Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Food-Happy Concept


Wow. Something about that word just screams misery.  It embodies all the feelings of deprivation, starvation, "no you can't" and "but I must."  Even the thought of a diet makes my head hurt and my belly churn.  

But being in the fitness and wellness biz, I hear it all the time, and sometimes even from my own mouth (gasp!)  Recently, I have had a lot of people ask me about diets so I figured I would lay it all out there.

I have been victim to this epidemic multiple times.  Trying to find something, anything, that makes me feel better.  Over the years I have tried many things.  I was vegetarian for 8 years, a vegan for a year, a "whatever-imma-eat-that" for some time, and then back to vegetarian, then wedding-dress-panic, lemonade cleanse, then strict paleo, etc.  The thing about all these diets, is that I can comfortably say that I have tried A LOT of things, and have discovered what exactly works for me and why.

My whole life I have been active, athletic, and a lover of food.  I remember being 10 years old and being proud that I could eat a whole pizza by myself.  That was a bragging point.   I exercised because it was fun—life was a game and I freakin' owned it.  Bagels were awesome, cheese was amazing, and I’ll have a sprite with my cupcake please.

Then at some point body issues creep in, and I became aware of what "fat" was, became aware of what foods "made me fat" and acutely aware that the opposite sex does not find fat attractive.   I workout because I must, I dieted because that’s the way to win at life, and I drove myself crazy because, goddamnit, I want to be sexy. Cue the diets!!!

I can tell you what eventually worked for me, and how you can do it too.

Step 1. Get rid of your scale. Unless you are trying to lose over 50lbs, the scale will just literally make you crazy. Here I am at 125lbs (the lightest I had been since middle school):
AND here I am at 148lbs (on the heavier side that I've ever been):
Whoa, what a heifer, right?

So, throw out the stupid scale. I fit into the same clothes I did at my wedding weight as I do now. (Unless of course I do a lot of arm/leg stuff one day and I feel all "swole.") If you follow all the other steps, the numbers won't mean anything to you anyway.

2. Stop counting calories. Eating is fun and eating is delicious, and math is not. If you turn your eating into a chore, a punishment, you won't EVER feel satisfied at the end of the meal. Instead, think of your food as a necessary and crucial part of your day. Feed yourself when you're hungry, not when you're bored and stop when you're full. Easier said then done, right? Follow step 5.

3. Do something active each day, but don't always put a measure to it. High intensity training is all the rage, and I wholeheartedly agree that it works, because it does. But there is a limit. Your body needs both low intensity and high intensity to function. Think about high intensity workouts as high stress moments. Imagine if your life consisted of riding roller coasters every single day. Eventually that adrenalin rush or euphoria will lessen its effect. Same thing if you went to a massage every single day. The effectiveness of both decrease over time. But, alternating between high intensity, low intensity, moderate intensity, etc will keep your mind and body on it's toes. Set a goal to workout hard 3-4x a week, while the rest of the week is committed to yoga, walking, light jogging, and/or biking.

4. Start a food/exercise log. This was extremely helpful for me. Not because I wrote down amounts, calories, or nutritional facts, but because I started to see patterns. I noticed that if I skipped breakfast, I usually had a much bigger lunch, had no motivation to workout, and slept poorly. If I ate a really salty snack (chips are my favorite) I craved sweets at night. Just by writing down what I ate and being accountable for my habits, I saw how the choices I made throughout the day effected me for days after.

5. Eat food that makes you feel good. This is the hardest thing for most of us, myself included, to get right. But if you get this right, everything else becomes easier. This is how I finally stopped dieting and just started eating right. The bottom line is you need to find food that makes your mind and body happy. That means food that tastes good going in, feels comfortable moving around inside and is smooth coming out. That doesn't mean eating baked macaroni and cheese because you looooove cheese and pasta, but suffering through bloating and farting for hours. I am not talking about devouring ice cream after a long hot day and suffering through a sugar headache all night and next morning. These are examples of mental comfort food. The foods that we see as "treats" but are not really treats at all. They make us feel sluggish, bloated, gassy, achey, unsexy, and are keeping us fat.

I started this journey of food-happy discovery when I was vegetarian. I realized beef doesn't mesh well with me. We aren't friends, so I avoid him. Then when I began vegan, I realized all those Greek yogurts I was eating made me feel gassy and cheese made me constipated. They were taken off the favorite list. Then I tried paleo, and I realized I don't digest quinoa well and bread makes me feel bleh. But, I still couldn't quite figure out the food-happy concept, and I kept going back and forth between foods I like and foods my body actually likes. Saying to myself, "well I LOVE beer, so I'm going to drink it anyway!" I kept fighting it because I was trying to commit to set "diets" rather than listen to what exactly I needed.

Then in June, I committed to a 3 weeks "cleanse" which focused on specifically finding the foods that did not agree with me. Liz, founder of free + abel, and the host of the cleanse, and I have talked about our love/hate relationship with the word cleanse. Despite it being exactly what it is, "cleanse" has been used recently to describe a "quick fix" for weightloss, which is NOT what this particular cleanse is. The 21-Day Cleanse Liz runs is about much more. It was the final push I needed and provided me with all the proof I needed to change my eating habits for good. Within a week I felt more energy, within 10 days I found my abs, and by the last day, I didn't crave any of the foods I missed. I have kept many of the habits I learned from that cleanse and I am a way happier eater. I think the key was finding the "Rachael diet' or the foods that make my belly happy. There is no book for the Rachael diet, because it's made just for me.

That's how it should be!

Do yourself a favor this Fall and commit to making your mind and body happy. Know that there are days when you fall into old habits, but they will get fewer and fewer. If you are interested in the cleanse, reach out to Liz directly at Get in tune with yourself and all the rest becomes easy. Cheers!

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