My life in regards to my relationship with food has changed drastically in just one week. As a "clean eater" for just over a year, I finally ate a pop tart. I ate an ice cream sandwich. I ate cream cheese. I ate cinnamon bread. I ate all of the things that I had turned away for fear it was poison and automatic fat on my body. I ate it all, but lacked something.Guilt.
I no longer saw the food as poisonous, devilish fat that would ruin my figure and make me gain ten pounds in a matter of minutes. I didn't cry afterwards. I didn't call up Boyfriend in a grumpy mood because I felt so defeated. I didn't beat myself up for hours. I didn't say, "Why did you do that, you failure?"
You see, that's how I often felt about food that was considered "dirty." When I would have treat meals once a week on my "clean eating" diet, I would shame myself. I remember a low point of when I ate "too much" peanut butter (in reality, probably a half a cup) and I was devastated. Literally. It was to the point of standing naked in front of the mirror and holding my peanut butter belly, saying, "Why did you eat that? You are so stupid. Now look at you." I remember taking out my bad mood on Boyfriend over the phone, and he was in shock that it was over peanut butter.
Looking back on it now, it makes me so sad that I had reached that point. I had let a few bites of peanut butter (PEANUT BUTTER. LIKE, REALLY?!) destroy my happiness. I had let food become associated with guilt. I had let every health food junkie's reasonings alter my perception of food in an unhealthy way. I had let it go too far.
At first, clean eating was something exciting and new. I didn't need to count calories as I had a few years ago, which led to a forty pound weight loss (read about that here and here). I just cut out foods and read nutrition labels. I was all about it, and always reading up on the latest super food or health foodie blogs. I even came out with a "clean eating" cookbook, which I still stand by! There are great-tasting healthy meals out there, and I still cook them from my book.
Before I knew it, I had cut out a good amount of food. Like a good amount. I cut it out because it was deemed as poisonous and would kill me. It seemed as though everything was off limits. It basically looked like crack cocaine with the way people made it out to be. I had this mentality of when I saw people eating these "bad" foods that they were uneducated. It was a terrible way to think. I struggled with date nights, going out with friends, vacations, going to parties because I couldn't eat the food, and if I did then it was all downhill mentally from there.
Much further into the lifestyle change (like a month or so ago) I began obsessing over weight again. I pulled out my scale and weighed myself a few times a day and hated that the number wouldn't change. I began paying closer attention to calories again, and making sure I wasn't eating over 1200 calories a day. Then I would go do hours of cardio, leaving me with a net calorie amount of around 600 a day. It was wrong, and I knew it. Little did I know how wrong it was, until I came across Layne Norton. He talks a lot about metabolic damage that I see so many women do to themselves by restricting calories to asinine amounts and spending hours on the elliptical. Watch his video on metabolic damage here.
It wasn't until recently a follower on my Instagram mentioned Orthorexia. I had never heard of it before, but after reading up on it, I realized I had been suffering from it for a long time. It is described as this,
"Those who have an “unhealthy obsession” with otherwise healthy eating may be suffering from “orthorexia nervosa,” a term which literally means “fixation on righteous eating.” Orthorexia starts out as an innocent attempt to eat more healthfully, but orthorexics become fixated on food quality and purity. They become consumed with what and how much to eat, and how to deal with “slip-ups.” An iron-clad will is needed to maintain this rigid eating style. Every day is a chance to eat right, be “good,” rise above others in dietary prowess, and self-punish if temptation wins (usually through stricter eating, fasts and exercise). Self-esteem becomes wrapped up in the purity of orthorexics’ diet and they sometimes feel superior to others, especially in regard to food intake.
Eventually food choices become so restrictive, in both variety and calories, that health suffers – an ironic twist for a person so completely dedicated to healthy eating. Eventually, the obsession with healthy eating can crowd out other activities and interests, impair relationships, and become physically dangerous (NEDA)."
Well, my health did suffer. As much as I promoted clean eating, I was sick all the time. I had digestive issues where I was unable to go poop for three to four days. I was bloated a lot of the time. I was often tired and grumpy. My mental health suffered too. Clearly, as I mentioned above. Why was I promoting something that could possibly be ruining my insides and my outlook on life? I didn't understand that my eating habits could play such a huge part on my life, and take a toll the way they did. After learning more about Orthorexia, I realized that eating habits could be damaging, and that I had a problem.
This is when I found IIFYM. I kept seeing the hashtag everywhere on Instagram. These people were in amazing shape with muscles popping, and they were eating Pop Tarts and Skinny Cow ice cream. WTF? I had to know more. I researched and researched and researched some more. First of all, macros are protein, carbs, and fat. IIFYM (if it fits your macros) is the flexible diet plan of eating foods that meet your macros in grams. Everyone has different macros for their goals and body types. Food isn't really considered "clean" or "dirty," it's just recognized by the body its amounts of protein, carbs, and fat each day. I suggest you read up on it for yourself. I am not an expert. I can't calculate yours for you. I can't explain it as well as experts. So, do your own research. This post isn't about fully educating you on IIFYM. This post is simply meant to give you honesty and the reason I have changed my eating habits. I will, however, post the resources I have found helpful!
Michael Kory Fitness
Do You Even
With this new eating style, there is so much freedom and balance. I get to eat dessert every night, or have french toast in the morning. It sounds silly that there is freedom in something as tedious-sounding as counting calories and grams, but there truly is. You can fit the foods you want into your every day diet, and you can feel good about your choices, even if it's considered "dirty." I don't have to eat chicken and broccoli and egg whites for every fucking meal (excuse my language), and I'm sooooo okay with that.
I can honestly say that I haven't been this happy in a long time. I haven't had a healthy relationship with food like this in an even longer time. After a week of IIFYM, I am more awake than ever. I am up at 5:45 AM every day with tons of energy, ready to take on the gym and cook breakfast and go to work. I have regular digestion. I am no longer bloated. I started strength training again and have incredible strength and endurance in the weight room. My muscles are popping more than ever. I am eating the appropriate amount of calories for my body, which would have seemed like an insane amount to me before. I can go to dinner and be social. I have hidden the scale away in the depths of a closet. I amelated.
With the change of diet, some people don't understand and they criticize my Pop Tart and my fat-free cheese. They tell me it's terrible for me. They tell me what's in it, as if I don't already know after over a year of reading nutritional labels. They tell me this and that, and it has actually become humorous to me.
People will find something that is bad for you in anything. It's like food has become this terrifying thing that's on the same level as drugs (like I said before, crack cocaine). People scare the shit out of you, which leads you to obsess, which leads to an unhealthy mind and perhaps even an unhealthy body, as it did in my case.
What I have to say to them is this, it is my life. Life is about trial and error. It's about experimenting and finding what works for you. If I want to change my life or my diet or whatever, then I am more than free to do so. Your choices are your choices. Mine are mine. Respect that. I would much rather have a piece of pizza and a healthy mind, then a cup of quinoa and a screwed up mind any day. So, pass me a bowl of cookie dough ice cream (as it perfectly fits in my macros) and a sprinkle of "happy" on top.