It’s Going to Be OK

I know it’s been a while, but truth be told, there’s not been much to write about. Recovery generally means NOT thinking much about food, weight, numbers, etc. Well…until the ED tries to sneak back in.

I’ve gained weight. Roughly 10 pounds in a year. Today, I’m OVER the weight I stabilized at last time. And, boy, am I hit with F E E L I N G S.

The instantaneous urge (and socially accepted message) is “time to lose some weight before this comes a bigger problem.” Boy is that message loud in my head today. But, here’s the thing: I cannot casually lose weight. I cannot. The moment I start trying at all, I am consumed with obsession. The food rules pile up, the number tracking becomes obsessive, and I start spending tons of money on “safe foods” that I may never even eat.

I won’t be able to cook anymore, because tracking it will be too hard. The meals I’ve made and frozen will go to waste, because I won’t know the calories in them. I won’t be able to eat out, because the nutrition information isn’t available. I won’t be able to think of anything but food and numbers. I won’t be able to engage fully with my kids, because I will be hungry and obsessing. I won’t be able to hang out with my new friends I recently made, because I will avoid all social situations where food is involved.

So, here is where push comes to shove — for real. I’m over the weight I stabilized at last time. I’m over my “safe, comfortable-enough” weight. The numbers are wrong, bad, horrible numbers that hurt and terrify me. They are on my chest like an anvil…pressing.

Here’s where my recovery is challenged.

And, this time, I’m going to win.

No food rules. No number tracking. Just as I once sat and cried and panicked over eating an apple that took me over my daily calorie “limit,” I will sit and feel all the pain and fear over being heavier than what was “safe.”

And it will be ok.

I will still be safe.

I will still be a good mom. I will still be a good wife. I will still be a good-enough person.

I will still be worthy of love, and I will still be loved.

It is ok to be imperfect. It is ok to be squishy and lumpy and human. It is ok to recover.

Fear of Weight Gain: When Push Comes to Shove in Recovery

The past couple of months have been easy.
Too easy.
I’ve been eating intuitively, no restrictions…but I wasn’t gaining weight.
And, for a bit here, I genuinely thought maybe my body was just going to stabilize at this lower-than-last-time weight. (And, of course, my eating disorder screamed “maybe if you lose even more, your body will stabilize even lower…”)

And then it happened.
1 pound.
“It’s just water,” I told myself. Fluctuations are totally normal. It’ll probably go away again.
But, it didn’t. Instead, the scale went up a second pound.
And, I panicked.
Why was it so sudden? So much so suddenly? What am I doing wrong?

And there it is: Weight Gain = I’m Doing Something Wrong (Bad); Not Gaining Weight/Losing Weight = I’m Doing Something Right…something good. Admirable.
The core belief.
And, unfortunately, it’s a core belief fueled by a whole lot of reality.

People look up to me because I’ve lost weight. They comment on it, ask for advice, want to follow in my footsteps. It used to be a badge I wore with pride; now, it’s a pain point.

What am I supposed to say? “Thanks! I starved myself!”
Awkward silence.

I hate that I “have to” say “Thanks” at all.
I don’t want to say thanks.
I don’t feel pride; I feel shame.
I feel fear.
The same fear I feel right now, seeing the scale moving up. “In the wrong direction.”
Because weight gain is wrong, and weight loss is right.
Right?

I got cocky. I thought I was “fully recovered,” but I’m not. I’m at a crossroads.
I’m gaining weight, and I have a choice to make — because recovery is all about choices.
I can restrict and try to keep from gaining or even try to lose weight.
Or
I can eat without restriction even if it means gaining weight.

I don’t know if my fear of weight gain will EVER go away. Honestly, I don’t think it will. I’ve never ever been in a place where I didn’t fear weight gain. And, if I can’t change that — the only thing I CAN control is what I do with it and whether I let it control my life.

To be honest, right now, I don’t feel strong enough to face weight gain and not restrict. So, for me, who wants to stubbornly choose recovery — that leaves one choice:

Don’t look.

Don’t look at the scale, don’t face the weight gain. Just eat and don’t look.
And, holy crap, that is the most terrifying thought… which is how I know I have to do it.

Ugh.
Even writing this, I am nauseated with fear.
But my daughter is playing in the next room, my son is sleeping in his crib, and we’re celebrating my husband’s birthday today with cake and burgers, and I want to recover so that I’m REALLY there, participating.

