diet advice: think twice about who to trust

Yesterday, I shared an article that got me to thinking yesterday called “Opinion Stew”, which was by (medical doctor) David Katz and talked about the craziness that is the way in which we find our diet gurus and called for some common sense when it comes to deciding who to trust. The gist:

For now, anyone who shares opinions about nutrition or weight loudly and often enough — or cleverly enough — is embraced as an authority, with no one generally even asking what if any training they’ve had. This is compounded by the fact that, in the famous words of Bertrand Russell, “Fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser men so full of doubts.” It is the least substantiated, most uninformed opinions about how to eat that will come at you with the greatest conviction. That’s your first clue that something is awry, because true expertise always allows for doubt.

We have created a seething stew of opinion about everything to do with nutrition, including, presumably, stew. That leaves us with far too many cooks, many lacking credentials to be in the kitchen in the first place. I trust everyone knows what that means.”

 Some of my (facebook) friends shared the link and others commented in thought-provoking ways. I felt stressed out over thinking “I shouldn’t have shared this—I’ll certainly offend ____ [insert handful of names of people I know who dole out nutrition advice who are not dietitians and/or doctors].”

But if you read my post on why I think Paleo did me more harm than good from a few weeks ago, you’ll understand that I’ve personally been led astray by these not-so-credentialed gurus and books. I started to think maybe I would be better off not saying a darn thing about the way I feel about nutritionists vs. dietitians, but the shame I seem to be feeling about failing at the kinds of diets put out there by people who aren’t mainstream dietitians is something I’m probably not alone with. Even if some diet “works” for a 25 year old girl who is blessed with the ability to eat pretty much anything and still look “fit”—and is willing to talk about it on a podcast or blog about it or base a nutrition counselling practice off of it—that doesn’t mean that it’s healthy or that it’s the right choice for everyone. I’m a self-conscious person and sometimes I can think that because I don’t have a six pack or haven’t got the “perfect body” figured out I should just shut up. But ouch.

A couple years ago, I was en route to becoming a Registered Dietitian. I didn’t finish my degree in Nutrition and Dietetics, but I do have the (kind of crappy) orgo mark on my transcripts and the hairnet and lab coat I saved from spending a summer in Food Science to remind me that the kind of training dietitians go through is not something to be scoffed at. On top of the degree, there’s the internship, not to mention the competition those budding dietitians have to go through to earn one.

I also briefly considered taking a natural nutrition program or going through some program to become a health coach. But the warnings about those programs as “drive through degrees” or scams were enough to make me reconsider (I chose to take my Coactive Coaching instead because there are professors at Western who use it in their research, plain and simple, across a variety of issues—health and otherwise). I haven’t been through one of those “alternative” options, so I can’t speak on how hard or how easy they are. I have talked to people who have been through it and said that they don’t feel like they should be giving out advice, but then I’ve met plenty of people who do. I’ve also seen the way in which the lines of who to trust are blurry—recommending blogs and podcasts over even common sense.

And I’m mad at myself for believing the people who so confidently convinced me that everything I’d believed about nutrition was somehow wrong. But the writing is on the wall when it comes to my own story: I have been my healthiest and my happiest with my body when I’ve been working with a dietitian—not a nutritionist or someone who calls themselves an eating coach. Add to it that dietitians tend to have some experience working with people with eating disorders, and I know that I would rather spend my money paying someone who has dedicated a significant portion of their life to learning about nutrition and about how to help individuals and communities to be healthier than giving it to someone who decided to capitalize on their own success with a single diet. My biggest fear when it comes to the kind of alternative diet advice that more people will end up confused and doubting their own judgment and perhaps straying down the path of disordered eating. To pick on Paleo some more, let’s consider a nutritionist who has no formal training and then tells an individual to cut out a whole (foundational) food group. I don’t need to read the criteria of anorexia or the warning signs to know that cutting out a whole group of foods is a slippery slope. I don’t doubt that some of these nutritionists might recognize an eating disorder in their clients, but I also don’t doubt that some of these nutritionists have their own messed up relationships with food. I don’t doubt that some of them might have the guts to refer them to someone with training to help their client with their issues, but I also don’t doubt that there are some nutritionists who would just push those clients to try harder. I don’t doubt that there are some that would give up on their clients and blame them for not doing it right. I don’t doubt that there are people who are being led into disordered patterns of thoughts and behaviours around food because of the mass nutrition confusion that Katz talks about in the article I shared.

This is NOT to say that I don’t think people should talk about what they’re doing with eating and nutrition. Hearing about someone else’s experience with a diet or training program might be interesting (I read the posts that go along with the Human Health Experiment the owner of my gym is doing on himself). But I don’t think we should use that as a platform from which we can advise other people and charge money to advise them on how to take care of their own (very different) bodies.

So, that is a lot of words to come to the conclusion that I’m glad I shared that article. I want people to think twice before they share an article by someone who positions themselves as an expert—what are they really saying? I want people to think twice before they spend their money on any kind of diet or health or nutrition help or product. In short, I hope that the article—and my rambling on about it—makes you think.

Here’s the link again — “Opinion Stew” 

Did you read the article?
What’s your take on nutritionists vs. Dietitans and where to spend your moola?
Do you think there’s danger in the way things are right now?

