The following is a guest post from Vicki Richards from Restoring Roots Wellness
Does the idea of eating whatever you want without tracking sound terrifying? Are you convinced you'll gain weight if you eat more than 1,300 calories? Maybe you can't imagine going more than a day without workout out.
Girl, I've been there. But I'm thrilled to say I'm in that space anymore.
I actually found that I felt the best, maintained a healthy weight, and did the most healing when I started doing less.
And no, I’m not talking about less cupcakes and less calories. I’m talking about less restriction, less stress, less exercise, and less obsession.
Let me explain.
I remember when I first decided I wanted to work on my health. I was a senior in college and my “freshman 15” was staring me in the face every day. Aside from the weight gain, I just didn’t feel good.
I had no idea where to start so I turned to the internet for a diet and workout plan to help me shed the weight. I started counting macros and calories in an app and working out 5-6 days per week with a mix of weight lifting and lots of cardio on treadmills and ellipticals.
It really didn’t take too long to begin to see a change in my body, considering I hadn’t done much exercising or paid attention to what I had been eating for the previous 3 years.
Before I knew it, I was down at least 15 pounds, to my smallest weight since I was a teenager. Everyone noticed and made comments on how good I looked, which I thrived off of and used as motivation to diet and exercise more.
I kept up with this routine for a while. Hitting the gym hard, now adding Crossfit to the mix, a solid 5 days a week. Eating only 1500 calories (at most). Now I was even avoiding all grains, dairy, legumes, and sugar like the plague after discovering the Paleo diet.
Then one day I hit a wall. I just got so tired. Tired of counting every single calorie that went into my mouth. Tired of having to log every single meal to see if I was “allowed” to have any more carbs or fat that day. Tired of every muscle in my body being perpetually sore and never feeling fully recovered from my workouts.
This happened around the same time I had been reading about the role stress plays in our health. In case you didn’t know, stress has a HUGE impact on our health and our ability to heal.
Stress comes in many forms, including stress from over exercising, worrying about food, and obsessing over weight. Our body perceives all of these things the same: as something requiring a stress response.
With all of this in mind, I decided I was going to stop logging my food and tracking macros. I also cut back on the number of times I went to the gym each week and started to incorporate more restorative forms of exercise like gentle yoga and walks in nature.
It was really difficult at first. I feared I was eating too much or eating the wrong things. I worried that I was going to gain a bunch of weight with my change in exercise routine. It took at least a month for me to learn to trust myself and let go of all the worry.
But when I finally got into a groove, I realized how great I felt. I was going to the kitchen looking for something to eat that sounded good without first looking at my phone to see what I was “allowed” to eat. I was eating when I was hungry, until I was full, paying no mind to how many calories I was eating.
Then I stopped weighing myself, stopped obsessing over what I looked like, and stopped being so self-critical.
I stopped working out to lose weight or obtain a certain body type and started to choose exercise based on how it made me feel. I lifted weights because it made me feel strong and capable. I did yoga because it put my mind at ease. I went for walks because it made me feel good.
You see, I found that when I started doing less, I made leaps and bounds in my health journey.
Through exercising less, obsessing less, restricting less, eating MORE, laughing MORE, resting MORE, I've gained strength, both physically and mentally.
I've become more intuitive and understand that I know what my body needs if I just listen and honor it.
I've gained confidence in my body and I've learned to accept that I'll probably never have the super lean, 6 pack body I thought I wanted all those years I spent restricting and over exercising. And guess what? I’m OK with it.
I've come to love my body just the way it is because this body has done so much for me.
I've gained clarity in what is truly important in my life. Today I would never turn down a night grabbing drinks with my girlfriends or and eating ice cream on the couch with my husband after a long week. These are the people and the moments that are most important to me.
Before I would have said no to drinks and ice cream because I didn't want the calories. Or, I would have eaten it and then hated myself for it the next morning.
Now I feel an immense sense of freedom. I feel confident and healthy, two words I wouldn't have used to describe myself a few years ago.
But it wasn’t always easy to leave that mindset behind. If you find yourself repeating these obsessive, restrictive behaviors too...
here are a few things that I found helpful throughout my body acceptance journey:
1. Give yourself grace
Completely changing your mindset, how you eat, how you exercise, etc. is not an easy thing to do. It's like breaking a bad habit that you've had for potentially many years. It's important to understand that you might slip up. Maybe you'll feel guilty for the piece of cake you had and feel like you need to work out to burn it off.
There's no need to punish yourself or beat yourself up. Instead just acknowledge that some of your old tendencies have crept back up and gently forgive yourself and move on. It takes time and practice to unlearn those behaviors!
2. Ask for support and accountability
Find a friend, significant other, or family member who you trust and can lean on for support. For me it was my husband. He was someone who had seen me go through these phases of restriction and obsession so he knew what to look out for.
I told him exactly what I planned to do. I was going to stop counting macros and calories, I was going to work out 1 or 2 less days each week, and I was going to stop weighing myself. Just saying this out loud to him was helpful because now someone else knew my intentions.
I asked him to hold me accountable and there were surely times where he caught me spewing negative self-hate and sure enough, he called me out. It's so helpful to have someone else there to call attention to these things and support you when it gets tough.
3. Learn to add rather than take away
I see so many people who have been on a strict diet in order to try and gain health. They use labels like Paleo, Vegan, Keto, etc. and that forms the boundaries of what foods they can and can't eat.
I did the same thing for a while. But part of the process for me to learn to let go and restrict less was to stop obsessing over what foods I needed to avoid and start looking at what foods I could add to my diet. For example, I learned that I do just fine with sheep and goat milk dairy, rice and oats. These were foods I avoided strictly for years.
Yes, it's definitely possible you will need to avoid some foods for a period of time to heal. However, I encourage you to reintroduce some of the foods you've been afraid to eat and see how you feel.
If we truly want to do less, this is a great area to work on. Go with the mindset of abundance rather than avoidance. You may be surprised by what you've been missing!
I know that letting go of control in these areas of your life can seem scary. But trust me when I say it will be ok!
You won't gain 10 pounds and your health won't go in the toilet. With time you'll see just how good it feels to have the freedom to make decisions without restriction. It feels damn good!
Passionate about wellness and nutrition? Turn your knowledge, passion, and uniqueness into a PROFITABLE online business!
Vicki is a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner (NTP) who believes in the power of real food and ditching the diet mentality. Through her own struggles with body image and various health issues, she has found her food freedom and how to love her body in all of its seasons. She now loves to help women regain their health and nourish their body and mind so they can live a vibrant life.
If you want to or feel there is a spot to include my business info my website is https://www.restoringrootswellness.com/ and I can be found on Instagram at @restoring_roots . I am taking Nutritional Therapy clients and accept long distance clients.