So, I know I have to do this.
Be afraid, feel sick, tremble…and choose recovery anyways.

Goodbye, scale. I choose life.

Choosing Recovery: The Easiest Hard Decision I’ll Ever Make

Yesterday, I made the decision to once again stop tracking my calories and weighing myself for at least the month of February. For the past 4 months, I have been inching my way back towards this leap with my dietician — increasing my calories very slowly, and only moderately successfully. I was due for another increase yesterday, but I wasn’t even consistently hitting the previous increase. I also had my first ever doctor’s appointment where I actually told the doctor about my diagnosis (OSFED – atypical anorexia subtype, in case you were curious – meaning having lost a significant amount of weight due to obsessive caloric restriction but not yet being classified as having a medically underweight BMI). And something hit me…

It wasn’t that long ago that doctors were calling me an athlete; now, they are calling me anorexic. And, I had the thought: what do I want to be called? Anorexic or an Athlete?

I was so proud the first time someone referred to me as an athlete. It’s not a title I ever thought I’d carry. Athleticism was not a part of my personality! Athlete means dedication, focus, commitment, discipline – it means all the good qualities I want to have. 100% I want to be called an athlete again.

But, if I’m honest, there’s also a part of me that wanted to be called anorexic. But, really, what I think that part wanted was for it to be obvious that I was in pain. Anorexic means “I’m not ok, and I need help.” Anorexia communicates that when I feel like I can’t.

I’ve spent a lot of time in the last few days telling this part of myself that giving up anorexia doesn’t mean that I can’t communicate my pain. And, in fact, giving up anorexia is likely to mean stronger pain, not less of it — because it means giving up the thing I was using to self-soothe and numb that pain.

A few people in my support groups have asked me “how? How did you make this decision? How did you get to this point?” Even I was asking myself if I’d find this point again…just this weekend, I was asking it. Well, a few things…

First, I have the benefit this time of already knowing that intuitive eating works well for me and that there are very good things on the other side of eating disorder recovery. I’m not nearly as scared this time around, because I’ve done it before.

Second, I have been so overwhelmed and stressed lately — daycare closed due to a COVID outbreak there, and I had to work full-time while caring for my two young children.

The eating disorder adds so much stress and pain on top of all of this other stress and pain. In a moment of clarity, I had to genuinely ask myself why I wasn’t choosing to take control over the one thing I could actually change to make things better?

For months, coming to this decision has felt like the hardest thing. But, in the end, it is really pretty easy. You really do…just do it. And anorexics are stubborn, strong-willed people. When we put our mind to something, we do it. 100%.

I don’t know what exactly will happen now. Though I’m not clinically underweight, I’ll still probably gain some weight, and that might suck. Hopefully, the people who matter to me won’t care about that. Hopefully, I won’t care about that too much.

I’ll try to document it some on here — this starting over again journey back to intuitive eating. I’m only a day and a half in, and I can already tell you that it is both immediately freeing and frightening. But, mostly freeing. And already worth it.

Macro Tracking, Veganism, Keto, Gluten-Free: An Eating Disorder’s Best Weapons

Recently, I’ve been running into quite a few social media posts from influencers in the weightloss community getting really pissed off by people implying that things like tracking macros, veganism, etc. are signs of an eating disorder or are disordered eating behaviors. The general response seems to be “plenty of people do these things and do not have eating disorders!” And, this is absolutely true. However, I feel the actual (and very important) message is getting lost:

Macro tracking, veganism, keto, etc. are not eating disorders; however, if you have an eating disorder, it could very well use these socially acceptable diet restrictions as weapons against you.

What a lot of people seem to forget is that an eating disorder is a mental disorder — it is not just a set of behaviors. It’s a bit like alcoholism: drinking socially is not alcoholism; but, if you are an alcoholic, your alcoholism will absolutely try to use social drinking as a weapon against you to get you back to or deeper into your addiction. “Everyone else is drinking; it would be awkward if you weren’t! It’s fine! You’re fine!”

Similarly, tracking macros or going vegan isn’t an eating disorder; but, if you have an eating disorder (or are prone to developing one), it can absolutely use socially acceptable restrictions to keep you in or get you further into your addiction (because, let’s face it, eating disorders are basically addictions). “You’re going vegan because you care about animal welfare! It has nothing to do with losing weight or avoiding fear foods! TONS of people are vegan or tracking macros or keto or…(the list goes on). It’s totally fine! You’re fine!”

