On fad diets, disordered eating

If it wasn’t already apparent, I have problems with disordered eating. I’m not saying that I have an eating disorder, or at least that’s what my therapist says, and I think that in some ways there is a difference. I have never been anorectic, unless you count the few months in high school where I ate a small bag of plain popcorn, Diet Coke, and a reduced-fat Oreo for lunch, and challenged myself to eat fewer calories than the day before. That clearly didn’t last long. I’ve never binged and purged, though YOU KNOW I’ve thought to myself that it’d make my life a hell of a lot easier if I could. And at the other end, I don’t think I’ve ever really had problems with binge eating. Now, I think just about everyone has a pig-out once in a while, but not full-on EAT ALL THE THINGS on a regular basis.

No, what I struggle with is more…portion sizes (and again, this is not EAT THE WHOLE CAKE, but maybe having a piece or two that maybe are just a little bigger than they should)…peer pressure (c’mon, just have ONE drink!)…the tendency to crave all the wrong things at all the wrong times (super tired? how about something crispy and fried or creamy and frozen?)…and mindfulness (I’ll just have a few crackers…whoops there goes the whole box, and I’m still hungry).

From what I understand, these are common disordered eating habits, and in combination has sort of brought me where I am now.

But I have to admit, too, that I have been extremely vulnerable to faddish diets. And as someone who is fairly intelligent, this makes me ashamed.

  • Growing up, when I first started counting calories, it was all about low-fat and keeping to a percentage of calories-from-fat. If there was a day where I had extra calories and needed to reduce the fat percentage, we’d drink a can of full-calorie soda. (Facepalm.)
  • In college, I got on the Atkins train and lost about 20#. I became obsessed with the 25-carb-per-day onboarding period, and just never moved past it. This turned into me eating basically bacon, diet soda, cheese, and tubs of Cool Whip (oh, and those Atkins shakes), because, uh, carbs.
  • After that, I said FUCK ALL DIETS and gained about 90#. Not because I was eating TONS, but because I didn’t keep track of what I was eating, wasn’t making the best choices all the time, and ate just a bit more than I should. (It adds up.)
  • Then in grad school, Weight Watchers happened. And I have to say that this is NOT a fad diet; HOWEVER, I do still disagree with a lot of the foods that they peddle. Nonfat dairy products, super-processed frozen meals, and ALL THE GRAINS being a few of them.
  • Then, to get a few more pounds off, I meticulously counted points with the Wendie Plan, and then began carb cycling.
  • Then it was all Paleo all the time. Which is totally cool and fine, especially since, you know, ALLERGIES, but I came away from that with a still-nasty case of orthorexia and judgmentalia, in which you obsess over the cleanliness, pasturedness, and organicness of your food, and then harshly judge yourself and others when this is not abided by.
  • And now? Let me get to that.

So, as I may have mentioned before, as part of BFF’s TDP, I am now back to counting calories. And he has been very conscious in his pushing of CALORIES ONLY, until I get back into a healthy routine of exercise and eating. Because, as my food tracker will show, I eat super clean about 80% of the time. The other 20% is Pizza Friday, maybe an ice cream, and possibly popcorn or gluten-free pasta during the week. And all this, aside from Pizza Friday, is balanced with lean proteins and vegetables (so gluten-free pasta nights isn’t just pasta–it’s pasta that’s been weighed out, and then eaten with copious amounts of broccoli and a few ounces of chicken breast). Because, in reality, if I don’t have these little luxuries, how am I supposed to, really, continue on?

So here I am, just chugging along. Running three times a week, light weights three times a week, and tracking like a mofo, even on Pizza Fridays. And I’m feeling pretty good about myself and my effort, even though the scale isn’t showing leaps and bounds of awesomeness.

And then I start getting bombarded. Not personally, but it seems like all of a sudden everywhere I look online, everyone is talking about Flexible Dieting and the wonders of #IIFYM (if it fits your macros). The idea being, if you eat tuna and brown rice, and it has 45 carbs, 40 protein, and 10 fat, your body doesn’t know the same as a cheeseburger, which might also have 45 carbs, 40 protein, and 10 fat. So if you have a set amount of macronutrient goals for optimum performance, why wouldn’t you eat that cheeseburger? It fits your macros!

I’m not saying that this is the WRONG way to think about food, though I will say that fundamentally I think there is a problem in thinking that you should eat cheeseburgers over brown rice and fish. HOWEVER, I AM saying that I feel I am being assaulted on a daily basis. The same people posting ridiculous before-and-after photos of a thin version of themselves versus a thin and jacked version of themselves a month later, after counting their macros. And keep in mind, these are THE VERY SAME PEOPLE who, just a year or two ago, were preaching Paleo/Zone and/or intermittent fasting as the one-size-fits-all miracle solution.

And I’m thinking to myself, Am I doing something wrong? This person who has NO weight to lose lost 4# in a week, and I’m obese and have lost 1.5# in a MONTH.

And then I start thinking, Do I need to start counting my macros meticulously?

This is about the point where BFF has smacked me upside the head and reminded me that yes, this IIFYM IS JUST ANOTHER FAD DIET. And do not get sucked in!

