Food epiphanies.

Ever had one?

I had one in third grade when I decided that I was so in love with broccoli that I wanted to marry it, but that’s neither here nor there (Update: I’ve since ditched broccoli for brussel sprouts for the most part, and am much more satisfied!)

But seriously, I have had some major food epiphanies lately, and I want to share them with you.  But first, a little background information:

You see, I’ve always had an obsession with food, for as long as I can remember.

 

 

I guess you could say that I can pack away some food.

I guess you could say that I can pack away some food.

 

I always thought about food, dreamed about food, and got excited about what I was going to eat next.  And I had a huge appetite!  In fact, when I was a small child, my Mom found me hiding behind the couch halfway through my 4th stick of butter!  I also used to get in trouble when she would realize that all of our teaspoons were missing and she would find them in the box of Bisquick powder that I had been eating.

These habits followed me into my late teens, and for a while I was able to stave off weight gain with activity (5 years of competitive gymnastics, and 2 years of cheerleading), but it eventually caught up with me.  When I finally decided to “get in shape” almost 11 years ago, my diet consisted mostly of fast food, soda, candy, and other junk food.  I distinctly remember wondering how I’d ever go a FULL DAY without fast food.

“What would I eat?” I wondered.

Part of a "Cheat Day"

Part of a “Cheat Day”

Over the next decade I would experiment with a lot of nutrition protocols.  From low-fat to low-carb, 6 small meals a day to intermittent fasting, 1,400 calories a day to 3,400 calories a day, gut-healing elimination diets, full-day cheat days, half-day cheat days, 5 weeks on plan/1 week off plan… I’ve done it all.  And yes, most of it “worked” for whatever my goal was at the time.  But as different as these diets were, one thing remained the same.

They were all a DIET.

As much as I wanted to think that they were a lifestyle, they were all a DIET.  Yes, I’d made lifestyle changes, but I was always looking for the “next thing” that felt sustainable while helping me reach my goals, because none of these things felt that way.

For the most part, I’ve been able to maintain a pretty lean physique, even while battling Hashimoto’s (autoimmune hypothyroidism), PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), and adrenal issues.  And then life smacked me in the face.

As many of you know, I’ve dealt with a few very stressful events in the last few years, namely the unexpected loss of my Dad, the end of a 6 year relationship, and a battle with chronic back pain.  In October of 2012, I found myself heavier and “softer” than I had been in years, weighing about 180-183 lbs.  In addition to those major life events, I was also trying to grow a new gym, work on Girls Gone Strong, start my blog, and move residences.  Stress, much?

The Highs. (L) My before photos in 2004 at 185 lbs. (R) Photos from several months ago at 183.5.  What a difference some muscle mass makes, huh?

The Highs. (L) My before photos in 2004 at 185 lbs. (R) Photos from early 2013 at 183.5.

Over the next 8-10 months, my weight fluctuated a bit, but I stayed in the 173-180 range (I’m almost 5’11” in case you’re curious). Then, a little under a year ago, I started having some really cool epiphanies about food and those epiphanies (in combination with an increase in exercises, and — I’m not gonna lie — quite a bit of stress!) have allowed me to get back to a more “comfortable” walk-around weight for me, which is ~162-167, and maintain that weight for 8-9 months now  effortlessly (my “comfortable walk-around weight before these epiphanies was closer to 170-173).

 

My most comfortable walk-around weight.

My most comfortable walk-around weight.

 

I shared this in a recent interview I did recently with my friend Nia Shanks of Lift Like a Girl, but I didn’t get into too much detail at the time, and just last night, one of my Coaching Group Clients asked me what they were, so I thought I’d share them with you.

Please note that this is not an exhaustive list, but rather what I thought of that I could jot down in just a few minutes. Hopefully this list keeps growing:

1. Food is (thankfully!) abundant in my life, and I can have almost any food at any time that I want if I really want it.  Nothing is ever off-limits.  

2. I should stop eating an indulgent food at the point in time that the “payoff” (the taste) is no longer greater than the price (the calories). I started recognizing that I would eat an entire pint of ice cream even though I couldn’t taste the last 2/3 because my tongue was frozen!  This is very similar to my friend Neghar’s  Law of First Bites.

 

old  iphone pics 5-6-13 008

I make sure that everything I eat is utterly satisfying.

3. I make sure that I’m only eating foods that I truly enjoy (even healthful foods).  When I do this, I find myself craving other things less (i.e. if I have buttery, garlicky brussel sprouts at dinner versus dry broccoli, I’m less likely to crave something more indulgent after dinner). 

4. I no longer stuff myself to the point of major discomfort/pain. I just stop eating when I feel myself starting to get close to full. I got used to stuffing myself on my “cheat day” because at midnight I had to stop eating, and I was so scared of midnight hitting that I’d stuff my face from the time I got up until then. 

5. If I know I’m going to have an indulgent meal, I’ll fast a little longer in the morning (I don’t always fast, but I do enjoy waiting several hours to eat in the morning), or stretch out my time between meals to make sure that my overall caloric consumption is lower. I also try to do a strength training workout that day, but I don’t stress too much if it doesn’t happen.


6. I eat much more slowly when I’m indulging.  I’m an absolute fanatic when it comes to chips and queso, and one thing I started naturally doing is breaking my tortilla chips into 2-3 pieces and taking smaller bites, instead of mindlessly stuffing the whole chip in my mouth.  I eat more slowly, I eat less overall, and it gives me something to keep my hands busy.  I also put my fork down between bites, drink water, and engage in conversation. 

7.  If I’m at my house and I really want something like ice cream or something, I’ll have a few bites, and then stop, and I’ll tell myself that if I still want more in 20 minutes, I can have more. I almost never want more (but if I do, I have more!)

salad and cupcakes

8. (BONUS!)  There is no value judgement placed on food.  You’re not “good” for eating one thing, and “bad” for eating another.  You’re not “on” or “off” the wagon.  You CAN have salad and cupcakes in the same meal… it’s not against the law. 🙂

These are just a few of the really small changes that have added up to big results and made my eating virtually effortless these days.  No more cheat days.  No more turning down a nice dinner because it’s a Tuesday.  Just living my life.

What about you?  What food epiphanies have you had that you’d like to share?

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