And, many people may not even know that that addictive part of their brains is there: be that a part of their brains that has increased potential to be addicted to alcohol or to restricting calories, militant eating rules, tracking, purging, binging, etc. Or…to all of the above.

Up to 50% of individuals with eating disorders abused alcohol or illicit drugs, a rate five times higher than the general population. Up to 35% of individuals who abused or were dependent on alcohol or other drugs have also had eating disorders, a rate 11 times greater than the general population.

-National Eating Disorders Association

And, as I’ve shared before, if you’re prone to “food addiction,” chances are, you could be prone to other forms of food-related addiction. It just makes sense: if you’re used to turning to food to numb emotions, it makes sense that you could also become addicted to turning to restriction, food rules, purging, or even substance-consumption behaviors to numb, escape, and ignore emotions in the future.

Story time…

In 2014, I made the decision to become vegetarian. I was not in an active eating disorder at the time (I did not know I had an addiction-prone part of my brain back then). My choice had nothing to do with weight loss and everything to do with my moral beliefs. I knew I wanted to try veganism eventually, but I wanted to take it one step at a time and try vegetarianism first. At the time, I was also tracking my macros on MyFitnessPal as I had been doing for many years without it ever hindering my quality of life.

A couple of months later, triggered by an abusive relationship with my therapist, I fell into my eating disorder HARD. It had nothing to do with being vegetarian. Being vegetarian did not lead me to my eating disorder, but once that addictive part of my brain activated, it began looking for any and every excuse to get me to eat less and dive deeper into the addiction.

“I can’t eat meat” was a convenient excuse to skip out on the foods my family was eating or skip homemade meals when we visited relatives. Nobody could get mad at me for being vegetarian. Nobody could politely push me to break my moral code. “You should go vegan,” that little voice in my brain kept saying. “You wanted to go vegan for animal rights reasons! Look at you eating that food that hurts animals! Think of all of the animals you are hurting. Think of how much of a hypocrite you are being. You’ve SEEN the documentaries. How can you still eat that? You’re disgusting.”

So, I went vegan. The list of foods I could eat shrank exponentially. Thanksgiving came, and I conveniently couldn’t eat a single thing my husband’s family cooked because of one ingredient or another. Again, nobody could politely push me on this — it was my moral code to not eat animal products! Veganism is completely acceptable! We went on a family vacation with my inlaws, and I conveniently couldn’t eat anything on any restaurant menu except maybe a dressing-free vegetable-only salad. Moreover, I was tracking my macros, so I HAD to know the nutrition information for everything I ate. So, once again, I conveniently “couldn’t eat” food I didn’t cook or that didn’t come out of a package with nutrition information.

No holiday meals, no dinners at our parents houses, no eating out, no dates with my husband – “You can’t eat that!” was screamed in my head all. the. time. And “because it’s not vegan” or “because you don’t know the macros” was a convenient excuse and my eating disorder’s favorite weapon against me. My eating disorder used these socially acceptable dietary limitations to evoke FEAR and SHAME and keep me in the disorder.

And my story is not unique. Anyone who is a member of the eating disorder or recovery community can tell you — it is FULL of vegans, macro trackers, people who may or may not have to be gluten-free for clinical reasons… pretty much anything that can be used to control food, an eating disorder will use to keep you in the disorder.

Once again, that is not to say that veganism, tracking, being gluten-free, etc. are eating disorders; they are not. But, many people may not be aware of that addictive, eating disorder-prone part of their brain lying dormant…and, so it is so important to warn those entering these lifestyles that they are things that, should you have an addictive, obsessive part of your brain somewhere in there…veganism, tracking, etc. very well could turn into an eating disorder’s greatest weapon. And, what makes it so much more dangerous is that others may not see the red flags — they will take “I can’t eat that because I’m vegan” at face value without confronting you like they might if you were to admit to not eating, period….never realizing that it’s a weapon in an eating disorder’s arsenal.

Reflections on Losing 100 Pounds: What “After” Me Would Say to “Before” Me

If I could go back in time … go back to Before and talk to my young-20s self who was only a couple of years into her weight-loss journey, what would I tell her? What advice might I give this version of myself who was finally stepping into her life and learning to live out loud?

The first piece of advice I would give myself is to get into therapy.

You have been through trauma, and it is influencing you in ways you can’t see. You may not even be ready to call it trauma, but it is.

