03 03 2015.

don’t get obsessed like this, okay?

many_faces_of_kelbow
The many faces of Kelsey. Late 2011 – 2015.

This weekend I purchased Andie Mitchell’s book It Was Me All Along after discovering her blog a few months ago. To be honest, her posts always spoke to me – as a fellow someone who’s been through my own issues with food and weight loss.

Her words are so beautiful, her book so raw and honest. I love the story that she’s told. As I was reading, I related on a level that I didn’t expect to. I recognized similar patterns, while less extreme, that I experienced while growing up. Though I’ve never dealt with what is classified as disordered eating, I’ve certainly struggled.

In honor of Andie’s courage to share her story about her history with food, I feel compelled and inspired to share mine.

Deciding to live a healthy life is more than just working up a sweat by getting my body moving every day. It has a lot to do with what I choose to eat. Looking back at my eating habits in college, it’s no wonder that I gained weight and had high blood pressure. Changing my diet has made me a true believer in healthy foods for both the body and the mind. I’ve kissed my hypertension goodbye. I’ve lost weight, improved my skin, become a happier person. I have energy. I sleep 8 hours a night and wake up before 7 even on the weekends. While I used to get sick 2+ times a year, I rarely ever get sick anymore – and if I do, it lasts only a day or two. I attribute all of those things to a well-balanced and nutritious diet.

There’s a point in most peoples’ lives where they exit childhood and enter a stage of greater self-awareness. At this point, you learn what is in the food that you eat. You don’t just learn about calories and nutritional value, you understand them. You recognize – though hopefully not obsessively – the content of what you’re putting in your body.

Though I was an “A” student and paid full, uninterrupted attention in health class, I think I breezed through that phase a little bit too quickly. I never ever exercised. I didn’t enjoy sports. Without worrying about it, I never gained weight. I figured that I was destined to be thin. You’ve all heard the story. Until college, my weight was pretty constant.

As recently as three years ago, my diet was out of control. I’m not talking about binge eating or indulging too much on desserts. I just truly did not care about what I put in my body. I figured that I was eating foods that were good for me (and for the most part, they were!) and no harm could come from that.

However, I disregarded the beer and cocktails, the appetizer-before-dinner-before-bedtime-snack pattern that was emerging, the meat-centric style of meals that I was consuming. I loved to eat. I still love to eat. I just didn’t think that what I was doing was harmful or unhealthy. I’d sit down to a healthy dinner and used the health factor as an excuse to pile a bit more on my plate. My favorite food at the time, sushi, was supposed to be relatively healthy. So I ordered a lot of it.

My (now ex) boyfriend’s family loved food as well and hosted two family dinners each week that included drinks, lots of appetizers, a big meal and often dessert. One of the meals was the “take out” meal, where we’d choose between pizza or Chinese food. I was – more often than not – stuffed by the time the appetizers were put away. Yet I always found more room for the main dish and dessert. I don’t even want to crunch the numbers to figure out the calories, the sugar, the fat that I was consuming in one meal alone. But after four years of that, I had gained 15 pounds!

My struggles with food and exercise really started when I turned a new page. The day I decided to change up my eating habits back in January of 2013, I went from eating enough to feed two to eating so. very. little. It was a drastic change. I was so hungry. All I could think about was my hunger. I’d spend my free time perusing healthy recipe websites so that I could have my meals all planned out ahead of time. If I hadn’t planned it, I didn’t eat it. Of course I was still participating in the two large family dinners a week. I would stress about it all day leading up to it. I made a special trip to the grocery store to buy seltzer and vodka so that I could have a “healthy” drink option. (I didn’t and still don’t like vodka at all.) I went into each dinner with a “plan.” I limited the number and type of appetizers I could eat. Vegetables with a healthy dip were okay. I would allow myself to sample one of each “new thing” at the table (new crackers, new veggie straws, etc) – since the family prided themselves on finding fun and interesting foods. I would allow myself a small portion of the dinner. And I’d take the dessert home “to go” in hopes that someone in my family would eat it before I gave in to the pressure. I was probably eating 1200-1600 calories a day, which is not nearly enough, especially at the rate that I was exercising.

food-grid
Examples from my 2013 food tracking.

