Hunger Comfort

Today I heard a great piece of advice: Don’t be afraid of hunger. The sensation of hunger means that your body is switching from using food as energy to using your fat as energy. This is precisely the reason why I always seem to see great results when I eat an early dinner (around 5-6 PM) and do not eat until the next morning. This is a version of intermittent fasting and is super effective because your energy reserves from food are usually used up by the time you go to bed, so you are essentially burning fat throughout the night! There is definitely no easier way to lose fat than while you sleep! (There is still a lot of debate whether or not the timing of your meals matter. Of course I can’t say definitively either way for everyone–this is just my experience).labradoodle-2330320_1280

The problem is, many of us are afraid of hunger. We are terrified of that feeling of slight discomfort and avoid it at all costs. What if we reframed our feelings towards it instead? What if we embrace the hunger, know it will pass, and fall asleep on an empty stomach, waking up energized and that much closer to our goals? I am not saying you should be feeling starving or always hungry, but that feeling once in awhile is totally natural for humans. It takes us back to our natural state. Americans eat to discomfort all the time, yet they are afraid of the other extreme. Experiencing that feeling once in awhile makes me appreciate my meals more. I remember what true hunger feels like, and it’s not as bad as we seem to believe! So next time you’re in bed at 10 PM and feel that nagging urge to go down and get a snack, know the feeling will pass and instead EMBRACE the sensation!

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To Cheat Or Not To Cheat

I have found myself struggling with this question for years now–when I am following a strict diet plan is it better for me to follow that plan ALL of the time or to incorporate cheat meals once a week like many bodybuilders? After years of testing, failing, and trying again, my final conclusion is that it all depends on YOU and what gives you greater peace of mind.

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I used to use cheat meals as an excuse to binge-eat after months of extreme dieting. I would feel so run down and deprived, but I would not want to break my strict diet, so I would allow for one meal that was “outside of the plan.” However, of course this backfired because rather than alleviating the struggle feeling deprived most of the day, I would proceed to go on an all out eating frenzy that would continue anywhere from a single night to a few months of being unable to regain control.

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I am in a much different place now. Monday was my birthday (22!) and as part of my new training plan I am allowed one “free meal” per week where I can eat whatever I want as long as I don’t eat to the point of discomfort. My family took me out to eat at the Oyster Club, a high end and scrumptious restaurant on the CT shoreline for my birthday dinner. I looked forward to it all weekend, prepped my normal meals for the trip, and replaced one of them with this meal out to eat. I ate warm, sweet cornbread (YUM), a light summer salad of tomatoes, peaches, and ricotta (yes I chose this over pasta hehe), fluke with white beans and had my very own dessert–a warm almond cake with whipped cream! This meal was satisfying in every way, but the highlight of it was the glaring sign of ED recovery–I did not have any urge to binge afterwards, as I often would when I was younger, calorie deprived, and feeling out of control. (It might sound weird that I would want to binge after a full meal but it’s actually quite common–once you break down the wall keeping you from eating a little you end up wanting to tear the whole thing down). Rather, I simply decided I did not need the last meal I had planned for the day. I went on to enjoy a great night’s sleep and was energized for my workout the next day.

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Despite these up-sides, I still decided that I think I will save these decadent “free meals” for rare occasions like my birthday, Christmas, Thanksgiving, etc. While the extra calories energized me for my workout the next day, I personally don’t like feeling bloated from the extra salt and gluten (which I don’t usually consume) and I realize that my weight loss goals are more important to me than a pleasureful meal each week. I rank my consistent progress over that meal, and I find that sometimes when I focus on the meal ahead too much it is a little too close to my old disordered-eating mind for my liking. For some people, however, this is exactly the meal they need to keep them on pointe throughout the week! Maybe one day I will get to that place, but for now I’ll stick with a piece of fish, veggies, and a complex carb on my weekly(ish) meal out to dinner 🙂

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How to Stop Binge Eating: Consistency (Part I)

When you hear “consistency is key,” it’s one of those cliches that makes you turn your brain off. You know what it means, you’ve heard it before, thus you don’t think about it further. But what if I told you there may be a new meaning to it you have never considered? There is another dimension that feeds into it and can radically change your perspective when it comes to weight loss, changing your body composition, and even overcoming an eating disorder, whatever that may be. And that is the fact that being CONSISTENT with your eating and exercise habits can lead to a newfound trust in yourself. A trust that can go so far as healing you from the destructive thoughts you are having with regards to food, to the point where those thoughts start to fade into the background. It won’t be a sudden change, but one day you’ll look back and think oh my gosh, I have not even had the urge to binge eat in 2 months!key-3087889_1280

Now, how does one start to be consistent, you ask. In my 10+ years dealing with my own personal disordered eating habits, the times I have actually succeeded in coming back from the worst of it all the way to my best self I have made a specific, measurable plan and stuck with it for AT LEAST 4 weeks. I would follow a nutrition plan that provided me with the required calories and macronutrients every day, measuring everything that I eat so there is no guesswork or internal debate. It may sound boring to you, but eventually once you have regained trust you can start varying your foods to make it interesting again. You may find that following a pre-set meal plan will take a load of stress off deciding what and how much to eat at every meal.

