I realized in hindsight that it wasn't my regular meals that were problematic or in need of overhauling. I didn't need to eat flawlessly, banish certain foods, or drastically reduce portions. I needed to get a handle on the emotional overeating incidents, all of those "eating cuz I ate," "I deserve it" and "now's my chance" episodes. Once I reduced and eventually eliminated those, my pretty flexible everyday eating habits were suddenly producing great results. It didn't matter if I ate a sandwich with bread, or a bigger steak, or chocolate every day. It only mattered that I wasn't eating large quantities of food on auto-pilot several times per week. What a relief to realize that I didn't need to count calories, fear sugar, become a vegan, eliminate grains, or eat my body weight in skinless chicken breasts every day!
The ironic and sucky thing is that I tried all of that, and when I failed or broke the rules I would comfort myself with more food. So, dieting was actually fueling overeating, not leanness. Dang!
It's ok to want to look and feel your best, but come at it from a place of taking care of yourself and being excited about feeling fantastic today. Negative, punishing thoughts make people feel awful, and people who feel awful eat cookies. Understand that kindness, self-acceptance, and positive thoughts are how you achieve a fit, healthy body and keep it. They're not feel-good hoody-hoo, they're the solution. People who love themselves take great care of themselves.
Instead of fear, guilt, and bullying ourselves, how about we go for kindness, self-acceptance, and positive self-talk? How about we engage in good habits and healthy behaviors because we deserve to feel good right now? Feeling good right now became a really enjoyable thing that I wanted more of, and by doing more of it, damned if my weight and body comp didn't stabilize in a great place with no drama or suffering at all. Punishing and restricting myself there never worked for long because I was always looking for an escape from the bully, and the escape was usually sugar, or whatever else I'd been restricting. After the vegan phase, I went nuts on pork ribs!
This mental shift is so important. You can be as fit and awesome as you want to be, but it will be most effective if you're approaching the process with kindness, and even a sense of fun or adventure. It doesn't have to be a battle.