You need to learn to deal with these things instead of shoving them into a box in the back of your mind as if they will just disappear or stay out of sight, out of mind. Because, that box will never contain them. And, they won’t go away. Not with losing weight, not with binging or stopping binging, not with exercise, finding a new partner…not even with therapy. But, at least with therapy, you won’t be holding them alone.

cir. 2011

Next, I would tell myself to talk to a dietician. Not just any dietician, but one who specializes in eating disorders. Because, news flash young self, you have an eating disorder.

Not “you’ll develop one,” but you HAVE one. You’ve had one for a long time. And, while Weight Watchers has taught you how to control and track portions, you are doing absolutely nothing to get to the root of your already-decade-long eating disorder. And, if you don’t address anything but the manual steps to losing weight, you’re going to come out this on the other side just as unhealthy as you went in.

Then, I would tell her…find something, anything that is not weight- or diet-related, to be passionate about and then fully invest yourself in that thing. Nurture the ever-loving-sh*t out of that passion.

Knowing me, I’d say…ride horses. Ride ALL the horses. Learn to canter and jump and ride bareback – who cares that you’re still in a bigger body? Do it anyways! Find a way. Set aside money to make it something you do every single week. Make it a priority.

When you are sad, ride a horse; when you are angry, ride a horse; when you are happy, ride a horse; when you have overwhelming feelings in every direction and don’t know what to do, ride a horse… if you can’t afford to ride, find some way to be with horses… or walk dogs or paint or sing or maybe even learn to dance. ANYthing but starting a new diet.

One day, this journey will be over — the journey of weight loss. One day, you will be at After. And what will you do then? What will be your passion then?

Find it now. Nurture it now. Do it now so that when “after” gets here, you are not left without a life outside of weight loss to which to turn.

Which leads me to…this: don’t ever let your world shrink around any one thing.

Nothing is permanent.

I know it is your most desperate wish that something or someone will come into your life with a promise of forever that you can actually believe in, but start grieving now, because that doesn’t exist.

And if something or someone starts promising you otherwise, run as fast and far away as you can. Don’t cling to it in desperation for the false promise to be true.

The only constant is change.

Your body will change, the number on the scale will change, the people in your life will change, your life situation will change, everything will change. Forever and always. And no matter how hard you try to make that not happen — no matter how hard you try to control or avoid change, it will come just the same.

There is very little in life that you can actually control, and that is scary as fuck.

So, gather your resources. Build a team of support around you…a life full of support and passion.

That’s what I’d tell my young self. And I’d hope to god that I’d listen.

Owning My Eating Disorder

First of all, I just want to thank everyone who commented and offered support on my last post. It’s amazing to me that I still have readers out there even though I am not very active on this blog (or my YouTube channel) anymore. Your reading & your comments mean so much to me. Thank you.

After my last post, I finally reached out to my dietician to ask for help. She’s an eating disorder specialist and an intuitive eating dietician, and she has been my voice of reason in the past (and again now) when I couldn’t necessarily trust my own internal dialogue. I’m working with both her and my therapist to slowly climb my way back out of this relapse, and I’m already feeling a little better than I was a few weeks ago: more energy, less depression, clearer mind. I’ve also been attending some virtual eating disorder support groups, which first pissed me off (because the people there were just so POSITIVE and “recovery” when I felt so negative and unwilling to let go of what I was doing), but are now really helping.

One of the toughest thoughts I find myself grappling with is whether or not my eating disorder is real.

Let me back up for a second and explain that, for me, it makes the most sense to characterize my eating disorder thoughts as a separate voice inside my head that intrudes without my being able to stop it. It often sounds like this:

I’m in the kitchen making myself a tuna sandwich. I suddenly think “hmm…cheese would be good on this…remember when you used to have those amazing tuna melts in college?”

ED voice: NO! Cheese will add 120 calories! You’ll go over your calories! It’s too much! You’ve already added mayo! How many calories even is this meal?! You’re probably way over already!

I will be flooded with physical panic and fear. I do not eat the cheese. The ED voice wins this round.

The ED voice tells me a lot of things to keep me compliant, and one of those things is that the eating disorder itself is not real. That, if I go a day eating more calories than the ED wants or if I don’t track my calories for a day, that means the eating disorder isn’t real and that I’ve been using it as an excuse for attention. Which is gross and disgusting and bad bad bad. The only way to rectify? To restrict lower, harder, lose more weight. To prove it is real. And then, then maybe I will be worthy of care and of food.