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I have found that 4 weeks is the minimum amount of time that it takes for me to gain trust in my ability to fuel my body with the best and to realize that I have complete and autonomy and control over my cravings. If I have a sudden urge to binge I will look at it objectively, thinking well that must be because I have not eaten in 8 hours, or this is to be expected after the 4 hours of sleep I got last night. This is entirely different from my mental state during the worst of it. When I was in the dark throws of and ED mindset and I had a craving, my mind would start to spin at a million miles an hour. It would switch back and forth between extremes. One minute I would be set on satisfying my cravings in the moment and as quickly as possible (my body was calorie and nutrient deprived, after all). The next I would be figuring out how to minimize damage of the binge and how I would make up for it tomorrow when I would “restart.” Soon after I would be researching new diet programs between meal courses, attempting to shut out the reality of what I had just done. Then, of course, the flood of guilt, shame, and regret, lasting at least 48 hours. Sometimes I would follow up with a “fast” the next day, which sometimes got me back on track but sometimes lead to further binges–my defenses were low.

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Binge eating is a terribly difficult thing to deal with, but it becomes 10,000x worse when you work yourself into a state of hysteria. Dark, self-blaming thoughts weigh down on you heavily and probably control 50% of your daily thoughts. This is not any way to live and you are TOTALLY CAPABLE of beating it!!! Becoming aware of the causes of your cravings are key in solving them and creating better habits. All I can ask is that sharing my experiences can have some ounce of good, spreading hope, light, and possibility for people in a place where it can be very hard to decipher. Stay tuned for more posts on how I recovered from disordered eating and binge eating in particular.

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When the Gym Becomes the Playground

The first few weeks of an exercise routine are always rough. Maybe you’re out of shape, maybe you have been inconsistent with your training, maybe you’re starting a completely new program and the exercises as foreign to you as that language you always wished you spoke. Whatever the case, the excruciatingly sore muscles are never fun, nor is wandering around the gym like a freshman on their first day of college, trying to make out the miniscule directions on the exercise machines without anyone noticing, or dimming your phone so no one can make out the “How to do a deadlift” YouTube tutorial you are analyzing. Your workouts are a chore, a necessary part of your day that you can’t wait to get over with. You’re not seeing results anyways, so what’s the point?

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Hold out because there comes a shift. It is mainly a mental shift, but of course your mental state and physical state are always closely intertwined. Let me explain: in the beginning, going to the gym always seems to negate time from my day. Then, one morning I wake up and it has transformed into an enhancement of my day. I look forward to it. I view the gym as a playground. I will look down at my phone at the end of my workout session, shocked at the fact that 2 hours had gone by?!? I was just enjoying myself. Testing my body. Exploring my limits. Exhausting every fiber of my being. So what changed?

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I think part of it has to do with the fact that after a month of following a consistent workout and meal plan, you start to see definite changes in your body. This is empowering. You realize you have autonomy over your life! You can reshape your body all through your habits! And of course this makes every day seem worth it. Once you have lost enough body fat, you begin to see the previous day’s hard work taking shape every morning you open your eyes and see your new reflection staring back at you. These are real, tangible, visible results that drive you to put more effort in each and every day. And suddenly you are reframing (a positive psychology technique!!) — and the gym becomes a playscape.

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Photos: Pixabay.com

Intuitive Thriving

Reshaping your body can be a funny process. One night you are totally down on yourself, caught up in the details, afraid of the days you won’t be able to count your macros if the progress is THIS SLOW when you are counting every gram. Imagining how long it is going to take if your stupid-efficient metabolism only lets you lose one pound per week. Doubting if you are really taking the rights steps towards change. But doubt does not lead to progress.

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You are forgetting one thing. Those long, hard hours you are putting in at the gym are not manually burning calories anymore like the hours slaved away on the elliptical did. That iron you are lifting is RESHAPING your entire body, day and night. Revving your metabolism for years to come. Building lean, long curves and cuts in your muscles that magazines have always promised you with 30 knee-push-ups a day. You are replacing fat cells with muscle cells! An amazing biological feat!

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Thought it may not always seem like it, the beauty of it is that you do not suddenly wake up one day and see all of the progress you have made. What we forget at the very beginning of our journey is that if you are putting the hard, consistent work in, after about a month you will have AT LEAST one distinct moment each week when you think: “Wow, I can actually start to see my jawline,” or “Okay, running doesn’t feel like such a chore anymore,” or “Oh my gosh, those jean shorts just slid right on…when did that happen?” And that is the beauty of this long, slow process. These little pick-me-up moments are like seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. That is what makes it somewhat of an addiction.

