Hiring a Coach: My Worst Decision

Disclaimer: I know this is just my story. I have heard so many great stories about people who have hired coaches. Before I hired mine, I asked around and heard just as many not as loudly told stories to the contrary. But I wanted to believe it could be true, it would help. And maybe I just got a bad match in a great company. What I think is I got sold that a company I formerly trusted would have something different. It was just a sales job. And here’s the kicker. I lost so much ground, got hurt, lost all momentum, and GAINED weight. Yes, the weight I worked so hard to lose soooo slowly. All of it is back now. Plus some. It brings tears to my eyes.

This is my story.

So, I’d tried it all. Calorie counting, low car, keto, paleo, primal, autoimmune protocol, fasting. It’s been a terrible roller coaster where I lose some, gain more back. And now I’m at a point that even with extreme fad diets like keto and fasting, I barely lose, and I plateau quickly, then start gaining. Go off, gain more back.

So I’d quit fad diets. Beginning of last year that was my resolution. No more diets, start walking. And I did. And then I got dumb. About May I saw the ad. I was at a point I thought, I’d like to add something else in. But I’m bored with all the stuff I’ve already done. Maybe a coach could customize something for me. They even touted not doing diets, but customizing to your genetics, lifestyle and preferences. My genetics? How did I not know this was a scam? Someone kill me.

Anyway, I signed up, and I tried to explain my food issues. My tendencies to be obsessive and extreme. That I didn’t want to track calories because of this. So he has me take pictures of my food, then starts asking about my food. So then I get into this disordered eating shame space and try not to eat at all. I was miserable. Tired, frustrated because I knew I’d broken my resolution and spent this money and was ready to quit, and hungry. I was fucking hungry.

Called my mom. She told me to eat whatever I want. Then tell the coach I did and this isn’t working.

So I did.

It was like I’d talk and talk about my issues but he never seemed to “get” it. He’d prescribe workouts that were boring and slow progress and I could do them but they were so basic. After I’d said I was burnt out with weight lifting but whenhe asked if I could try again. Yeah, I can try whatever. I guess I paid for you. But the fitness was supposed to fit my interests. This wasn’t interesting. And the one thing I was enjoying, I now wasn’t doing to fit in these uninspired workouts. Did I have time to walk? Sure. But I was so overwhelmed with the eating situation, I didn’t want to walk. Or workout. And I wanted my money back.

And he wanted to check in though chat.

I did finally negotiate quick weekly calls. Only they were during work. I don’t want to meet during work. I don’t have an office. I have to go sit in my car because I’m not talking about diet and exercise and how I feel in a shared space. Only every single call i was on time, and he was late. Not like hours late. But five or ten minutes late. So I am sitting in my car for my entire lunch break WAITING for him to call. And then he’d say pretty basic stuff. I thought, well, maybe this is like therapy. People say therapists say the most obvious stuff. But it never helped. I still hated “reporting” my food to him, and now my head was in the “on or off” diet mode and if I was off, I was binging, and if I was on, I was starving. Which, by the way, I finally quit this mess in, I believe November, and I am STILL in this mode and can not get out of it. To say I’m full of regret is an understatement. I’ve gained fifteen pounds since then. I had to buy some bigger clothes. I’m miserable at this size.

And all I can think is, “If I had just kept doing what I was doing, I would have been fine,” why do we think we need help? We don’t. These coaches give us the very basic advice, only they don’t know us, and don’t really seem to want to. They give us workouts that are either easy to get going and don’t challenge you, or are way too hard. And have you do all of this pre-work – videos, answer questions, etc., then don’t really seem to do anything with that information. I know that walking is working, so I continue. That’s my only plan. To walk 2-4 miles 5-7 days a week. If I want to ride a bike instead, I will. Go to a cycle class, I do instead. Add in some weights, I do. Dance instead of walking because it’s raining? Great! Hit up kickboxing? Sounds fun today! Maybe I want to lift once or twice a week, so I do. Maybe some weeks I don’t left at all. If I want to go for a bike ride, I do.

I now appreciate my body’s capabilities. I try to challenge it some days, and other, enjoy the simplicity of the walk.

As for eating? I think partly it’s tied to the depression of the weight gain. I put on the workout clothes I bought this time lest year and the loose fighting stuff doesn’t fall as flatteringly. The leggings are too tight in the waist. My work clothes are less flattering. And I remind myself I’m not what I look like. And my value doesn’t come from my weight. And I keep saying it. And some days I eat fast food three times a day. Others, I crave steamed broccoli, chicken and roasted potatoes. I’m trying to be patient. To slowly get back where I was. To listen to ME because I was on the right path before, and I lost it by making someone else’s uneducated opinion a priority over mine.

I still have some nagging injuries I’m working on. But even those are slowly improving now. I try to say I don’t regret it because I’ve learned. Now I know:

1. Diets are only short term successful for me. If I want to think about my lifetime, I will NEVER go on a diet again. Ever. No matter what.

2. A coach doesn’t know me better than me. I’ve been doing this health stuff for nearly twenty years. I know my body, my needs, my brain better than anyone.

3. No matter what I look like, I’m worthy of love, acceptance and success. And if I never lose another pound, that’s ok.

4. I can be the best version of me at this weight I can be. Someone who is active, capable, strong, independent and compassionate with myself! And being the best me isn’t a destination. It is endless. I will stay active today, tomorrow, forever. Only goal is to keep moving.


Finding Motivation and Inspiration Through Trial and Error

I’ve been struggling with finding inspiration to BE healthy. And I don’t mean that in a fad diet way, or an extreme way. Rather, I mean it in the same way I make decisions about money, career, and even relationships. I’m able to see the long game, and make decisions today that are healthy for the future. I don’t spend my entire paycheck, I save, without question. It isn’t painful at all, and doesn’t seem like I’m sacrificing. I do the work today without knowing if I’ll even be here to enjoy it in the future.

