Diet Going Well Then?

For the past week I have had a terrible bout of either food poisoning or gastroenteritis, and I’ve found myself eating (or mostly not eating) for survival rather than for any other reason. And I won’t lie, it really got me thinking…. (VERY dangerous I know).

Just over a year ago I was introduced to intuitive eating (or what I like to call… ‘eating’) and quite frankly it was life changing. Not because I’ve become a fabulous intuitive eater in that time but because it truly highlighted the flaws of the diet industry. And try as I may, I can’t help but look at all the diets available without a great deal of scepticism. But yet, up until now I’ve still kept going back.

And then I discovered this…

So in answer to your question? The diet’s going GREAT thanks (insert sarcastic emoji).

As I lay on the sofa clutching my stomach and trying to force feed myself starchy carbs, I had the epiphany that for the past year I have been eating what I think I ought eat, rather than what I have wanted to eat.

Which is why I’ve found myself eating 2 icecream sandwiches and a chocolate bar after dinner every single night for the past couple of weeks. Counterintuitive I know.

Scientifically speaking, diets DO work because they *should* put you in to some sort of calorie deficit which will result in some form of weight loss – however this weight loss could include water loss, muscle loss or fat loss.

But where it really goes wrong is our adherence to sticking to ‘the plan’. Personally speaking I think the maximum I’ve managed to ‘stick’ to a diet in the past 3 years is 4 days.

Despite educating myself on everything possible about nutrition, the subliminal messages coming through the internet has one again left me doubting what I know and I sit here having achieved absolutely nothing.

One day 1200 calories is too many, the next day it’s not enough. Another day you should maximise protein and the next you should maximise ‘healthy fats’. The following week you should cut carbs and the next you should up your carbs to 50% of your macros. Don’t forget to count your macros, but then that’s going to cause disordered eating so convert your calories/macros to points instead. You should really eat whole foods but they have too many calories so switch to chemical based 0 calorie foods. These won’t have points but then you shouldn’t count points anyway so just eat between 12-2 everyday and you’ll be grand. Oh but wait, that’s an eating disorder. But so is not eating at all. So eat what you want because obesity can be healthy too. But then obesity isn’t healthy so you should move more. Oh but you don’t need to move when you can lift weights even though weight lifting burns less calories. Oh but the extra muscle will burn more calories so it’s fine. But what about cardiovascular health? Oh that doesn’t matter.

And this is why I don’t belong in the health and fitness industry. When you truly delve into what it’s all about, it’s fundamentally the opposite to what it’s promoting. It’s more ‘unhealthy and unfit’.

Abs do not equal health.

The amount of weight you can lift/squat does not equal health.

Clean eating does not equal health.

Do we even know what we are trying to define when we refer to ‘health’. It doesn’t appear that way anymore.

In reality I will never be eternally ‘healthy’. Not only because I live with a chronic health condition but because we all have to die from something right? None of us will be ‘healthy’ forever.

The healthiest person I know is my husband who ate Yum Yums and icecream yesterday and weighs 153lb. He’s not needed to go to a doctor or a dentist in the 6.5 years we’ve been together.

We can of course make improvements to our lifestyles and optimise our health, but the fundamental problem is that a truly balanced lifestyle isn’t entertaining to watch and learn about. We are prioritising extremism (and subsequently entertainment) over our true health and well-being.

What I’ve Learned in 2019

This year has been quite a messy year across the board and although I’ve miraculously kept my mental health relatively intact, I would say that my relationship with food has been affected. Well maybe my relationship with dieting rather than food…. I can’t quite pinpoint with what is ‘off’ but something definitely is.

I’ve somehow managed to lose 8-9lbs this year which may not seem much but with a crazy job, relocation and financial fun times, I think I have achieved somewhat of a miracle.

They say knowledge is power, but I think in the case of nutrition and weight management, this isn’t always the case. Divulging into the ‘library’ of nutritional ‘advice’ on Instagram makes for a very interesting read with everybody expressing their opinions, fat shaming, diet shaming and even massive disagreements among health professionals.

I know that a calorie deficit is required. I know that after 20 years of on/off calorie counting that I don’t require much energy to run on. I know that I snack when I’m not hungry. I know I need to increase my strength training. Yet ‘influencers’ are always there encouraging me to believe something different (highlighting that they are skilled at their job at least!)

The thing is… I’m beginning to think I’m very much on the journey of being a mindful eater and it makes it tricky to believe all the rubbish that is on the internet.

My ultimate goal would be just to mindfully eat and get rid of all the dieting apps and memberships I currently possess. That’s my long term goal. However, in the meantime I can’t guarantee I won’t track calories here and there and there is nothing wrong with that. I ain’t perfect and I’m no longer trying to be.

The thing is there is so much expectation and pressure to be the perfect dieter, with the perfect weight loss journey and quite frankly guys that just isn’t a thing. Different approaches work for different people and primarily the goal is to prioritise your health over everything else. Losing weight to the detriment of your mental health is achieving diddly squat yet it is SO easy to end up there.

There is so much extremism on the internet that it’s ridiculous and by shaming anyone for anything is causing so much harm. I once used #intuitiveeating and was kindly informed I was a trigger for eating disorders. For someone who has a cosncious, I didn’t take that well. Sometimes some of us fall in the gap between dieting and intuitive eating and I won’t apologise for that.

2012 vs 2016

My biggest goal is not what I look like tomorrow or next week, but to build up my muscle, drop my body fat to a slightly healthier level and prepare myself for my future. I’m at high risk of osteoarthritis AND at risk of low bone density, which if my new scales are to believed then it’s teetering at being low as it is!

I am a bit bigger now than what I was in 2016. Body image does affect my confidence and I am often the ‘bigger’ friend in the group. I want to be able to not have to worry about covering up when the sun shines. I want to be able to wear mini skirts. No one has imposed these thoughts on me, it is my own belief system which is a LOT better than it used to be. But I’ve lined up a couple of things for next year to help me along the way.

So by the end of 2019 I’ve learnt that I’m generally quite confused by weight loss (and generally speaking the world we live in!) I’m learning that I am a rule breaker and don’t like to be told what to do and what to eat. I’m learning that I don’t massively enjoy calorie counting but I do appreciate it has it’s place and is something I may have to use for a while. I’m learning that I’m so glad I’m not a dietitian because I could not be bothered having to unpick what the internet has told my clients to do. I’ve been informed that most people in the fitness industry have their own complicated relationship with food and aren’t always the best people to listen to. Finally, I’ve learned that this is my journey and ultimately I know what works best for me. I have so much confidence in knowing this in other areas of my life, but it has most definitely been a pitfall when it comes to weight loss.

If you’ve made it to the end of this post then I applaud you for making your way through my ramblings. I hope that you take with you that it takes time to really know your body and that it’s OKAY to find weight loss plans difficult to stick to. Restriction is hard and ultimately our bodies don’t care what they look like in a bikini – they want to survive and by reducing our calorie intake, they foresee a food shortage. We should really thank our bodies for being clever enough to respond to try and keep us alive.

Let’s try to break the doom and gloom and focus on living a simple healthy life!