Trigger Warning: eating disorder
Happy Mental Health Awareness Month!!!!! I can’t think of a better way to start than to open with some vulnerability and a moment of transparency. So, let’s just get right into it. Show of hands… how many of you have gone on a diet and gave up because it was too hard? How many of you wanted a quick fix diet and gave up because you didn’t see results fast enough? How many of you find that you often compare yourself to skinnier people, be it in your life or on social media? Is your hand raised?
Don’t worry, mine is raised too. Shoot, I have both of my hands raised 😂. For as long as I can remember, I’ve struggled to have a healthy relationship with food, and honestly, I still struggle with it. However, with trial and error, I think I may have possibly found a method that may work, and I want to share it with you all.
Losing weight has always been something that I aimed for on and off for about five years or so. Whether it was because of my crippling fear of dying at an early age due to health concerns or seeing other people online eat whatever they want without gaining a pound, my goal was to have a flat tummy and a slim waist. But, over the years, nothing I tried has stuck with me for the long haul. The way that I was dieting and restricting myself from unhealthy foods just made me rebel and go back to eating unhealthy foods all the time.
I would obsess over counting calories and exercising for a certain amount of time and a certain number of days each week expecting immediate results, and when I didn’t see it, I would rebel and order Five Guys and McDonald’s two days in a row because I thought there was no point in trying anymore. I had a serious problem with food, and I didn’t realize it until a couple of months ago when thoughts of starving myself wiggled their way in my head.
I was preparing myself for bed and was standing in front of my dresser, which has a giant mirror attached to it. I looked at myself in the mirror, and I was so disgusted with myself. I hated how full my face was and how blubbery my stomach was, and I didn’t recognize who the person in the mirror was. Super cliche’, I know, but I’m so serious. I absolutely hated who I’ve become, and I didn’t know what other approaches to try.
At that point, I felt that I’ve tried everything there was to try to lose weight… except for starving myself. I thought about limiting myself to 500 calories a day for two weeks just to see how my body would react. I thought about skipping meals by replacing them with water while calling it good for my body because I’d be increasing my water intake. I was desperate, but thankfully, I never did it.
Cracking the Code?
Now, I won’t say that I found a method that definitely works because results may vary for everyone, but I found something that makes me feel good. At the start of April, I became a pescatarian (no beef, pork, or chicken — only fish) for three weeks, and the change in my eating helped change the way I was thinking. I went into this change with the goal of losing weight, but what I got out of it was so much more rewarding.
Frozen fish naturally comes in smaller portions, so as a result, I learned to eat smaller portions of meat, fill my plate with green veggies, and drink plenty of water. I felt full, energized, and most importantly, I didn’t feel sluggish! Don’t get me wrong, I still love a nice cheeseburger, but those things made me feel so sleepy and sluggish after eating them! It felt good to not feel so weighed down after a meal for three weeks.
I also learned that I don’t need to obsess over measuring my food, adding up Weight Watchers points (don’t even get me started on that one), and counting calories. I started to eat because I’m hungry, not because I’m craving. I began to eat for the goal of providing my body with the nutrients that it needs to feel good, not to eat for the goal of easing my stress after a long day at work or eat just because I’m bored. I also allowed myself to eat two donuts because I freaking earned it or eat a piece of Ghirardelli chocolate after dinner — completely restricting myself from the things I enjoy can cause me to go over the deep end and lose all self-control.
Lastly, I realized that I don’t need to exercise every single day or even set myself on a strict exercising schedule. I can skip a day or two of workout outs and not beat myself up for it. I can fit in a 10-minute exercise and be just as proud of myself as if I’d done a 45-minute workout. I can forgive myself for rest days and skipped days. I am in complete control over my choices, and as long as I get in what I can when I can, I’m good with that.
Just as I gave up beef, pork, and chicken for three weeks, I implore you to try to give up something just to see if you can do it. My original plan was to be a pescatarian for only two weeks, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought, so I extended it to three weeks. Set a short-term goal to give up something, as this will help you understand that although you may not think so, you do have self-control. You can make healthy choices and follow through with them. Once you realize how amazing you are in this regard, I believe that your way of thinking will begin to change just as mine did.
If you try this, please be patient with yourself and your progress. If you set a goal and don’t see it through to the end, forgive yourself, and try again with a shorter time frame. Be proud of yourself for wanting a change and doing something about it, be it something big or something small, and love yourself in the process. Don’t be so zoned in on losing weight that you don’t focus on the real gem, which is taking care of your body.
I know for me, when I was so focused on losing weight, I just wanted that scale to show me that all of my hard work for a week wasn’t for nothing, and when the scale didn’t move the way I wanted after an entire week of anxiety and anticipation, I was always devastated. However, when I started to focus on taking care of my body, I just wanted to feel better overall, which gave me immediate satisfaction that I could see multiple times a day after each meal.
Now, I’m not going to sit here and pretend as though I’m not going to order a cheeseburger now that my three weeks are over. However, I don’t feel the need to eat as poorly as I did before. My mental is starting to change, which is the catalyst for a completely new perspective.
“I have adopted an 80/20 rule when it comes to my delicate relationship with food: 80 percent of the time, I make good choices; 20 percent of the time, I let myself splurge a little.”
– Trisha Yearwood