Same with career. I make sacrifices today in hopes of a better tomorrow – whether that’s a raise (preferred!), promotion, or even more autonomy or being involved in stuff I enjoy, now or in the future. I’d say the career path is harder, as there’s not always a concrete end result. Doing good work, especially as a woman, NEVER guarantees success tomorrow. And I don’t mean that in a victim way. Just that I watch men effortlessly (and without much commitment) get promoted, while the women around me struggle and grind more. But it’s life. It’s unintentional, and I can’t change it. so I roll with it.

Even in relationships, I’m able to look at a situation and determine quickly that some things aren’t worth arguing over or being right just to be right. Or that I won’t take offense to something when my friend is just that way. I see the big picture. I still want to be friends, so I let a lot of things slide for the long-term of the relationship. On the other hand, I’m also good at saying, “This relationship doesn’t benefit me, why do I continue with it?” and sever that relationship. I don’t want EVERYONE to like me. And don’t mind if they disagree or think I’m uncool. I have a good set of friends I feel lucky to have, and I spend time taking care of those relationships today.

So why do I struggle so much with health? Do I like eating more than I like spending money, calling in sick to work or slacking at work, or even being right or putting myself before relationships? I know I don’t do everything right with money, career or friends, but those areas of my life are super successful. Why can’t I care that over to moderate success in health?

I have been trying to find a better fit this past year, and I think part of my issue is depression (which I tend to eat through). Not debilitating but enough that food does bring me pleasure when other things aren’t. And anxiety affects my sleep cycle, which affects my hunger and give a damn. Fatigue also affects other parts of my personal life, mostly my organization at home, which plays directly into some of my food choices. But I’d say by and large, I simply can’t get into a groove I can maintain with eating “well” (whatever that means). Though I’ve done better with working out.

This year I’ve made walking a priority. It’s low impact, low energy requirement, and I’ve even found it’s a huge stress relief. But it’s time-consuming, and I only like to walk outside, so weather can impact my success.

I’ve posted before about being a huge fan of The Firm and Cathe. I do their workouts still (been a fan since the early 2000s). And over the past two years have found some great, encouraging, supportive social media groups of people who are fans of the same workouts. And I’ve actually found The Firm groups to be the most down to earth and long-thinking of ANY diet or exercise group I’ve been a part of. But it feels like time moves so fast. Those in the groups are slowly moving through their lives, intentionally. But I blink and the day’s over and I haven’t done as much as I’d like.

I’ve complicated the matter by purchasing a year with an online coach. I love the coach. He doesn’t try to get me to adhere to HIS diet and workout routine. He and I work together to try to figure out what works for me. I try to tell myself this is going to be good for long-term me, but so far my weight loss is minimal and I still feel lost. But I’m going to carry on until the year is up, in hopes I’ll come out the other side with a clearer outlook. So far, I can say, having someone to check in with has made me very consistent in workouts. And I feel somewhat stronger, but I can’t help thinking if I had somehow just said, “I want to walk, maybe work on jogging, maybe do some gym classes and add in workout videos when I want” I might be in a better place strength-wise. His strength workouts he gives me don’t seem to do a lot for building actual strength. And I don’t get the same sweaty burn (and after-glow) I do with Cathe or The Firm. It could just be at my age I won’t feel the same I have in the past. Or maybe I’m just uninspired.

My eating is a roller coaster. I’m trying to be VERY aware of over-eating. Why am I doing it? Is it because the food was good? If so, why? Is it because I’m sad/stressed? If so, does over-eating help? But I just can’t seem to make my revelations carry forward from day to day. And I know the eating is what’s hindering weight loss. But I also REFUSE to go back into a restricting cycle. I want to enjoy eating, but not have eating control me. Idon’ want to count calories and feel ashamed if I eat more than whatever my arbitrary limit is. Or have to make up for it with exercise.

Then again, I DESPERATELY want to be two sizes smaller!

I’ve been working through an intuitive eating workbook. Some sections and chapters are more helpful than others. One I’ve really enjoyed and think has helped is honoring what SOUNDS good. Not (well, probably sometimes) just as an excuse to eat whatever I want. But sometimes pasta sauce sounds really good. And I explore whether it’s actual pasta I want (or pizza as they’re similar cravings). Or maybe it’s the sauce itself. If so, what sounds good with the sauce? In the past, I would often just order pizza or pasta. But over the past few months, I’ve found I want pasta sauce with chicken. So I’ll make up a crusted chicken (I also have found I often crave textures, and crunch is a huge one for me), and eat that with pasta sauce and a salad. Kind of like a parmesan chicken. Other times, the WANT for pizza is overwhelming. And I TRY not to judge it, though I’ve found I judge so many things I want, and just order the pizza and eat what I want.

If I get in a judgement space, I find I eat MORE. I eat like, “this is the last time I’ll do this for awhile.” If I tell myself, “This is delicious. I can have this whenever I want” I find I eat less pizza right then AND order it less often. It is SO HARD to stay in the non-judging space, though. But I think that’ll be a key to success.

This past chapter I’ve been working through is being aware of hunger signals, which has been MADDENING for me. I struggle with wanting to eat as a distraction. And thinking about food leading up to a meal in itself is a distraction. If I think about what I’ve brought for lunch, it’s less interesting and distracting than talking about all of the POSSIBLE foods I can eat, and discussing them with a co-worker. I haven’t sorted how to deal with this, yet. But I do know it’s a root of part of the problem.

