things will not be very good. So don't ditch the day because you had a little screw up. Just continue on. Just get enough for the taste and satisfaction of it!
- **Note: I'm not saying it's always going to be quantity over quality, of course don't neglect getting in your nutrient dense foods! I just say this to emphasize that eating a not-so-nutrient-dense food isn't the end of the world or your "diet".
- No Restrictions: Trust me, after you intuitively eat for a while, get your body used to having treats every now and then, you won't crave them as often! No foods should be in the danger zone, or restricted or banned forever. You won't crave things that you have access to all the time. So don't give yourself limits. Yes, have guidelines as to what you should eat, but never put foods in the off limits category, or you'll just crave them more in the end.
Thank you so much for all the support during my journey, and if you're fighting the same fight that I did, you CAN get through this.