How I Discovered Balance in My Eating
Most likely you have found yourself here before. A place where you feel lost, confused, and frustrated as all get out. You know you're capable of more, but every time you try to make a change something always seems to pull you back down. You feel ashamed, guilty, and embarrassed that once again you couldn't commit. Can you relate to this? Maybe this has happened many times and then after a while you have started to believe that making the change is too difficult, and the failure is just too painful to deal with anymore. It wasn’t long ago that I really struggled with “balanced” eating. I was a competitive swimmer most of my childhood and continued throughout college, so exercise was a natural part of my life. But, I ate whatever I wanted without giving it a second thought. I had a good appetite and could eat A LOT. I was always comfortable with my fitness level, my weight was always “normal”, and so I didn’t really think too much about nutrition. At the time those were my health indicators – how fit I looked and my weight. However, I suffered from horrible acne which was incredibly embarrassing when I had to walk around a pool deck in a swim suit. I experienced regular GI distress, belly bloat, awful PMS symptoms, and in general terrible mood swings that would peak especially when I was hungry. When I got hungry it felt like the world was ending. Seriously! I couldn’t concentrate on anything except that I needed food NOW. I remember my boyfriend in college saying something to me like, ‘It’s ok to feel hungry… you’ll survive’, and I literally could not comprehend this absurdity. I would feel this way multiple times throughout the day every couple of hours. It resulted in me constantly thinking and worrying about food all day long. The question ‘when will I get to eat next?’ was always a concern. Food ruled my life.
An injury ultimately peaked my interest in a more holistic approach to healing my body. My massage therapist would test my chakras and ask me questions about my feelings (ick I don’t want to talk about my feelings). I started reading books on how our emotions, movement, and food impacts our bodies. I did the yoga, the journaling, but I never bothered to change what I was eating. I didn’t eat horribly and it’s not like I was living off of fast food or anything. In these books there was a lot of talk about eliminating sugar, gluten, and dairy. But, that wasn’t something I was even remotely interested in trying because I was “fit” and “healthy”. I didn’t need to concern myself with that nonsense. Give up my Oreos? I don’t think so.
Things continued like this for years. Even when I was in school studying to be a dietitian I would implement what I was learning, but my erratic eating continued. The acne, PMS, mood swings, GI distress continued. I justified eating an entire pint of ice cream because I exercised and my weight was fine. In school there started to become some pressure to eat a certain way in front of others, because I was going to be a dietitian ya' know! I would eat one way in front of classmates, friends, my boyfriend, then secretly scarf down an entire frozen pizza, pint of Ben & Jerry’s, and a bottle of wine when nobody was around. It was as if forcing myself to uphold to the image of a “dietetic student” was brewing up this food rebel inside of me. Always worrying about what I should eat started to mess with my head because the food that I wanted to eat seemed bad. I was so disconnected with what my body needed, what foods would support my health, and how to still eat pizza and ice cream!
Fast forward three years later. I had been training for triathlons and studying sports nutrition implementing everything I was learning for training, recovery, and race day. Insert pancakes, bananas, bread, rice, pasta, energy gels, and sports drinks galore. This worked fine, except that the nutrition products I used on race day made me feel heavy and bloated. Not exactly how I wanted to feel towards the end of my race. I had lab work done about a week after one of my races and to my surprise my triglycerides and cholesterol were high! With my GI distress and high cholesterol as a result of my eating habits I decided that it was time to switch things up.
I began researching fat adaptation for endurance athletes, a way to train your metabolism to utilize fatty acids for fuel during exercise instead of relying on glucose from carbohydrates. I started focusing on balancing my protein intake with the amount of carbohydrate I was eating and adding a healthy fat to every meal. My main carbohydrate sources became vegetables, berries, quinoa, and oats. My pre-workout peanut butter banana toast turned into nut butter and coconut oil fat bombs. My pasta dinners became quality proteins with loads of vegetables, avocado, and butter! In the beginning my main goal was to be able to get through a race without needing gels or gummies. But the results I had FAR exceeded those expectations.
First of all, my meals were satisfying me for hours. Yeah, I would get hungry 3-4 hours after a meal but this time it was more subtle, no more raging hunger. I started to experience better concentration and focus in the afternoon, no more brain fog. My skin began to clear up, no more embarrassing acne! My daily belly bloat disappeared, and my PMS symptoms drastically improved. It’s like a light bulb finally went off! Getting curious about how food impacted my health, and not just my weight, or what other people thought about what I ate created a major shift. I started to create the consistent daily habits that supported my health and made me feel GOOD. I started to ask myself questions like ‘ what do I want right now?’, ‘ what would I enjoy?’, and ‘how will this make me feel?’. The decisions behind my food choices became more about supporting myself instead of worrying about external sources of validation.
When I became curious and started to actually PAY ATTENTION to my thoughts, emotions, and physical symptoms I was able to collect the tools I needed to make a change. It’s a learning process for sure, and I won’t sit here and tell you that I never eat ice cream or pasta any more because I do! But, because I have worked to implement health promoting habits into my daily routine, I know that there is wiggle room for my favorite indulgences. My treats are now much more intentional and I enjoy the heck out of them. I feel in control and I’m calling the shots now. Getting to this point where I am now with my health and my relationship with food has been a long journey and is something I work on every single day. It’s far from perfect, but I’m sure you have also discovered that perfection isn’t attainable. And I want you to know that perfection is not a requirement for health and happiness. Keep learning, growing, striving and you’ll find yourself much happier.
My dear friend, you deserve an extraordinary life and you CAN achieve those big, bold dreams you have created for yourself! You deserve a life filled with love and joy. You deserve to feel energized, vibrant, and in control! Stop procrastinating, resisting, and sabotaging yourself! If you feel ready for something different, to let go of old habits keeping you stuck, and to make a true change in your nutrition I am here to help you along your journey. It can feel overwhelming, uncomfortable, and scary at times. But, know that you don't have to go through it alone, and that you are capable!