I’ve also found I want to eat lunch for a break. Meaning, it’s near lunchtime, I can eat and take a break from work. I’ve actually found boredom to be a strange nagging thing in my life recently. When I was in school last year, I found myself mid-final exam wanting to get out my phone and scroll because I was bored taking a test! I think with a lot of the technology in place now, and messaging being fast, fragmented, short blurbs, I struggle with focus and attention on things. To try to counter that I’ve tried to limit my time on social media, and tried to get back into reading. It’s definitely a struggle. And progress is SLOW.

Later in the same chapter, which I finally moved on because I felt like I wasn’t getting much out of these exercises, there is talk about honoring your hunger. If you’re hungry when it’s “too soon” treat it like if you have to go to the bathroom after you’ve just gone. Honor the hunger, and don’t try to shame or ignore or distract yourself from it. I’m going to try that this week along with still honoring what I’m hungry for and why, and being aware of over-eating, while also trying to work on improving focus and not distracting during boredom.

So many things to do! On the workout front, I did purchase a Cathe On Demand subscription because she has a really cool workout blender you can put workouts together with segments of ALL of her fantastic workout library. I’m going to use it to build workouts around the strength workouts my coach gave me so I can still do his workouts and try to get that sweaty afterglow I’m missing!

Eating When Restricting (or Planning to Restrict)

So, my life restricting is a lot of, well, restricting. And my life when not restricting, is eating UNTIL I start restricting again. A lot of shame and guilt. Or a lot of OFF eating. Hardcore off. Making ALL of the choices that are just for today,  because tomorrow I should do better.

When I eat when restricting, I’m often not satisfied. I am TRYING to eat less and less. Then I decide I need to feel full and eat more. Whether it’s a little more at a meal, several snacks or a bigger lunch or dinner. I eat a few or several not satisfying meals full of “OK” foods, don’t feel satisfied, and eventually get overwhelmed, frustrated and hungry. And give up. So then I eat “off” until I’m back on and every meal is a dramatic over-exaggeration of all of the foods I CAN’T or SHOULDN’T eat. All the “bad” foods.

So what does the gray area look like? It means NOTHING is off limits. I eat what sounds satisfying, what I want to eat, but I don’t shove it all in. And that doesn’t mean I was binging on these foods. Because I was never over-stuffing. Sometimes, without meaning to, I might eat fast and then get over-full. Similar to what happens when I eat sushi rolls. It just sneaks up on you. But, mostly, I just eat until I’m satisfied. But almost EVERY meal in the “off” phase is the most dramatic option. A breakfast burrito for breakfast, candy throughout the day, burger and fries or chicken tenders or something similar for lunch, pizza for dinner, and ANY snacks in between. I’m often eating not to binge, but eating when I’m feeling a little hungry at all, chasing the foods I shouldn’t have.

If I allow everything, I’ll occasionally want vegetables (rather than trying to force them). I’ll eat salads a few times a week. Or I’ll have some roasted vegetables. But some days I won’t have any vegetables. If I’m not thinking about restricting again tomorrow, my choices today aren’t as dramatic. Just like if I AM restricting today, my choices aren’t as dramatic. How do I find my way firmly into the gray? A place where if I’m not hungry, I don’t have to eat just to get that last meal in before “being good” again. Or eat that ice cream today because I don’t want to tomorrow. Or choose the wildest item on the menu because I may as well.

What would it look like if I actually looked at the menu for the most intriguing item? Or the most satisfying sounding item? Or the most creative item on the menu? It doesn’t have to be all fried. Or covered in cheese. But if that’s what truly sounds good today, even if I can have it again tomorrow, then that’s OK, too.

Similar to not eating food because I took it, I have to learn to not eat food because it’s the last time I’ll have it in theory. Or because it’s a bad choice and I should make my last bad choice today. Everyday and every choice is OK, and average, and can be repeated tomorrow. I want to make choices like when I’m on vacation. On vacation, I know tomorrow I can have another interesting meal, or choose whatever I’d like to eat, and I’ll truly choose what sounds good, not the heaviest thing.

It’s a matter of realizing the dramatic choices are due to the diet rhetoric running through my head, or thinking I need to stop being this way or liking these foods. Rather, it’s OK I like a variety of foods and today, tomorrow or next week I can choose them. And it’s OK if I don’t today. Becaus they’ll be there tomorrow.

Stop trying to make today perfect. And likewise, stop being as rebellious to imperfect today because I’ll be perfect tomorrow.

Intuitive Eating: A Day in the Life

I ate intuitively today. And I know today is just one of many days. There will probably be days I try to eat intuitively that won’t feel as powerful and positive. But today was a good day.

I think it’s helped I’m eating different stuff this week. By that, I mean, interesting new recipes I really like. Tzaziki and hummus are making my world go around. So are pickles. Likewise, I had gyoza for dinner last night and again as part of my lunch today. Tonight I added some falafel to my tzaziki and hummus love fest.

Note: I’m fighting the urge to tell you which of these foods are homemade and which aren’t, and explaining them. But you know what? The food was all delicious. It doesn’t matter!

I ate until I was satisfied, enjoying bites as I had them, even feeling aware of when fullness was arriving. At both lunch and dinner, I had some urges to keep eating because I was enjoying the food so much. But then I realized more food will be there tomorrow and in the future. I don’t need to eat it ALL today.

Nothing is a scandalous “cheat meal” or “cheat day” that I need to finish up. And maybe tomorrow the leftovers will sound good. Or maybe they won’t. Hell, it’s possible the friend falafel won’t even TASTE good tomorrow because reheating fried foods is always a crapshoot. If the leftovers aren’t good, I’ll know to only make what I want that day. Or if they ARE good, I’ll know that I can make extra and enjoy them as leftovers.

