Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Downside of Dieting {for the obsessive eater} PART TWO

In part one you learned my story of food obsession, and why I gave up dieting in order to break free from the vicious cycle I was stuck in. Here I will share how the beast of dieting almost had me again...

I mentioned in a couple posts (initially here) that I'd been told I have high cholesterol, and how I've been working on my diet by eating closer to a paleo/low carb lifestyle. I think it's a great and healthy decision to improve ones diet and exercise habits, and I really enjoy the challenge of creating dietary-restricted recipes. There's just one problem...

My food obsession.

Food obsession takes what should be simply a healthy improvement and turns it into a fixation over perfection and on the things I can't have. In the past it has created over-consumption of the things I could have, as well as anxiety over my weight and commitment to my dieting lifestyle.

After I became a mother and shifted toward eating for nutrition, I realized I was finally free from my food obsession and vowed never to diet again. Over the course of the three years that I've been a mom, I admit my diet has grown lazy at times, and I've eaten more sugar this past year. So when my doctor told me I had high cholesterol, I knew I had to get my diet back in check.

Improving my diet is a fabulous idea. However, being ON a diet is not, at least for me. Once I told myself I was on a paleo/low-carb diet, no matter how lax I was about it, the food obsession slowly started creeping back in.

It started with me simply going back for seconds, thirds, and fourths of the sweets I wasn't supposed to have (I told myself I could taste anything, as long as it was a sample from work or just a rare treat.) Then I started hovering over restricted items while shopping for groceries, obsessing over how badly I wanted to buy them, circling back over to them like a hungry vulture, unable to take my eyes off of them. I thought about them while in the check out line, wishing I would have gotten them. I thought about them when I ultimately did buy them, and how guilty I felt, but assured myself I would share them.

Finally, it tool yet another aha moment to wake me from my stupor. I was at work, snacking on a cup of forbidden chocolate covered coconut almonds I'd found stashed in the breakroom. I was also gulping down coffee (not forbidden) to keep me awake. I was perpetually tired from the sugar I'd had that day, nauseous and shaky from the over consumption of caffeine, yet I could not stop shoving those chocolates into my mouth. I suddenly realized the absurdity of eating something I wasn't even enjoying and recognized the eerily familiar feelings of food obsession.

I took a few moments to reflect on my circumstances, admitted I was once again heading back toward my mentally unhealthy relationship with food, fought the horrifying idea of giving up my diet, and finally said I was done. No more dieting. No restrictions. Done.

I felt flooded with relief, and without even thinking about it, I tossed the rest of the chocolates in the garbage and dumped out the rest of my coffee in the sink. I nourished myself with plenty of water, and in the next couple hours, my nausea was gone and my exhaustion was abating.

Just like that, I was once again free.

It's almost crazy how quickly just telling myself I was no longer dieting flipped my switch back to mentally healthy. I am not saying this will work for you or everyone else. There are people out there who absolutely MUST restrict a substance or food item due to allergies or substance abuse. I'm by no means offering this as an alternative solution in those cases.

This is more an offer of freedom for those of you who have the same food obsession issues I have, where the more you restrict, the more obsessed you get, and the less healthy you get; to those who have felt stuck and defeated when dieting.

There is freedom in letting go of the perfectionism of dieting. Sure, learn about the healthiest foods to eat, and the best ways to improve your lifestyle. But if a dieting identity traps you in a vicious cycle, get out. Let it go. You can eat whatever you want. You are free to choose. In my experience at least, I have learned that when I'm free to choose, I make better choices.

What about my cholesterol? How will I lower it without dieting?

Oddly enough, I'm eating pretty much the exact same way as I did a couple weeks ago when I called myself a proud paleo; I'm just not obsessed with a diet as an identity. I love learning about ways to eat healthier and improve my diet and lifestyle, and really resonate with the things I am learning about the benefits of paleo/low carb foods. So I'm taking that wisdom to encourage me to make better choices, without getting fixated on a specific diet.

This means if I want to go out to eat, I'm not going to feel my gut sink with guilt every time I take a bite of forbidden food; instead I'll be armed with wisdom to make better choices, yet offering myself grace no matter what I choose.

This means if I don't have the time or energy to go grocery shopping for dinner, I'm ok with eating what I have at home, even if it isn't ideal. I'm not going to freak out every time I eat mac n cheese made with white flour (however, I am limiting dairy, as the repercussions are physically uncomfortable and involve extended time on the toilet!)

I'm free to choose what I eat. And if I make a less than ideal choice here and there, I'm not going to beat myself up over it. I'll keep learning and creating new, healthy meals I enjoy cooking, constantly looking for ways to improve the health of the foods I eat without getting obsessed over it. Yes, staying healthy and fit and maintaining healthy cholesterol and blood sugar levels (etc.) are extremely important, but going ON a diet is not the way I choose to get those results.

I will eat a healthy diet, but I will NOT diet. For me, there is a significant difference. A difference between mental health and mental turmoil; between freedom and dieting slavery.

I choose freedom!

Have you ever experienced food obsession or the downside of dieting?

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