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>

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WW vs. Crossfit

My current WW keychain.
My current WW keychain, with the 10% ring, 16-meeting charm, 25-pound charm, 5k charm, and 50-pound charm.

WW isn’t something I like to talk about. In fact, I pretty much avoid it at all costs. I went an entire summer getting brunch almost every Friday after my meeting with a friend, who didn’t know, until August, that I was going to these meetings, and that’s why I couldn’t meet earlier than 10:45 a.m.

For me, WW is the elephant in the room. It’s been the big, white elephant since last November. Still, only a select few people at school know about it. But now it’s out in the open, so just about everyone will know…especially since random people I never thought would give two craps about this blog end up mentioning it to me when I least expect it.

And truthfully, here’s a secret: I started Weight Watchers before I started going to Crossfit.

And truthfully, I would rather most people not know that.

Truthfully, I would prefer that people just continue thinking that Crossfit and Paleo alone have been the magic pill (or cup of Kool-Aid) to my current success. Because admitting that I go to Weight Watchers means admitting to everyone that I have a problem. And frankly, I don’t want to do that.

But, a while back, one of my dear friends asked me to write about my experience with WW. It’s taken me a few months to work up the courage to write this blog post (i.e., to write about it openly), but I figure if I can help one other person, it might be worth it.

I’m not going to go into how I was brought to WW, because at this point, that’s a story I’m not willing to tell. All you should know is that I went, and I was pissed off. Ask my Albany leader, Jen. I was one angry individual. I guess I still am, to an extent, and part of that anger is what fuels my efforts now. I was pretty much determined to not make any sort of positive changes, and my attitude for the first 7 or 8 months on plan was that if it works it works, if it doesn’t it doesn’t.

About a week after I started WW, I was introduced to Crossfit.

And I feel like my relationship to WW has vexed the Crossfit coaches ever since then.

WW, for those who are unfamiliar, is all about eating less (and eating healthier) and moving more. They have healthful guidelines, like Power Foods (i.e., foods that are both healthy and will keep you satisfied longer), but you can essentially eat whatever you like, within reason, as long as you stay within your Daily/Weekly PointsPlus target. Instead of counting calories and fat, each food item is assigned a PointsPlus value, which is determined by the amount of fat, carbohydrates, protein, and fiber in a given food. Better “deals” have less PointsPlus values (e.g., 6 cups air-popped popcorn has 3 p+), and splurges have more (e.g., a tall Strawberries and Creme Frappuccino has 10 p+). Everyone is assigned a p+ value when they begin (I started with 48 p+ per day), and that number goes down as they lose (I am now at 38 p+ per day). Everyone also receives 49 p+ extra per week to use on anything you like (e.g., to satisfy my bourbon or wings or chocolate cravings).

Once you get the hang of it, it’s pretty simple. And I’m pretty comfortable with the plan. I know how it works, and I know how to “fix” my day if it’s gone wrong.

Crossfit began as a way for me to introduce the “move more” aspect of WW. But soon people started asking questions. Aren’t you doing Paleo/Zone? You know that banana is bad for you! You need to turn in your WW membership, and just do strict Paleo. More protein! Less carbs!

I get it. I totally get the idea behind Paleo (Zone is another story that, no matter how many times it’s explained, I just don’t get). Yeah. We weren’t evolved to eat the carb-heavy diet we now rely on. Less carbs/dairy/sugar makes me feel overall better. But at the same time, I haven’t been 100 percent willing to completely let go of WW, when it has clearly worked for me. I know how to “fix” a day on WW. It keeps me on track. I don’t know how to “fix” a day on Paleo, and I feel like it would open the gates of downfall if I had but one cheat meal.

So, what I’ve done is merge both WW and Crossfit. It’s possible. I try not to think of these two in conflict with one another. I stay within my WW p+ target, while incorporating aspects of Paleo into my diet. When I’m living by myself, I don’t purchase milk (I use Almond Breeze almost exclusively now), I don’t use sugar, I eat a crap ton of vegetables, I limit my fruit intake, I started using almond or cashew butter instead of peanut butter, and I severely cut down the amount of refined grains I’m eating.

This has worked for ME.

And honestly, I think that this is probably the only way I’m going to see sustained success in both fitness and weight loss. It’s not the only way for everyone, but it’s the only way for me, which was proven over the summer when I just did WW, and not Crossfit. The community from both keeps me on track—hardcore.

I also really don’t enjoy going to WW meetings, but I force myself, because it holds me accountable with weekly weigh-ins. Also, I have an amazing leader. That always helps.

So…I hope this answers a few of your questions regarding both WW and Crossfit. I recommend both to anyone looking to lose some pounds or get more fit. Without them, I probably wouldn’t have such a decorated key ring right now!