There are few things more troublesome in the diet, weight loss, and healthy eating world than the concept of moderation. What does moderation mean? What does it look like? We all have different bodies with different needs and we’re supposed to listen to our bodies when it comes to appetite. But what if our body is asking for a whole chocolate cake?
I’ll say now, I’m no expert on this. I don’t measure portion sizes according to what the labels say, or at all, rather. I usually take another handful or another bite, and I ‘m not really one to say no to free food (Dude, it’s FREE.) But I have struggled with healthy eating habits and learning to listen to my body for a long time and I’ve picked up some valuable lessons along the way.
There have been a number of experiences in my life that were transformative to my understanding of my body and myself. I won’t go into all of them because that would take a series of posts rather than just one but instead I’ll just stick to the ones that have helped me in recent years. I’ve lost a decent amount of weight since high school and I think a lot of it has to do with switching from thinking in terms of calories and portion sizes to nutrition and nourishment. That’s not to say that calories and portion sizes aren’t important, because hey, weight loss is science at the end of the day, but if you’re anything like I was, counting calories kept me in a perpetual state of anxiety and preoccupation, and even worse, it distorted what food was to me. I’d choose a chemical-laden low-cal fruit soda over an avocado because I was counting units instead of considering health. I separated myself from my body because I didn’t trust my body. I thought, “eating what I want to eat all the time has given me this body I’m unhappy with so I need to completely disregard what it’s telling me.”
Now, when I come home drunk and want to devour a family size box of mac n’ cheese… no, that’s probably not in my best health interests. But most of the time if I feel hungry it’s because my body needs water or nutrients. Denying myself healthy food because I’m sticking to some obscure number in my head is completely backwards. Get some exercise. Eat good food. Trust your body. It takes time to adjust to this, but it is that simple.
So, without further ado, here are a few experiences I’ve had that have helped me reconnect with my body and eat more mindfully:
1. Training for a marathon.
I can’t tell you how many years I spent afraid of carbohydrates. Not only is that kind of thinking so scarring, but skimping on carbohydrates can be seriously harmful to your body. In my mind, training gave me “permission” to eat carbs for the first time in my life. It sounds crazy to me now but getting over that mental barrier was so crucial. I was able to examine up close exactly how your eating habits affects your performance. You don’t have to just take it from me, let any runner tell you. “No carb” is not an option in training. You simply will not be able to perform. If you try, you can do some serious damage. I was definitely nervous in the beginning about how much I was eating and trying to trust my body, but I actually lost weight in the process, even with all those carbs.
2. Backpacking Europe
When my friend Fran and I backpacked in Europe last summer we also viewed it as an opportunity to restart in a sense, because we had both fallen into unhealthy life styles. Being in Europe ended up being the perfect place to adopt more mindful eating habits for a number of reasons. First off, because we were staying in hotels or hostels and had tight budgets, we bought most of our food from markets instead of restaurants and we could only buy what we would be eating at that meal because we often didn’t have anywhere to store it. Before going to Europe I ate take out for most of my meals because I was too busy or too lazy to cook meals at home. It was super costly and I usually made less than healthy choices. Another thing we picked up in Europe was tapas-style eating. Ordering small portions to share made me not just more aware of how I was spending my money, but when my body was telling me I was full. For me, it’s way easier to eat in moderation or accordance with my appetite when there isn’t a massive entry in front of me to keep picking at.
Before I completely lose you, hear me out–I’m not trying to sell veganism to anyone or put down anyone’s eating choices. I’m not even fully vegan myself, but it is something I’m striving for. Simply cutting back on animal products and increasing my fruit/veggie intake has not only helped my skin, hair, and energy levels, but I’ve lost about 10 pounds from it. There’s a number of reasons why I believe in veganism, which I won’t go into here, but I’ll just leave you with this: you don’t need meat to make a meal and more fruits and vegetables will never hurt you. (If you choke on a green bean after this I can’t be held responsible.) More than anything, don’t be scared to try new things. You don’t have to be a vegetarian to try a new veggie burger. Learn to listen to your body and you might just be surprised by what it’s telling you.
Do you guys have any experiences or tips you’ve found were important to your fitness journey? Let me know in the comments! xx