There was a time that I ate for size and weight instead of health. It looked good on the surface because I was eating ‘healthy’ foods while I did it. This time was at the end of college, as I was graduating, around 2006. I decided I had some pounds to take off (I truly did- about 15-20 of them) and really wanted to do it the right way.
I started limiting calories. Not to a dangerously low level, but I counted adamantly. That number, around 1200, ruled my life. I gravitated towards foods that were easy to count, usually prepackaged. I really wanted to be healthy, but just hadn’t figured it all out yet.
A banana and cereal for breakfast with skim milk- 280 calories.
Apple and cheese for a snack- 140 calories.
A Lean Cuisine and diet coke for lunch- 270 calories.
Pretzels in the afternoon- 115 calories.
Grilled chicken and spinach for dinner- 250 calories.
A low-fat pseudo ice cream dessert- 150 calories.
Total= 1205 calories = a good day.
Man, they seemed to add up quickly!
It’s sort of painful to write that out now. In fact, it makes me hungry. I never had an eating disorder, but I certainly ate in a disordered manner sometimes. Not so much what I ate, but how I ate. I would say no to treats and cut calories back on Fridays to make up for a night out on the town. Looking back it seems so restrictive, because it was, but it’s what I thought I had to do to get my weight under control.
I got down to my lowest weight (which was still in the healthy range for my short stature) following that plan, but I wouldn’t say I ever felt good about it. It felt exhausting. No one else knew I was constantly calculating numbers in my head. I could rattle off calorie counts like it was my job. But I loved the compliments. You look so good! What have you been doing? Of course the girl in me kept wondering just how terrible I had looked before!
I’m not sure when I fully stopped the habit. I moved to Charlotte and got a new job. In order to make new friends, I was busier. I went out more. I hiked more. I spent more time with David.
I put on a couple pounds. I realized I didn’t care. It was so freeing.
I got married in 2009 at a weight that was 9 pounds above that lowest weight I once was and I felt beautiful. I was at a different place in life. I knew my goal was a long, happy and healthy life, not a restrictive one based on being a certain size.
I became increasingly passionate about learning more about healthy eating. I educated myself. I got a job in health coaching and was professionally trained. I educated myself even more. I started seeing food as more than a package of calorie delivery.
I really began eating for wellbeing instead of weight.
I sometimes checked in on my calorie counts and helped coach others using diabetic exchanges. I know that both of those, along with scales, body fat percentages and measurements can be powerful and useful tools when not abused. I’m not against any of them. However, for me, the idea of relying on numbers daily felt restrictive.
It took a little while to trust real food. But I finally made it. Real food has proven itself to me over the past few years and I could not be more at peace with my eating habits. Sure, I need to clean things up every so often when I’ve indulged more than I should (side note- I wore my jeans yesterday COMFORTABLY!), but real food works for me. It makes me look good; it makes me feel good.
I’m still a little fanatical, but it’s not about hitting a number goal, it’s about feeding my family the best, healthiest foods I can. It’s important to me because I want us to all still be enjoying life together for years to come, whether our pant sizes fluctuate a size or two.
Today, sitting about 5 pounds above my lowest weight ever, feels right to me. It’s the oh-so-elusive happy weight that people speak of. It’s the weight my body comfortably stays at when I’m eating well, exercising and still indulging every so often.
This post isn’t a how-to as much as it is a testament that it is possible to break free from numbers, from control, from obsession. That was a concept I couldn’t fathom was possible a few years back. It took time for me, but learning to focus on whole foods and listen to my body (though it is annoyingly redundant advice) really worked. I just had to learn to trust it.
Have you ever been in a place with food that you didn’t think you could break free from?
Were you able to overcome it?
Are you still struggling?