I have always been fascinated by nutrition. As a teenager, I was preoccupied with calories, fat, and weight loss, never being satisfied with my body or my appearance. One day, I was at the gym and a lady who was larger than I was got on the scale and weighed 20 pounds less than I did. I was frustrated, and that only fueled my negative body image.
I had an unhealthy relationship with food and went through periods of dieting, followed by binging. I probably would have been diagnosed with an eating disorder if I would have been honest with anyone regarding my choices and preoccupation with food.
Looking back, I was entirely too critical of myself, as what I considered “fat” wasn’t remotely close to being fat. I happened to be 5’1″ with a curvy figure and strong legs, slightly different than the models who were on the covers of magazines in the early 90s. It probably didn’t help that I enjoyed gymnastics and desired to be a cheerleader more than anything. I also did beauty pageants and tried to become a model/actress in the local talent industry. I suppose I thought I would find my happiness in these activities, but I was never as successful as I wanted to be, and that only contributed to my negative body image.
My weight had a tendency to go up and down in a 10-20 pound range. I never wanted to buy larger sizes, so when my clothes would cease to fit, I would go all out in “diet and exercise mode”. I was writing down my meals, logging my exercise, and calculating numerous stats long before the days of MyFitnessPal and Fitness Tracking Devices. I was even asked to be a beta tester for a clinical nutrition software package because of how neurotic I became with the personal version of the software that I used. Later, I purchased a GoWearFit device, which was an arm band that did essentially what the wrist trackers do today. In fact, in 2013, Jawbone bought Body Media, the company who made the GoWearFit, and implemented their technology in their UP3 and later trackers. Eventually, I purchased a Jawbone UP4 and I recently started wearing it again.
I have read so many books on nutrition, including fad diet books, but many good choices as well, including (in order of how I remember them, starting with books I borrowed from my dad): Earl Mindell’s Vitamin Bible, Dr. Atkins New Diet Revolution, The South Beach Diet, The Hungry Gene, The Volumetrics Diet, The Zone Diet, etc. I took nutrition in college, and participated in nutrition research studies in graduate school. Once, I even drank a lot of water prior to a screening weigh-in because I wanted to be sure I weighed enough to participate.
I was a master at manipulating the rules of diets, usually with highly processed foods that sort-of fit the requirements. I was never a big Atkins fan, but those “sugar alcohol” laden bars worked well for other diets that I did. I was all about the “fat-free” craze, used margarine instead of butter, used sugar substitutes rather than sugar, and probably made my nutrition worse as a result.
In 2001, when I was pregnant with my son, a nurse practitioner told me I had an eating disorder and was trying not to gain weight because I continued to write down all of my meals (she also told me that wearing high heels and continuing to lift weight was bad for the baby, so I didn’t give her concerns much merit). At that time, I was just in the habit of logging everything, I was not calculating calories and was not nearly as serious about it. I actually was eating a lot, but I did not gain much weight while pregnant, so now that I can look objectively at my past, I do understand the nurse’s concern.
I am a lifetime member of Weight Watchers, although I frequently weigh more than my “goal” weight, so I haven’t gone in years because I’m above my “goal” weight. What has always happened is I do great when I’m making the effort and get back to my “goal” weight, but then I stop trying until I’m overweight again. I don’t like to go get weighed in and have to pay, so I stop going. Eventually my weight gets high enough that it’s affecting the way my clothes fit and I get frustrated enough to go back into “diet and exercise mode” and I go back.
It was exhausting.
It was also pretty crazy.
The worst part is – I knew better. I read about legitimate nutrition. I studied nutrition in college and took graduate courses in biochemistry. I just chose to not embrace common sense and got caught up in worldly pleasures.
It’s kind of like my spiritual journey, but I digress…. You can read more about that on my spiritual blog, Authentic Believer.
Actually, that’s a great point. I had head knowledge of nutrition, but I didn’t let that knowledge change my thoughts and decisions. I allowed myself to remain a prisoner of my flesh for way too long.
Overtime, food loosened its grip on me. I no longer desired to binge eat and then diet excessively. I became at peace with my weight and I was okay if it went up a little. I learned to love myself for who I was, not who I thought I should be. I focused more on enjoying life than on perfection. I think a lot of this is related to my spiritual growth and freedom from insecurity.
Unfortunately, I still embraced the New Orleans mentality of “living to eat” rather than “eating to live”. I was always able to do that to a great extent. I was super-active, often bragged about my stomach of steel, and enjoyed being able to do whatever I wanted to.
