So, mid-November marks a year. A year ago, I was frustrated at my slow progress. A year ago, a coach saw how hard I was working and cared enough to take me aside and help me focus on eating properly to fuel all that hard work. A year ago, I began a process that is still ongoing today, of shifting the focus both on how I view food and myself.
As I’ve said before, I don’t consider myself an “after.” I’m still living, learning, and making mistakes like everyone else.
A lot has changed in a year. Slowly, I’m letting go of old habits, but more importantly, old attitudes about food, what is “good” or “bad” for me, what and how much I “should” or “shouldn’t” eat. I’m learning to stop giving food an emotional value and to start trusting myself.
I’ve read several articles lately about orthorexia. And I find it scary how easily I can relate to them. How so many things were labeled as good or bad, how willpower made me seemingly better than others. Or how after making one poor or less healthy choice, I could feel guilty and worry about it for hours. How I would pre-plan virtually everything, and although I may have held it together on the outside, I would be inwardly freaking out about a food situation outside of my control.
I wrote the above paragraph in past tense, but the truth, if I’m honest, is that it’s still hard. When you’ve struggled with a mindset and behaviour patterns for years, they’re not going to go away overnight. Not even in a year.
But that’s the bad news. Good news is I am making strides. And all these articles I’ve been reading, posts I’ve been seeing, and strides I’ve been making have got me to thinking…
Can we *please* just get rid of the term “guilt-free,” when it comes to food? I mean, really, when you stop and think about it, what does that imply? That if you are eating other foods, you should feel guilty about them? Why does food have to be guilt free or not? Why can’t it just be food? When did what we eat or not eat get to have such weight on our psyche? To be sure, there are some foods we should probably choose to eat less than others, but there are enough things in life to worry or feel guilty about. Food doesn’t need to be one of them.
What if all the labels we’re putting on food, diet and lifestyle are actually hurting us more than helping us? What if calling something out for being healthy or not is really only a matter of opinion? What if it’s actually healthier not to have strict food rules or things that are off limits? What if it doesn’t matter if something is Paleo, gluten-free, or within your macros for the day (*just to be clear, I know that these lifestyles are helpful for many people for dietary and health concerns, and I don’t want it to seem like I’m judging those people)? What if it’s more important just to listen to your body, and what it’s feeling and craving at that point in time?
What if social media, instafood and all those hashtags and food porn are just feeding (pardon the pun) the vicious cycle of disordered eating? What if cheat meals (who or what are you cheating on anyway?) didn’t need to be a thing? What if clean eating was just a mask for disordered eating? I mean, if we go look at instagram feeds, it seems like all people are eating is green smoothies, oatmeal bowls, produce galore or insanely decadent “cheat meals.” Is there no middle ground?
What if eating less isn’t the answer? What if eating more could better nourish and fuel your body? What if embracing foods you avoided for years actually wouldn’t make you gain a whole bunch of weight but might in fact work the other way around? What if, if your body felt hungry or like it was craving something, you listened and fed it?
What if eating bread and pasta could be part of a healthy diet? What if it was ok to have a bagel for breakfast every now and then? What if eating a few more carbs would actually give me the energy I needed to fuel my performance? What if I could cook with real ingredients instead of having to worry about too much fat and use ultra “healthy” (aka ultra fake) low fat ingredients, or only cook with a microscopic amount of oil because it was “bad” to have too much fat?
What if I could finally stop eating like a person on a diet and just eat like a normal person? What if I didn’t have to always be looking for recipes to cut calories or carbs? What if I could admit that I’ve worked hard to get where I am, that I am at a healthy weight, and I can relax the rules a bit and actually enjoy life? What if I trusted myself enough to do that?
What if everything I thought about food was wrong? What if I’m not the person I used to be? What if I’m now an athlete who needs food as fuel, rather than someone at an unhealthy weight who is constantly afraid and worried about what she can and can’t eat? What if I could admit that while I’m so proud of where I am now I’m still scared to death almost every single day of going back to where I was before?
What if food and exercise now mean something entirely different to me than they have for most of my life? What if exercise is now a reward and the best part of my day and not a punishment? What if I admit that I love food, and that it’s ok to love food, in all its delicious shapes and forms? What if food wasn’t a reward or a punishment, but just something to be enjoyed for what it is?
What if I could completely change my body through diet and exercise? Beyond how much I weigh, but its total shape and composition? What if it keeps changing and getting stronger, even after I met what I thought was my goal? What if, more important than all of that, I totally changed how I saw myself? And, for the first time ever, I was actually confident and proud in who I was, not only because of how I looked, but what I could do?
My healthy is different than yours. And that’s great. How about I won’t judge you and you don’t judge me – deal? You might not be a 6 day a week CrossFitter, so you probably have different needs than I do. You might not have struggled with food and your weight your whole life, so you might not have all the same mental hang-ups as I do (lucky you). But if you’re reading this, we are on this journey together.
So let’s ditch the labels and the guilt, and embrace food and life. Let’s learn to trust ourselves and our bodies to tell us what they need. Let’s realize that one good or bad choice doesn’t define us. And let’s be kind to ourselves. We are too awesome not to.
So, one year later, that’s my food revolution. Will you join me?