Right now I’m trying to treat everything as an experiment. Be aware like I’ve never been before. Enjoy smells, tastes, textures, temperatures of food. For example, the tzaziki had a fantastic crunchy texture. Not like fried panko, but almost harder like cornmeal on the outside, and warm on the inside. Mixed with tzaziki and hummus was a bit of heaven.

The gyoza, likewise, had some chewy textures on the steamed side of the gyoza wrapper, but nice and crispy on the bottom, with a center that had enough chew to not be mushy, and a lot of flavor from the various ingredients. The spicy salty gyoza sauce was a nice flavor enhancement, and a perfect compliment to the gyoza.

Trying to really be in the moment and appreciate the food I’m eating isn’t always something I do. Maybe if I go to a new restaurant or when I’m on vacation or enjoying food with just the right person I’ll pause and appreciate the first few bites. But this was celebrating food like I don’t normally do.

I also appreciate making and trying new foods is a bit of a risk. And this time the risk paid off. But other times it hasn’t. So while I feel very positive that things worked out, I want to feel as positive to have tried something new even if it doesn’t work out.

I’ve also felt really encouraged I’ve been able to really naturally see where “full” is. I can sense it even before I feel full. The biggest accomplishment was stopping eating even when a delicious food is in front of me, so that’s also a huge step.

So today, intuitive eating was good. And I feel hopeful.

Dieting, Isolation and Criticism’s Self-Doubt

One of the interesting symptoms of OCD is the need for reassurance. You seek it from yourself or others. I think this one symptom, which I never realized I did until the past year, can be crippling. I feel like it’s somewhat rooted in self-doubt and lack of confidence. But, also anxiety and the need to be perfect.

I have sought reassurance in many areas of my life. People sometimes see it as my ability to be honest and even vulnerable. But, really, it’s just seeking reassurance I’ve done or said the right thing. Or am justified in being frustrated, standing up for myself, or setting boundaries. Strangely, generally my intuition is spot on. Yet, somehow it never reassures me enough to not need reassurance the next time!

Diet and exercise can be a somewhat isolating experience. When I first got into working out, I was one of my few friends and family who did so regularly. Others either didn’t understand it or mocked it. When I started running, really no one I knew ran. There were a few “fun runs” but mostly they were just 5K races (or marathons) that were meant for charity purposes. Maybe for illness research or an occasional, rare holiday race. Now, there’s almost TOO MUCH connectivity for me.

When I first started working out, I wished a friend or two did my workouts so we could talk about them. I stumbled upon a chat room for the set of workouts I did, and it was fantastic. Well, until the diet talk started and I realized I wasn’t dieting “correctly.” But that connection with virtual friends who could discuss the workouts, offer suggestions for a struggle, or ideas for making a workout more challenging was fantastic for me. The diet stuff eventually made me feel a lot of doubt. And I started limiting how I talked about food.

Now there are an endless number of ways to connect about a diet or workout. But those groups, in my opinion, are steeped in judgement and competition. People seeing who can be the best, do more, or pick apart others. Unfortunately, I never feel adequate. And I also feel the extreme dieting, which I used to never know about, is EVERYWHERE. And competitive exercising, who can lift more, run farther or faster, do more pullups, do more deadlifts, deadlift more, deadlift faster. It’s endless.

So how do you find the support group you need? I’m not sure. I really struggle with finding healthy connection, and even question WHY I need it at all. Why can’t I put my head down and just do what I enjoy? A variety of workouts, not one specific plan. A variety of food, not one specific plan. It’s like I need reassurance I’m doing it right or well enough.

In fact, writing this post, and the entirety of this blog is my need for reassurance. It’s as if I feel like I push the idea out into the great wide abyss, it somehow validates I’m doing the right thing.

But the other side of things is I know there’s no one way to be healthy. I’ve preached this since I found my way out of the paleo rabbit hole. I know some people can probably do paleo OK, eliminating the foods that bother them, and not getting extreme or judgmental. In fact, as part of my attempt to “immerse” myself in some triggering environments, I went to a paleo group today. I expected it to be worse than it was. There are always some level-headed people in every group. But also some judgmental assholes. When I’m not in a certain way of eating, I can see the level-headed people for the real leaders in the group, and the assholes as the unhappy progress killers. (This is not unlike work. The encouraging people who want progress are the natural leaders. And the people who judge everyone or make it harder than it needs to be are the ones the leaders have to lead.) It’s interesting those assholes have louder voices I give more credence to when I’m not just a casual observer. Good takeaway.

However, it seems no matter what I do, I need someone to tell me I’m doing a good job. I’m going to work more on reassuring MYSELF. Not by doing checking or reading to reassure me, but simply appreciating the things I’ve wanted to do that I’m doing. For example, I’ve been walking 2-3 miles most days. That was my general plan: walk 2-3 miles most days. So on days I walk, I need to be proud of my accomplishment and say, “Good job, me!” On days I don’t walk at all (unusual) I need to say good job for taking a break and not burning out. On days I walk but don’ t go two miles, I need to realize my goal was MOST DAYS. And walking even a mile is an accomplishment. And no matter what I do, I’m still walking 2-3 miles most days. So great work!