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What do you want to “get away” with?: on eating for health versus eating for a healthy weight

With Thanksgiving just in the past and plenty of opportunities around the corner for “indulging” in “fun foods” (or junk foods, if you prefer), I thought I’d tackle something that I have given lots of thought to as of late. I hear over and over again people talking about how they can’t “get away with” eating those fun foods or things that they really want.

case in point

case in point — people want those metabolisms!

I’ll admit that I used to be jealous of people who could seemingly eat whatever they pleased without a care and without gaining weight. But I’ve come to realize that there is more than meets the eye, when it comes to the way people fuel themselves: we may see a person’s instagram feed and they may not really eat what’s pictured; we may see the only meal that a person eats all day; we can’t possibly know what’s going on beyond what meets our eyes. On top of that, the more I change the way I think about the number on the scale and what it means, the less I consider eating copious quantities of junk food something to be envious of.

If you think about it, unless we consider weight the most important indication of our health (above and beyond what we’re actually doing to our bodies), we’re not really getting away with anything if the anything is not healthy in and of itself. If someone is “getting away” with eating junk food, they’re still putting junk into their bodies. If they’re not gaining weight, that doesn’t mean that that food is not still driving unhealthy processes in their body or that their insides are in good shape. We think that we want those metabolisms that will allow us to eat whatever we want, but we forget that we still need to eat healthy for the sake of fueling our bodies properly, whether we can stay thin on a diet of potato chips and cookies (or whatever it is you think you can’t have) or not.

But there’s something there worth considering: what is it that we envy about those people who can eat “whatever they want”? During my recovery and when I went about making all foods fit in my diet again, legalizing even the things I forbid myself to eat for years, I did my best to eat “whatever I want.” I didn’t always nail the “without guilt” part of the equation, and I certainly overate in the process, but what I realized is that I’m not the out of control monster that I thought I am when it comes to food. When it’s OK to have dessert, I have it. When I think I shouldn’t be having it because I’m not ____lbs or a size __ yet, then I overeat it. Conditions on the consumption of any food for me are just a trigger for me to throw my hands up in the air and overdo it. Alternatively, when I’m letting myself have it easy with food, I’m always surprised at how little of those formerly oh-so-tempting things I needed when they were OK – one cookie was enough for the girl who used to eat a whole row? If I overdid it, I didn’t feel good. I found myself actually craving vegetables alongside that chocolate. But it’s a slippery slope and I feel like I live in a world where if you’re not dieting, you’re a bit of an outcast, although “diet” is a four letter word that people don’t use to describe their approaches to food.

That being said, what I’ve realized is that what I really am jealous of when it comes to those people who appear to eat whatever they want and stay fit, or healthy, or happy, or whatever, is the freedom that goes along with it. I don’t mean freedom in terms of what they’re putting in their body, I mean freedom in terms of how they approach food and how they approach their own body. The people I envy most are not even those people who eat French fries and still have six packs, they’re the ones who eat salads and burgers and cake and kale without letting it be more than it is. They’re the ones who stop eating when they’re satisfied. They’re the ones who know that if they have a bigger lunch, they’ll probably naturally eat less at dinner—and don’t deprive themselves if they end up being hungry when that time rolls around. They’re the ones who trust themselves around all kinds of food. They’re the ones who don’t turn to food for comfort, but take it for what it is: fuel. These kinds of eaters are the ones who I envy, and lucky for me, identifying what it is about them and their approach to food that I am so jealous of gives me something to aim for creating in myself.

If we have been overweight or have struggled with our weight in the past, it’s easy to feel like we are some kind of special snowflake who could never be able to be happy around food and our bodies. Talk about a limiting perspective. All thinking that way does is create all kinds of feeling of shame, of lack of control, of failure, and all that does is drive us to continue to overeat foods we think are “bad” and to live in this crazy cycle where food is consuming us instead of us consuming it. I know from experience that moving towards that kind of relationship I envy with food is not easy, but I also know that I’m getting there one step at a time. The clearer I can get about what I want for myself in terms of habits around food and thoughts around food, and the gentler with myself I can be as I move in that direction (little steps, little steps), the better I feel in the process of changing the way I think about food and my body.

I shared a Geneen Roth quote with a friend the other day and I think it fits well with this and ties it all together nicely, with the reminder to trust yourself instead:

“When you believe without knowing you believe that you are damaged at your core, you also believe that you need to hide that damage for anyone to love you. You walk around ashamed of being yourself. You try hard to make up for the way you look, walk, feel. Decisions are agonizing because if you, the person who makes the decision, is damaged, then how can you trust what you decide? You doubt your own impulses so you become masterful at looking outside yourself for comfort. You become an expert at finding experts and programs, at striving and trying hard and then harder to change yourself, but this process only reaffirms what you already believe about yourself — that your needs and choices cannot be trusted, and left to your own devices you are out of control.”

trust

Where do you feel jealous of other people’s metabolisms/eating?
What is it about the way that they eat that is so appealing to you?
What is standing between you and the kind of relationship with food that you want?
What do you want your eating habits to look like?
How do you want to feel about your body?
What is a healthy relationship with food?

meat eating and health

This morning, I read a post over on The Great Fitness Experiment that got me thinking. Charlotte talked about her own vegetarian / carnivore experience in “Are Vegetarians Really Less Healthy than Meat Eaters? New Study Says Yes.”