It’s tricky, this ED voice. And, the deeper I am into the behaviors (restriction), the harder it is to even distinguish this voice from my own.

But, it’s there. And, I’m realizing, the fact that it’s yelling at me that it doesn’t exist is proof enough that it does. That I DO have an eating disorder. It’s the very thing yelling at me while I don’t eat the cheese. It’s controlling that action.

I’m now grappling with a couple of questions and feelings about these questions:

  1. Does having an eating disorder mean I can never diet again?
  2. Why is it seemingly OK for others to diet (or eat X number of calories, or track calories, or whatever action) but not me?

The conclusions I’ve come to? Because I have an addiction.

I am addicted to my eating disorder.

I get a dopamine rush whenever I see the scale drop. Whenever I close out my day at a certain number of calories. Whenever I give in to the ED voice in my head — I get a dopamine rush — and it gets harder and harder to get/hold onto that feeling, so I end up needing more and more to get there (restrict lower, etc.).

I have an eating disorder, and so, no, I genuinely don’t think I can safely “diet” (restrict calories) even a little bit. A little restriction inevitably leads to a relapse.

I have an eating disorder (addiction), so I have to stay away from things like calorie tracking, 100%, because even a little bit of it inevitably leads to a relapse.

And this makes me angry. It feels unfair. And the ED voice in my head, of course, screams at me that I’m using the eating disorder as an excuse to “stay fat” and eat unrestricted. (The ED voice says that I am not worthy of eating unrestricted because I don’t have an eating disorder/I am not thin enough.)

Tangled web, huh? The eating disorder telling me it doesn’t exist, so I should listen to it… lots of logic there.

In any case, I am growing more practiced right now with owning this and trying not to be too ashamed…because, yeah, there’s a lot of shame that comes up when I say “I have an eating disorder.” Shame and an instantaneous disbelief in the thing I am saying.

Me: I have an eating disorder.

ED voice: no you don’t! Stop making things up for attention! …..

Me: if you don’t exist, then how are you even talking to me?

Right, so…

Hi, my name is Lisa, and I have an eating disorder.

What Do You Do When Numbing is Off the Table?

I often look back on my past selves and think “what the hell happened?”

What happened to make me gain so much weight?

What happened to make me lose so much weight?

Why did I continually eat until I was in physical pain?

Why did I continually starve until I couldn’t go on a simple walk?

When I think back to all of these times in my life, I’ve realized that they were all times of trauma. Often, extended trauma – not one-time events.

I had heard of emotional eating, and I knew that it was something I used to do. (Something I labeled as “BAD!”) But, I had never heard of “emotional restriction.” I had never considered that one might turn to restriction in the same way one might turn to a pint of ice cream for comfort. But, when I think about it now, it makes perfect sense.

When food is the first place you turn in every crisis you’ve experienced your entire life, it makes perfect sense that restricting food could become the place you turn.

I didn’t recognize this pattern in myself until very recently. But, looking back, even before the restrictive eating disorder, starting a “new diet” always brought up a bit of a rush — a sense of hope, new beginnings, and accomplishment. The promise of approval and love in times when I felt unlovable and unworthy.

I bring this up now, because I have spent the last 6 weeks in the worst restrictive relapse since I began recovering from my eating disorder. I’m telling you this because I always want to be honest about my weight loss. And, honestly, because I know my friends and family read this blog…and I need you to not complement me on my weight loss if you see me over the holidays & happen to notice. I need you to know that I did not lose this weight healthily — I lost it because I’ve been trying to numb myself and cope after dealing with a trauma.

Those close to me will know what happened. I don’t want to go into intimate details here, but to avoid speculation, I will say that it had to do with finding out someone close to me was actually a sociopath & reporting that person for abuse, which has been a year-long process that has finally concluded.

What I do want to talk about — even solicit from those who might still read this blog — are other ways to cope with trauma and overwhelming feelings when you’ve spent your entire life turning to either food or restriction to deal with these things.

What do you do? What do you do when you are so overwhelmed by feelings that it is intolerable? What do you do when you cannot wrap your mind around something traumatic that has happened? How do you cope?

I can’t turn to cake… and I can’t turn to starvation. What do you do when numbing is off the table?

Perhaps the answer is right in front of me — I do this.

I write a blog.

What Does Normal Bloating Look Like?

