The struggle is real. Having dieted for so many years I have become very familiar with the word ‘no’. The little voice in my head has been programmed long ago to try to say ‘no’ to ‘bad’ foods, those that contain a lot of fat, sugar and/or carbs. In recent years I have really tried to learn more about nutrition and the importance of changing my attitude towards food. Rather than be obsessed with saying no to what is unhealthy, I have tried to focus on saying yes to what is healthy. It sounds simple – and maybe even a little bit silly – but this simple switch makes a HUGE difference. Rather than deprive yourself and constantly saying no, you are nourishing yourself by saying yes.
This attitude shift has been super important for recovering from years of disordered thinking and behavior when it came to food and body image, but it hasn’t happened overnight and it doesn’t always come easy. In fact, since I had Kendall, I’ve been struggling quite a bit. For me, the main eating struggle has always been snacking. Even when I ate mostly unhealthy, I never binged but I always had a problem with compulsive overeating, that is, snacking all the time, even when I wasn’t hungry. Sometimes my snacking has been emotional, but other times it was purely for fun or simply out of boredom. The truth is, I like food…a lot. I love trying new things and I enjoy tasting different flavors and textures. In recent years I’ve experimented with approaches to getting healthy and many have been fads, I’ve had successes and failures and lost and gained probably hundreds of pounds over the last 20 years.
While I was pregnant with Kendall last year, which was my first pregnancy, I hoped to keep my resolve and try not to gain too much weight. I wanted to focus on saying yes to good foods and try to stay active. For the first six months, I did pretty well. Don’t get me wrong – I gave into the cravings quite a bit, but at meal times I was pretty good. For Kendall’s sake, I avoided the really bad stuff and tried to keep up with at least walking. I gained the recommended amount of weight up until that time and my doctor was pleased with everything. When I reached seven months, it pretty much all started to go downhill. I had very low iron and really low energy and felt more tired than I have ever felt in my life. With a huge belly and extra weight it was hard to get up the stairs in our house some days let alone go for a walk or get to the gym. At this point, in all honesty, I gave up. I just started snacking again, many times compulsively eating whatever I wanted and not worrying at all about my activity. I followed the conventional wisdom of many that with pregnancy it’s ok to just let go. And I really did!
By the time I gave birth to my 8-pound baby girl Kendall, I had put on 50 pounds, 30 of which I gained in the last three months of my pregnancy. I felt awful but just tried to remind myself that it was my pregnancy and I’d lose it quickly with some effort. That might have been alright if I had gotten back on track and stopped all those bad habits that had crept back in, but for the first time in my life I was home all day, every day with a little person who needed me 24-7. I still had low iron (I needed high doses to even get my levels at the lowest end of normal) and felt so tired day after day, it actually got very depressing to just feel completely burned out from the moment I woke up in the morning. But I tried to stay positive and chalked it up to what everyone told me – “it’s just the way it is for the first month or two, you’ll feel normal and be back at it soon”.
Fast forward to today, six months post baby. I have a confession…I’m not back it. Don’t get me wrong, I still try to focus on eating healthy, especially at meal times. I definitely watch my portions and try to make better choices but the snack monster that allowed sugary coffee drinks and snacked on carbs all day has been back with a vengeance, and I’ve been struggling big time to shake it off and really get back on track. All told including pregnancy weight, I’ve put on 70 pounds from my happier weight and I’m not at all happy about that!
For a while I could convince myself that it was not my fault. After all, I do feel tired, get less sleep and have less time to prepare and plan meals. Working out feels like a luxury when most days I feel like a champ if I get dressed and throw on a little makeup. And when I do have a significant chunk of time, I’d rather browse at the mall or get my nails done because I feel like I hardly get to do things for myself much anymore. For the last few months I’ve been repeating a common cycle with dieting where I’m good some days and track what I eat and then just don’t bother on other days, or I start out great and by dinner just give up. Returning to this place of struggle has been really hard for me emotionally. When you lose and regain weight you feel like you’ve failed at being a better person, at having self control and that is a terrible feeling. Having returned to work recently, I haven’t really kept up with activity as most of my free time is spent enjoying time with family or working (a lot of my work is done at home).
So, after this long rant about my situation what am I trying to get at? First, I thought it was important to update people that follow along with my journey about the fact that I’ve been struggling, as I am sure some might wonder and many probably can relate. Second, I had a moment of clarity a couple nights ago that has helped me turn a corner and actually be accountable the last few days for the first time in a long time and I finally feel like I can see the light and am feel really positive again.
It happened when my husband Rod and I were feeding Kendall some mashed banana for the very first time. She has also tried and loves avocado. The look on her little face was one of absolute delight at the taste of banana, nothing more than one of nature’s healthy foods mashed up for her little toothless mouth to enjoy. Her eyes lit up and a smile slowly formed across her little mouth. I can imagine that her reaction was mostly due to the fact that banana probably tastes really good when you’ve only had breast milk and formula for six months straight! But what struck me was how this little human, who has no knowledge of other foods, no idea about dieting, no clue about the struggle with food addiction, genuinely enjoyed something simple and pure. I think sometimes we forget those things. We don’t stop and truly savor them. Instead, we slather our food with crap and favor convenience for simplicity – but what is more convenient than a banana?
Long story short, my little girl taught me a lesson to get back to actually enjoying the basics, so that’s what I’ve been doing. I am saying yes to whole foods like lean protein, lots of veggies and some fruits. I’ve been drinking water and walking more and I am going to get back in the gym this week. I hope that you will continue to follow along with me and cheer me on and I’d love to hear more about your experiences, struggles and triumphs – they really do inspire me to try harder and do better.
Lots of love,