But to be honest, it absolutely kills me every time I see something about IIFYM and results. It kills me. It makes me anxious. It’s a SUPER trigger. It even hurts my feelings and makes me feel crappy about myself. I can’t explain it, but if you’ve ever felt like this, you’d know.

The other piece, too, is that the people who preach IIFYM/IF/PZ are notoriously people who have absolutely no idea what it means to be obese. They have never been in a situation where they have 100+# to lose. And they probably never will, god willing. They are people who have always been slim and active, and really just want a six-pack. They will never get it. Ever. Sorry if you are one of those people, because sometimes I think you just can’t help it.

So no, I will not be counting my macros right now. I won’t be intermittently fasting, and I won’t be on a meticulous Paleo/Zone diet. Because right now, I need something that is both livable and will not make me feel guilty or like shit about myself whenever I eat something non-organic.

Thank you for sharing your success, but please leave me alone.

</rant>

Food and guilt

I’d be surprised if I haven’t written about food and guilt before. I mean, an ENORMOUS part of any sort of weight-loss journey is dealing with a relationship with food. Even more so when you throw in disordered or compulsive/addictive eating. And yes, even more so when you throw in Catholic guilt, regardless of my practicing status.

I’m still in the throes of stepping back and observing the last 18 months or so and the processes that have led me to where I am right now, and I have to admit that there were a lot of things at play, many of which I have already glossed over (HUGE life changes–one right after the other, a separation from the Crossfit community, etc., etc.). But I think that one of the things that has seriously messed with my head is/was food.

Throughout my time writing for DK Gets Fit, I think I’ve been able to stay fairly neutral about food choices. Weight Watchers being pretty flexible about what types of food you eat, and incorporating aspects of Paleo into my diet (lower carbs, higher protein!).

Then life threw me a curveball, and I discovered, definitively, that I have food allergies. Namely, wheat, milk protein, bananas, macadamias, sesame seeds, and a mild allergy to egg whites (which I still consume because it’s just so hard to get around). I continued attending Weight Watchers meetings, this time at work, and I felt SO isolated. Nobody, not even the leader, could grasp what it is like to all of a sudden not be able to eat SO many of the foods that Weight Watchers preaches. The actual nutrition approach for WW encourages nonfat dairy products (I am currently OK with higher-fat dairy, such as butter, ghee, and some cheeses, but generally avoid anything high in whey or casein), whole grains (certainly including wheat), egg whites by the cartonful, and of course bananas up the ying yang (ditto that with Paleo). I didn’t know what to do, so out of frustration I eventually quit.

AND THEN, I decided to see a dietitian, who really was awesome, emphasizing types of foods instead of tracking, HOWEVER, it became pretty evident PRETTY quickly that someone who has issues with food really does need to track, no matter what KINDS of foods you’re eating. ESPECIALLY because maybe you want to have a cheat meal–or weekend–at some point, and you need to be correctly equipped on how to deal with this. I gained weight doing this.

I also gained something else.

The Boy would argue that I also developed a (mild) case of orthorexia. With the food allergies and the new recommendations from the dietitian, AND all of a sudden really being able to get enough protein from meat sources (since egg whites and dairy were out), I started to be afraid of anything that wasn’t organic/pastured/local food. I guess it’s not a horrible way to live, but it’s certainly not inexpensive.

Again, I gained weight this way.

Then, after spiraling and free-falling for a few months, depressed, miserable, and stuck, I knew I had to do something.

I rejoined Weight Watchers. And I’ve been pretty vigilant about tracking everything, since the end of January, and I’ve lost a mere 8 pounds. Since January. Though this is also with weird food allergies that literally nobody seems to understand. Once again, I felt othered during meetings, and decided to move out of meetings, and instead to personal coaching, which I haven’t yet decided if I like or not (I get a 15-minute check in, but there really isn’t any particular theme of the week, etc.).

But, and here’s where the guilt part of this post comes in, soon after I started my new job, The Boy lost his. And all of a sudden we are paying for groceries with a set amount of cash. And all of a sudden I’m finding that my lunches are filled with rice and beans. My vegetables are no longer only organic. There’s no more Whole Foods, and we haven’t been able to afford our local farm for what seems like forever.

And I shouldn’t feel awful admitting that, but I do. I SO do.

I feel so GUILTY that I actually cannot afford, at the moment, to purchase those foods that I know to be healthiest and most nutritionally dense. And I feel GUILTY that, after an entire year almost completely grain free, I’m back to eating grains on a regular basis. I feel GUILTY.

See why The Boy thinks it’s orthorexia?

My first go-around a few years ago, I regularly ate grains and did really well. Where along this road did I decide that they just flat-out are not okay at all? And when did I start shaming myself so badly for eating REAL, ONE-INGREDIENT, WHOLE FOODS just because they don’t fit into the Paleo paradigm?

It’s really messed up! Yes, I KNOW!

So I guess that’s one of many things I’m working on right now. Doing the best I can, but more importantly KNOWING that I AM doing the best I can.

Once again, here I am. Let’s try to take the guilt out of eating, and associating eating with guilt. Because, can we all just admit that we’d be a lot happier if we did?