Like Charlotte, I’ve dabbled in vegetarianism. Also like her, every once in a while I struggle with the decision I’ve made to start eating meat again. I really enjoyed her post, which talked about a new study from Austria that found better health and quality of life amongst meat-eaters than those following a veggie diet. Charlotte made some really important posts when it comes to reading and interpreting these kinds of articles where one diet or eating approach is labelled superior to another, including a reminder of how the health argument is always changing: from lean skinless, boneless chicken breasts to the fattiest but grass-fed, organic beef you can get–the flavour of the day for what’s the “healthiest” meat choice will change and change and change again.

Nowadays, there are (conspiracy) theories about why we eat what we eat–from the corn farmers to the meat industry to the vegans, everyone seems to be out to get us. There are books that tell us that vegetarianism is the way to be–for our health, for our planet, for our pocketbooks, for our appearance. Ditto for the ones calling us to eat more meat–dive into the paleo cookbooks at the store if you want to see these in action! There are plenty of books that make the other way of eating wrong, but I think what’s important here is to decide what really is the “right” way to eat–for you.

It’s really tricky to define “good for you”–especially if we’re talking about something as generalizable as meat eaters vs. vegetarians. I know plenty of people who would identify as veggies who don’t give much thought to their diets and plenty of people who eat meat who are intentional about it. And vice versa. But if you don’t agree with eating meat on an ethical, religious, personal—whatever—basis, should health be used as a way to try to convince you to go against that? As Charlotte says, what’s healthy seems to change along with the diet trends.

It admittedly makes me nervous that the diet trends and the research go hand in hand in the way Charlotte says they do – with paleo/primal/atkins getting more popular and THEN research to back them up seeming to materialize. Diet industry, I’m onto you. Sadly, it’s easy to do the same for ourselves. I know–and have read–the books that take a solid stance for going veg and I know the ones that I turned to when I was feeling guilty about my decision to start eating meat again. It’s easy to cherry pick to support what we’ve already made up our minds to do or to believe.

When it comes to generalizable statements on diet, I think we need to look at why we’re making them. Will those vegetarians be so harmed from not eating meat that we need to make their choice wrong? I don’t think so. So why do that to ’em? More steak for you, and move on. Chances are, whether you choose to add meat into a healthy diet or choose not to, you can make up a pretty darn healthy diet–if you put in the effort. Deciding on purpose to eat or not eat meat, and deciding to hold to that decision in the midst of these narratives about how meat eating is killing you or the planet or how vegetarianism will just ravage your body (we’ve all seen both sides of the extreme argument) might not be easy. I think we are wasting our energy though, and I think that the more time we spend tearing each other’s approaches down, the less time we have to focus on what we’re actually trying to accomplish by eating that way in the first place. Stand for something, not just against something else, ya know?

Picture1-3

-Are you a vegetarian?
-Would you keep eating this way even if it was definitively proven that it’s not as “good for you” as having meat in your diet?

bad habits: what are you ready to leave behind in 2014?

In keeping with the New Year’s theme here, I figure that January is a fine and dandy time to take stock of where we’re at with our healthy living activities. One of my tasks for the month involves taking an honest look at what I’m doing in terms of health and fitness to see where and how I can continue to move forward this year.

My process has involved making a list of the habits that I’m ready to leave behind. What are things you do, on a regular basis, that don’t serve your healthiest, happiest self?

It’s not a particularly easy question to answer, but I think a lot of us are pretty good at beating ourselves up so we can answer it fairly easily. That being said, if you’re having trouble, ask yourself what do I justify? If you need to come up with excuses to get away with something, it just might be something that’s not really in your best interest.  

stop holding yourself back

The next step, of course, is to focus on what you want to create instead. What will you be replacing those things you’re letting go of with? What would you like to focus on cultivating in your life instead?

When it comes to health and fitness, it’s so easy focus on what we’re doing wrong. So often we think about what we need to give up or stop doing and can forget that when we make a habit “wrong” without having a replacement in mind, we’re left with a behaviour that seems all the more impossible to give up (I know I for one want what I “can’t” or “shouldn’t” have). That doesn’t mean that it’s complicated to fix this, though. If you decide to give up your afternoon chocolate bar or morning latte, it’s as easy as deciding on a healthier replacement—think swapping the chocolate bar for an apple and some almonds or that latte with a cup of tea or a green smoothie.

change

This year, I listed my “bad” habits on a piece of paper. They included drinking more coffee than water on a regular basis, skipping snacks/calling spoonfuls of peanut butter a balanced snack, relying on pre-made meals from the fancy grocery store, and letting myself get too hungry on a regular basis. From there, I made a list of what I want to replace them with: drinking a big glass of water before every meal and drinking all the tea in my cupboard before I buy more coffee, planning a snack with a fruit or veggie in it into my day, keeping easy protein sources (chickpeas, anyone?) on hand, and buying meat that I feel good about to prepare on the weekend so I’m ready to go for the week. Next, I took that piece of paper with the bad habits on it and tore it into a bunch of pieces and threw it away.

Symbolic of me, no? Goodbye old (yucky) habits, hello new (happy) habits.

anchor

What are you ready to stop doing?
What kinds of healthy habits are you going to cultivate this year? 

food for thought: off this train

This isn’t a John Mayer reference, but it could be…

When it comes to exercise and diet, my history’s a bit complicated. I can’t honestly say whether I think my interest in nutrition came innocently and then turned into something obsessive or if it was my obsession with losing weight and fixing myself that led me down the path of devouring diet books, taking the majority of a foods and nutrition degree, and even starting a healthy living blog.

chicken and egg

Today, I know that I deserve to be my best and that being interested in putting foods that move me towards health instead of away from it is a healthy thing to do.  That being said, I still get sucked into reading books and blogs and articles galore about what’s wrong with this diet and why this one’s better and how this food or that food is certainly killing me.