Same with diet. But it’s far more complicated to be as clear with my goal. since setting food goals is harder, but also induces more and more complexity and obsession. So I’ve started to set less “this is good, do this so may times” and work toward intuitive eating. Right now, the things I’m working on:

  1. Be aware when I’m talking diet rhetoric to myself. Counting calories, thinking a food I want is “bad,” or trying to eat less. Simply acknowledge these thoughts and let them go.
  2. Eating for satisfaction. What will satisfy me the most? This isn’t about eating protein to stay full. It’s being aware when I am hungry (or full), and thinking about what will satisfy me. I also have to be aware of NOT eating when I just want to eat something I’d planned to eat. This can be more complicated as I prepare more and more foods I want to try or am looking forward to. But I’m working toward simply eating when I’m hungry, and only eating the meal that sounds satisfying.
  3. Branch away from “weight loss foods.” For example, I used to try to eat the lowest calorie thing, even if it didn’t taste good. And often those foods didn’t satisfy me. Instead, I’m trying to be more adventurous with cooking, or even eating out. Try new dishes, and explore different cultures. It’s hatch chili season, so I bought some chilis, and made some dishes this weekend. I also wanted to try making gyoza, so I put together some gyoza this weekend. I also want to make falafel. So I’ve researched some recipes and want to make falafel, fattoush salad and tzaziki.  I’m excited to try new, interesting foods. So sometimes this makes me want to eat even when I’m not hungry. But being intuitive about it, realizing the food won’t disappear tomorrow if I don’t eat them today, and that it’s OK to make foods, not like them, and move on without being a failure. Often a whole recipe is cheaper than a single dish at a nice restaurant. If I ordered a restaurant dish and didn’t like it, I’d move on. So I’m trying to explore more, take more risks, and really enjoy eating again.

Right now, these are my goals. A few of my “friends” mocked my attempt to eat intentionally. Saying intuitive eating is just another diet scam, and the only way to lose is to exercise more, and eat less. But, let’s be honest, that’s a short term solution, at best. So why not try something new? Why not try some variety? Why not really try to eat things that are satisfying in my soul?

The hardest part is going it alone. Having a hard time connecting with others over my journey. But just as I’ve chosen a life single, rather than getting married and having children, and have had several jobs that I’m the only one in the role, often charting a path that’s better than the person who gave me the job saw, I truly enjoy those journeys. So, why can’t I can also take this path alone? Friends who are real friends will be excited I’m trying more adventurous foods. I’ll keep moving forward, keep adapting and changing, and I have faith that I will eventually find my way. Despite feeling more isolated. And I’ll overcome my self-doubt and work to quell the need for reassurance.


Intuitive Eating – The Diet That Worked

I started working through an intuitive eating workbook this week. The workbook is actually fairly consumable, though some of the tasks don’t tie into explanations. My OCD wants to know what it means when I write about or mark things down. That said, the first chapter had a few great insights. The first one that totally changed my perspective was thinking about a diet or diets that worked. Then the workbook challenges whether it actually did if you gained the weight back. There was even an exercise where you write down all of your diets you’ve ever done, and the results. I was surprised how challenging this was, even considering I was late to the dieting game. I didn’t go on my first diet until AFTER college. Many women started dieting before they were even teenagers!

At first, I thought a calorie in, calorie out diet was the one “that worked.” But as I worked through my dieting timeline, I lost weight and gained it back surprisingly quickly (in the big scheme of things). I was actually in a good routine in 2004-2005 before I let work take over my life. I think I’d lost and kept of weight for about 2 years at that point, and I remember struggling when I HAD to give up working out because work and school (mostly work, school was doable before this point) meant it was either workout or sleep. Quite literally. I was working around 100 hours a week and going to school. I was working seven days a week. I also stopped bringing lunches to work and making dinners at the same time. I remember how stressful it was to give up that workout time, and how much I felt like I was wasting money at that time, eating out so much. I’d never eaten out that much in my life.

Unfortunately, that set a new standard. Now I eat out that much without much thought. And I still think it’s a waste of money, but for some reason care far less. The future me who would like to retire early is annoyed by current me! :)

That said, at that point, I was only about two years into working out fairly regularly. I was in a good routine. I’d found workouts at home I liked, workouts at the Y I’d do by myself or with a few friends, and I was going for short runs a few times a week when nothing else sounded fun or I wanted a quick workout.

My food was mostly what sounded good, but I was cooking most of it. I did count up calories, but at that point, I was dabbling in figuring out how to reduce calories in a portion while being as satisfied (or more satisfied!), but still enjoying the foods I really liked occasionally: pizza, Mexican and Italian food, etc. I was also enjoying my 20s, having plenty of social drinks. In other words, I was preparing foods I liked because I liked them better than frozen meals. I would dink around with alternatives in ingredients to eat more vegetables IF the meal was still enjoyable (if it wasn’t, I didn’t force it). For example, I might add some finely chopped cauliflower tops. But I wouldn’t add the stems. I might julienne some spinach, but I wasn’t trying to shove a whole container of spinach in a dish. I was learning I really loved tomatoes and bell peppers in dishes. And that one potato or one serving of rice was as satisfying in a pot of soup as four potatoes or three servings of rice.

It was more of a fact finding mission – what do I like? What don’t I miss? What do I miss? If I missed it, I went back to it. For example, I never minded 2% cheese or lean meats. But I didn’t like MOST thin soups (so I needed a flour thickener). I could add some cauliflower or broccoli if I used just the tops and diced it finely. Adding huge chunks of either wasn’t my thing. Adding a little bit of sour cream, cream cheese or even Velveeta made a dish that was just OK, delicious. I needed about 1/4th of the sauce many dishes called for. But liked double the cheese. I loved a hint (or more than a hint) of spice in most things. I disliked a hint of sweet in most things. I liked to have meat in most dishes, but actually preferred about 1/2 of the amount most recipes called for. These were all simply preferences, and I didn’t really mark them as good or bad. They were more attempts to figure out what I REALLY liked. Where I could compromise without feeling like I was, and where a compromise was really forcing myself to eat things I didn’t care for, and therefore weren’t satisfying.

