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.

I Naturally Intermittent Fast and Didn’t Even Realise It

To some extent, the majority of us all fast…. unless you’re extra fancy and can sleep and eat at the same time (in which case you need to get yourself on some kind of talent show!) we typically all ditch eating when dreaming about (insert famous celebrity).

I don’t want to undersell intermittent fasting in anyway as it has done WONDERS for the amount of antacids I consume (and as a byproduct my purse strings) AND my weight loss, but we do all do it to some extent.

Now I’m not a huge fan of extreme fasting such as water fasts or 24/72 hour fasts (unless you need to for some kind of medical procedure). From my understanding women tend to do better with shorter fasts such as 14-16 hours, but I strongly encourage you to do your own research (and no, this doesn’t mean copy your favourite influencer on Instagram).

I prefer to keep it simple so 14-16 hours is something I’m down for. Even 5:2 isn’t the worst idea in the world (5 days eat to maintenance calories, 2 days to consume 500-800 calories).

When I actually listen to my body, it would prefer to go about 14 – 15 hours without eating. Of course, I have the luxury to honour that at the moment because of working from home, which isn’t always possible. However, now I’ve had the time to stop and listen, I’m going to try and incorporate that more once I have to return to the office.

Truly not public sector life

So when do I actually eat?

I’m a breakfast gal… it’s by FAR my favourite meal of the day (if I could get away with having breakfast for every meal, I totally would… and on reflection I’m not far off!)

Therefore I tend to ‘break my fast’ at between 7.30-10.30AM (time and day dependent). I’m not that hungry at 7.30am but that’s prime breakfast time when commuting. I then come in from work at about 4.30, and I much prefer an early dinner (pre COVID-19).

In a parallel universe where I am a billionaire and don’t need to work (and therefore have the time to be slightly more intuitive) I’d probably eat from 10-6/7PM.

I don’t like eating late because I’m 100% guaranteed indigestion. My digestive system clocks off at 8PM and I have to rely heavily on antacids and sleeping upright to get me through the night… which quite frankly I’m not that fond of.

I also find that the more I drag out eating (and the more I eat), I feel increasingly sluggish. I can relate to a 1L car… faster when running on half a tank of gasoline than a full tank. Anyone else identify with a car? No… just me? Anyhoo, moving on.

Do I live on salads when I eat?

I wish I loved salads… I really do. And I could perhaps get on board with a salad from Subway, but my own salads are rubbish. So in short, no.

Now I do restrict some foods as I’m yeast intolerant, and as much as I don’t want to be up all night with heartburn, I also don’t want to spend all day on the toilet either.

In the manufacturing world, I understand yeast is not only used as a raising agent but also a salt substitute and MSG substitute so it’s in a LOT of processed foods. I dare you to go look. Fortunately, they are yet to tamper with cake and chocolate and so I refuse to cut out that. They’re my only vices.

When you remove 90% of the processed food it leaves you with a surprisingly balanced, whole food diet, so I do allow myself treats on the daily. For example, homemade banana bread is on the cards for today.

As far as I know I’m not diabetic or insulin resistant, so I’m not too fussed about carbs. And if we’re to get all intuitive again, I’m not that keen on a stodgy carb (technical term). I like to reserve those carbs for days like my birthday (yesterday) where I ate yeast free doughballs/pizza/banana bread and lay in a comatose state for the rest of the evening whilst watching Jack Bauer save the world in 24.

On the flip side to that however, I do think it’s definitely worth encouraging yourself to make conscious healthy choices throughout the day. This doesn’t mean go in full force with all the fruit and veg on the first day, but gradually introduce more nutritious foods as the days go on.

I now try to make sure there’s some kind of one of my five a day at every meal. I tend to have 3 meals and 1 snack a day, so by doing this I’m guaranteed at least 3-4 servings of nutritious food in a day. It’s also essential to try and get some protein in too (even if it’s a case of using protein powder). They often say healthy fats are satiating but I find protein is much more useful for this.

So Chantelle… what does this actually look like in a day? Well, let me tell you:

7.30AM – 10.30AM – Protein Snickers Oats & Decaf White Coffee

12.30PM – Granola, Berries, Honey and Greek Yoghurt (see, I wasn’t lying about my love for breakfast).

3.30PM – Decaf Coffee and Fruit

5.30PM – Wholewheat BBQ Chicken Tortilla Pizza and Garlic and Herb Sauce

Dessert: Homemade Banana Bread (straight after dinner)

By doing this, my digestive system is happier, my waistline is happier and I’m happier.

Now I do have a couple of disclaimers.

Firstly, as weightloss is my intention at the moment I am monitoring my portion sizes. However, when I’m size sexy (lolz), this will relax somewhat and I’ll just keep to listening to my body.

Secondly, I’m not RELIGIOUS about sticking to these time frames. I have spent years learning to listen to my body and I trust it implicitly. Therefore, if I find myself genuinely hungry (rumbling of the stomach), I won’t wait until my allocated time slot to eat.

Finally, I increase my calories in the lead up to the naturally unnatural ‘time of the month’ (sorry gents). It has been found that women tend to burn more calories when Aunt Flow arrives so I’m going to make ‘allowances’ for this but only if that insatiable hunger rears it’s head.

Intermittent fasting doesn’t have to be some complex magical algorithm. I know to overcomplicate things is a great ‘sell’ on the business front and I’m probably doing myself a disservice, but as long as you seek advice from a medical professional before embarking upon it, I really don’t see why you shouldn’t give intermittent fasting a bash… especially if you’ve been sitting on the fence about it. I know it’s completely changed my relationship with food for the better.

