I walked past one of the electronic bulletin board at work last night and saw this quote:
Change is a process, not an event.
That made me reflect back on my journey. It's been TEN YEARS from when I first began to question diet and fitness dogma to where I am now, which is quite confident and carefree. Though that certainly didn't happen in a week or a month. Now, I don't know how many calories I eat. I don't know how much I weigh. I exercise, but only for fun. My identity and self-worth aren't all tangled up in my food choices or fitness plan. I eat what I like, when I'm hungry, and that's about it. I don't need a spreadsheet or graphs to explain my approach. But wow, it is not like I read one book or was exposed to one idea and the whole thing was solved the next morning. Change is a process, not an event. I love that! So let's revisit my messy process.
2006 Precision Nutrition, MMA, broke my leg, tore my ACL, oops. What I learned: Nothing yet. Poor me.
2007 Knee surgery, couldn't walk or drive, couldn't do my food prep, quit the gym, lost weight. Wait, WHAT? Lost weight?!?! What I learned: This was the lightning bolt. Overtraining makes me fat, tired, hungry, and sad. Who knew? The dramatic decrease in appetite and corresponding drop in weight, while truly eating whatever, it blew my mind. Wheels were turning. I could see that maybe there was another way.
2008 Started working out at home. Afterburn, Turbulence Training, Red Carpet Ready. What I learned: Mainly that I could still be a really fit person without a gym or trainer. The diet mindset and all-or-nothing thinking started taking over again though. I followed my workouts rigidly and I was definitely swayed by all the corresponding diet messages.
2009 China Study, Naturally Thin, Eckhart Tolle, Byron Katie. What I learned: Well, this was a weird year. Some setbacks, some breakthroughs. I became terrified of cheese and got really excited about veganism. I think this stage was maybe the inevitable reaction to having force fed myself animal protein for so long. No more chicken! No more cottage cheese! Woohoo! Only the fake ice cream and rubbery, gritty imitation cheese took a toll. I couldn't live like this. Waaah! But wait. Naturally Thin! This was another turning point because the book made me realize that it was possible to go anywhere and eat anything without gaining weight. I had witnessed naturally thin eaters in action and studied them like rare birds. They weren't on a diet. They ate what they liked. They just didn't overeat. Wow! Then Eckhart Tolle taught me about The Power of Now (as opposed to catastrophizing about past and future) and Byron Katie came along with Loving What Is (Is that true? How do you feel when you believe that thought? Who would you be without that thought? Could the opposite also be true?) This was actually a painful and stressful year in a lot of ways. Questioning everything you thought you knew isn't always the most comfortable.
2010 Mark's Daily Apple, Paleo Solution, started Happy Eaters. What I learned: If being enlightened and free freaks you out too much, you can always go back to dieting! LOL The paleo "lifestyle" was a great diversion for a couple of months but ended with the mass consumption of bread, pasta, and sugar. I finally came back around to Naturally Thin and eating all things in moderation. Jody emailed me one day and said, "Hey do you know of an online forum where you can discuss nutrition and fitness without them preaching any particular plan?" I said, "No, we should start that." Seriously, that's how Happy Eaters happened.
2011 Brain over Binge, The Four Day Win, System Six. What I learned: The beautiful thing about a community is that you can discuss and experience these things together. They become so much more real than scanning through a book on your own and promptly forgetting everything. Martha Beck is a genius at explaining the many and varied ways dieting will ruin your sanity and wellbeing. Brain Over Binge blew my mind. Dismissing faulty urges is closely related to questioning untrue thoughts. An urge is just a thought. It can't hurt you. It can't make you do anything. If you don't give it attention, it doesn't even exist. Whoa. Josh Hillis and System Six taught me that less is more when it comes to working out. All workouts don't need to be an hour long and difficult. You'll make better progress and maintain it long term if workouts are shorter and more effective. Any moron can beat you into the ground for a few weeks. That is not the sign of a good trainer or program. Again, whoa!
2012 Ditching Diets, Eat for Heat, Georgie joins Happy Eaters. What I Learned: I embraced Gillian Riley's "times and plans," which is not at all what it sounds like. It's not a meal plan or a schedule. It's deciding in the moment so you can eat and move on instead of opening the door to endless debate and bargaining. Matt Stone might be a whackadoodle, but at this point I desperately needed to read everything he'd written. I needed permission to eat. A lot. Enough. Finally. And to believe that it would do me good and not harm. It did so much good! Exit a whole bunch of restrictive ideas about portions and "health" food. Enter a fully functioning metabolism and not one hobbled by semi-starvation. Georgie. I read her entire website in a matter of days. It explained so much, especially about the benefits of balanced meals, not snacking, and trusting hunger.
2013 Cake & Skinny Jeans, Go Kaleo, Eating the Food, Taking Up Space. What I Learned: I was taking in lots of new ideas, and lots of food. Cake & Skinny Jeans totally resonated, especially on why dieting doesn't work. It made me squirm a little with intuitive eating references, especially the hunger and fullness scale, but it opened the door to revisiting the idea of intuitive eating later. Go Kaleo, the Eating the Food Facebook group (does that still exist?) and Amber's book Taking Up Space validated that I was completely normal, healthy, and not a freak for eating 2000 plus (often way plus) calories per day. Grown ass women, especially active ones, need to eat. It's not wrong or bad or gluttonous to have an appetite and honor it.
2014 Joined the ZGYM. What I learned: It's funny how I sometimes need to receive the same message several times, in several ways, from several sources before I totally own it. I'd been exposed to minimalist workouts through Josh, but Zuzka slam dunked the concept of short, efficient, effective home workouts being all I need. It's not too good to be true. It's not going to stop working someday. I'm not going to lose muscle or skill. Zuzka has also been a wonderful teacher (unbeknownst to her) of "eyes on your own plate." She can hate on sugar, or go keto, or earn her carbs all she wants. Instead of triggering me, it's made me really good at ignoring that kind of thing. I'm grateful.
2015 Lean Habits, #Moderation365, baking. What I learned: Lean Habits really brought together the concepts I'd already learned from Georgie. The core habits that are important to me are: eating meals without snacking much, eating when physically hungry, eating just enough (to be totally satisfied for hours yet still hungry for the next meal), and eating mostly whole foods. Not only or all whole foods, not "if processed food passes your lips you'll get the diabesity before nightfall," but more of a suggestion that including plenty of whole food and less processed food will make your hunger and fullness signals clearer and more reliable. Jill Coleman and #Moderation365 really reinforced choosing the middle path between restriction and overindulgence. I learned to eat and think the same way workdays and weekends, at home and in restaurants. I don't need different strategies or special foods to be ok. Baking? OMG. Talk about the perfect tool for habituating and becoming nonchalant around even the most tempting foods.
2016 Intuitive Eating, Health at Every Size, quit weighing myself. What I learned: This year has been the biggest leap by far. Though I guess they all feel that way at the time. I conquered big fears (ok, delusions), that reading Intuitive Eating and Health at Every Size would somehow encourage me to give up and eat myself into oblivion. Ha! No! Kind of funny though. It's crazy how deep and clingy fears can become if they're not questioned. I love the ideas of gentle nutrition, treating yourself with kindness and respect, and eating to feel good. No chance that's going to wreck me somehow. Speaking of clingy fears. The scale. OMG. I had weighed myself daily and graphed the numbers in an app for years. I honestly thought this was the key to successful maintenance. It's so cute and funny now. Tracking like a maniac wasn't key to anything except keeping diet thinking front and center. It turned out that when I stopped weighing myself, nothing happened except I became a lot happier and more sane around food.