What’s on the guilt-free menu tonight!?

I have been following a flexible dieting approach to my diet for about 18 months and it’s never going to change!  After years and years of battling with food, self-esteem issues because of my weight and constantly losing and regaining weight, I have found my magic bullet.  And it is anything but that in reality…it’s really about the consistency with which I have applied it.

I have checked into My Fitness Pal every day for 585 days in a row and probably tracked for 580 of those days.  Yup, there has been the occasional day when I haven’t recorded the minutia of my daily intake and I am totally relaxed about that.  Unlike people may think I am not obsessed with my food tracking, it is simply something that I do to keep me from overeating and slipping back into my old habits when it comes to my diet.

This DOES NOT mean that I have been on a diet for 585 days.  After losing about 30 kgs over the course of about a year I decided to carry on tracking my food in order to keep  myself accountable when it comes to how much I eat.  The reason being that even at a much lower bodyweight I really do still want to eat…A LOT!  I feel like I am always hungry and in order to not go back to my starting weight of 101kgs,  I use calorie counting as a way of being accountable to myself and yet giving myself some semblance of freedom in which to nourish my body.

At the moment I am wanting to lose a few kilograms and because of that I am going to be focusing on a deficit intake of 1,600 calories/day, probably with one or two days at 2,000 calories.  I have an event in November that I want to look kick ass for, but since January I have eaten more at my maintenance calories than I have at a deficit.  So just because I am tracking my calories and macros doesn’t mean that I am dieting.  I LOVE food and we eat lots of it.  And the the upside of calorie counting is that the eating I do is GUILT-FREE eating.  Something which I NEVER imagined could ever be possible, especially in this lifetime.

I adhere to the idea that 80% of the food that I eat is nutrient-dense; whole food with lots of salads, vegetables, fruit, healthy fats and lean meats.  I have made really good friends with the trusty potato (who I feel has been given a very bad wrap over the years) and love all sorts of food which I would previously have seen as bad and not to be put into my body.  I eat homemade pizza on a regular basis because all the ingredients are weighed and measured and I can control the calories by knowing what’s going onto my plate and into my mouth!

Because the majority of the food that I eat is whole food, cooked in my very own kitchen, there is space for some of the other stuff so many people consider to be bad and unhealthy.  How can the bliss that a couple of squares of dark chocolate or a few fruit pastilles be considered bad for me!?  I mean if I count it as part of my daily intake and don’t overdo it, whats the harm!?  Of course I am not eating 2,000 calories worth of high-calorie, low-nutrient food, but I am giving myself the space to enjoy it here and there rather than NEVER being allowed to consider the dessert menu.

Spending years on deprivation diets and not being allowed to eat so may things was much worse for me.  This “absolutely-not-allowed-under-any-circumstances” approach to food and certain food groups led to a really nasty food addiction and a tendency to regain all the weight that I had lost the minute I was off the latest diet that I had been on.  Not one professional I worked with ever got me to look at my relationship with myself and the way that I used food, and I was too deep in the denial to believe that food was in any way masking my unease with who I was.  It really wasn’t about how healthy or unhealthy the food choice was, but rather the emotions and reasons behind the eating that were toxic for my body and my mind.

Working with a coach who really got me to understand what food is all about was revolutionary to me.  Food is not evil!  Carbs are not the devil!  Chocolate is not bad for me!  Burgers don’t need to be on the banned list!  What I did need to learn was that it’s a complex interplay between myself and the world around me.  It’s not about eating the chocolate brownie as much as it’s about why I am eating the chocolate brownie.  I have learned to nourish my body through the food that we buy, cook and eat.  I no longer punish myself by depriving myself of bad food and pushing unwanted, but oh-so-healthy food down my throat.  Who in their right mind actually enjoys rubbery egg-white omelettes and endless lunched of steamed chicken and broccoli!?

