*If you are sensitive to or think a post about disordered eating/a poor relationship with food may be a trigger for you, please skip this post.
I’ve spoken about it on the blog before, but in case you’re new around here, let me give you a little background about me.
At the end of 2008, I got the wild idea to compete in an NPC Competition in the Bikini division. I actually really wanted to compete in the Figure division, but I had only been working out for 2 years and didn’t have much muscle mass. I spent from January – July training, doing a bunch of cardio, and dieting for the competition. The results were really good.
I placed 2nd in my first show, got instantly hooked on the stage high and decided to compete again 5 weeks later. I placed 5th at that show, although there were definite politics med-blog (as there always will be in the fitness industry).
From there, everything basically went to shit.
I had been dieting for 7 months at this point, and my will-power was wavering. I had made so many foods “off limits” that eating even just a bite of something that I had labeled “bad” set me off in a spiral. I had failed and therefore, I might as well throw this day in the trash and eat my face off.
This happened every now and then. But it started to become more frequent. I was literally spinning out of control and felt that I couldn’t stop myself.
I’d feel guilty and terrible after spending my day eating junk food, and try to make up for it by doing endless cardio (I once ran 10 miles on a treadmill to try to counteract what I had eaten the day before), and restricting my food even more. I would literally try to not eat all day or to eat as few carbs as possible. It was awful.
The cycle continued on for over a year and I was becoming depressed, gaining weight (I was bigger than I’d ever been in my life) and feeling completely lost. I thought for sure that this was how my life would be forever.
It wasn’t until about 2010 that I started to “figure it out”. I can’t remember or pinpoint what exactly changed, but I do remember that I decided that there was nothing I could do about the weight I had gained and that I might as well be happy with the way I looked and work on myself from there, rather than missing what I had before. It was kind of like a bad breakup. I had to make the concerted effort to move on, in order to actually do so. While my mind wasn’t healthy, my body was, I could still workout like a beast, and I tried to really force myself to believe I was still beautiful, even though I was 25 pounds heavier than I was when I stepped on stage.
I decided to let myself eat what I wanted to eat. I still kept track of what I ate (and still do to this day), but if I wanted to eat a previously labeled “bad” food, I would eat it. At first, you better believe that I didn’t have any control. It wasn’t like I woke up one day and all my troubles went away.
It took me almost 2 years to rid myself of the horrible relationship with food I had. You see, over time, it became easier to eat just 1 cookie, or have just 1 small bowl of ice cream. It became easier to put the bag of chips away before they were all gone.
In 2012, I did something even more drastic. I gave up cardio.
I had known that doing a bunch of cardio wasn’t necessary, but I couldn’t really let myself believe it. I somehow, even though I knew better, still led myself to believe that I NEEDED to do cardio almost every day.
The funny thing that happened through all of this, with allowing myself to eat whatever I wanted and giving up cardio, is that I started to lose weight.
I wasn’t even trying, and yet, my clothes were fitting better and I could see more lines in my body.
Oddly enough, when I allowed “bad” foods back into my life, I realized that I didn’t actually like to eat junk food all that much. I’m much happier eating healthy proteins, fruit, vegetables, sweet potatoes, oatmeal, and many other healthy foods. Did I still like having frozen yogurt every now and then? Absolutely. But I didn’t feel the need to have it all the time. And more importantly, I could eat it without feeling like I needed more, more, more.
Giving up cardio was tough at first, but I started getting stronger. My weight training was improving, I was lifting heavier weights, and my body was leaning out.
What makes this most interesting to me is that I would advise my clients to do EXACTLY what I had finally started doing myself. I KNEW it was the best formula for years, yet, I couldn’t heed my own advice.
Because I was messed up. I had a full-blown eating disorder, hidden from the world (only not really), and felt that there was no way out.
Here I am in 2015, and I have a great relationship with food. I now train to get stronger. I do HIIT a few times a week for conditioning, because I want a strong heart. I now eat to feed my inner badass. To feed the superhero, workout warrior that I feel like I am. And sometimes? I eat because I have a craving. I no longer set myself up for failure, which I was inadvertently doing from January 2009 – August 2009.
I eat what I want, when I want for the most part. Of course, I still have goals and I still am working towards a leaner body. But I’m patient. And I know that restrict, restrict, restrict is NOT the answer for me. So I’m allowing myself to slowly get to where I want to be. And I’m enjoying foods that satisfy me along the way. There is nothing wrong with having weight loss goals, but how you go about them is extremely important. I learned the hard way.
This is part of the reason I feel that I can connect with so many others that are trying to lose weight. I’ve been where you are. I’ve been through A LOT. And on top of that, I’ve been educating myself for almost 10 years about nutrition, weight loss, strength training, sports specific training and cardiovascular health.
With that said, here are 5 Ways to Love the Skin You’re In..and let go of your poor relationship with food.
1. Stop labeling foods. This was by far the worst thing I’ve ever done. Processed food isn’t BAD. If you ONLY eat processed foods? It’s probably not a good thing, but having some Cheetos or a Twix bar every now and then is totally fine. In fact, I encourage people to eat at least SOME kind of treat each day. It helps keep wild cravings from coming on. (And yes, you can still do this even while you’re trying to lose fat.)
2. Be happy where you are. This was the biggest part of my recovery. I reminded myself EVERY time I looked in the mirror to be happy with where I was today and to know I could only improve from there on out. You only have one body, and treating it poorly both mentally and physically will not help you. By treating your body like a temple and keeping your thoughts about your body positive, you will have a better chance at starting to believe those thoughts. By repeating this to myself DAILY, sometimes HOURLY, I actually started to believe it. I started feeling comfortable with myself once again.
3. Make your goals fitness-based. The weight loss will follow. When I stopped working out to lose weight and started working out to be more fit, be the warrior I felt like inside, get stronger, run faster….I actually started losing weight. My fitness goals now are to get stronger. I want to squat 200lbs, I want to deadlift 300 lbs, and I want to Hip Thrust 400 lbs. Whether you want to accomplish a big goal like running a faster 5k, or just complete a small goal like getting in more reps today than you did yesterday, you will feel gratitude each time you hit those goals and start feeling more positive in the gym. It doesn’t mean you can’t strive to lose weight, but don’t let it be your main focus. Let it be the side effect of your goals.
4. Be mindful of what you eat. This doesn’t just mean to try to eat healthy foods when you can. This also means that sometimes, having a cookie IS the right answer. Sometimes an extra serving of ice cream is OK. Just not every day. Over time, as you start to develop a better relationship with food, you will find that you trust yourself with food and won’t feel the need to eat #allthecookies. You will start to know when you REALLY want a cookie and you’ll pass on them when it just doesn’t feel necessary. (If you would have told me this a few years ago, I would have told you that it isn’t possible. Your mind tricks you into thinking that you will never be able to think like a “normal” person when it comes to food. I assure you, it is possible.)
5. Let go of the guilt. Whether you are currently struggling or have struggled in the past, let go of the guilt. You are NOT a failure. You are NOT a loser. You just got caught up in an unfortunate situation. No matter how you got there, remind yourself that you don’t have to stay there. Even when it feels like there is no way out, THERE IS. If you don’t feel that you can do it on your own, reach out to someone. There are many people out there JUST LIKE YOU that can help you deal with and overcome your issues.
I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments, but if you’d rather speak privately, feel free to e-mail me at FitLizzio@gmail.com