For those of you who have been following me for some time, you know that I am a recovering yo-yo dieter. Since a very young age I have ridden the dieting roller coaster from Jenny Craig to Richard Simmons to Weight Watchers and more recently with Raw Foods, Paleo, and Ketogenic (and the rest). At various points in my life I’ve given up fat, meat, sugar, dairy, grains, legumes, processed foods, industrial oils, refined carbs, wheat, gluten… so yeah, pretty much everything except vegetables (though I have given up starchy vegetables so I guess I’ve given every single food on the planet at some point in my life). Yikes!
The plus side of this is I’ve learned a lot about my body by experimentation. The negatives, well, there are just too many to list. For most of my life, I’ve feared food. At least one of the foods listed above have at some point created some anxiety, shame, guilt or dread. Eating, in general, was about being ‘good’ or ‘clean’ so that I could keep the weight off and feel better. But as you know, if you’ve read some of my posts, dieting did not keep the weight off, nor did it make me feel better. Instead, I was getting lower in energy and bigger around the middle. Most importantly, I lost the joy of eating – our right as a human and created for myself a distorted relationship with food.
Last year I gave up something important, though. Something that did change my health for the better.
I gave up food rules.
I mean who are these people who do not possess my body and are trying to tell me what is right for it?! Nutrition education is always evolving, it’s always changing, and there will always be that notorious BAD FOOD that is all over the media. 10 years from now, it may change again, or it may not. There is so much confusion and so by telling the rule-makers to essentially F#(@)k off, amazing things happened.
1. I began to be able to truly listen to my body. To recognise when I am truly hungry, and when I'm not. To pay attention to which foods actually make me feel amazing and which ones don't (and aren’t worth it). To listen and know which foods make me hungrier and which ones satisfy me.
2. I’ve saved money! By listening to my hunger levels and eating foods that satisfy me, I realised I’m not actually as hungry as I thought and I’ve saved a whole lot of money on snacks and meals.
3. I haven’t gained weight. Nope, macarons, fish and chips and a plethora of other things have been eaten at some point this year and I haven’t gained a single pound. In fact, if anything, simply relaxing about my food choices has allowed me to let go of some of the anxiety that was causing my weight to hold on. And while I now know that weight is not equal to health - there were many years I lived with fatphobia and overall fear of weight gain so I thought it was interesting that these so-called 'fattening' foods didn't cause me to gain an inch.
4. I no longer crave sugar. Funny how when you actually allow yourself to indulge when your body really wants it, you stop obsessing over that food. Often, cravings are simply our way of rebelling over a rule that says you can’t have that certain food. Remove the rule and you may find you don’t even want it. And if you do, that’s ok, enjoy it when you feel the need.
5. I feel liberated. I know which foods suit my unique body and I eat more of that. I’ve been able to taste foods I could never have dreamed of eating when I was ‘dieting’ and didn’t worry about what was on my plate. I simply ate with intention and listened to my body and I have never felt better.
This is why I'm so passionate about my programs being able to teach people how to truly listen to their bodies once again. It's an amazing feeling to be in charge of my choices again and know that my health has only improved because of it.
So I encourage you all this year to let go of the rules. Let go of someone telling you what you should and shouldn’t do and simply embrace your own inner wisdom. Think about what food makes you feel amazing mentally and physically. Eat more of that food and don’t worry about the in between. Eat as much of that food as humanly possible, find ways to add it in more and then when situations arise to eat something that makes you feel great mentally (but maybe not so much physically) simply make a conscious choice to consume it, and enjoy it.