For the long term.
I’ve had a complicated relationship with food my entire life. For most of my childhood, I ate with abandon. Eating and reading combined served as my recourse in an emotionally taxing household. When I was 17, I joined my neighborhood gym. I quickly became a gym rat, working out twice a day almost everyday. I simultaneously went from eating whatever the hell I wanted to eating pretty much nothing. On weekdays, I had an apple for breakfast and a bowl of cereal for dinner. Within four months I’d lost 60 pounds and put on a considerable amount of muscle mass. I was tiny. I would have compounded my anorexia with bulimia, but the idea of throwing up makes me gag (cue uncomfortable laughter).
A few years later, I found a way past my anorexia and seemingly into complete denial about the amount and type of food I was putting into my body. I gained each and every one of those 60 pounds back, plus interest. I wasn’t working out nearly as much, so my muscle mass also decreased. I didn’t return entirely to the eating style of my youth, but I was too close for comfort and began worrying about weight gain. This led me to take real steps.
As I’m transitioning into a much healthier lifestyle, it has dawned on me that I am now-for the first time in my life-developing a healthy relationship with food. This relationship has so many components outside of just me selecting food to stuff in my face. A healthy eating lifestyle requires an honest and structured change in a person’s life. That’s the kind of commitment I’ve undertaken.
Here are 4 cornerstones of my healthier lifestyle:
This is a really interesting concept. There are a few fasting schedules you can choose from. For me, I can get by with one 24-hour fast per week. I somewhat bend the rules during this day-long fast. I usually allot myself up to 500 calories. I figure why not just let myself eat some fruits and veggies while fasting rather than the alternative of breaking down from hunger, saying screw it, and doing a walk of shame to the local liquor store to purchase a bag of XX Flaming Hot Cheetos. 4 days of the week, Monday through Thursday, I keep a 16-hour fast and eat during a noon to 8 pm time frame. Because I previously didn’t care enough about my health, I have GERD (acid reflux), so closing out my eating a few hours before bed also helps manage that.
This was a huge wake-up call for me. When I actually kept track of how many calories I regularly consumed, I went from innocently wondering how I was gaining so much weight to applauding my metabolism for working really hard, apparently. The numbers showed me that the math checks out-I was eating enough to be the weight I was. The universe wasn’t just toying with me. Because I journal what I consume, I’ve become a much healthier consumer. I think harder about whether the taste of the food really is worth the caloric intake. Sometimes the answer is yes, absolutely. I’ve been surprised by the number of times the answer is no, not really. Moreover, many of us have busy lives, so we end up eating what’s convenient. This causes us to settle for the calorie count of that convenient food. Since I’m food journaling and thus holding myself accountable for the calories I consume, that just won’t do, which leads me to…
Cooking and planning out my daily intake of food has been a game-changer for me. I feel much more in control of my diet, and that in turn empowers me when it comes to my overall life. In this process, I’ve also learned tasty new recipes. I’ve started to get annoying with the phrase Yeah, I can make that at home, but better (that is a fact, though). Yesterday I prepared Chicken Tikka Masala with cauliflower rice for today’s lunch. The whole meal was 480 calories, and I didn’t have to deprive my taste buds in the least bit. Food prepping has taught me that much of my previous caloric intake via eating out was unnecessary.
4.Finding things outside of food that make me happy
This one is critical and often overlooked. Food was the main pleasure of my life for a long time. It was the comfort in my times of anguish. It was often the one thing about my day that didn’t suck. I had to decide that my life can’t be that bleak. Food still makes me very happy, but I’ve searched for and found things outside of food that also fulfill me. I dance, I run, I write, I read. I believe that if I want to make a commitment to a healthier relationship with food, I can’t depend on it to be the only or main source of my happiness.
I, my body, and my relationship with food are all still a work in progress, and maybe they always will be. Finally, I’m in a space where I neither hate myself for eating nor do I allow food to make my body one in which I’m uncomfortable. I have no aspirations to be a size zero. I just want to feel happy in my body-the place I live in 100% of the time.