I recorded a video for my YouTube channel yesterday (I’ll post it below) that I thought would translate pretty well into a blog as well (plus, I’m going to add some bonus pictures that aren’t in the video just for my awesome blog readers). For those who would rather watch vs. read (or watch and read), here is the video:

Now…let’s talk about bloating.

This experiment was inspired by one of my favorite YouTubers, Natacha Océane, who recorded what a normal day of bloating and scale fluctuations look like for her. Now, there are a few differences between Natacha and myself…

Natacha and Me

…have you spotted them?

I’ll give you a minute.

Just in case you can’t tell from this photo, Natacha is in her 20s, has never been obese, and has never had a child — three pretty big differences between the two of us!

I loved her honest portrayal so much, though, that I wanted to provide my own showing my different body type. So, that’s what I did!

Now, if you watch the video, you’ll hear all about how difficult this day wound up being for me. I struggle pretty hard with watching the scale and my body fluctuate. I am hoping that this experiment will help to remind me that these are very fickle things that fluctuate wildly, and there’s no need or reason to change anything just because of minor fluctuations like this.

Now, the experiment…

Method!

I “measured” as soon as I woke up, after my run, after lunch, before bed, and when I woke up again this morning.

I took two sets of photos/video: my abs relaxed vs. my abs flexed (not that you can see them, haha).

I also weighed myself.

What I Ate

Pre-run: espresso with some creamer

Breakfast: protein pancakes w/ extra protein powder, peanut butter chips, coffee w/ creamer

Lunch: half of a buffalo ranch salad kit with a beef pattie on top, sweet potato chips, sour gummies

Dinner: a bowl of cereal with 2% milk, blueberries, and a yogurt

Snacks: lunch meat (turkey), crackers, pickles, protein bar, decaf coffee with creamer

How I Worked Out

5-mile short run

Results!

Here are the weights:

I was 140.2 when I woke up, 138.8 after my 5-mile run, 140.8 after lunch, and 140.8 before bed.

scale.jpg

I woke up at 139.6 this morning.

scale2.jpg

Abs Relaxed Photos

absrelaxed1.jpg

Absrelaxed2.jpg

This morning:

Absrelaxed4.jpg

Abs Flexed Photos!

Flex1.jpg

Flex2.jpg

This morning:

Flex4.jpg

Conclusion!

Bloat is normal, the scale fluctuates a lot throughout the day and day-to-day, and these things are not something to worry about. I thought, at first, that I bloat up “bigger” than others because of the elasticity in my stomach area, but I’m honestly not sure that’s true now. I think I’m just much more critical of myself!

Also, on a personal note, yes, I have legitimately gained a couple pounds in the last couple of months. I actually had lost about 4-5 pounds when I went on a short-term, idiotic diet, but my body composition test told me that all I’d managed to do was lose muscle & water & freak my body out so that it was holding onto fat for dear life. So, I stopped dieting, got back on the intuitive eating train, and re-gained the weight within 3 weeks. My next body composition test is next week, and I’m hoping to see that I have my muscle (water) back.

Personal Note

This was a really hard experiment for me, and I am feeling all sorts of anxious about putting it out there. I’m definitely struggling with body image a lot these days – more, I think, than I was even before I started exercising.

That said, the exercise is going amazingly well! I continue to see gains in my strength and endurance, and I want that to be all that matters — I at least want it to matter more than a stupid number on a scale. I hope, some day, this is true for me.

 

I Am a Fraud

I am a fraud.

Four months ago, I came on here and wrote that I was done caring about what the scale said. Fuck Thin; I Choose Fat was so easy to say, though, when the scale had been sitting eerily still for months on end. The truth is, the moment that scale moved again — even just a tiny bit — I freaked out and jumped right back on the diet train for the last month.

To be honest, guys, I’m kind of a fraud all around. I write in these blogs with all of the passion I have in a given moment, but then I immediately turn around to my real life of not actually knowing who I am or what I believe. I preach intuitive eating and “screw diets” while not-so-secretly still dieting myself. I say “I’d rather be fat than eating disordered” while secretly thinking to myself “but, I don’t want to give up my thin privilege now that I’ve finally gotten it.”

It is so easy to preach “be done with diets” when society, doctors, and everyone around you is no longer really telling you, personally, that you should be dieting. It is so easy to say “all foods are allowed” when people around you have finally determined that you are deserving of all foods now that you have lost the weight. When nobody is side-eyeing you for buying candy or for being in a store that doesn’t even carry your size.

The world is shitty to fat people.

