Thursday, May 23, 2013

Eating The Food---Continued...

So, where do I begin? It's been a couple of months since I've started my journey with ETF (Eat The Food).  I'm going to be really honest and share a little bit of my journey since I wrote this post in early April. I encourage you to re-read that to get a little bit of context for where I'm headed here.  I apologize for this lengthy post but it's best just to get it all out, right? :)

Taking us back to where I left off:  I hit a huge plateau over the Winter.  No matter how hard I was exercising (sometimes even burning 4000 calories a week), no matter how much I watched my food intake, the scale wasn't budging.  I'm not scale obsessed but every few weeks I'd hop on and see the exact same number. One thing about this plateau was that my progress in the gym also flat-lined. I was staying at the same weights in my heavy lifting sessions, my energy was significantly lacking and there were even a few months this Winter where my menstrual cycle started doing some weird things. Simply stated: My body was in starvation mode. 

Before we left for vacation, I decided to stop tracking my food, and to just eat a bit more intuitively.  Part of my journey, especially the last 2 years has taken me through to a point where I am comfortable with the foods that I eat. I know how to plan and prep. I eat what I enjoy. I know that fast food doesn't serve my body well and that certain foods just make me feel gross.  So, I've trusted myself these last 2 months to track occasionally (2-3 days a week) to be sure I'm eating enough and just eating the food; when I'm hungry, when it looks good, just  In this process, I also increased my calorie intake significantly basically by eating more of the foods I was already enjoying. I was averaging about 2000-2400 on most days, so I decided to just bump it up by about 600 (and even as much as 1000!)  From reading Go Kaleo and getting to know Amber's philosophies a bit more, I started to understand that if I kept exercising frequently, lifting weights and eating what makes me feel good, that I could stop obsessing so much while still seeing changes in my body.

So what has happened in the last 2 months? 

  • For starters, my energy is back.  I feel like a whole new woman.  I'm also sleeping a lot better at night.  
  • My period is back in full raging, Aunt Flo force. (bah, humbug ;) 
  • I've stopped obsessing.  I learned the term "orthorexia." I consider myself to be recovering a bit from an eating disorder. Yes, you heard that right. I'm already a little OCD and this was just triggering that more and more.  My thinking was disordered and I feel liberated from that now.  Foods are fuel. They are nutrition for my body. There are no "clean" or "un-clean" (dirty?) foods. I eat what makes me feel good and don't stress about dietary labels. I also ditched my beautiful heart rate monitor. I still wear it here and there but I realized it was just one more thing I was way too worried about. 
  • The dreaded one: I gained weight. Yep, I let my body do what it needed to do. And instead of stashing my scale in the closet, I threw it away completely.  It was a process for me (as you've seen) to break up with my scale. But, I was finally ready to break it off for good. Was it the weight gain? Perhaps. More so though, it was the TRUE understanding that the scale doesn't give me any useful information anymore. I work hard, I eat well...nothing that the scale says shows my strength gains in the gym or my improvements everywhere else. It was time to say adios! I also learned that with each pound the scale was going down, I was likely losing valuable muscle. In fact, I know I was just based on pictures and measurements.  You can't be in a constant state of caloric deficit and expect to build a whole lot of muscle.  So, bye bye scale! (More on why the scale/BMI charts are ridiculous HERE)
  • The weight gain: A few things I've learned are that when your body is in a stage of "re-feed" or where it's been depleted, it's normal to gain a little weight. Is it all fat? Nope. Mostly bloat actually. Trust me when I say it's a mind game to walk around feeling HUGE all while trying to trust a process. I remember talking to my best friend a few weeks ago and I seriously felt and looked a few months pregnant. I was uncomfortable, I wanted to start restricting again, I thought I was making a huge mistake by doing what I was doing. I trusted the process and 2 months out the other side, I'm slowly getting back in my regular clothes and feeling stronger than ever. (I went up one pant size and have no idea how much was actually gained) I'm fortunate that I was not as restrictive with my 2000-2400 calories a day, but still for my height and weight, that was not enough food to sustain my high activity level. (More on Edema when coming out of restrictive dieting HERE)

I realize it's unfathomable to most of you reading this that eating as much as I am is a good idea.  3000 calories? You're kidding right? I can hear it now... "Won't you just get FAT again?"  We've been conditioned by a diet industry that feeds us a lot of, well...bull shit. It's not just the diet industry either, it's our society as a whole. Basing ideals off of how we look as opposed to what really matters about a person; their personality, their humor, their charm, their compassion for others, their zest for life... and on and on and on.  I'm in recovery from much more than just being a little OCD about my food. I'm in a mind-shift of appreciating people for WHO they are, not what they look like.  I'm over the body-shaming. Let's make it about body-love! For me, body-love started when I began to fuel for my activity level. I couldn't keep eating 2000 calories a day while burning 3500-4000 calories a week in exercise alone.  My body was telling me "enough already!" I'm active and as long as I stay that way, this range of calories is precisely what is suited best for me.  Sean Flanagan said this the other day on his Facebook page. It resonated big time with me:  

"I earn my workouts by eating. That's the logical thing. You save up a resource (calories) in order to be able to invest it.

"Earning" food by exercising is a disordered practice made popular. It's not a healthy way to view food...or exercise."

So where am I headed now?  Well, I'm still training for my triathlon at the end of July. I've had a few rough training runs, but my other training is going well. I'm also in the gym 2-3x a week lifting really heavy weights. Actually, I'm lifting the heaviest I ever have, and that's all thanks to the food I'm fueling with! I'm considering hiring a strength coach after my triathlon because I've realized that lifting weights (and biking and swimming) are what I love to do most. It's all about finding what you LOVE.  

The greatest take away from this process has been the absolute liberation that I feel.  I have been able to trust myself a lot these past few months. It's been rough mentally but I knew in my heart that this was the right path for me. I no longer find myself worried about social situations or having ice cream with my family ("I'm all out of calories, so no ice cream for me!" Nope, no more of that :) I still tote my healthy snacks and food when I feel it's necessary, but if there are burgers being served at a party, I eat the burger instead of eating ahead of time. Food is to be enjoyed, most especially in a social environment.  Do I head through the drive-thru each week like I used to? No. I have learned over the last 2 years what foods work for me. Drive-thrus aren't one of them.  I work hard in the gym for the fuel my body deserves and trust me, I've been fueling it well. I feel like a free little bird, working hard in the gym and in the kitchen.  This journey feels a lot like it's coming around full circle. I've had to learn some hard lessons along the way, and I'm not done learning yet.  I continue to soak up more information and learn as much as I can. 

Maybe this all sounds a little crazy. That's okay, you don't have to be on board with my methods, just like I don't have to be on board with yours. I'm all about sharing my journey and this is a major crossroad for me and needed to be shared. In fact, I might even go all "shout from the rooftops" if things keep going as well as they are for me right now.  

It's been a little bit of an epiphany, these last 2 months. Like "Eureka!" I found it. 
*Eat The Food. Lift Heavy. Love Your Body.* (and ditch the kool-aid! ;)

For more info:

I'm Calling for a New Paradigm   the blog post that made me go "hmmmm"

A Primer On Calories by Go Kaleo 

Calculator to calculate your Total Daily Energy Expenditure  

"Taking Up Space" -- E-book by Amber Rogers, Go Kaleo. I highly recommend this book! 

"The Nourished Metabolism" by Elizabeth Walling Another highly recommended read.

*If you have questions or would like to chat some more, my email/phone/Facebook are always ready to listen. :)