Eating to Perform: Healing my Body After Years of Diet Abuse
A few years ago I was introduced to the joys of lifting weights. Up to that point, I always thought the gym was all about treadmills, stair climbers and those bass-pumping group fitness classes. Then I was introduced to the ‘Big Boy’ weights (not just for boys by the way) and the joys of a deadlift, the clean and press and my dreaded weighted squats. I simply am not—or have never been—a tiny framed person; however, I had finally found something that made me feel good. The group fitness classes just weren’t for me, I loved the music but I felt uncoordinated, awkward and out of sync with everyone else. Lifting weights made me feel strong and powerful and in control of my body in all the right ways. For a brief time it was the closest I had ever come to loving my body.
Yes weight lifting brought me close to body happiness, but I’m still a big girl and fat loss has always occupied more space in my mind than I think most people realize. I simply cannot remember a time in my life when I wasn’t conscious of how my body appeared to others. I have spent years standing sideways, staring intently into the mirror, assessing every curve and dimple of flesh. My constant companion through those years of critical scrutiny was my closest and most judgmental friend, dieting. This year I reached a milestone birthday that was like a switch in my head, and maybe my heart as well. I had really thought somewhere deep inside that I would have ‘gotten it all together’ by now; would have finally found the one system or method that would work for me and allow me to make mental peace with my physical body. But, how can I live in peace with my body when all I have ever done is wage war against it?
My own journey has been one of soaring peaks and deep valleys. Climbing mountains of hopeful optimism when I would dig in and give myself wholeheartedly to whatever new program or system I had discovered. Eventually, a few work lunches, dinners with girlfriends or a holiday later, I would find myself careening swiftly off the edge of the mountain peak into a deep valley of shame. Off the trail and failing at this new ‘system’. I tried the South Beach diet, I tried Atkins, I counted those calories and restricted those carbs. I bought a home treadmill and invested in the Nike gear with the latest technology: the watches, the websites and the trackers. I learned Zumba, I tried Keto, I spent way too much on nutritional systems guaranteed to reform your body inside out. I eventually fell on my face. Each time I did these things believing I could change; believing I would see results and achieve happiness and healthiness. Each time I tried only to reach a point of failure, then giving up and spending a little (or a lot) of time feeling sorry for myself binging on the ‘bad’ foods and rationalizing that I will never be skinny and I should just give up and be a happy fat person. I always found some new dream to latch on to reset and start again.
Where did that leave me? After years of punishing my body with various diets, restricting calories and heaping mental and emotional abuse on myself for all my failures, I reached a point where I truly felt that my body was in revolt. Nothing seemed to be cooperating with me anymore. Riding that diet roller coaster for so many years, my brain just didn’t know anymore if I wanted carbs or if I didn’t? If high fat or low fat was right? I couldn’t tell a craving for something my body really needed from the useless firing of an emotional eating trigger. I was sad and tired and confused. My digestive system was doing weird things, my heart raced, my sleep suffered—and worse, my mental acuity took a sharp decline. I felt foggy, heavy and sluggish all the time. I almost entirely stopped going to the gym. I ate whatever I wanted and I really began to feel lost in sea of conflicting information and advice. I packed on the pounds.
I shared this frustration and feeling of being lost with a friend and fitness mentor who suggested I try connecting with the coaching family at Eat To perform. By her description it was not a diet, but a way to learn to feed your body to be able to do all those things I was struggling with. Another fad? I desperately want to get back on that squat rack and to be deadlifting my way to happiness. So what to do? Naturally, I stalked their Facebook groups for a month. Eat to Perform has a general group for information, a private group for members and meal planning group just to share healthy food preparation ideas and inspiration. I joined, staying quiet. Watching. Eventually I took a leap of faith and signed up for a trial. The two-week trial was free, with nothing to lose. What has followed has so far initiated some deep changes in my thinking and my behaviour.
After I signed up for my trial I was shocked. A real person reached out to me to help me understand the Eat to Perform way. A real person called me and talked to me about my history and what had led me to my current state and discussed what my goals are now. I was assigned a personal coach and downloaded an app for my phone where I can reach out anytime. For the first two weeks, my coach Becky checked in with my every two days. Sharing helpful links every time that explained the Eat to Perform process and how this was going to help me heal my body. Guiding me to track my food and exercise and explaining how we were going to stop dieting, and start feeding my body properly so it could perform all the tasks I wanted it to.
A nice side effect is fat loss! The real focus however, remains centred on feeding me—not being hungry, not denying my body what it needs. Not feeling foggy, deprived, or alone and struggling. The surprising discussions in those first two weeks were about sleep and what I could do to improve it. Becky shared the essential links between lack of sleep and cortisol; between cortisol and weight retention. I was encouraged to use the journal aspect of the app and share with her what I was doing and how I was feeling each day. Becky started me off with an eating plan of macros to meet each day ranging from low days to high days. Every two days she gave me a new challenge that helped bring to light some of the things I was doing to hurt my body, and suggested ways to overcome them. She shared short videos explaining how we could walk through this process together. In the Facebook groups people match up with ‘macro buddies’ and share meal information on My Fitness Pal in order to get ideas how to eat enough protein, fat and carbs. We aren’t allowed to make posts with self-deprecating remarks in the groups; the admins do not allow it. You have to view your whole self as something to love and being worth investing in at YOUR LEVEL. No comparing, only cheering each other on and recognizing where we are now.
Old habits die hard. And it’s me that has to do the work. I know now there truly is no miracle pill or magic solution. But there is a solution, I have to commit to a better, healthier me. For the first time I’m learning to not be as concerned with the scale. We track my weight, but to help find the sweet spot of keeping my metabolism on its toes. It’s about loving food and enjoying energy! Im climbing that mountain again, but I have a much better map to the land of me, and a really great trail guide in Becky, helping me feel my best and perform my best. If you are willing, I’d like to take you on that journey with me. As I embrace these changes and find my way back to deadlift bliss, I invite you to connect with me here for follow-ups on my journey with Eating to Perform. What an amazing journey lies ahead.