Dedication does not equal deprivation. You are eating enough so that you can still enjoy your food, yet your food never hinders your performance, mood, or distends your tummy into a state of distress. This is you THRIVING. And this is what people mean when they say to enjoy the process. If it happened overnight, it would not be a lifestyle.

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Once it becomes a lifestyle you no longer start to worry so much about the gram by gram daily differences in your calories, especially if something throws off your routine–travel, a special event, a bout of sickness. You have developed a whole new shiny frame of mind in which you only want to fuel your body with the best. You already feel great, and you just want to continue thriving. You don’t want to let that feeling go ever again. So yes, you stay strict with your workouts and your eating habits and your drinking habits. People look at you weird, like a freak of nature, but you continue on. Because you know yourself and your potential to thrive best. But you no longer have to micromanage the journey to the point of toting your food scale all over the world. It will eventually become intuitive. Intuitive thriving.

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The Weight of Words

One time, when I was in the best shape of my life, I had a new friend tell me that I was lucky because I was naturally lean. She had to work so hard to lose weight. This was laughable to me because it could not be further from the truth. I had been pretty chubby as a child until I realized I would not succeed in skating unless I had a lean and svelt body, leading to years of dieting and an obsession with weight loss.

This REALLY made me realize how you never really know what is going on in a person’s life–you know nothing about their relationship with food, exercise, and health in general, therefore it is impossible to make such assumptions.

The truth was, although I was finally feeling great in my skin at the time this comment was made, it had taken me 10+ years of extremely restrictive eating habits, tons of cardio, endless weight loss plateaus, and binge eating behaviors to finally lead me to a stable grounds and allow me to really lean out. Getting to that point was anything but easy and I still had very restrictive eating habits (which later lead to larger problems with binge eating).

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The point is, next time you have something to say about someone else’s body, really think it over first. Not only is giving them feedback none of your business, but food and body image is unfortunately an extremely touchy subject (stemming from insecurities) and it’s really easy for what you are trying to say to get distorted in someone’s head. For example, I used to think “buff” meant “bulky.” Little did I know, when someone was calling me buff it meant I appeared lean, chiseled, and in shape to them! All this time a simple word made the difference between a compliment and an insult, a simple miscommunication ruling the way I viewed my body. How silly, in a dark and twisted way…

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It is not your place to judge the journey of another. Air on the side of caution when making a comment about someone else’s eating habits or body shape, especially to young girls. Unfortunately, your comments hold more weight than you may think.

 

Operation Taste My Food Again

If I’m being honest with myself, I have an addiction. And that addiction is artificial sweeteners. It has been a long time coming for me to finally quit. The other day I read an article saying that they are more addictive than cocaine, and that same day I listened to a podcast by Mind Pump Media exaggerating how problematic artificial sweeteners can be. Not only do they claim to enhance weight loss, but Stevia is 200-400 times sweeter than sugar, and Splenda is 600 times sweeter than sugar! Of COURSE they are addictive! They are manufactured to make us want more of it.

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I already know this will be an uphill battle for me. I know I have chronically overused these little packets of evil for at least ten years, dumping Truvia, Splenda, Equal, Stevia, Purevia, into my coffee, fruit, oatmeal, cereal, yogurt, cottage cheese, smoothies, etc. Multiple times throughout the day and between meals I would consume. I did not discriminate. I tore open any little packet I could get my hands on, hoarding them in the cupboards, my car, my purse. The gum addiction is a whole other story. While in Denmark, it is much more difficult to find these chemicals (classic Denmark always doing it right), so I even had my mom bring a dozen packs of my favorite gum brand (Five Peppermint).

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The irony is, I felt so much better when I wasn’t having these sweeteners. And whenever I tried to limit my consumption, it would steadily increase to an obscene amount–again pointing to their addictive properties. I knew I was making a mistake every time I bought a new massive box of this poison, but I couldn’t stop, even when I had terrible side effects such as bloating and gas, etc. that I knew was caused directly by this fake sweetness.

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Until now. When I heard these sweeteners can cause Metabolic Syndrome, Insulin Resistance, and even Type 2 Diabetes I felt sick to my stomach. No wonder I can’t lose weight when I eat 1200 calories and workout 1+ hours every day. I promptly dumped everything artificial sweetener anything into the trash–crystal light powder, gum, stevia. Stevia doesn’t have a bad rap yet, but the FDA states that “stevia leaf and crude stevia extracts are not considered GRAS and do not have FDA approval for use in food”– meaning that they are not generally recognized as safe. It seems to me that the FDA is covering their bases just in case stevia ends up causing cancer in the long run. I’m not going to take my chances anymore.

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Stay tuned for an update on the changes I notice in my body with this lifestyle change! 🙂