From there, the same thing tends to happen: I get stressed out. Which leads to what I’ve come to call “f*ck it” eating (a term I believe Christie Inge introduced me to), which you can probably guess doesn’t involve large quantities of alfalfa sprouts or carrots. In short, I end up putting things that are not on anyone’s list of health-building foods into my body, feeling guilty for it, and deciding that of course the answer is to further inform myself by reading, you guessed it, more things about diet.

Information and knowledge is certainly power, but if it’s power with which we drive ourselves cray cray, is it really healthy anymore?

When I was in that foods and nutrition program I mentioned, I eventually came to the (tough, teary) decision that I didn’t want to finish it and spend the rest of my life dedicated to food.  My blog has taken a different direction from the healthy living blogger-esque WIAW posts (check out an article I wrote about how truly healthy these blogs are in my personal portfolio).

But still, nutrition newsletters fill my inbox. The diet section is my go to at Chapter’s. I skip most of the stuff in magazines to get to the weight loss and nutrition stories. I watch the health videos on the Today Show website.

I think it’s healthy to be interested in health (imagine that!). We all want to know what will make us healthy and what can make us live longer and happier lives.

Being informed can be a good thing—or not, depending on what we’re doing it for and on how we use the information.

Not too long ago, I caught myself saying “I don’t know what to do” in relation to what to eat. I went on my Outward Bound trip and ate things that I’ve sworn off for years—and came home feeling awesome. I think the reminder that we can live to eat or we can eat to live—and the freedom I felt when I had little control over what was being served and just used food as fuel—shook me up.

So. Are we using food and our diets as a way to distract ourselves from bigger and scarier problems? Are we obsessing so much that we’ve lost faith in ourselves to feed ourselves and survive?  Are we sending ourselves a message that we need to be fixed (and that a diet is the answer)?  Are we stressing ourselves out so much that we give up (perfectionism much)?

Here’s what I’ve come up with…There are bigger and better things to do with our lives than perfect our diets and our bodies. Sure, our time and energy can go towards extending them by five calorie counting, carb-/fat-/gluten-/cholesterol-fearing minutes, but if we take all the effort we spend obsessing over food and direct it towards the (albeit scarier) real issues facing us, we’ll end up better off. The truth is, your body will tell you what to eat–and if you’re living a super stressed life with a perfect diet, that stress is not good for you (maybe even worse than eating, gasp, an un-organic strawberry). And, hard truth…you’re still going to die.

If you’re on the obsession train with me, you can get off it. You can unsubscribe from those newsletters. You can turn off your blog subscriptions (except mine, of course).  You can give away your diet books. You can read the news or fiction or whatever it is that tickles your fancy instead of endlessly researching how to get six pack abs or what the new nutrition scapegoat is.

Questions I’d ask:

  • What does not knowing how to feed yourself and needing to be constantly looking for a better diet give you? (for me: an excuse for not being perfect, a distraction, a way to confirm some limiting beliefs of mine that keep me safe)
  • What does the obsession take away from you? (time and energy, I probably could have had a PhD in something by now with all the time I’ve spent on this, money, confidence in my own ability to take care of myself)

In typical Cheryl fashion, here’s a quote to wrap things up:

“When we give up dieting, we take back something we were often too young to know we had given away: our own voice. Our ability to make decisions about what to eat and when. Our belief in ourselves. Our right to decide what goes into our mouths. Unlike the diets that appear monthly in magazines or the thermal pants that sweat off pounds, unlike a lover or a friend or a car, your body is reliable. It doesn’t go away, get lost, stolen. If you will listen, it will speak.” -Geneen Roth

“When you believe without knowing you believe that you are damaged at your core, you also believe that you need to hide that damage for anyone to love you. You walk around ashamed of being yourself. You try hard to make up for the way you look, walk, feel. Decisions are agonizing because if you, the person who makes the decision, is damaged, then how can you trust what you decide? You doubt your own impulses so you become masterful at looking outside yourself for comfort. You become an expert at finding experts and programs, at striving and trying hard and then harder to change yourself, but this process only reaffirms what you already believe about yourself — that your needs and choices cannot be trusted, and left to your own devices you are out of control.”  -Geneen Roth

As if

First, a flashback (skip to 1:08ish for the title reference, please!):

Second, here goes…

This week’s been filled with fun and plenty of things to keep me busy, but I’ve been having a hella time sleeping. Last night, after lying in bed for about an hour, I said to hell with tossing and turning and got up and wrapped up the Christmas presents under my new tree. Is it strange to wrap gifts at 2am? In November?

While I wrapped, I listened to a podcast where Geneen Roth was talking about one of her books—“Women, Food, and God”—which really changed the way I looked at my eating issues back when I was first introduced to her work. Geneen writes in a way that takes the words out of my mouth but also has a knack for getting at something deeper. I’d go so far as to say she awakens consciousness to things I might never have considered on my own or perhaps just puts down on paper the things that many of us are awesome at avoiding.

