Not sure what the deal is…I’ve had a number of things pop in my path connecting thoughts to finish some unwritten pieces and other ideas just need to come out, but I’m not arguing with the need to get more thoughts out–I know I’ve neglected this blog and I miss writing. It’s a place of centering, learning, and good self review. Wherever the inspiration is coming from, I’m not arguing.
I came across this blog post earlier this morning as I was hitting my various headlines across my different readers for the day: https://blog.myfitnesspal.com/how-identifying-as-an-athlete-changed-my-relationship-with-food/
As bizarre as it sounds, I appreciate reading other people’s journeys with food. It helps me to realize that even the most “normal” and “popular” among us have had to come to terms with food, eating, nutrition, nourishment, fuel, satisfaction, craving, satiety, and so much more on their own terms (and YES! all of those things are VERY different things!).
My journey with food has been a rocky one…obviously. You don’t hit massive weights well over 400-some-odd pounds because you and food have a good relationship. I’ve spent a lot of years thinking I was “correcting” that relationship through dieting, when in effect I was further harming not only my body, but my mind as well. Once I realized the problem, however, it didn’t mean then I was able to fix it…I’ve had a diagnosed eating disorder for 12 years and have pursued professional care for it the last ten years off and on. So why is it that it takes until January 2015 for me to realize my life was a mess? Well…I can’t answer that question. It is what it is.
God works in His timing. As my husband says, He’s the perfect gentleman. God isn’t going to force anything on us that we’re not ready for, willing to pursue, going to carry out, or follow through. I don’t have regret for the past–absolutely not–the past creates who we are, but I do realize the amount of pain that I still carry around and the enormity of so many different past events, situations, relationships, and facets of life that collided in the perfect storm at just the right time to create that sense of urgency in my complacency to seek out the journey of change that needed–and will need to continue ad infinitum–to occur.
So what does any of this have to do with food? So much!
If you’ve paid attention for all of five minutes, you know by now my tolerance level for diets is nil the more I dig deeper into evidence-based science (my brain hurts a lot, medical studies are really heady to read–but if you know me I’m not spouting anything I got from realfarmacy or any other clickbait). I ascribe to a mind-body health approach called Intuitive Eating, coined by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. It is NOT a diet. It is NOT a weight loss program. It’s essentially trusting your body to let you know what it needs. And that’s about the furthest explanation I’m going to launch into in my own text outside of actual face-to-face conversation because I don’t want my words twisted–this concept gets soooo misconstrued, misunderstood, and turned into something it’s not. I beg of you, don’t Google it–go to the original source: https://www.intuitiveeating.org/what-is-intuitive-eating-tribole/ (or actually read the book, Intuitive Eating, by Tribole and Resch–the workbook is amazing too, or get your information from an actual certified IE practitioner).
Intuitive Eating is hard. It’s not a perfect equation. I have over 30 years of screwed up diets in my head (remember, I was 5 when I was put on my first diet) to deprogram, so it’s extremely hard for me to trust what my body is telling me. Yes, you read that correctly. I realize how messed up it is to say that I can’t trust what my own body signals are telling me. A lot of that is the mental component of my eating disorder that still plays havoc in my head. It is embarrassing to admit that at almost 40 years old I have to place painstaking intentional effort in identifying the very basic ideas of if I am hungry or satisfied or what my body might need at a given moment because I was so checked out of it for soooooo many years.
Food isn’t just about eating–it’s about emotions, situations, life, relationships, people, and so much more. It’s messy. You have to muck through a lot more than figuring out how to simply sustain your being. While working on my relationship with IE, I was blessed to stumble into a year-long course with an amazing certified IE practitioner that encompassed a lot more than just that into her curriculum, and I continue to remain active in that community. Support and accountability are important. But, eating disorders are tricky wickets…I can eat intuitively all I want, but there will always be triggers to those behaviors waiting in the wings to strike. I need to be aware of that and how to cope, deal, manage, and get past it so it doesn’t envelope me–but life happens, it’s not perfect.
Now, throw endurance sports into this mix. That’s where this article above got my wheels turning this morning. Athletes have to be so hyper aware of their bodies and how to fuel it for performance, and at the purest form, just to make it go! This is something that as I’ve increasingly bumped up further into the big leagues, I’ve slammed my body into even bigger walls. Praise Jesus for pros that I’ve been able to trust with my journey. I’ve been able to develop relationships beyond the surface so these people not only understand the variables that affect my performance, but they know the why that creates the variables so it’s never dismissed as something irrelevant. I’m seen as a person.
