I was thinking about my mindset today. I used to imagine that my choices were:
a) Control the hell out of everything I eat. Pay attention to calories and macros. Follow rules. Stick to a challenging workout schedule no matter what. Watch my weight closely. Monitor body comp with calipers, scales, tape measures, and selfies. Eat less whenever possible. Eat clean whenever possible. Never let my guard down.
b) Give up. Let myself go. Get fat. Ruin my health. Eat until I hurt. Grow weaker and flabbier by the day. Die of embarrassment. Pretend to love my fat self.
Seriously, I thought those were the choices. I couldn't fathom that there was something in between a) and b). Thank you, all-or-nothing diet thinking. Good/bad, right/wrong, pass/fail. Geez, NO! There is this WHOOOOOLE vast landscape between the extremes of not caring at all, and caring so much it kills you. It's a blissful gray area I'd never met or imagined before. In this gray area, I'm still me. I'm still a fitness person. I still value health (strength, speed, endurance, flexibility, coordination, all of it), but I also value joy and freedom, sleep, recovery, social connection, pleasure, and good food.
I'm actually more free to pursue my real values because I'm not willing to throw them under the bus for a look or a number. For example, I used to hate yoga because it didn't burn enough calories, plus I couldn't quiet my crazy mind enough to enjoy it. I was always busy worrying about how my butt looked in yoga pants or planning what not to have for dinner. I didn't like a lot of the food I ate (protein bars, skinless chicken), but I was willing eat food I didn't like in order to feel virtuous, or to look a certain way in my imagination. I'd run when I hated running. I'd follow workouts that were exhausting and boring. My process sucked, and my outcomes weren't that great. Once I flipped it around to just enjoying the process, independent of weight or how I looked, the outcomes actually got better! I may not have been training as much, but I was training more effectively. I may not have been eating as clean, but I was no longer struggling with binge urges. I wasn't pushing myself to barfing exhaustion, but I was having a lot of fun and being far more consistent.
I truly don't care about weight or dieting anymore, but I didn't stop being me. I'm still healthy. I still love to be active. I still like to feel good before, during, and after I eat. So, I don't worry that I'm going to somehow destroy myself with fried chicken and inactivity. Why would I do that? It was never a real possibility. It was just the tale my restrict-o-brain was scaring me with to keep me restricting. It meant well. Restriction feels safe, distracting, like you're in control of something. It's a go-to coping mechanism for a lot of us. Letting go of the one thing you know well and can count on feels terrifying. It brings up a lot of fear and resistance, but there are other, far better coping mechanisms. I just hadn't found them yet. They are things like questioning painful thoughts, feeling feelings, and meeting my actual needs instead of always turning to eating or restricting as the answer.