At any rate, I’m feeling absolutely inspired by her and the book, which I paged through today for old time’s sake. One of the dog-eared pages I came to talked about the concept of living “as if” and I really think, given my posts yesterday, that it applies. Though her reference to “The Voice” might not make full sense, think of it as the beliefs and chatter in your mind about yourself (your inner critic) and reflect on this:

“I tell those who haven’t experienced themselves without The Voice that they need to live as if. Live as if they are worth their own time. Live as if they deserve to take care of their bodies. Live as if the possibilities they long for actually exist. Living as if creates a bridge to a new way of living. It allows you to see that something else is possible. That you really can walk, talk, and eat as if you deserve to be here.”

I think what she suggests here is extremely powerful.

If you’re like me, that’s a refreshing idea. If you’re convinced that you’re overweight and the itty bitty shitty committee that sometimes shows up in your thoughts drives your actions, you’re in a tough spot.

If you’re like me, you realize that that belief is absolutely misguided. Maybe you even know where the voice came from—for me, I can remember a painful time when someone who I love called me “fat and lazy”—and you’re actively trying to flip the switch to a more positive frequency.

But maybe like me, that’s tough. Seeing yourself in new light—as awesome at your core and inherently healthy—can take time. I know that in some areas of my life, I’ve certainly been able to flip that switch. Take, for instance, relationships. It’s easy for me to recognize that I deserve to be surrounded by amazing people who make me feel good and to spend less time with people who bring me down. Done and done. It’s not so easy to convince myself that, in the case of my body, my default is fit.

While it’s tough, it’s not impossible. And it’s happening, albeit slowly. I can catch myself heading into a negative headspace. I can recognize my thoughts for what they are. And while building self-esteem takes effort, the work is rewarding in and of itself. Who wouldn’t want to feel healthier and happier?  I’d suppose that if you’re reading a blog called Happy is the New Healthy, you’d be all over that!

So how about we do a little reflecting on hypothetical situation: What if you were always going to have this body—at this weight, with those thighs, and that jean size?

  • How would you eat?
  • How would you talk to yourself?
  • How would you exercise?
  • What would you stop doing?
  • What would you start doing?
  • What would you do more of?
  • Less of?
  • What would you wear?
  • What would shopping be like?
  • What would your pantry look like?
  • Where would you spend your money?

My guess is that, particularly if you’ve been dieting or “holding yourself back” you might start with an answer like “I’d eat cake all the time!” Sure, permission to eat freely might sound like permission to binge. But at the end of the day, weight or no weight, bingeing sucks. You’d start to eat the things that genuinely move your body towards health—knowing that food either makes you healthier or makes you sicker. Perhaps the talk of thunder thighs or pudge would change into appreciation of your curves or muscular build or at least into acceptance. Maybe you’d hop off the elliptical and lace up your hiking boots to move your body in a way that you’d love. Maybe you’d stop bingeing, restricting, talking about dieting with your friends, or comparing yourself to other people. Maybe you’d start taking care of your body (check-ups, adjustments, hygiene, etc.), getting more sleep, or going on dates. Perhaps you’d wear clothes that fit you and that flatter you—not baggy duds to hide yourself or things that are too tight and make you a cranky sausage. Would you dread shopping or would you find stores that sell things that you could swear were made just for you? Maybe you’d keep foods you’re certain you could never have around for fear of demolishing them in your kitchen. Maybe you’d stop buying magazines offering how to lose the last 10lbs, diet supplements that promise to be the missing answer in your weight issues.

Maybe you’d start to live a whole different life.

If those questions shook you up, I encourage you to start doing some of the things that I listed (or if you thought of something that you’d do if your weight didn’t matter)—maybe not the cake one. The things that you’d do for the sake of being healthy and happy—the stuff I listed as the answers—are the things that I absolutely must do if I want to be healthy and happy. Anything else is trivial. What would happen if you asked yourself the first question as it applies to the things you do daily?

At the end of the day, whether you’re 20lbs overweight, underweight, or exactly where you think you belong, you’re not healthy if you don’t take care of yourself. Regardless of what your body looks like or weighs, you’re wonderful. You deserve everything good and lovely in the world. Using food to make yourself miserable—fat, skinny, obsessive, etc.—distorts that. It gives you a problem, something you can wave in your face as proof that you’re not so amazing.

But you are amazing.

Whether or not you have weight to lose or gain, giving up the idea that that weight is a problem is a big deal. It offers you the chance to make a radical shift to how you approach yourself and your day to day actions. It takes you from a living against—problem-focused—approach and creates the space for you to instead live for.

Rather than an excuse to be fat and lazy and all things people like to assume not being attached to your weight mean, letting go puts the focus back on our actions. It gives you the right to do what’s healthy for healthy’s sake. Sometimes our weight can distort things. Consider the skinny fat person who eats like crap and never moves. With weight as a distorting lens to judge whether or not they’re healthy, they’re winning. Without it, they’re shit out of luck.

Weight is just an outcome—and as the skinny fat example suggests, it’s just a part of the picture. It’d take a certain kind of person to suggest that appearance trumps everything else and I’d like to punch that kind of person squarely between the eyes.

Lose the lens. Take some responsibility for taking care of yourself and be proud of the fact that you’re doing it.

All of this is asking you to take a step. To start to live for being healthy and happy and fit and strong rather than to live against being fat, sad, out of shape, or weak. Instead of avoiding the things that you think will bring you down, go after the things that will lift you up. Instead of avoiding whatever it is you’re scared of in life, create what you want.