The problem is, once I got into Paleo, many of the things I used to do were now no-nos. I not only couldn’t use 98% fat free cream of chicken anymore, I couldn’t use that or ANY canned foods anymore. And the homemade items were a lot of work, often weren’t as good, and were SUPER caloric. Same thing with Velveeta or American cheese. Such great items I used to add a small amount to a large dish for some creaminess that melted like magic, and now I had to use full fat cheese that didn’t melt as well, and the result was gloopy or gloppy or grainy or stringy. I used to eat a few pieces of peanut butter toast and a grapefruit with a sprinkle of cheese for breakfast. Now ALL of these things were EVIL. Peanuts were a legume, gluten was the devil’s work, and a sprinkle of sugar meant insta-cancer.

And, unfortunately, I feel like it’s impossible to flip that switch back. I went down the Paleo rabbit hole, and it’s hard to escape that mindset. The Internet compounds this. So many Judgmental Joes and Judys out there. Using terms like ‘chemical shitstorm” or “cancer causer” or “inflammation nightmare.” And, even now that I avoid EVERYTHING Paleo or even tangentially connected to Paleo, “those people” are now everywhere. I’m convinced I’m surrounded by Orthorexia, only most people haven’t come to terms with their issues. Generally you’d think avoiding a general comments section of a news story or recipe would be enough to avoid people acting like this, but there are also posts and comments by “friends” or friends of “friends.” It’s tough to navigate. Do I need to avoid this pervasive culture? Or need to live in it, and be impervious to it?

Part of the OCD stuff I’ve been reading says to get immersed in it and become less sensitive to it. So I’m considering immersing myself in Paleo “stuff.” Reading their rhetoric and all of the comments, even joining Paleo groups on Facebook. Reading the messages everyday, and not responding at all. Not only reading and not typing a response, but reading, and not FEELING a reaction. Right now, that feels nearly impossible. But why do I need others to know they’re wrong? Part of OCD is a need to be reassured. Either by another person or through doing things. So in theory, could I really immerse myself in this stuff and keep telling myself, “That’s diet rhetoric?” It’s scary but makes me feel like it might help. Get in there, don’t try to fix it, but lean into the feelings until they aren’t triggering anymore. (Right now, I read Paleo sludge and it makes me feel anxious, my  heart races, I feel defensive, and my instinct is to comment or turn away entirely and look for reassurance from someone. It feels scary to intentionally immerse myself in that toxic culture again. But maybe the fear is the reason I need to do it.)

The other thing I do now is I pre-eat to avoid being too hungry and over-eating. Or being too hungry to get done what needs to get done. For example, if I’m off work for a week, just hanging out at home, I tend to eat whenever I feel like it. I might get up and do stuff around the house for a few hours, then eat when I’m hungry, and eat what sounds good. Then maybe not eat again until mid afternoon, or have a few small things throughout the day. And then end the day with whatever sounds good. During the week, I feel super structured. I tend to try to “meal plan” which works for many people because they can plan their calories or carbs or overall macros. But, for me, this sort of planning makes me eat when I’m not hungry, and eat things that don’t sound good or aren’t satisfying, leaving me to want to over-eat (or even eat again) later. During time off work, I just eat when I’m hungry, whatever sounds satisfying. At work, I eat sometimes when I’m not hungry or because the meal meets a schedule. Or even as an excuse to take a break.

The other thing I do is wrap a lot of emotion in ordering food at a restaurant. Either I’m “on” or “off.” For example, if I’m “watching what I eat” I’ll put a large portion of the menu off limits. If I’m “off” I’ll hone in on the things that were formerly off the table as options. In both cases, I’m ordering based on emotion, rather than based on what truly sounds like it’s interesting or will satisfy me. I often eat thinking i want to stay full the rest of the day, or I don’t want to take a risk that something won’t be good.

Over this weekend, I’ve tried to be more mindful when I eat. What do I really want? Am I trying to over-fill so I stay full? Am I trying to eat the lowest calorie thing to try to come in short on calories and lose more faster? Am I feeling shame for what sounds good? If so, why? Are those feelings founded or diet rhetoric? Are they leftover Paleo guilt that isn’t grounded in anything worth listening to? I want to truly confront the FEELINGS around food. The shame, guilt, and nonsense. I have no idea how many calories I’m eating, even when my brain wants to automatically count calories. I’m also trying to allow myself to try new foods.

Foods from cultures I’m interested in. Or foods with flavor combinations I’m intrigued by. In some instances making things from scratch is worth it because of the resulting food. In other cases, that’s my Paleo obsessive behavior getting out. So if I want to make a new recipe, do I feel the compulsive need to make EVERYTHING from scratch? Or will it truly result in a better meal? For example, Mary Berry said she won’t ever make her own strudel dough. And often opts for premade puff pastry. Likewise, people from Asian cultures say they sometimes make their own dumpling or eggroll wrappers, but they don’t taste different than the premade ones, to they opt for the convenience. Why make things unnecessarily complicated?

I also really love soups and stews. I found through obsessive dieting that soups and stew CAN BE a way to stay full for fewer calories. So when I want to make a soup, is it an attempt to cut calories? If so, will that soup really satisfy me? Or, if I truly want the soup, then make the soup!

Some of the voices are loud, pervasive, and overwhelming. But the ones I know will be the hardest to confront and change will be the quieter voices I’m almost not aware of. Similar to body positive movement where you don’t even feel yourself picking apart tiny things.