I now know I can enjoy food without the repercussions of heartburn/vomiting, sleepless nights and feeling sluggish. I know they’ve found another zillion reasons why IF (that’s what the cool kids call it by the way) is beneficial for the human body, and of course you’ll come across this as you go away and read reliable validated studies *winking emoji*, but I really can’t see me going back to my old ways.

Health Is So Much More Than What You Weigh

I’m a little bit over ‘health’ being quantified as how much you weigh, clean eating and whether you have abs.

Like, so over it.

You see, we only get one life. ONE LIFE. And I truly can’t get on board with dedicating that one life to just lifting weights, doing crunches and eating chicken and broccoli.

Now, kudos to you if that’s you. And I am in no way anti-exercise – after watching Cheer on Netflix I’m currently trying to work out if it’s too late for me to start gymnastics! But for many it’s not their main goal in life and social media would have them believe otherwise. It then becomes a vicious cycle because it’s hard to be motivated for something that you don’t truly believe in.

I have a love/hate relationship with influencers. It’s good that ‘health’ is now on the radar, but sadly the content that is being promoted isn’t always that healthy.

I remember being ‘introduced’ to the wellness industry and my first thought being ‘wtf, this isn’t healthy’. Having just finished a course in nutrition at the time I was completely baffled about the variation in content. I certainly wasn’t consuming as a viewer what I’d just learnt in a text book and I sat there thinking ‘well that was a waste of money’.

Almost 2 years later, I’m back to where I started. I have been on quite the rollercoaster but I like to think I now have a true understanding of what healthy is to me.

I like to think my mental health is pretty decent. Because that’s what I truly spend my days working on.

I am on a medication that technically is classified as a depressant. In order to control my epilepsy, I need to be a tad depressed. But I refuse to be depressed because as mentioned above… one life.

Now I’m not superhuman. There are days when I cry, there are many days when I’m anxious but I have the strategies to be able to cope.

You see if I get too stressed, my oesphagus goes into a spasm. I can’t swallow and experience a pain like no other. If I get REALLY stressed I’m at a high risk of having a seizure.

I think it’s fair to say that not many things are worth getting into that situation for.

Now my ability to recognise my stress is something I have spent the past 13 years working on and is something I have to continuously work on. And I don’t always get it right. But I try.

My biggest mental health project at the moment is working on comparison. I don’t have the thoughts of ‘I want to look like her’ but I do have the thoughts of ‘I seem so boring in comparison’. And I do live a quiet life. But for the most part I like it that way. Once we have *finally* bought a house, I will plan more weekends away and holidays as they are my favourite, but we can’t have it all all the time eh.

As for food, I’m all about balance. I know that my confidence grows when I feel good about myself so fat loss is still necessary at this time. I know that I’m definitely NOT about cutting out food groups. I know I have a sweet tooth that I have to watch. I know that as much as I’d love to be an intuitive eater, now is not the time.

Exercise… to move is effort for me and this is an area I need to work on. At the moment I’m trying to just focus on moving more in general. The old tricks like parking further away, deliberately leaving things upstairs… you know the kind. I’m particularly conscious of my glutes and my shoulder girdle at the moment as they are quite the hot mess.

Hobbies/Career – I’ve learnt that I love cooking. I have highs and lows with my motivation but I find nothing more satisfying than recreating something I could have bought in a shop for 3 x the price.

I still REALLY want to have some kind of social media platform. I love the idea of creating content and I need to figure out the best way to go about this. I spend far too much thinking and not enough time doing. It’s weird because I’m not usually such a procrastinator but I guess I don’t want to ‘fail’ at it?!

Anyway the moral of this story is that it’s okay if you’re not keen on chicken and broccoli, you hate the gym or you’re not fussed about the weight you can squat.

Growing up my ultimate goal was to be financially stable because that wasn’t always the case for my family. However, between a mixture of meeting Tim and experiencing unemployment for 4 months, that goal has changed. I now just want to look back and say I enjoyed my life.

On a daily basis I work with children with complex disabilities and not many of them have a tomorrow. It has been a truly eye opening experience to work with these wonderful children and their families. And so although I will always advocate for living a healthy life, I will advocate harder for living a life that you enjoy.

Health is holistic. The healthiest thing you can do is be kind to yourself and treat yourself with respect.

When It Becomes More Than Aesthetics

I’ll let you in on a little secret… this is my fourth attempt at running a health and wellbeing blog.

Each time I’d start one I’d think to myself ‘I’m in such a good place to preach and empower people on how to look after themselves’.

Ha!

In order to appear perfect for the internet (which is quite lolz when you think about it) I find that I am robotic because I have nothing to talk about. Because I’m not being myself.

I can’t preach (nor do I want to) because I’m in a place where I’ve borderline let myself go. I’m in no way at my heaviest but my muscle tone is non existent, my self esteem is on the floor and I’ve just been informed that I have new stretch marks. Recently my anxiety has been running rife and I’ve been having dreams that Tim keeps cheating on me. Ahh the female brain eh?!

I haven’t felt this rubbish about myself in years and it’s seriously not okay. I know it’s of my choosing. No one is forcing me to not exercise or to eat the cookie. There is seriously nothing to gain from this except misery and only I can change that.

I have decided to sign up to WW (aka Weightwatchers). I have signed up to their green plan as it makes sense to me and means I can eat what I want (obviously within their points system).

It’s not just about the food though. My posture has got so bad that I feel like I’m caving in on myself. My muscles are in agony and my husband said they feel like ‘rope’ because they’re so unhappy.

Finally I want to belong to something. I want to be in a position to make new friends.. if only it’s just online. Due to my aforementioned fake self, it’s hard to establish common ground when you’re not being yourself. Well that’s changing from now!

In the grand scheme of things this isn’t rock bottom, but in my little preventative health bubble I’ve hit the ground. The only thing I can do now is run.