I don’t cry about the boring food I am forced to eat when I am dieting anymore!  I do give a lot of thought to what to eat and how to best prepare our food in a way that doesn’t turn it into a calorie bomb.  I guess some people may consider calorie counting for so many days a little excessive, but for the first time since I was 13 I am able to enjoy food and not live in fear of the supermarket, kitchen and dinner table.  More than that I am able to eat out and not feel the need to choose the healthy option off the menu, because I understand that going slightly over on my calories on the odd occasion really isn’t the end of the world.  I guess I have cultivated a growth mindset of abundance when it comes to food.  Rather than depriving myself at every turn to stay at my “ideal” weight I have come to understand that one big, un-tracked meal in a restaurant or a friend’s dinner party is not going to be the nutritional undoing of me.

So I approach food with a far more joyful attitude these days.  I don’t dread eating out or going away for a few days, because I know that tomorrow is another day and that means I can tighten my eating plan and calories up a little if needed and not let things get out of hand.  That was my problem over so many years – the idea that I was either “on or off my diet”.  Being on a diet meant feeling deprived, miserable and pissed off.  While the opposite was to eat whatever I felt like whenever I felt like it, and still feeling miserable and pissed off with myself because of my lack of self-control and -discipline. Now I am far more responsible towards myself and approach food and meals from a present and grounded place.  I’d say I am responsive towards food rather than reactive.

I am not angry about what I should or shouldn’t eat.  If I really want to eat that delicious piece of cheesecake at the end of the meal (or instead of the meal), it’s my choice and I don’t feel like my choices are being forced onto me.  If I have a day when I eat too much then I simply balance it out with a day of lower caloric intake.  I never spend time and effort chastising myself for something  that I ate, especially since I probably really enjoyed it.  What’s the point!?  I know how to eat now and I know how to do it in a way that is sustainable and works for me.  Like I said the magic bullet…of consistency!

I’m not saying my way is the right way or the only way.  What I do know was that understanding what food is about has help me immensely in losing weight and keeping it off.  The minute I tell myself no, I seem to rebel against myself and go to the extreme.  So by giving myself choice and variety when it comes to food I am so much happier.  I have learned to respond so much better than ever before.  And it’s not just about food, but a lot of other areas where I used to be so much more reactive and self-defeating.  It’s a much healthier place for me to be than the place where I am constantly telling myself don’t, can’t, mustn’t, shouldn’t!

This place is more about me checking in with myself and finding out if it’s what I really want and need.  It’s about knowing and trusting that I have the skills and the tools to take care of myself.  It’s about being comfortable with colouring outside the lines when it comes to my eating and knowing that I won’t bounce back into my size 42 jeans in a weekend if I stay conscious and aware .

imagesI am writing this from a B&B in Calrens where I am spending a couple of days and I have enjoyed the delicious food that the little town in the Free State has to offer without worrying about whether or not I should be eating this or that.  It’s so freeing after years of feeling bad about eating the dessert or having a second cappuccino for the day.  I feel like I am getting to fully experience life without the crazy ideas I carried around about myself and food.  I am happier, healthier, stronger and more balanced than ever and that’s because of how I feel about myself and how I treat my body with kindness, love and allow myself to have a little fun when it comes to the food I eat.  So tonight I am going to enjoy my dinner and when I get back to Johannesburg tomorrow I’ll decide what needs to be done moving forward to the weekend.  I’m thinking before I start my deficit there’s going to be at least one pizza meal and maybe a piece of cheesecake at my favourite little bistro in Norwood.

 

#whatadifferenceayearmakes

On Sunday, 8th January 2017 my life changed forever!  That was the first time I met Alex in the gym… You may have an idea of where this leads, but let me put you on the right track.  I was completely out of my personal comfort zone, feeling fat and unhappy in my gym leggings and overstretched vest, and extremely self-conscious standing in front of the full-length mirrors in the weights’ section of the local gym.  I was horrified at my reflection and did not know where to stand or what to do with my hands, or my personal discomfort.

I was trying to divert my eyes from the mirror every time I was asked to face myself and “squat”!  It was not a happy day and every time I did what vaguely resembled a squat-like movement, I tried desperately not to notice the way my scrunched-up stomach looked in the reflection.  I didn’t have a clue and all I wanted was for that session to end so that I could run and hide in the change rooms.