I’ve also tried to watch food ads and ask how it makes me FEEL emotionally, and if I’ve had the food, how the food tastes. I’ve found some commercials for sweet foods, which admittedly,  aren’t usually my thing, trigger some sort of rebellious happiness as I see them. But when I think about eating the food, they’re cloyingly sweet. For example, ice cream filled with candy bars, they always SOUND enticing, but when I think about actually eating them, they’re super-sweet. Yet, somehow when I purchase those foods, they taste sweet and I keep eating them. On the other hand, strawberry, lemon or some sort of spice ice cream? It looks good, tastes good, sounds good. And I don’t need a lot to be satisfied by it. But the overly sweet stuff, I eat a lot more, and it never quite hits the spot. It makes sense when it’s something you really like, you feel satisfied. But why, when it’s something I like far less, am I both not satisfied by it, and also can’t walk away from it? I guess because I’m never satisfied, it’s never enough to satisfy me, but I think eventually it will? Maybe it’s like dating the wrong person but never leaving.

These are all wrapped in diets of the past. And there are so many things to unwind. The first was realizing I’ve NEVER been on a diet that “works” as I’ve never had any sort of long-term success. I was often restricting and eating things I didn’t care for and didn’t satisfy me. Or limiting foods that would satisfy me. Or forcing myself to eat foods that not only aren’t satisfying, but I just plain don’t like.

The first step was accepting diets haven’t done me ANY good. The second step is realizing how much diet rhetoric is around me and controlling me (or making me feel guilt or shame). And the third step is starting to eat more intuitively. Stop judging or limiting foods. And, for me, stop eating on a controlled schedule or a controlled plan. Stop pre-eating to not be hungry at an inconvenient time, or becoming over-hungry and losing control. Eat when I’m hungry, eat to feel satisfied, and be aware of what I’m doing to try to game the system.

Intuitive Eating Meets Healthy Eating

First, the title of this post is tough for me. The word “healthy” is a bit of a trigger. As in the past, I tried to make ONLY healthy choices, or the healthiest choices, or eat healthy foods. The problem is, there is no one, true definition of health. At my work, there’s a vending machine with “whole grain” Poptarts and baked Doritos. And my coworkers call it a “healthy” vending machine. Now, don’t get me wrong, I care 0% if people eat chips or Poptarts. But don’t call these foods healthy. To me, it seems fairly clear those foods aren’t healthy. But part of my issue is using food to feel superior. I don’t WANT to feel superior, but correcting people that the vending machine isn’t healthy is almost a compulsion. One I’d like to stop. Why do I care what definition another person applies to healthy.

Side note: There is one really, really, really judgy woman at my work. She’s always talking about eating one healthy meal, going home and having lost two pounds, or talking about “eating crap” (herself or others), talking about how chubby her twelve year old daughter is (BTW when I met her daughter, I was shocked that’s how she described her, she seemed VERY average, even below average weight compared to many children that age). Anyway, she helped spearhead this vending machine, and she calls it healthy, so I think that’s why it triggers me so much. She throws her clearly dysfunctional food attitude around like it’s gospel. I wish she’d never talk about food again.

That aside, I’ve been thinking a lot about intuitive eating. And part of intuitive eating is letting that judgement and categorization fall aside. Let the shame of NOT eating healthy go. In theory, after eating what you want, give in to cravings, really start to eat when you’re hungry, what you’re hungry for, no foods are off limits. Work to take the “good” and “bad” labels off of food, you’ll stop ONLY wanting to eat the things you used to declare off limits or never eat. For me, some of those foods in the past have been french fries, non-low calorie bread, pizza, nachos, tacos, cheese dip, chips, etc. Other things on the “bad” list I’ve never really reintroduced are things like Poptarts, or even cream of anything soup. These types of more processed foods are so villainized, by so many factions of people, that I’d sort of just accepted them as so and avoid them. These are the things I’d put in a shopping cart and maybe hide under something else. Or I’d eat shamefully alone. I also feel similar levels of fear of judgement, shame while eating, and shame after eating for some of the other foods I’ve reintroduced. So I’ll eat them, but often wonder if I’m being judged. But I’ve done better reintroducing these foods. Even if they give me some anxiety while eating them.

As I’ve started to track foods again. And restrict some, even though I know I probably shouldn’t, I’m trying to find a good combination of eating what I want, not putting anything off limits, and eating a reasonable number of calories per day that keeps me from being endlessly hungry (like it or not, protein and fat does help fill me up, and carbs help satisfy me – so a good combination at each meal is the best match for me), help me feel good, and satisfy me.

Part of what I used to do was think I was eating this way for a short time. Then I was so anti-restricting and dieting, that I didn’t want to make any alternate choices. Now I’m to the point I’m trying to learn I can have cheese dip ANY time. And also trying to learn even though I CAN have it and the world won’t stop spinning, I shouldn’t have it all the time. For weight reasons, but also for health reasons. I’m trying to see the value in having a varied diet. But at the same time not FORCING any “healthy” foods. For example, I don’t like brussel sprouts. In the past, I’d force myself to eat them because of X, Y or Z nutritional reason. Now I refuse to do that. But I also went through a LONG phase of eating what sounded good, thinking eventually it would sort itself out. It never did. But I did realize when I’d eat with my parents, I was happy with meats, veggies and some bread, rather than pizza, burgers, fries and chips all the time.

So how do I add in some more balanced meals without feeling like it’s a requirement? My first instinct is to count “good” and “bad” meals, and set a goal. But I know that will quickly go bad. Wanting more and more and more and more perfect “good” meals. And I don’t want to qualify as good and bad. Then I think maybe I try to eat vegetables so many times per day or week, but that level of tracking and, again, good or bad grading, isn’t really where I want to go.