In the past couple of years, I started feeling my age catch up with me and I haven’t appreciated that. Then, I started noticing that I really wasn’t doing as well as I should be. My cholesterol was high; my hormones were out of whack. I recognized that I had not slept through the night in probably 20 years, and I had many negative consequences of poor sleep (but, no diagnosable condition). I’ve done two sleep studies now and have been prescribed every medication under the sun, but none have worked for any appreciable amount of time.
I started being plagued by trigger point pain throughout my body. I believe I’ve had these knots for a long time, but they just felt “normal” to me. I always blamed them on sleeping wrong or lifting weights; I never realized they were always there, just not always active. When I would get a massage, the therapist would always comment on the tension in my body. I thought it was just normal; I didn’t feel stressed or tense – I felt normal. As time went on, I started to feel the tension and I noticed that stressful situations would increase my blood pressure to unhealthy values and eventually I started feeling sore and these knots became very painful.
I was told by a therapist to reduce stress in my life. Easier said than done, right? I told him that was a great idea, but I had no idea how to do that. I talked to some other people about how to do this and spent a lot of time praying for wisdom. I felt led to pursue yoga in a more personal setting (not the health club yoga I had previously done) and this was a key change for me. I’ll write about this in an upcoming blog (now written as Samatvam Yoga Uchyate). I also started figure skating, which you can read about this on my blog – Over40Skater.
Around the same time, a colleague of mine asked me to consider participating in the January 2017 Daniel Fast with her church. It is a 21-day partial fast where you essentially eat a modified Vegan diet. Basically, you eat fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, beans, quality oils, soy-based protein, herbs, and spices, drinking only water. You are to abstain from meat, processed food, dairy, sweeteners, leavened bread, solid fats, fried food, alcohol, caffeine, coffee, any other beverage. The purpose of the fast is to draw closer to God and engage in spiritual discipline. I agreed to do it, not even considering the implications.
You can read more about “The 2017 Daniel Fast” in my next blog post (2017 Daniel Fast), but for now I will say it was doable, but I was counting down the time until it was over. One of the positives was that my husband and I started cooking “real food” together and I hoped that part would continue, but otherwise, I couldn’t stop craving “good food”.
On the last day of the Daniel Fast, my physical therapist suggested I try a gluten free diet for 4-6 weeks. I was initially opposed to this idea because I missed everything I previously ate and it didn’t seem fair to go right into another restrictive eating plan. She told me to take a week off before starting, but after eating “crap food” for only one day, I felt so terrible that I started the Whole30 the very next day (Crazy Day of Craving).
The Whole30 is a “real food” eating plan, removing processed foods, soy, dairy, alcohol, non-quality oils, peanuts, beans, and grains entirely for 30 days and then introducing them back systematically to see what affects your body in a negative way.
You can read more about “The Whole30” in an upcoming blog post (now written as: My First Whole30), but it was just what my body needed. Between the Daniel Fast and the Whole30, I was able to lose about 15 pounds, without trying at all. It was amazingly easy and low stress. But the best part is that I began to feel better and began to see some progress in my ability to sleep. In fact, the improvement in how I felt revitalized my interest in nutrition and now I would like to pursue a masters degree in holistic nutrition at some point in the future.
I didn’t do so well with the reintroduction phase of the Whole30, despite my best efforts, so that’s where this blog will start.
I have decided to take a three-day “Journey into Debauchery” (Blog Post Here) to firmly convince myself that I want to make life-long changes to the way I eat. I am one day into that and feel like I’m finding closure in this decision. For me, in order for healthy choices to stick, I need to change my “want to” (just like in my spiritual life). While I appreciate the good feelings of healthy nutrition, it’s the bad feelings of eating “crap food” that will seal the deal for me. It’s so easy for me to become complacent when things are going well and forget where I came from. I’m documenting everything and that will be essential in cementing these new nutritional tenets in my life.
As an aside, I am not a legalist when it comes to my spiritual life or nutrition. I don’t expect perfection of myself, and I will allow myself to enjoy things that might not be the very best for me. I believe in learning to honor your cravings, but not let anything become a master over you. But, at the same time, there are consequences of bad decisions, and I also believe in experiencing those to change my desires.
Just like my spiritual journey, I expect this odyssey into holistic health to be filled with ups and downs. As time goes on, I will share my story with you, as well as share the knowledge that I am learning. I look at my blog as a resource where science as a whole meets my specific struggles. By learning more and applying what I am learning to my life, I hope to grow healthier, feel better, and maybe one day, sleep through the night.
And, if all goes well, maybe one day, I will be able to help others on their journey own person journey to holistic health.