Why wouldn’t I be afraid of being back in that place?

In any case, this post is mostly just me coming back, tail between my legs, and telling you that I totally did not do the thing I said I was going to do. That being said, I’m here to try again. A little humbler, and a little more honest.

 

Eat Less, Weigh Less: A Woman’s Mantra

43117043_10102349786336293_6428486540736856064_nMy whole life, I have always thought there was only one way to “be” as a woman: eat less, weigh less.

That’s how you get thin; that’s how you stay thin. And, women should be thin.

After years of trying and failing to commit to eating less, somehow, I finally got a grip on that chain, and I’ve been toeing that line for a decade.

It’s exhausting. There’s a reason that all of the studies show that most people who lose weight will gain it back. (Even my nutritionist tells me that I’m the first person she’s ever met who is part of the National Weight Control Registry.) I have spent years living in fear that I will gain it all back too. To combat that fear, I clung to this truth: “If I eat less, it can’t happen.”

Starvation is a full-time job. There are no breaks when you turn restriction into a lifestyle. When every calorie matters, food becomes an obsession: the first thing you think about in the morning and the last thing you think about at night. It even invades your dreams. You learn to live at a low level of hunger at all times.

I am so tired of being hungry.

Three months ago, I stumbled into a local gym that provides personal training and specializes in educating their clients about all things health-related. During my consultation, I told the owner that I had nutrition down but was ready to learn about exercise.

For the first couple of months, I continued to do what I’ve always done: eat less. I asked even more of my body, and I was so angry at it when it “failed me.” In frustration, I did, again, what I’ve always done: I doubled down on my commitment. I decided that I would eat even less, I would work out even more. That has always been the answer: eat less, move more. Right?

And then, about a month ago, after literally crying outside of the gym after a particularly bad day in which I felt weak and like I had regressed in my strength training, I found this video by a female fitness (and especially strength training) guru, Natacha Océane. In the video, she halved her caloric intake for a week (dropping from her normal 2,500-2,800 to just 1,400 calories per day, which was about what I was eating at the time) but continued her typical exercise routine. Suddenly, she couldn’t lift nearly as much weight, she was exhausted, and every time she ate, she just felt more hungry.

I felt like I was watching myself from that morning at the gym – unable to lift what I’d just been able to lift a couple of weeks before.

And something clicked. And I watched more videos, read more articles, scoured the internet world of female strength training and…holy…crap.

There is an entirely different world out there.

There is a world of women who are eating more, gaining muscle (which means, yes, gaining weight on a scale), and yet somehow being leaner and stronger and a million times more alive than my starving self.

There are countless women showing how they moved from an “eat less, weigh less” lifestyle to an “eat more, f#@% the scale” strength training lifestyle and are now actually a few dress sizes smaller despite a higher number on the standard scale.

But, more than that, there are women who have said “f#@% the scale, f#@% my appearance, I want to be strong. I want to be able to do pull-ups. I want to run a Spartan race. I want to deadlift double my weight. And that is what is going to fulfill me.”

At first, I was thinking “well of course it’s OK for you, super fit women, to eat more; but, not me. I’m not allowed to eat that much.”

What sealed the deal for me, though, was my trainer very bluntly telling all of us that he sees so many of his female clients come in eating next to nothing and desperately trying to lose weight, and that his goal for us was to see us eating more, getting stronger, and focusing on performance goals.

That told me “Yes, you…specifically you…who are not super fit or lean like the women in those YouTube videos, you who still have a lot of body fat…even you are allowed to eat more. NEED to eat more. This will work even for you.”

And, so I am.

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Slowly, and with a lot of fear and trepidation, but also with trust and just as much stubbornness and willpower as it took to restrict, I am increasing my intake. I am changing my goals.

I am no longer trying to eat less to weigh less; I am trying to eat more to get stronger and to develop a lifestyle in which I am thriving – doing so much more than trying to stay thin.

And, it’s working.

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I went from never running a mile straight to being able to run a 5k in a matter of weeks. (Aiming for my first 10k on Thanksgiving day!)

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If you follow me on Instagram (@saladflambe), you’ll have already seen this, but I gained a pound this month, and it was all muscle; plus, I still lost some fat. All while eating more, not less.

I want to shout it from the rooftops… every time I see someone talking about how little they are eating, I want to take their face in my hands, look them in the eye and say “you don’t have to do that! There is another way to live! And to really, truly be alive!”

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Yes, even for you.