I’ve been feeling the nudge to share this for some time now, but I just never took the time to do it. Since I have a lot of free time this afternoon, I figure now is as good a time as any.
I really thought I had told this story here before, but looking through my archives, I can’t seem to find the post about how/when/why I stopped dieting. This is shocking to me because it had such a profound effect on me and I’ve thought of it often over the last 18+ months; I can’t believe I never blogged about it.
In early 2014, I started working with a weight loss company who offered a personal coach (who was also a Registered Dietitian) to help me lose weight. Now let me say upfront, I loved my RD. She was a great help to me and I know she tried her hardest working within the parameters of the program. I still to this day hold nothing against her. And the program itself was pretty good, but there were certain aspects that I just could not wrap my brain around. So, I struggled from the beginning but with the help of my RD, I did okay. I lost ten pounds on that program, but it took me a solid year to do it, and I white-knuckled my way through that whole entire year. I learned a lot about nutrition, but I also learned that I was miserable.
Fast forward to SuperBowl Sunday 2015. We had planned a small party with our next door neighbors and we had all the usual Superbowl Food: hot wings, Lil Smokies in bbq sauce, Rotel dip and chips, etc, etc, etc. I had some healthy foods on hand like carrots & celery, whole wheat crackers, and some Buffalo Cauliflower (cauliflower dipped in buffalo sauce batter, then baked – very delicious). It’s the Buffalo Cauliflower I remember the most about that day. I had tried to load up on the healthier options, and have just a tiny portion of the less-than-healthy foods because I knew I would have to log my foods and my RD would be seeing my log. I knew that since the cauliflower was dipped in batter, it probably wasn’t the healthiest choice, but I knew it was better than some of the other foods we had there. I had a few pieces and I really liked the taste.
Guys…I couldn’t stop. I kept popping those cauliflower bites into my mouth one right after the other and I COULD. NOT. STOP. I ate what was left of them (and there were a lot because no one else really liked them but me) and then I said “Screw it!” and partook of a little more of everything else on the table. I was eating what I wanted to eat and I was in ECSTACY. I remember thinking to myself, “This is purely the result of restricting my eating. This is due solely to feeling deprived for all these months.” It was right then that I decided I was done with restricting what I ate and done with feeling deprived. I vowed right then and there never to go another diet ever again.
On Feb 3, I told my RD that I needed to walk away from the program because it was just becoming too hard to stay on it. Surprisingly, she agreed and we parted ways amicably.
My biggest fear was that since I had no “plan”, I would just gain and gain and gain until I had to be lifted by a crane from my house through a cut-out in the wall. Well, guess what? it’s been a little over 18 months and I’ve only gained the ten pounds I lost, and not surprisingly, I gained them fairly quick. For the last year though, I’ve maintained my weight. Let the significance of that sink in for a minute.
In the last year, eating whatever I want, whenever I want, I have not gained weight. I’ve maintained my weight within 2-3 pounds (up and down) for an entire year – without restricting.
When I gained those ten pounds back, I was eating all the foods I had deprived myself of for so long, and I was eating them without guilt. Then things sort of leveled off and I realized that I didn’t want to eat junk food all the time because it really didn’t make me feel very good. So I started thinking about what foods would make me feel good and I started eating those foods more often.
The way I eat now… I really can’t put a label on it. It’s not Intuitive Eating because I don’t rate my hunger or consciously “stop when I’m satisfied”, or carry a food bag around with me. Maybe you could call it mindful eating, because I do stop and think before I eat about what it is exactly that I want – sometimes I want a huge salad with a lot going on in it, sometimes I want a meal like meatloaf and mashed potatoes, and sometimes I just want some ice cream dammit. It really just depends on the day.
What I really love about the way I eat now is that there is no angst. I don’t worry and fret about whether or not this particular food falls in line with my program, and I don’t spend hours and hours obsessing over food in general like I used to. There are no more “crazy food voices” anymore. I couldn’t imagine I ever would say this, but gaining those ten pounds was a fair exchange for the mental and emotional freedom I have now.
So for those of you who think you’ll just go crazy and eat the world if you aren’t on a diet or a food plan or a weight loss program, I am here to tell you, you won’t. You might go nuts for a couple of weeks, but then you’ll slow your roll and start eating like a person who hasn’t been trying to live on 1200 calories for years and years. You’ll be okay.
When you stop dieting and start focusing on YOU – what makes you tick, what makes you happy, what relaxes you – and start adding in those things on a regular basis…that’s when the magic starts to happen.
And as I always say, this is what works for me – your mileage may vary – but I do know that there are an awful lot of people just like me who need to hear this today. There are so many of you out there who are holding on so tightly to your dream of weight loss that you don’t even realize that there is so much more to life than the number on the scale (I was there, I get it).
If you have any questions about this or you just want to vent, you can always email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or share your thoughts in the comments. Just remember, you are not alone in this.