I took photos of all of my meals and kept a food journal. I weighed myself almost every day before breakfast because I weighed the least in the morning. I kept an exercise journal. (At the very least to satisfy the list-maker in me.) There was no such thing as a rest day at the time. (Heaven forbid I eat more than I burn.)

I was a mental mess. I was headstrong – but too headstrong.

Like Andie, I, too had an all-or-nothing mentality when it came to keeping the weight off. I either succeeded, or the day was ruined. I either ate healthy and exercised and had a calorie deficit for the day, or I went over by a lot. I was petrified that I would gain back the weight. I was afraid of unhealthy foods and desserts. If I accepted a treat, I felt wracked with guilt for hours. I’d feel so guilty, I’d exercise (sometimes for the second time that day) purely for the sake of burning the dessert off.

I remember retreating to my room during a commercial break of The Biggest Loser (a show that I watched with my mom) to do some situps. My mom happened to walk by and see me. She poked her head in and told me, “Don’t get obsessed like this, okay?” Without saying more, I knew what she was talking about. That’s all it took for me to be able to see myself properly.

I just didn’t understand weight maintenance. In my mind, if I wasn’t losing: I was gaining. There was no in-between. When my mom made that statement, I realized that I was over-involved in the weight loss process. It shouldn’t have been on my mind as much as it had been. It shouldn’t have dictated my emotions. It shouldn’t have controlled my depiction of what a “bad” day looks like versus a “good day.”

Looking around me, I realized what healthy truly looked like. Healthy was happy. Healthy was eating good foods, eating enough, and eating intuitively – not by the numbers. Healthy was exercising because it made me feel great, not because I needed to create a calorie deficit for the day. Healthy was forgetting the calories.

I don’t track anymore. I will admit – sometimes I do glance at the nutritional value of certain things, as should many health-conscious people. I don’t own a scale. I have no idea how much I weigh at the present moment. My desire for a healthy body has transformed from a purely visual goal or number on the scale to a fixation on what’s going on inside.

healthyfoodgrid
Spice & Dice meals

I eat because it’s my fuel. So that I can run. So that I can hike. So that I can feel energized, not weak and devoid of life. I eat immediately when I get back from a run: a recovery drink or a snack so that I can heal my body and get back out there and do it again soon! I eat when I’m hungry. I sometimes eat when I’m not hungry! I eat because I love to cook and bake and I love to sample. Food is a passion of mine.

Yes, it took experiencing extremes from overindulging to obsessive restricting to finally see what moderation was. I can recognize when I’m swinging too far to one side and know how to balance myself out.

I’ve learned to eat based on feel. I eat foods that make me feel good. I eat until I’m no longer hungry yet not overstuffed. I don’t need extra servings just because the people around me do. On the flip side, if I want extra servings, despite a lack of interest around me, well I’m going to go ahead and have extra servings! I’ve learned what my body needs and what I want versus what I feel pressured to have.

The funniest part about all of this is that I don’t regret any of it. I’m thankful that I’ve experienced life on both sides of the coin. I’ve made mistakes and I’ve learned from them. I’ve gained a greater appreciation for my body because of what it’s been through: what I’ve put it through. I now know contentment and satisfaction. I’ve discovered a deeper love and respect for food through its creativity, nourishment and social qualities.

Most importantly, I know what it feels like to eat too little, too much, unhealthily and healthfully. That’s why I’m passionate and committed to whole, healthy foods. That’s why my meals are plant-centric. That’s my promise to myself and that’s what you can expect from me.


1 Comment

  1. I think your post just did for me what Annie did for you. I think a lot of people, if not most, can relate to what you just wrote about. I know I can. Your words could have been mine. I’ve just never been able to spell it out for myself. Thank you for your honesty, your experiences helped me make sense of mine. Love you! I’ll have to check that book out…

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