Are you ready to live “as if?”

Finally, some more cheese…

Change

Sometimes when I am out and about and daydreaming, I write blog posts on whatever I can get my hands on. Remember my Strong is the new skinny post? I wrote it on random paper on the plane to visit my dad and saved it for a few weeks before posting it. This is just proof that my blog is really my diary and that you should feel privileged to get so into my head. Ha – ha.

Just joking, but in all seriousness, I’ve been writing a bunch of these notes to myself/future blog posts/random musings lately and thinking that they’d make decent blog posts if I could clean them up a bit and if I had a reason for writing them.

It’s funny when that reason smacks you in the face.

Like this quote of the day, which I read before I even got out of bed today.

Not a bad way to start the day, huh?

Anyways, it relates back to one of those notes I wrote where I started thinking about how much I’ve changed in the last year, two years, four years, etc. and about how I’ve really come into my own power and am starting to feel increasingly confident about who I want to be and where I want to go. It is funny that my eating disorder was the wakeup call I needed to make me realize that I’ve been holding myself back.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: eating disorders make your world small. When you let ED bring you down, you can’t fly. It’s really hard to figure out what it is that’s missing, but when you do, things start to click. Until I realized that I was convinced I deserved to be miserable/didn’t deserve to be happy, I was stuck. Sure I was “in recovery” but I wasn’t there. If I didn’t deserve all the good in the world, do you think I thought I deserved recovery?

So after telling myself over and over again (I’ve got reminders posted around my apartment, I’ve got popups on my phone, I’ve got events scheduled on my google calendar): “You deserve all the good in the world,” I am starting to actually believe it. And I’m noticing where else I might be holding myself back:

  • school – going back vs. not going back
  • career – writing, fitness
  • relationships – friends, family, boys
  • training/eating/body
It’s taken a lot of looking in and being really brutally honest with myself to see how I’m bringing myself down and then the next step of it all has been to ask why. Am I scared of making really strong friendships because I think people are going to hurt me? Am I scared of being a really successful writer because I think “how dare you?” While I do think it’s important to do all this, I’ve started to just focus on where I want to go and who I want to be instead and to move towards that, which feels really goal. When I was stuck in my delusional eating disordered ways I would set these huge goals and give myself direction, albeit misguided. For a while, I wasn’t sure if setting goals was healthy for me or not, but now I’ve realized: that same drive and determination that I used to use to fuel my ED can fuel ME on the path to being great.

The other day I was looking for something in my old workout books and I came across a dog-eared page in Jackie Warner’s book where she wrote about goals and discovering what you really want and about visualization. She said, “Voice your goals and passions with as many people as possible. The more you talk about them, the more you imprint and program them into your subconscious mind. Talking the talk will lead to walking the walk.”

So that’s what I’m doing. But what am I saying and who do I want to be?

  • I want to be healthy, fit, and strong. I don’t want to be skinny, I don’t want a six pack at all costs, and I don’t want to be obsessive. But I do love fitness and I am allowed to like my body when it looks fit.
  • I want to eat real food and I want to eat food that makes me feel good without apologies or worrying about what people will say. Like I’ve mentioned before, eating disorder recovery means opening up to fear foods, eating them and seeing that your life goes on, etc. etc. But I’m talking here about finding what makes you feel the best–and that might mean leaving out some foods not because they’re “scary” or because you think they’re going to ruin you, but because they’re not working for you and your body. What I have noticed is this: I feel best on whole, real foods. Imagine that. I feel worse when I eat certain things because I feel like I should (i.e. have a bun with your dinner because if you don’t have starch you’re going back to your ED ways. Hello, still giving power to ED.) I’m in charge of my food choices and I will never forget all the recovery lessons I’ve learned–skipping a bun or choosing not to eat certain foods doesn’t mean ED is back, it means I’m ready to eat for me again!
  • I want to find a career that calls to me and go after it whole heartedly. Right now, I don’t entirely know what that looks like. One thing I do know is this — fitness and health and nutrition call to me. I might be on the right track with going back to school to be a dietitian, but I might be using this as a way to further delay things because I am scared. But fear isn’t a good reason for me to do/not do certain things and I’ll just admit it: for a long time, I thought I was too fat/inexperienced/young to start my career and thinking all of those thoughts also made me see myself as someone who could never really succeed in the fitness/health industry. But you know what? I’ve been thinking more and more about those presenters, leaders, movers/shakers in the fitness world and I think I could be a force. And I don’t think I need to change at all on the outside: I think it all has to do with continuing on this track to confident Cheryl and believing in myself and visualizing myself as that woman!
  • I want to do something unconventional with my life. I don’t know what it’s going to look like. Motivational speaker/adventure race coach/personal trainer/author/blogger/wellness coach/sports nutritionist/writer/athlete/? This is the fun part – I’m only going to be 23 with wide open possibilities once and rather than fear the unknown, I want to take it all as an adventure – that’s why we’re here!
  • I want to be me. I want to wear the weird clothes that I like, not the “cool” ones that everyone else wears. I want to be loud, random, spontaneous and awesome because that’s who I am.

