Updated: Jul 6, 2020
It's good to take a break from indulgence. It is good to retrain your body. It is good to "fast" every once and awhile from things that you know are mastering you: coffee, alcohol, sugar, processed foods, soda.
It is good to cut out things that you know are truly hurting your health. Eggs are good. They contain choline and lecithin and Vitamin A and good cholesterol. But for me, they make my scalp psoriasis go crazy. It sucks to live with a burning, itching, flaking scalp, so I don't eat them.
Are eggs bad for everyone?
Is coffee bad for everyone?
Is a rogue Girl Scout Cookie (package) going to kill you?
My kids ask me all of the time: "Mom, is this healthy?"
Dear Barbara. They are going to need therapy when they are older. Start saving now, parents.
I try to play it cool.
"Honey, everything is healthy if you eat a little bit."
"Even Frosted Flakes?"
(Bites tongue). "Even Frosted Flakes".
"Even ice cream?"
(Purses lips.) "Mmm hmmm."
Kid smiles, scoops out a big bowl of Cookies and Cream, and proceeds to enjoy the heck out of a mom-approved, delicious treat.
At what point do we lose this joy in eating? Of relishing a well-deserved treat?
When did you start your first diet?
I started my first diet when my grandfather told me he would give me $20 to lose 20 pounds. I wasn't close to my grandfather. We didn't really have a relationship. But I immediately realized he didn't like my belly and he didn't want a fat granddaughter. I didn't notice my belly until that point. But it has bothered me most days since, that's for sure.
I was 13.
I began exercising for 2-3 hours a day, drinking tons of Crystal Light, and eating as little as possible. I went to weight loss meetings with a neighbor and was praised for dropping pounds each week. Affirmation!
Oh barf. But good for you, lady. Seriously.
I lost the weight. I snagged that 20$. And I never really felt comfortable around my grandfather again.
After that, any time I felt like I was getting fat, I restricted my calories, fat, carbohydrates, or food in general.
I used my paltry earnings from my part time jobs to buy weight loss aids, diuretics, and diet foods.
I started sneaky and destructive food behaviors that feel shameful to talk about and are one step behind me to this day.
I know that the next diet will be the diet that finally fixes all of my problems. It is the one that will give me the elusive white rabbit 10 pound weight loss and make my life perfect. Anyone relate?
Mine is not an uncommon story. Most women can tell a tale similar to this one.
In my practice, I don't like to count calories with my ladies. I don't like giving them a structured and specific serving-size, portion control guide. I want them to eat when they are hungry. I want them to eat lots and lots of really good and really nourishing food.
It is a double edged sword. We should not be scared of food. We should practice "food freedom". Cookies and cream ice cream is not the devil. But we also know that crappy, processed food affects our hormones- leptin, ghrelin, insulin, cortisol. No one wants to feel out of control, and these super-processed foods are literally engineered to make sure that you will feel out of control while you are eating them.
Why does it have to be all or nothing? Either you are an orthorexic, clean-food Nazi, or you eat whatever the hell you want all of the time, nutrition be damned. What happened to balance? Like, for real, balance has become a dirty word. It's weird, right?
The harder we hold onto our food dogma, the less enjoyable we are to be around. The less happy we are. The less we like ourselves. And the more we set ourselves up to binge.
This is why I don't like keto. Or veganism. Yup, I said it, and I will stand by it. Those things will work ok for a time, but your body gets deprived. Like it or not, our brain and body run on glucose.
You need some sugar to have a healthy brain. Why the hell do you think you are exhausted and brain foggy on a super low carb diet? It's not just the low carb flu. It's the fact that your body is missing essential macronutrients.
If you are constipated, angry, exhausted, have a belly, and straw-like hair, it may be simpler for you than having hypothyroidism.
You may be slowly starving your body. You don't even notice it because you restrict a little bit. And a little bit more. And you cut out the fruit. And the rice. And the sweet potatoes. And the heavy cream. And the molasses. And the oatmeal.
Your belly is there because of cortisol, yes, but the cortisol is there because your body thinks it is starving.
I tell my clients this, and I stand by it: the female body needs about 2200 calories a day to work properly.
You want to poop? Eat more.
You want a period? Eat more.
