I was just going to do a short post online, but this deserves more space. For me, and maybe for you.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve let go of tracking my macros and inputting my preplanned meals (a week at a time) into My Fitness Pal, a practice I’ve maintained for … years. This practice taught me a lot – it allowed me to stay consistent with eating enough for my training, eating consistently throughout the day without second (and quadruple) guessing myself about whether or not I was eating enough (or entirely too much), and how my body absolutely signals me when shit is off. When my food is steady, I am able to assess other variables that effect my weight and my mood and my energy: sleep, imbalance in my commitments and saying yes (and no!) too much, overtraining or pushing myself too hard too often, etc. Yes, I weigh myself as an added data point to help me stay my course, know if I’m eating enough (or too much) and to hold me accountable. It’s also a relationship I’ve worked hard to neutralize over the years and don’t want to toss out just because it doesn’t always say what I want it to say. It says what it says.
When I travel, I don’t really plan my food (and don’t take my scale). I prefer a kitchen and access to things I am familiar and prefer, but ultimately, I am able to go with the flow (more) and do my best to make choices that make me feel good in my skin, and about myself. Over the years I’ve learned that eating differently on vacation and being a glutton never serves me, and while I would have pockets of discomfort, I’d move through it gracefully enough and always return with an experience that once again, I can eat without measuring every morsel or my body. I just don’t like to.
Enter Jeremy, an amazing chef and supportive partner and unphased man. Somebody who understands both recovery (why I eat a certain way is not simply because I like to stay lean, build muscle, and have energy but also very much because I used to live with my head in a toilet and I refuse to return to that practice) and also food and eating. He isn’t scared of FODMAP and that I can’t eat garlic or certain amounts of things. He isn’t scared that I am finicky and don’t want certain things at certain times because it doesn’t make me feel good or work for me. When I first met him, I didn’t budge – we ate separate foods but together. We’d go out and enjoy meals, but not that often. I’d let him cook sort of, but really hawked.
Then I went to Canada, a trip universally timed to help ease the heaviness of the grief blanket I’d been wearing for many months, and I came back acutely aware of how my food practices were isolating me from a more intimate partnership and place of vulnerability that I so desperately craved. I was tired. So, I made a switch, immediately. I stopped pre-planning my foods in the app, and I stopped measuring every morsel. I allowed him to make me food and to co-create meals to enjoy together throughout the day. At first, I still tracked amounts in my head and used my notes pad and calculator to do so but didn’t measure my vegetables. After a week or two, I let go further and stopped measuring my fruit as closely and starches and meats. Then this last week and into the weekend, I let go completely.
During this letting go, I experienced enormous anxiety and fear that presented as body image woes and research of diets on the internet. I also noticed the scale was sticking higher than my preference, and also higher than what I’d become accustomed to seeing for so long (a signal something is off). Just like a craving for any substance comes and we use our tools to stay safe and not use, my disease presents itself with thoughts (sometimes subtle and sometimes very loud) to change my body and ways to change my food (to change my body). It often appears very benign and even healthy, at first. I say I don’t mind the extra (3) pounds I’m holding, but I do. A lot. And I also know that story. I know why I do research on different diets and grab books and read blogs and watch videos and then start to make changes that I don’t need to make.
I have been eating the same way for a long time: carbs around my workout in the morning, consistent amounts of protein throughout my 4 meals a day, and carbs at dinner so I sleep well, don’t binge after, and have energy for my morning workout. This fucking works and does not need to change. I got excited about kefir (goat’s milk!) and fermented vegetables, carbing up only with my first two meals, and maybe not even having a snack and no extra carbs at dinner. More protein at dinner and maybe not in another meal. Adding a protein creamer and collagen to coffee …
And forgetting. Forgetting what works for me, measuring in an app and planning ahead or not. The rules about “eating healthy” and for mainstream appeal do not apply to me as a recovering compulsive eater and a recovering bulimic. Intuitive eating, as sexy and appealing and normal for the rest of you is, is not for me. And God did it again by grabbing my attention through a strained and jacked up neck muscle last Friday. I was finishing my pull-ups and then seized up and couldn’t move. Enter kefir and other foods and NEW IDEAS!!!!!!! About how to eat. Three days pass and I was asked to share my experience, and I heard myself say it all out loud: I am not like other people when it comes to food and my body. I cannot eat without parameters. I cannot skip meals or components of meals, ever.
Because I will fall. I will eat more than I need. I will eat things that don’t make me feel good. I will shame myself, and not be present for you. I will lose the space between my ears, and it will clog with bullshit that makes me believe with my entire self that I am not good enough, and not worthy of, you. Your love. Your grace. Your respect. Your attention. Or any of my own.
And I will get to work, hard, on changing my outsides so that my insides feel better. There is zero mistake in the timing of my muscle flare, things slowing down at work, and my acupuncturist telling me it’s time to purge. Purge things in my home I don’t need, purge the toxins from my body, and most importantly: purge the old stories and ideas about me, my body, and who I am for good.
I had already been working on my home and painting white over brown, overhauling the backyard which is now a sanctuary to breathe, and creating space for my incredibly gratifying and rewarding relationship with somebody who continues to show up and meet me in the middle, where we want to be. God knows how to get my attention, still. The subtitle of my book is no mistake: How I met God and Myself Through My Body.
So now what do I do with this new (old) information? I release, and lean back in. I’m not going to go back to planning a week ahead and plugging numbers into an app, but I am going to stick with 4 meals a day. I am going to stick with consistent protein and carbs with those meals. I am going to add kefir and kraut, but as part of my meal and not an addition. I am going to use measuring cups and a scale on occasion, to help me feel safe. And to keep me fucking sober. Nothing is worth letting go of my recovery – 5 years of not binging and purging is a miracle that I will not let go of. So, onward we go. Some more spices, some different colors, some different mixes, but sober and sustainable and safe.
And yes, letting the numbers fall where they may but allowing them to tell me something about myself that I already know. I don’t have to fight who I am – I just have to love her.
I hear you, God. I promise. Thank you for getting my attention.