I was not going to go ever again!  I’d find a way to cancel and I was sure that there were plenty of dead-relatives I could use as not being able to make the next session.  During those 45 minutes, I had convinced myself that gym was not meant for overweight beginners and that I should simply stay firmly put in my unhappy, fixed-mindset, change-is-the-devil head space.  Anyway, that would be far easier than going back to the gym – EVER AGAIN!  But Alex gently coaxed me through that endless session, and was kind and understanding of my awkwardness.  Pretty sure I am not the first person to experience these feelings, and he was aware and conscious.  In fact after a few sets of the dreaded squats, we moved onto something else a little more ego-friendly.

The reason I share this is because I have to believe that I am not the only person who stepped into a gym for the first time after many years of vowing and affirming that this was the January I was going to lose some weight and get into shape!  I am definitely not the only client who has felt geeky and uncomfortable in front of their ripped, muscly coach.  And I am most certainly not alone when I express that the experience was hardly one that I wanted to repeated…never mind in a couple of days.

But go back I did…again…and again…and again!  And the most amazing thing started to happen.  Firstly, I learned that Alex was anything but judgmental, and that his passion and purpose lies in supporting and encouraging his clients as they grow stronger and leaner.  I learned that he believes in being process- rather than outcomes-driven, and that much of the fulfillment he experiences in his work comes from seeing the changes that his clients achieve over the weeks and months.  I guess that would make sense in the way that an artist doesn’t start with a beautiful landscape or a mind-blowing masterpiece, but rather takes their time to create something from the tools and materials that they have around them.

0 (1)I have moved from being self-conscious to feeling a little more comfortable in my body as we’ve worked together.  And the results although amazing, haven’t been overnight!  The first months saw lots of big changes…kilograms and centimetres seemed to melt away under the fluorescent lamps, but of course these slowed down.  And I kept going to the gym, following my eating plan and altering my mindset and perspective about health and nutrition.  There would be days when I wanted to lie on the floor of the gym and cry because my body didn’t want to comply, or my knees (which have been bad since my showjumping days in high school) wanted to give in.  And I kept going back!

And the most remarkable things have happened!  I didn’t turn into a freakish looking version of myself with great, bulging muscles and manly features.  What did happen was that my body has gotten stronger, leaner and healthier.  And I am able to look into that very same mirror that so terrified me on Day 1 and really look the reflection that is there looking back at me.  It’s got some nicely toned, visible muscles and is still quite shapely, but in a much more sexy, feminine way then I imagined it would look.  So when I stood there last week on Monday, 8th January 2018, I was so proud and excited about how far I have come.

Thankfully I didn’t give up on that very first day because of the inner critic in me who wanted me to run off and hide because I wasn’t good enough, slim enough or strong enough.  Instead I have stuck  it out three to four times a week (well  most weeks) and  have learned to love, nurture and care for my body in a way I  haven’t ever done.  I’ve learned that exercise is NOT about punishing myself because I had a chocolate brownie, but that it’s about honouring the physical, emotional, spiritual and mental parts of self.  Of course there are days when the thought of getting into my gym pants is the last hings I want to do…and I ‘d rather lie around in my underwear and eat ice cream, but the truth is I have fallen in love with the new me over the last year.

The me that is self-loving and wants to do the best for me that I can do.  The new me who has persevered through the initial stages of getting my health back.  The new me who values fitness and exercise.  The new me who doesn’t  make excuses all the time about not having time, but rather makes and finds the time because I am worth it!  And it’s not that I am suddenly an arrogant, slimmer version of my past, overweight self, it’s more that I just really love the fact that I love me!  And that I got over myself and went back for that second and third and forth session with Alex, and all the sessions since then.

He wasn’t with me in the gym this year on my “gym-aversary” but I know he delights in the progress and changes I have made, the growth I have shown, and the values I have developed around myself, my health and my fitness.  Alex is still very much part of my process, and I rely on his knowledge,experience and accountability to see me through the next year of my ongoing transformation, because I have learned that this is not about reaching a final goal, but rather living a life where I am constantly striving for improvement and achievement.  All I can say is #whatadifferenceayearmakes.