This change, this movement in my life feels GOOD. Even though we resist change sometimes, it’s so important to be open to it. Whereas in the past I’ve been terrified of change, this time it’s different. I chalk it up to knowing I can take it on–that confidence thing again! I also think that a big difference here is that this is coming from my core and is about who I want to be, not how I want to look or present myself to the world. If there was a lot of resistance to these changes, I wouldn’t make them because I’m learning that I am in charge and know what I need and trusting that intuition. And I think that for me to make lasting change and a real shift, it’s got to be something I want with my whole heart and feel good about making. So often we think about change as something we have to force ourselves to do or as a struggle, but that ignores the fact that we are the ones in control.

That’s a news flash: it’s not ED, the media, your parents, your friends, or anyone else that you have to answer to when things are said and done. It’s you and what you think of yourself that matters. Trust yourself, listen to your intuition, and ask yourself who you want to be? Find changes that feel good and lean into those–don’t worry about the changes that make you feel bad (chances are they’re for someone else).

I don’t know a better way to end all of this than to share some of my favourite cheese on the topic of inspiration and of course, you might as well have a little background music to reflect to.


What do you guys think about what I said about change?
How do you see your ideal self?
Do you ever write blog posts on random papers/napkins/your phone for later?

Girl talk resources

Since I’ve been getting some feedback that people can relate to the post I made earlier about my issues with athletic induced amenorrhea, I thought I’d share some resources that have helped me out with the whole question of whether or not it’s really an issue, why it starts, how to get back to a healthy, normal cycle, etc.

It’s all over the place. These are just the articles I came back to tonight!

And now for some insight…Stuff that I think (my opinion on what I’ve read and my own experience):

  • You can still train, but the motivation should be right.
  • If it’s about energy balance, you’ve got to be willing to work through some experimenting and see what works for you. In my case, this also means accepting that in order to get my period, I need to be in calorie balance. Which means I cannot be losing weight, which I think for the last bit while I was trying to deal with my amenorrhea, I kind of didn’t accept. Recall my epiphany about always thinking with a weight loss mindset? Maybe now that I recognized that and I can move on to living healthy, I’ll be better able to fuel myself and to stay in balance. Once a doc suggested that even if I was maintaining my weight but it was sporadic eating (i.e. mostly at night after dieting during the day, ditto for the weekend after being “good” all week, etc.) my body would still be out of whack. Another suggested that it might have to do with refueling around workouts specifically (and promoted eating more immediately before and after, etc.). All good theories, if you’re willing to accept that your body has a weight that it wants to find and will find, if you let it.
  • Patience is key–this issue didn’t come around overnight and it won’t go away really quick either. For me, this means accepting that I spent a lot of time abusing my body and accepting that it’s not going to snap back right away. To be honest, I think this extends. My mind is recovered, I am making huge steps forward, etc. but it’s been interesting to see the effects of how much I put myself through (too much exercise, not enough eating, bingeing, purging, all the stuff that came along with ED) in their physical manifestations. Thyroid disease runs in my family, but not usually this young. None of my family members have issues with migraines, their periods, etc. I had low bone density at the age of 17, a time when I should have been building things up, not tearing them down. My heart took a beating and I have to go yearly for tests now to check in because of a scare I had in the height of things. It’s all pretty scary, it might not be due to ED, but it’s related and it’s also REAL. I’m also not blaming my injury issues on ED, but it’s true that I put my body through a hell of a lot of workouts and didn’t give it rest or love or so many of the things it deserved for a long time. I can’t expect it to bounce back perfectly — this struggle is just part of recovery!
  • The stuff associated with the Female Athlete Triad is really similar to ED and I see it in so many of my friends who I would never think of as having disordered eating. The compulsion to train, the thought that you can kind of be “proud” that you “work so hard” that you don’t get your period, etc. is kind of rampant and really sad once you step outside and see that it’s not actually healthy at all. This is a topic I know I want to work with when I’m a dietitian (sounds cool to say that!) because I am so passionate about it.
  • Maybe personally I spend too much time working out too hard. This might also be related to the awesome spin class that I went to this morning where the instructor talked about why recovery (within a class specifically) is so important. I’m kind of a balls to the wall person and even though I’ve been working with a coach, I find it so hard to tone my workouts down and to keep my heart rate in a happy zone. No wonder I’ve been so tired and exhausted and injury prone in the past, I know, but seriously! Maybe this has something to do with it…bring on the long, somewhat leisurely bike rides! 🙂 Variety is the spice of life.
  • Maybe I just am not in the place to have a baby. Emotionally, mentally and therefore physically.

Andddd enough of the girl talk (continued). It is SO past my bedtime it’s not even funny!

Can you relate?
Did you find any of these resources helpful?

 

Food for thought

First of all, get ready to get hungry…

Last night’s pre-spin dinner, which was a recreation of my go to cheddar and apple sandwich. I used organic cheddar and was expecting greatness, but I have to admit the cheese was a bit strong. Apparently Im just accustomed to the processed Cracker Barrel kind? Hmmmm…

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After spin, I was hungry. It had been a while since dinner so I went for a bedtime snack that started out as yogurt, then saw some applesauce, then some brown sugar, then some cinnamon, then some oats. then a spoon of maple syrup. Anyone else see where this took me? Apple crisp territory!

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I pretty much crashed last night immediately after a quick foam roll and stretch. And that’s a good thing, cuz I was up early for swim today.

My pre swim snack was quick too — more applesauce, this time with some oats and walnuts for texture!

