So, I have a bone to pick with the fitness industry. I’ve struggled, over five years and counting, to find my “healthy” and happy balance. I’ve made a lot of progress but to go along with it; I’ve also undergone a lot of mental distress. And if I’m honest, I didn’t find health at all, but instead, I did find myself developing an eating disorder.
Step 1: The Obsession
You may think that eating clean is the opposite of an eating disorder, right? WRONG. Eating clean can be perfectly healthy, except for the fact that we’ve turned it into a chore. If we take one measly bite outside of what we consider “good” food, the guilt kicks in. If we skip a workout, the day or week feels like a total waste. That, my friends, is an eating disorder, no matter how we try to sugar coat it. Don’t believe me? Well, an eating disorder essentially is an irregular eating habit brought on by the distress of our body image… need I say more?
You can agree to disagree, but hear me out. I’ve done my fair share of research, and I have experimented with so many of the fitness fads. From macronutrient tracking to Paleo, from moderation and balance, to the strict “one cheat meal a week”, from 80% clean and 20% junk to the ridiculous and painful Whole 30 Challenge… I have tried it all. But do you want to know what I finally realized? The number one thing that stands out to me after all my continued trial and error?
Being Healthy is not THAT fucking hard! Being fit should not be rocket science. And the fitness industry under the shackles of social media has completely mind fucked us all and created a plethora of eating disorders that wouldn’t be so prevalent sans Instagram!
Phew! Okay, I said it. I feel a lot better now.
Step 2: The Epiphany
There’s something a little unsettling about all the fitness fads. Why do I see progress with these fitness lifestyles that are in complete opposition to one another? Paleo told me“Grains are bad” while My Fitness Pal raved “You can still have abs with grains. Grains are brain power.” One morning, the life-shattering words of, “Bacon is bad” flashes across Channel 5 News, but next week there is a new profound statistic correlating bacon with longevity. LIKE, WHAT?! Good thing I’ve been breaking world records with my morning, day and night bacon eating rituals…
Do you see my point? You simply cannot please everyone. But you CAN please yourself by following your body’s cues and cravings. That is not to say you should eat Twinkies and Oreos whenever the sugar rush strikes… that is a whole different issue. And trust me, sugar addiction is SO very real. While my lifestyle experiments with food and fitness have helped to kick my sugar addiction’s ass, it also contributed to my countless binge episodes which consisted of killing off entire packages of Oreos, pints of Ben & Jerry’s Milk and Cookies, and a couple of donuts all within a 30 minute time lapse.
And it took me this long to realize that this is NOT normal. It is not healthy to plan a cheat “meal” or “day” a week ahead of time. It is not healthy to deprive yourself of your chocolate craving at the moment when one bite would suffice, instead of a deprivation led binge come Saturday when you eat everything chocolate. It is not healthy to think about food constantly and to feel guilty about your food choices or gym habits. It is not healthy to use meal prep as a means to track every ounce and gram of protein, fats and carbs. It is not healthy; it is slavery.
When all is said and done, I know what it means to be healthy which includes two vital parts: mindfulness & happiness. It is a mind, body, and soul journey; not just a body transformation. SO much of health is in your mind, and we abandon our minds completely on this journey, seeking a six pack regardless of the effect it has on our happiness and mental health.
Step 3: My Recovery
This past week I have thrown my macro-tracking, Paleo obsessing, “1 gram of protein per pound I weigh” psychosis out the window. I stopped obsessing about eating every 3 hours and just eat when my body is hungry. While I’m still conscious of what I put into my body, I feel no need to weigh my meats or almonds. I’ve had the most satisfying plant-based salads for lunch now that I am not overly concerned with stuffing 25g of protein down my throat every few hours or else suffer the consequence of losing all my gains.
I feel lighter, happier, stronger, and more alert. While my meals are still very balanced, it has been easier to steer away from processed sugars and junk food the past few days. I whip up quick protein smoothie bowls for my late night sweet tooth, and I don’t fear gaining unwanted fat in unfathomable areas from eating a protein or fiber bar that has real sugars in it. My disgusting binge cravings have been at rest so far, but the weekends are the tell-tale sign of my accomplishments. (To be determined)
You don’t need Shredz fat-burners to get in shape, contrary to Paige Hathaway’s deceiving Instagram page that conveniently leaves the Anavar she uses for physique enhancement out of her IG posts. You don’t need to buy a waist trainer to look like the photoshopped or starved “IG Models” that advertise them. Instead, you need to follow these ten simple rules.
Ten Simple Rules to help you break your fitness disorder
- Stop comparing yourself to the media’s unattainable, and quite frankly, unattractive and unnatural standards of beauty and fitness.
- Eat the whole, healthy foods that make you happy, even if your favorite IG fitness model doesn’t. YOU WILL SURVIVE. Sugar-free, fat-free, low-fat are all “macro-friendly”, but they are all processed junk foods. Skip it for the real thing. Whole, grass-fed milk and yogurts and cheeses. Pure maple syrup and honey over Walden Farm substitutes. You will feel the difference.
- Focus on your personal goals one day at a time and one step at a time and crush them. If you fall off track for a meal or even a day, just get back up again. You are human.
- LOVE YOURSELF. EVERY DAY. No matter the circumstances. And especially no matter what foods you decide to eat.
- Realize how unique and beautiful you are. You cannot be replaced or replicated just as you cannot replicate a photoshopped Instagram photo of today’s fitness icons. *Bleh*
- Eat mindfully and healthfully for your happiness, not to follow a fad or a fitness trend.
- Use meal prep to be efficient with your time, but not to obsess over the food and macronutrients you are eating.
- Realize it is okay to miss a workout if your body is tired, and to eat a cookie when your body is craving it. By depriving or pushing yourself too hard, that is when we set ourselves up for failure. There are so many wholesome recipe alternatives for cookies, brownies, cake and other sweets that you will probably find you love even more than the real thing. While Paleo is no longer a lifestyle option for me, I do incorporate some of the Paleo ways into my daily life, especially baking Paleo treats and pancakes. YUM.
- Keep your workouts shorter if it helps motivate you to stick to a schedule. You do NOT have to workout for two hours every day to see progress. Make your workouts efficient and effective. Work smarter, not harder.
- Don’t forget to live, and live freely. Stop constricting and limiting your life to macros or whatever obsessive diet you may have fallen victim to. Eat lots of veggies, lots of protein, lots of fresh fruit, and have some ice cream while you’re at it.
I hope this hits home for many of you as it does for me! And I hope I can inspire and motivate you to be your best self, not Instagram’s definition of it. Don’t underestimate the integral role mindfulness and happiness play in your fitness journey. Find your version of healthy that allows you to consume healthy choices without the stress of perfection and rigidity of diets. Whenever you feel yourself slipping back into those old confining ways, re-read these ten simple rules to put you back on track to healthy!