Some people view food primarily as fuel but, to me, that’s just a depressing way to look at it. Food is so much more than fuel – it’s a way to experience pleasure, show love for someone, celebrate life’s milestones, socialize. So while I love lean protein and vegetables as much as the next healthy living blogger, I’m also a big fan of fine dining, chocolate, wine, beer, cheese and carbs of the refined variety. I also love to cook, discover new recipes and experience food I’ve never tried before.
I don’t believe in restriction or in classifying foods as bad or good. There are so many delicious foods out there, why would I limit my ability to enjoy any one of them? My only “rule” is to stay within my calorie budget most days, which is pretty easy to do since I’m quite active.
My attitude towards food wasn’t always so laid back. When I started to lose weight, I became a little too restrictive – I never eliminated entire food groups but I had very particular rules about when I could eat certain foods (junk food was for cheat days only), how much I could eat (never over 1500 calories on a non-cheat day), how often to eat (every 3 hours), how much protein I had to have at each meal (30 grams). It started to become an all-consuming obsession and made me unnecessarily anxious about food – basically, it sucked all of the joy out of eating.
I can’t say I made a conscious effort to let go of these behaviors; it just kind of happened. First of all, I reached a point where I was happy with my body and no longer trying to lose weight, which meant I could relax a little. I increased my caloric intake but I was still obsessed with trying to eat what I call a “good on paper” diet.
Then, last year, I moved in with my boyfriend and for an entire week, all of my meal plans and food logging went out the window. Friends and family brought us over food while we were getting settled, so meals were often just a mix of things people had cooked for us, some of it healthy, some of it not. I had no idea how many calories I was eating; I simply ate until I was full. Hours would pass and then before I knew it, it was time to eat again. This was such a refreshing break from the days when I used to keep checking the clock to see when my next snack or meal was.
Once we were settled, I made a decision to stop logging my food. Gradually, I moved away from eating in such a regimented way. The results have been amazing – I no longer think about food all day and I have a lot more flexibility in terms of what I’m able to eat at meal times. I no longer fear hunger as I did before when I was eating paltry 300-calorie meals and was suddenly faced with a situation where I wouldn’t be able to eat for a few hours. Now, I can go for hours without eating and not care that much. It’s a much more relaxed way to live life.
Furthermore, I no longer agonize about trying to eat perfectly. Most days, my diet is pretty decent, other days not so much. I’m no longer keeping score though. The only thing I loosely keep track of is calories, which is why I hesitate to call my current style of eating intuitive eating. I know how much I should eat to maintain my weight at my current activity level and I have a rough idea of how much food that amounts to, so I just try to stick to that most days. Other than that, I eat whatever I want and I’m the exact same weight as when I was spending hours a day agonizing over it.
The point of all of this is to say that if you’ve been brainwashed into thinking you have to eat a certain way to stay lean and it’s turned you into a crazy, food-obsessed, empty shell of a person, don’t be scared to ditch that style of eating. Experiment with what works for you. The results might surprise you.