In fact, the coach I hired suggested I added some veggies to a meal (that already had veggies) and it was a horrible trigger. First, choose your battles, bro. Second, you don’t even know what’s in my meals. Third, I’ve eaten more veggies in the weeks since starting coaching that I can’t even compare “before” and “after.” But, mostly, I WILL NOT FORCE VEGETABLES AGAIN! It triggers my orthorexia, and I do not want to go back there. However, from a different perspective, when I’m thinking about what sounds good on days I’m NOT craving anything, I’ve been starting to consider whether a salad or maybe some broccoli sounds good. Sometimes it does, and I’ll order it. Sometimes NO vegetables or fruits sound good and I truly want chicken tenders and fries, so on those days, I go that direction and try to be observant of how I feel after (fine, as long as I don’t over-eat, btw), and how full I stay (very full, actually). And how the rest of my day goes (much better than forcing a salad down and not being satisfied, honestly). So it’s OK to have chicken tenders and fries if I really want them. But if steamed broccoli, grilled chicken and a salad sound good. Great! Have that! Or, some days, grilled chicken, broccoli and fries sound perfect. That’s great, too.

However, since I’ve been restricting by counting and trying to stay under a “goal” of calories, I’ve found more and more and more the vegetables sound less incing, and I start to feel ashamed not eating enough vegetables. Then I try to force them. Sometimes I’ll add a small salad to a meal and choke it down.

This is how I know what I’m doing now isn’t working. I’m considering, three months into this year long coach, just abandoning the coaching. Part of me feels like I’m running away and quitting. But I truly feel like he does not get food issues. You don’t make foods good or bad, but he does. You don’t make any sort of judgement statement surrounding food choices when things are going well. For example, if I’m making progress, don’t suggest I add more or take away something. Why not just let things keep moving forward. He never asks how I feel about the food. the problem is, I don’t think the company has any food issues coaches. So I could request another coach and go through more shame of feeling like it’s ME, when I don’t think it is me. Or I can keep working with this coach and lying (as I’m starting to do). Or i can walk away entirely, forfeit the money, and NEVER get a coach of any kind ever again. Probably the third choice is the healthiest for me right now. I need a break. I feel frustrated, tired, stressed, anxious. And now my weight has plateaued. And that’s adding more shame and stress to the mix. I keep trying to hit “reset” and can’t because I can’t get away from tracking.

The coach seems more concerned about probably marking some checklistof things he’s done than really understanding where I’m coming from. He thinks success means eat less, exercise more than you were. From a physical perspective, I’m sure this can essentially be broken down as such. But for someone withfood issues to have success, it’s not that simple. It’s more emotional than physical. It’s more emotional than logical. And it’s more balance than obsession and checklists and goals. And more and more and more and more and more.

I’m full of failure feelings. Full of shame. Starting to lie to others about what’s going on. Wanting to hide and eat and lie about it. I know I’m trying to escape and let the pressure evaporate. But I feel like if I walk away now, I’ll go on a food bender and lose any progress I’ve made. Then I’ll feel shame about that.

So what’s a better way forward? Unfortunately, I feel like with my coach, I HAVE to start lying about food. Bump up the vegetables, even when I’m not eating them. And level off my caloric intake. But then be honest with myself. (I realize this is sort of isolation that often comes with restricting. But I’d rather lie and NOT restrict. And get a break from the coach, who is only making things more obsessive at this point.)

I want to step back and instead of pre-planning days and food, I’ll be more in the moment with my options. If I bring lunch and it doesn’t sound good, evaluate why. Understand if I’m simply rebelling or if I’m craving something. If I’m craving it, is it a craving on repeat? If so, am I comforting something? I’ve found a lot of repeat cravings come from some sort of comfort. Almost like a security blanked or a warm bath. If I’m eating for comfort, why? Is it because I know the calories in a “bad” food (this is actually very common) and it’s a “safe cheat.” Or am I craving salty or crispy or some other flavor or texture? And if so, why?

I want to be more aware of my intentions with food. What’s really going on. Am I being “good” to feel superior? Or am I being “bad” to rebel because I’m frustrated or annoyed with the system? At any point have I said to myself, “I’d rather be fat than feel like this?” that’s usually the warning signal things are going sideways and I’m pushing something down. For example, I found myself saying I’d rather be fat than work with this coach anymore. But I’m too chicken to ask for another coach because:

  • I don’t want to be high maintenance
  • I don’t want to be mean
  • I don’t want to be a quitter
  • I don’t want to be weak
  • I don’t want to complain
  • I think I’m really worried the next coach will be worse. And I have no idea why I’m worried about this. If the next coach is “worse” then I can walk away from that. I think I think at that point it’s ME not them. But that’s not necessarily true. I think many people, like me, try to keep going even when it isn’t working. So just because these coaches have had success doesn’t mean the success is sustained.

I truly believe the things we complain about are generally in our control to change. And I know I can either try to communicate to my coach what needs to change. Or ask for a new coach. Or suck it up an try to do his program (for what it’s worth, I don’t think this is the best way forward, but it’s certainly the easiest).

I’m going to try to make it through this week, focusing on what I really WANT the rest of the week, and evaluating why. I also want to try to be more aware of what it feels like to go over on calories. What feelings to I feel? And do those feelings make the next day harder? What am I compromising to try to hit an, honestly, random goal? For example, I’ve set a goal of 2,000 calories. So if I go up to 2,200 calories, I’d probably still lose weight, just more slowly.

The anxiety centers around wasting my time. It centers around being weak. It centers around feeling like, “Everyone else does this, why can’t I?”So it feels like if I’m not losing weight, why bother?

But there is reason to bother. I want to work to get through this. I want to find a way that I enjoy eating a variety of food. Not just good and bad, but a mix of all of the kinds of food. I want to try new foods and new preparations. I want to try foods from other cultures. I want to try to make meats different ways, but also make fruits and veggies different ways. I want to keep moving forward, shut off the noise, and try to learn, grow and overcome.

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