I often get DMs and emails because people can’t wrap their minds around the whole picture (heck, some days I can’t) that I don’t diet yet I can be an athlete conscious of how I fuel my body. Please keep asking me questions–I am a (relatively) open book and I will answer to the best of my ability, or send you to the best sources of the answer that I know! But here’s some of the most popular questions I get to hopefully make some of those ends meet:
- How can you eat intuitively if you have people telling you what to eat? No one tells me what to eat. I eat salad. I eat cheeseburgers. I eat fruit. I eat cupcakes. I have a triathlon coach and a sports RDN (who specializes in intuitive eating) and we all work together. I do not follow a “meal plan.” I choose my meals, I do the grocery shopping, cooking, eating, and even the dishes! One of the ten principles of intuitive eating is gentle nutrition, but there’s no guidelines, there’s no written food rules. My coach and my sports RDN work with me on helping to make decisions on eating foods that make my body FEEL good each day WHEN I NEED HELP. They also are helpful in specific areas of training on what I need in times of recovery, high volume training, what helps to sustain me better on this day vs day–as a team they can help me see trends that I can’t see on my own. Teamwork is dreamwork in this case!
- Do you track your food? Yes and no. RED ALERT: this is a very hot button issue and a very big diet culture issue. “Me, myself, and I” do not track calories and blah, blah, blah, BUT I do keep a food journal of meals (not every single bite I take, and not necessarily every snack I have). My coach and sports RDN have the password and access to this app and they are the ones that analyze this information–it is helpful in knowing consumption of various macro ratios, especially during high volume training times. None of us get hung up on this, and there are days where I don’t record a thing, don’t open it, could care less–and that’s okay. Tracking food is NOT an intuitive eating behavior–please do not be mistaken there! This is not a behavior I recommend for just anyone to engage in without cause, purpose, or followup.
- Why do you read so many diet books? First, you have to look at your definition of “diet” books. I don’t own a single one. I do read a TON of books, articles, journals, and studies on intuitive eating, body positivity, Health At Every Size, the obesity epidemic, and other medical issues. I also read both sides of the issue because I’m not 100% sold on any of those given topics (and some I’m even still a super skeptic)–I’ll play devil’s advocate with you all day long. I want every angle and as much information as I can get my hands on. Yes, some of my favorite books have some diet culture buzz words…the sports world has not caught up to weight neutral language. I’m sorry. My favorite cookbook–Racing Weight, books like Roar, etc all have that diet-y undertone in the title/byline to them when in actuality they are totally innocuous.
- Are you trying to lose weight? This is a paradigm shift for me–was I trying? Yes. Is it an active pursuit? No. Am I losing weight? Yes. Will I continue to lose weight? I don’t know. Here’s the deal: by nourishing my body with what it needs when it needs it and remaining active through endurance sports, my body continues to change and become smaller. I don’t believe my body has reached its set point yet due to a lot of different biological indicators (read Linda Bacon’s work to get into that), but I don’t have a crystal ball to know for sure. My goal is to be as healthy and active as I can be with the body that I have–and I’ve got big goals to achieve with this body!
- Why did you become a certified personal trainer if you aren’t doing it for financial gain? Two reasons: Personal enrichment. The education I obtained in studying for my certification exam is priceless in enhancing my connection to my own body and my personal advancement in sport. It has helped me to better understand the various systems of the body and how they work together, how training plans are developed and executed, and it helps me to have more informed and intelligent discussion with my triathlon coach, chiropractor, doctor, and other allied health professionals. Second, it has enhanced my ministry in current programs that I lead and am a part of so that I am able to ensure the safety and health of all participants, and that accurate information is disseminated to the group. Also, it provides me credibility in leadership of those programs. I am also currently pursuing my fitness nutrition certification for the same reasons above to satisfy the continuing education to maintain my personal trainer certification through the accrediting body that I obtained it through. Why fitness nutrition? Because after extensively researching the program, the accrediting body I am working through does not take a diet-centered approach to fitness nutrition and I felt very comfortable that their curriculum aligned with the IE principle of gentle nutrition without a weight loss focus.
Wow…this post really went out into the weeds. Let’s see if I can circle back (probably not, but let’s give it a shot). We all have our unique struggles with food beyond controlling the end of the fork–it’s not that simple sometimes. In my last post I talked my gratitude for the people in my path, and I guess as those faces were filtering through my mind I was thinking of all the tangible folks that I see/chat/talk with on a semi-regular basis…but I have to think here about all of those that have an impact of just this little part of it all and how far reaching they are–from a different part of the state to literally each corner of the nation, and they are all there for support, love, and learning. They see things in my that I cannot see in myself to help bring out my best self–the person that God created me to be. Just as the author above was changed by the word athlete…it’s not absorbed into my mind wholly, but I get that.
(Who doesn’t like bacon?)