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What is Normal Eating?

Posted Mar 30 2013 12:27am

Here I am again. I am in the place that I always seem to end up. I got off track for one reason or another, this time it is the development of possibly exercise-induced asthma, or exercise-induced reflux (not sure), but more on that later. When I get off-track with exercising, I almost always get off-track nutritionally. It is that all-or-nothing issue that I struggle with, manifesting itself again. So my clothes feel tight and I don't love the way I look when I look in the mirror. I'm not proud of some of the (poor) decisions that I made to get here and I feel a tinge of guilt for losing control, once again. Sigh.

Here's the thing. I know EXACTLY how to fix this.  I've done it before. I've done it more times than I wish to count. Start tomorrow. Run most every day. Lift weights four days week. Do Yoga. Restrict my diet to only whole natural foods. Start today and within 2-3 months I will be back to my old self. In six months I will be in-the-zone, and within a year I'll be thinner and in better shape than ever before...until the next thing throws me off track. It is a terrible cycle and frankly, I am tired of it.

Writing these types of blog posts suck. I'd much rather be telling you about my kick-ass new training plan, my latest PR, or some other achievement. But this is reality. If I only wrote about the good stuff, there would be times that I wouldn't have anything to write about at all. This is real life. Besides, perfect is boring.

I want to say that I always do it the right way. I diet and exercise! That is the right way, right? I am not relying on some weight loss pill or magic formula. I am not sitting on the couch drinking Diet Coke and consuming 900 calories a day. I'm not starving myself. I work out and eat proper nutrition! The problem? I almost always end up over-exercising and under-eating (for my activity level), despite the knowledge that I have these tendencies and full-well know the consequences. I can logically write a well-thought-out and researched blog post on how to live moderately, I just can't seem to figure out how to execute it.

So what if I am tired of this? I am tired of the scale. I am tired of worrying about it. I'm tired of putting so much stress on myself.  I am tired of it consuming my life. I don't want to be overweight. I am still within a healthy weight for my height, but I'd like to lose 10-15 pounds, but I don't want it to consume my every waking thought either. 

I read something really interesting on the Healthy Helper blog this week. The post is an examination of intuitive eating, an eating style that has been trending heavily on fitness blogs lately, and I even thought about looking into it myself. But as Kaila pointed out, could this possibly be just another "diet" disguised as a healthy eating program, a way to rationalize restrictive eating? I don't know for sure, I haven't looked into it enough to make any judgements about it one way or the other, but it is an interesting point of view, one I haven't heard before. It reminds me to think critically about the things I read online.

What the post did for me was reinforce how I feel about labeling my food choices and food restrictions, whether it is Paleo, Gluten Free, Low Carb, High Protein, Whole30, Vegan, whatever. It is not for me anymore. I am not saying that these things are not effective, and sometimes they are medically necessary for many people, I get that. I've personally just gotten to a point where I am mentally tired of putting restrictions on myself when it is not a medical issue, just a vanity one. If it works for you, great. It is just not for me, It just can't be anymore. 

The most interesting thing I read on the Healthy Helper post was this
It quoted an article in the New York Times on normal eating . The article cites a broad definition of normal eating by registered dietitian Ellyn Satter . Here are some of the highlights
  • Normal eating is going to the table hungry and eating until you are satisfied.
  • Normal eating is being able to give some thought to your food selection so you get nutritious food, but not being so wary and restrictive that you miss out on enjoyable food.
  • It is leaving some cookies on the plate because you know you can have some again tomorrow, or it is eating more now because they taste so wonderful.
  • Normal eating is trusting your body to make up for your mistakes in eating.
  • Normal eating takes up some of your time and attention, but keeps its place as only one important area of your life
Sounds simple, right? Yes, but what is simple is not always easy. But thinking in these terms, I think I can be a normal eater. And that is what I will set out to do.

I need to forget about the 15 pounds. I need to throw my scale away. I am going to exercise because I love to exercise, eat because I love to eat, and just live my life. I am in no way suggesting that I plan on living on wine and pizza (although that sounds quite wonderful), I just don't plan on restricting wine or pizza while I try to make the best food choices possible the rest of the time. Sounds normal, right?

Maybe I will just buy bigger pants, love myself exactly the way I am today, exercise because I love it, and I love the way it makes me feel. I'll work at being a normal eater. Maybe those extra 15 will fall off as a nice side-effect, maybe not. I've decided not to let it define me or my self-esteem either way.

Keep Running,


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photo credit: gifrancis via photopin cc
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