You want a sex drive? Eat more.
You want energy? Eat more.
You want to lose your belly? Freaking eat more.
Here is the rub, though. You eat more, you move more. Move your body, feed your body. Walk. Play. Engage in a lively game of Marco Polo, or soccer, or tag.
We are sick, and depressed, and anxious, and confused, and angry. We starve our bodies and sit on our couches. We drag our tired asses to another 60 minute spin class and then sit at a desk the rest of the day, too tired to do anything else, like play with our kids or have sex with our husbands.
What if you just ate more good food?
This is called "fixing your metabolism".
Eat. The. Food.
When I run a Reset, or even a Slimdown, like we are doing right now, I am acutely aware of the deprivation mindset it brings. You can't have something and you want it. Like right now. When I run a 28 Day Reset, there are no portion control guidelines. We have a smoothie and also a full breakfast every morning. And a big lunch. And a fatty, protein-y dinner. And fruit. We are eating a lot. And we lose weight. Because our bodies are like, "Cool. I am being fed. No worries here, belly and bootie. Feel free to shrink to reasonable proportions. You are safe".
I am only comfortable running a "Slimdown" for 14 days. We cut portions down a bit more, and eat a little less food. Most cultures practice some form of fasting or resetting a few times a year. It's not weird to do. But it is weird to do all of the time as a dogma. Still, I won't give calorie counts or portion control mandates. Eat until you are full. Don't let your body think that you are starving it. And in 14 days, add in more of the same foods, and more of other foods, and move more. Fourteen days is really arbitrary in the grand scheme of things, but it is a short and good little chunk of time to take out inflammatory, scientifically-engineered-to-hook-you foods and start listening to your body again. Please, don't go from eating a little bit less (normal for a time) to eating even less (abnormal). That is the opposite of how it should work.
Listen to your body. Don't work against your body.
As my fellow FDN Brendan says, "I have literally never had a client that wasn't losing weight because they were eating too much real food, but I have had many clients that weren't losing weight because they weren't eating enough real food."
Don't ditch your healthy eating. Fill your body with good foods that nourish, heal, and taste freaking amazing. Eat fat. Eat sweet things like fruit and molasses. Drink some coffee. Some. Enjoy your wine. Some. You will die someday, and you don't want the grand summation of your life to be, "That Jennifer. Man, she was amazing at dieting".
I take time now to lay off of heavy foods. Spring is a good time to do this. I also take time to eat plenty of fun foods when I feel like I want them. My husband is perfect for me. God saw to that. Beau Thomas Woodward likes a girl who likes food. He cheers me on when I order a hamburger or a caramel sundae. We love eating out. If we go to an amazing restaurant in Chicago or Paris, you can be damn sure I am eating white potatoes and cheese and freshly baked chocolate croissants.
I just balance it out later. Balance. It is not a dirty word. If you listen to your body, your body will tell you how to balance it out.
I am a size 8. I am almost 6 feet tall. I have birthed 4 kids out of a belly that wasn't so flat to begin with. I am taller than most people I know, and I am insecure about it. I have been able to white knuckle down to a size 6, and I am a miserable human being the entire time- worried I will put the weight back on, feeling morally superior to everyone else who can't lose weight. Ugh. Gross.
Can we all just lighten up a little? If you are sick, there are some foods you probably need to avoid for a time. After that, play with adding foods back in. If you have an autoimmune disease, you probably have to stay away from gluten and dairy. That's ok. There are plenty of alternatives. If you have menstrual periods that take you out of life for 5 days every month, you should probably not have seed oils or other inflammatory foods. That's ok. Don't let it detract or distract you from enjoying the heck out of the 2200 calories a day you should probably be eating, especially if you are healing from a chronic disease or condition.
Eat more, move more. And enjoy more. It sounds scary, but it works. Restriction for the sake of restriction is nobody's friend. Enjoy your life.
Even if you are on the Slimdown, make sure you eat when you are hungry, and to satiety. Move your bootie, sleep well, and stress less. The formula is more beautifully simple than we all make it out to be, what with our SNPs and our meds and our supplements and our lab tests. Your body knows what to do.
What do you think? Talk to me.
To your nourished, joyful, robust health-