A few months ago, I decided to radically change my fitness lifestyle. This change was two-fold. One: I wanted to re-evaluate my cross training efforts, and to focus on doing some non-exercise things in my life. Two: I wanted to stop counting calories and stop being "on a diet." Forever. I'm going to talk about the food part today, and I'll save the cross training for another post.
So, I knew a few things. I knew I didn't want to count calories anymore. I knew that I never want to be in Weight Watchers again (see my last post on Weight Watchers here). More than anything though, I firmly believed that I could do this on my own, without obsessing. I could eat like a normal person without overeating. I wanted a healthy relationship with food, and I wanted to just stop worrying about it.
I mean, do you have to count calories in some manner in order to be healthy? I've spent a lot of time believing that you do, but with my new way of eating, I was determined to prove otherwise. I know there are books and seminars, etc, about intuitive eating, but I wanted to make up my own guidelines and do it on my own. Now, I didn't want rules. I wanted guidelines. I can break them if I want to, I just need to try to follow them. Some of my guidelines:
Limit processed foods. That doesn't mean avoid them altogether. I still go to fast food restaurants when it's necessary, and I still buy processed foods to eat (especially if they're from Trader Joes!), but I try very hard to cook and eat whole foods when I can.
Listen to what your body needs and wants. I know that my body needs those non-processed foods. I think usually when someone says "eat what your body needs," they're talking about eating super-clean, which just isn't practical for me. Typically, I hear people saying not to listen when your body simply wants something, but I think it's important to my sanity to include some processed foods, desserts, alcohol, etc. You know, the stuff typically labeled as "bad stuff." Otherwise, food is fuel. I think to myself "how will I feel after I eat this?" and if the answer is bad, I don't eat it.
Follow Michael Pollan's Food Rules when you can. I love that book. My favorite of these is that you can eat what you want, but you have to make it yourself. I love to cook and bake, and that's one of the things that was really heartbreaking about counting calories.
Don't eat after 9pm. This is the one hard and fast rule I've been following. I've been trying to make no exceptions. It used to be after a scuba class when I would get home at 11pm and hadn't eaten since 5:30 or so, I would have a snack before bed. No more!! I feel better when I don't go to bed with a full stomach, and I've learned that a huge amount of my overeating was happening between 9pm and bedtime!
Stop worrying about weight. I've been trying to weigh myself less often, which has been unheard of since I started dieting in 1998. I've made it up to two weeks without weighing (CRAZY STUFF)! I've had some freaking out days, where I feel like I must be out of control. I just tell myself that if this doesn't work for me, I can just... stop. Anytime, I can stop.
That's it! Those are my guidelines! I've been trying to follow them since about April or May, and I've had a lot of success. I've been a lot happier, and I've been less obsessed with food. Right away, I lost 6 pounds. I've leveled off and haven't lost much since (I gained two in Little Cayman, and then lost them again). My body and mind are, in general, quite happy.
The thing is, I just want to eat like a normal person. I think I can do it. I think I can listen to my body and figure out what to eat without the use of diets or counting or strict rules. I'll report some more later on my progress, but I wanted to at least write some about this because I'm pretty excited about it.