I would be lying if I’d say I wasn’t thinking about breakfast during swim. Cuz I just knew it was going to be oh so good…and I was right! Overnight oats with chocolate soy milk and a bit of yogurt, a banana, and crumbled homemade granola bar, anyone? One of those really unphotogenic meals that you knowwwww tasted bomb.

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Staying on the delicious track, my lunch was awesome. A flaxseed wrap with a combo of peanut butter/almond butter, sprouts, and carrots (with extra carrots for crunching).

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PLUS a huge gingerbread cookie from the farmers market at Brescia! I didn’t buy it, but when a prof brings cookies to a meeting, it would be RUDE to say no, right? I had a bite and KNEW I wanted this with my afternoon snack so saved it!

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And I crumbled part of it on my yogurt this afternoon. Best. decision. ever. It was huge, so I shared. I like to bribe people with food, too!

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Now I’m finishing up my long to do list (finishing up, more like plugging away at), sitting by the sunniest window I could find, and anticipating a fun bootcamp class tonight! My hip feels a bit tight so I’ll be playing it by year. I know I shouldn’t run today — but I gladly walked to and from Brescia in the beautiful sunshine this afternoon.

Oh and PS: I had this thought today–“Crap, that cookie has milk in it. I am trying to use milk alternatives more. Maybe I shouldn’t eat it. Not to mention it’s huge! I don’t need all that.”

Then I thought…”But what do I want?”

And this is the answer: I want to live my life, eat food that tastes good and I know where it came from. I want to be flexible enough to enjoy things as they come and not beat myself up if I eat something unanticipated. I want to have room for things like fresh cookies (home made and free no less) and I don’t want to ever be so picky that I miss out on things (not that a cookie is something to miss out on — I’m thinking about the future on vacations, fro yo dates, dinners out, etc.). 

This is going to translate into me eating consciously and shopping with a lot of things in mind, but also being flexible and open to life and what it throws my way. We eat to live, not live to eat, ya know? But we have to be able to enjoy our food and we should not be ignorant of how important what we eat is—why not try to be dedicated and committed to eating with intention but also a human being?

It’s funny that I had these thoughts and then sat down, stumbled onto this article about orthorexia (I have a knack for getting distracted by things worth sharing) while I was poking around twitter. I think it does a good job of raising an important issue—when food choices become obsessive and negatively affect your quality of life/happiness, is that healthy any more?—but I also think you can be dedicated to your dietary choices without being crazed about it.

And if you don’t believe me, I’ll be living proof of it…cookies anyone?

What are you doing to enjoy this springlike weather?
When’s the last time you had a fresh baked cookie? 

What do you think about food obsessions outside of “normal” or “typical” E Ds? 

 

Make it yourself

Hey guys — I am a big advocate for making food yourself, whenever possible. If time was unlimited, I think I’d bake my own bread, make my own cheese, and probably spend more time in the kitchen…

For now, I’ll settle for making things from scratch every now and again to realize something: it doesn’t really take that much time so I don’t really like settling for the “I don’t have enough time” excuse.

“Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michaelangelo, Mother Teresea, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein.”

I am aware they were talking about bigger things than making your own granola bars, but that’s kind of where I think people need to realize something: you are going to eat every day for the rest of your life. If you want to feel good, take the time to eat well. If you want to be ignorant and eat whatever you want, don’t complain about it. Don’t use lack of time or energy or money really as an excuse to be an idiot. Yes, that’s harsh, but I really think you can control the things you choose to eat and that you should.

Example, I’ve wanted to make this rant for a while…I am still going to carry my leather purse despite the fact that I think eating beef is a pretty big strain on the environment/doesn’t agree with me right now because of where that meat would come from … not carrying my purse every day vs. not eating that steak or burger on a regular basis — which one is going to have a bigger impact? People might attack vegetarians for not being 100% veg or something stupid like that–but eating is a personal choice and attacking someone personally is wrong, in my mind. Educate them instead, if you have something worth saying. Eating should never be all or nothing.

Enough of my opinion, onto the recipe you’ve been waiting for…which was inspired by Kath’s Baked Oatmeal Snack Bars.

Homemade/I Don’t Wanna Look At Another Clif Bar Oat Bars 

Ingredients:
Dry:
1 1/2 c oats
2 tbsp cocoa powder
sprinkle of salt
1/3 c shredded coconut (unsweetened)
1/4 c flaxseeds
1/4 c almonds

Wet:
1 egg
1 c milk or milk substitute*
1/2 c water
1 tsp vanilla

Toppings:
mini chocolate chips
2 tbsp shredded coconut (unsweetened)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Combine wet ingredients in large bowl.
Combine dry ingredients in a separate bowl.
Add dry to wet, stirring ’til moist.
Place mixture into a 9×9 baking pan lined with parchment paper (or sprayed), pressing down and into corners.
Sprinkle toppings on top.
Bake for approximately 30 minutes or til set and browned.
Remove, cool, and slice into 9 squares (a pizza cutter works well, as Kath suggested).
Store in fridge or freezer, or ENJOY!

*I used vanilla soy milk

I literally made these while most of my classmates were probably hitting snooze. I mixed them up after breakfast in about 5 minutes, threw them in the oven, and by the time I was done getting dressed/ready for the day, they were coming out of the oven!

So simple.

So tasty!

Have you ever made something from scratch just to prove you could?
Do you feel like you have time (make time) to cook?
What’s your fav clif bar flavour?