Imperfect Wellness Series: If not dieting, then what? Creating healthy habits, without moralization of those habits, has been harder than I thought.
About eight years ago I went on a hardcore diet which consisted of working with a Dietitian (who put me on a 1300 calorie food plan), and running 5ks, 10ks, and half marathons. It was an intense year, or so, where my sole focus was to drop weight. And I did. Almost 100lbs (depending on the day). I received lots of positive external feedback (you look great! how did you do it? what are you eating?), a saggy body, and was constantly hungry.
Fast forward to today, and my focus on working towards healthier habits, I'm using the same MyFitnessPal account I used during that crazy time. I've been logging my food choices on MyFitnessPal and my sleep is being tracked by my Fitbit. I realize these apps kick up a lot of Diet red flags, but man are they convenient.
As I was logging my dinner last night, I realized a couple things: 1. I don't eat near the fruits of veggies I thought I did 2. I'm not really into Lunch right now ( I love a big breakfast and dinner) 3. I am trying to stay under a certain amount of calories and its starting to feel diet-y.
After logging my dinner and realizing that things were gettin' awful diet-y, I decided to look back and see what my weight loss looked like during my hardcore diet years ago. When I was running 5 miles a day and consuming 1300 calories, I was losing about 7 - 8 pounds a month. At the time, I didn't realize that was my total weight loss for the month (my Dietitian at the time kept track on MFP for me). Then, there is a period where we had a major family upheaval (we moved across an ocean), and my weight stayed steady. Post move, I packed on 15 pounds in two weeks, and then remained there until my weight began to slowly creep up again.
I don't remember why I gained the 15 pounds in two weeks, but I do remember stopping dieting and leaning more towards intuitive eating (which in the end felt like a diet too), then finally not paying attention at all to what I was eating or when.
What I find fascinating is that it took a huge amount of effort to drop 7 or 8 pounds a month, and no effort to gain 15 pounds in two weeks. I realize this is nothing new. Many of us know how easy it is to gain weight, but it made me curious about my relationship to food.
No Clear Answers
I do think a complete lack of food awareness on my part, is NOT good for my health. I also believe that major restrictions around food, and obsessing about food, are not good for my health either. After using this month to really reflect on food, exercise, and my habits I am noticing that I use food as an emotional crutch. When I want to relax, or relieve my anxiety (which I have a lot of), I lean on comfort food, which I don't think is an uncommon (or necessarily bad) thing to do.
So what does one do when they want to NOT use food as a crutch, improve their health, and not feel like their on a diet? The short answer is its personal. I don't think any health guru or medical professional can tell me what I need to do to be healthy. Medical professionals can assess my health and offer suggestions based on their personal opinion and possibly research, BUT I need to figure out (maybe through trial and error) what works for my body.
Logging my food does kick up a lot of diet feelings, but I don't want to constantly be afraid of possibly doing something diet-y. I've listened to others concerning my body and health. This is the first time I've stepped back into the health arena and wanted to do things that may seem diet-y and things that don't seem diet-y because what if my best health looks like a combination of those things?
What I do know is that I don't want to do what I did 8 years ago with the super low calorie restriction and intense exercise. Staying at or below 2500 calories feels reasonable. This allows me to adequately fuel my body and try and address the emotional eating aspect. I would ultimately like to address my emotions and utilize my anxiety in a more constructive way such as woodworking projects, my garden and planning upcoming Farmer's Market events.
I would like to keep my current run schedule and possibly add one day. I've always wanted to run a marathon. I'm not sure when I'd like to do this, but I'd like to start training for one that I could possibly run late Fall or early Spring 2020.
Here is a list of my initial habits and I've tweeked them to what I'm currently doing below.
1. Adding MORE fruits and veggies to every meal.
2. Cut meat out completely (except broth) for 90 days (started Apr 8th 2019 - except for Mother's Day). Revisit meat consumption post 90 days. (I may change this to 60 days and focus on meat for one meal and see how I feel)
3. Keep a food, sleep and period journal to gather data on my patterns and habits.
4. Walk 3x's a week after my kids are done with school. (Started a walk/run program using Jeff Galloway's method)
5. Practice yoga 2x's a week after my kids are done with school.
6. Dry up for 90 days (started Apr 8th 2019 - except for Mother's Day where I had 2 beers... man it was good). Give alcohol a rest.
7. Utilize a therapist to help me process everything that's kicked up in this process.
8. Add foods that are higher in magnesium to help lower blood pressure.
9. Drink tea that supports cardiovascular system.
If your wellness is lookin' as imperfect as mine, I'd love to hear from you (firstname.lastname@example.org). Send me a message! Let me know how you're doing!
May you find your imperfect wellness,