I started working with Alex in January 2017. In January 2018 I was 30 kilograms lighter, much much stronger and more toned. I actually have muscles and I really like the way my body looks and feels. Flexible dieting has been an absolute win! Not only have I lost about 30% of my body weight, I have also got such a great relationship with food these days. Like any relationship though it takes work, patience, understanding and has its challenges, but it’s such a turnaround from where I was this time last year.
I do count calories, but coming out of a lifetime of food addiction and a very unhealthy set of nutrition, health and exercise habits it works for me! Using My Fitness Pal has been a really great way to stay accountable to myself and learn about macros (protein, fat & carbs) and calories. I am not obsessed, but I am so aware. And the beauty of calorie tracking is that I get to use my calories in a way that works for me.
Instead of seeing food as good or bad, fattening or healthy, allowed or restricted, I have learned to see food as food! What I do know for sure is that cooking at home is such a win when it comes to being able to control calories. And since we love cooking we get to eat really nutrient-dense, whole foods put together into delicious meals most nights. Because we cook there is not really anything that can’t be made in a way that doesn’t fit in with the calorie targets. Okay, I am on a maintenance phase at the moment, which means I am taking a break from dieting and eating more calories, so there is more wiggle room, but there’s always space for food that I would have called “bad” or “junk” in the past like pizzas, hamburgers and chips.
Homemade cheeseburgers and oven-baked chips are a weekly staple, made from scratch and way better than anything from the drive-through. Our pizza evenings are something I love…the only part that’s from the supermarket are the tomato bases, but the rest is weighed and measured so that we get to enjoy these about once a week. And the pizzas we make come in around 750 calories, which is less than a takeaway Margarita. There’s also lots of big-ass salads, colourful stir fries, steak dinners and when it’s colder curries, peri-peri chicken livers and stews.
The thing about cooking at home is that we are in control and there’s lots and lots of nutrient-dense, delicious whole foods in our meals. Certain sauces are also surprisingly good value if they are used well. Love some tomato sauce with my chips, and I am not a fan of salad with no dressing. But from the bottle to the measuring spoon to the plate and everything stays on track! Our kitchen scale is always in use and it is quite habitual at this point to simply weigh things out before they are cooked and eaten. To be honest as someone who likes certainty and control, eating in this way has made me feel safe and certain! It gives me the structure and the system I need to not expand too much time worrying about my choices.
I simply plan, track and eat. And often there’s a little space (not more than 20% of my calories) for a treat. I remember a year ago having a mini, mental meltdown when Alex suggested eating a Kit-Kit! How on earth could I eat chocolate and be on a diet!? Well, I have learned that chocolates will not make me fat if they are part of my calorie allowance. In fact they make dieting feel, dare I say, fun and exciting!! I have learned about balance…about not being afraid of certain foods…to not see some food groups as the devil’s spawn sent to entice us into unhealthy eating behaviours…to enjoy all the food that I choose to include in my daily and weekly eating plans.
So I don’t go without and because of this I don’t see dieting as a punishment for my previous bad eating habits. I see food as something I get to relish and that nurtures my body, mind and spirit. I look forward to cooking in the evenings, because it’s all about eating the food I love and loving the food I eat. Gone are the days when I pushed steamed broccoli and dry grilled chicken breasts around my plate feeling deprived and sorry for myself! Stared longingly at the dessert menu, feeling like a victim of bad genes. Thought that the muesli was a far “healthier” breakfast when I could actually have the eggs and toast for fewer calories.
I love food and I love eating and flexible dieting has given me the knowledge and the space to really grow this love. A healthy, adult love that is not marred in guilt and shame like it was when I was hiding my eating habits. Okay, sometimes I still stick my finger in the peanut butter jar and forget to count something I didn’t plan to eat, but then I simply move on. It’s so wonderful to not see the way I eat as black-or-white, win-or-lose, right-or-wrong…and that food is not the enemy. In fact the only enemy in this whole thing can be me and the way I choose to look at food and exercise, which I talked about in my post “#whatadifferenceayearmakes“.
I look and feel great, and I can say that with a belief that I have never had when talking about my body. I like what I see in the mirror, even though there are still areas that require some work and a few kilos that I am planning to lose after this diet break. This phase is about giving my body a break from the rigors of dieting and allowing it time to settle into its new weight and just get comfortable in this zone. Alex really understands all the science and study around this and it does get a little confusing for me, but I trust him as my coach and accountability partner, and he has really proved that he knows his stuff. So, I am more than happy to follow his guidance and enjoy the downtime.
I’ll go back into deficit and get to the place I want to be, but I don’t feel the urgency anymore and look at my body as a process and not a final destination. It’s such an incredible feeling to not be totally caught up in the results, but to see this as being a learning and discovery that I am going through. It didn’t take me 18 months to get out of shape and I am enjoying the process of accepting and living in my body, rather than fighting against it all the time. So if my system needs a little break to just settle and that means I get to eat a little more food, then I am all in!!