Howdy friends, here we are on the cusp of all the November-December eating holidays, starting with the biggest one of the year for Americans- Thanksgiving. And it seems to be the annual kick-off of the food-filled festivities that last until New Year’s Day. These 6 weeks are often met with a mix of eager anticipation of all the yummy treats (& justification of putting all diets on temporary hold), and anxiety at what 42 days of unrestrained eating will do to us. So we either try to “be good” and avoid the holiday treats, or (unavoidably) eat them anyway, but not really enjoy it because of the ensuing guilt. There has to be a better way, people! And I think there is…
I just spent a year eating everything I wanted to.
And what happened!? Actually not too much, except for me letting go of my previously very tightly held food rules, including tossing out my list of “forbidden foods.” These were foods like hamburgers, ice cream, donuts, marshmallows, or fried anything… foods I claimed to “not like” but in fact I was just afraid of eating, or actually afraid of not being able to stop eating. But I found that once I lifted the taboo, I actually never binged. It’s funny how when the sanction is lifted and any food is allowed at any time in any amount, the allure is gone. We are all just little kids in that way, I guess.
Yes, I did gain weight this past year, but not as much as I would have thought, and much of it was needed, considering how small I’d been after my shows. I gained up to a point and then just levelled out… and now it seems I can truly “eat whatever I want and not gain weight.” Granted, I’m heavier than my self-determined “ideal body weight.” But no one loves me less, including myself, so I’m thinking I must have tossed out guilt and unrealistic ideals along with that list of forbidden foods.
It’s not that I set out to do an “eat everything and see what happens” experiment, it’s just that 2019 has been a year of some pretty incredible travel opportunities for me. I was honestly so burned out on dieting (even on weighing and tracking my food) from my 2018 bodybuilding season, that I found that I just didn’t have it in me to enforce my usual restrictions. So it was a perfect set-up for this much-needed-&-I-didn’t-even-know-it trial in food freedom.
And so I truly, truly enjoyed myself in New York City in February, where we went to not only look at colleges for Theda (& West Point for Tommy), but also to take in some Broadway shows:
In March I flew to Mumbai with Sara & her middle school Honours Choir team. What an incredible experience! One of the other travelling moms, a friend of mine, is Indian, and she graciously coached me on every yummy thing I should be eating! Luckily I’ve always been a very coachable person.
Thanks to Theda & Tommy, I travelled to Taipei in April to cheer them on at the “IASAS” (International Association of Southeast Asian Schools) Track & Field Championships, for which they both qualified. Track is a sport where you can come and go depending on the events you want to see, and I took advantage of my downtime by sampling the local cuisine. We were lucky enough to go to the hawker stalls with a friend who speaks fluent Chinese… imagine how much the hawker ladies adored this blond, blue-eyed Italian American, ordering our lunch in perfect dialect! I’ve never had better Chinese food. Thanks, Ilaria!
May brought the opportunity for me to accompany Mark on a work trip to Zurich, Switzerland. Although he had some business meetings to attend, we are mostly just there for fun and celebration. And Swiss hospitality is second to none!
At the end of all this travel, I told myself I would “cut back” over our summer home leave… track my macros, try to lose the little bit of weight I’d gained. But I found I just didn’t want to. The body inherently rebels against restriction, and you just tend to crave what you’re trying to restrict. So I kept a free rein all summer, and enjoyed the yummy food we made… Tommy’s fried chicken, Theda’s pasta, and Sara’s homemade rolls & pie.
I certainly still ate a lot of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, etc, and I took advantage of all the awesome exercise opportunities in Steamboat- hiking, jogging, and biking through the gorgeous mountain trails.
I have to admit that my eating freedom unfolded little by little, not all at once. But I found that my comfort level continued to grow every time I allowed myself to eat previously forbidden foods with truly no guilt, just enjoyment. And I loved it.
The bottom line is, we really can trust our bodies. We do all have a stopping point. We might just be forgetting to listen, so overridden as we are with restriction that we can no longer hear our own signals. It took me awhile to hear mine, because I’d restricted my eating for so long.
But I found, ironically from lifting the restrictions and eating everything… that I really can trust my body to say, that’s enough. It sure was good.
And you can too. I promise. Even if it takes awhile. It took me a year to self-regulate. Have patience.
Happy American Thanksgiving, friends! Here’s to nourishing ourselves well.