Food! Is there anything more complicated? Or simple? Or controversial? (Or fantastic?!)
Weight loss has been central to this whole fitness path for me the past six years, but I shy away from diving into this subject, and for good reason! The subject of food and what and how to eat is a sticky, sticky web that I don't particularly want to get stuck in with the rest of the world. We all have to eat, yet it's so personal. It's got cultural roots, and economic roots, and familial roots. It's emotional and philosophical and ethical. It can heal you and it can kill you. And talking about it can piss people off to the same degree that talking about religion and politics can. Oh, it's also religious and political.
So I'm just going to talk about me and a snippet of my experience, which is the only thing I have any expertise in anyway.
It's Monday morning and Monday is my food reset day for the week. For me my week looks like this: Monday through Saturday is thoughtful, "clean" eating and workouts, tracking what I do, with Sunday as a rest day from all of it, meaning no food tracking, nothing is off limits, and no workout. It took a lot of trial and error to land on this formula, but it works for me, given my history, given my wiring, and given my need to unravel my emotional attachment to eating.
When I started working with a personal trainer six years ago I had no idea how personal it was going to get. I went in with the sole purpose of losing weight, and I naively thought it would take about 6-8 weeks and I would be on my way. Thank god for ignorance. I had a system that needed to be dismantled and rebuilt, and weight loss would be a byproduct--an important byproduct for sure, but as it turns out it wasn't really the main attraction. For me, weight reflected my system. Systemsss, actually. My systems weren't healthy, and the way I ate food and what I chose to eat to keep those dysfunctional systems running was front and center.
Luckily I found someone who had expertise in nutrition and running and weight lifting and a little sport psychology, the perfect mixture of what I needed. Add in a willingness to walk with me along this path and BOOM! You have a restored Diane. Except it wasn't BOOM! It wasn't anything close to that. It has been a painstaking trek along terrain that I have been unwilling to traverse in the past, but it's precisely where my answers are. I ran a trail race like that recently. It took me 5 plus hours on relentless, up and down technical trails to complete the race, and I had to pay close attention to every step. When I took my eyes off the trail for a second or when I let my mind wander, I fell down. That is exactly the kind of road I've had to travel to unravel my relationship to food.
And relationship is exactly the right word for me. I build relationships, that's how I operate. And not just with people--I build them with places I live, I build them with places I love. I have relationships with books, and with experiences. I've built a relationship with writing and most definitely I've built a relationship with running, so much so that when I write about running I feel as if I should use a capital R. Come to think of it sometimes I think I do. But the longest standing non human relationship in my life is the one I have with eating.
I'm not going to go into all the complexities except to say that my very, very first memory is of me crying in a playpen and being given food as comfort. Cheetos, to be exact. I danced well with Cheetos and all of Cheetos' packaged, processed companions for 30 years, actually--using it lightly but never battling weight in my body or weight in my mind. I was normal, whatever that means. In my 20's I did a deep dive into food and gardening and coops and fitness. I fed myself well and I ate as much as I wanted. I grew food and learned how to cook and bake. And I moved my body constantly and came to value living my life, my whole life, in a way that made the least impact on the earth. My body reflected those choices, but my weight was never the aim. And I wasn't opposed to a Poptart or a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup now and then, either. Food was sacred and it just was, all at the same time for me. It's the most integrated food has ever been in my life. But lurking underneath was the potential for it to go south. It needed a trigger, and it got one in my 30's. And by the time I really woke up to what I was doing I was 49 years old and I wasn't going to turn that ship around without some help.
And help came in the form of my coach, who thankfully knew what he was talking about and cared about me not only being successful, but arriving there whole. So, yes, we started by counting calories. I had no freaking idea how much food I was eating. Turns out, it was a lot when I started to write it down. I had absolutely no idea. And I wasn't moving my body. I was active, but never raising my heart rate, never making myself uncomfortable. My joints were suffering, my arteries were suffering, my heart was working too hard and my organs were on overload. I made a decision from day one about my coach, and it was that I would always tell him the truth. And I've kept that promise, which helped build a trust between us. In turn, he has always told me the truth, which is one of the top five things I am most grateful for in my life, hands down. But to say it wasn't easy to hear what he had to say in the beginning is a monumental understatement. I had been attempting to hide for years, so to put all my food on the table and be accountable took an immense amount of courage, and I'm not sure where that came from . I look at pictures of myself back then, pictures that use to make me cringe, and now I have so much admiration for her. Dear god, she was the brave one. What a powerhouse of a woman. I use to be so embarassed of her and now I am so proud of her.
And so, I carry on with food. My relationship with eating has changed dramatically from July of 2016 until now. I run and I eat well and I still have to stay wide awake because I want to feed my emotions. Not all of the time, but still enough of the time. Sometimes I want Poptarts, or whatever, because things in my life feel like too much. 8 times out of 10 I don't do it; I don't eat it. It's not going to fix it. That's big progress for me. But sometimes I want a Poptart because I love Poptarts, and they hold some fond memories. So I buy a box and have them on Sunday with my coffee. It's about healthy boundaries and honesty, cornerstones for any good relationship. I still track what I eat, just like I track my workout for the day. I love that accountability. I can't kid myself when I do that, and I don't want to kid myself anymore. Of course I'm aging and dealing with some kooky hormonal stuff, too. My coach and I marvel at how my body likes to hold on to weight, and all of these things are just parts of the equation of me.
I think what it all boils down to is valuing myself, being honest with myself, and enjoying my life. And food and running have been awesome measures and of how I'm doing on all of those fronts. It's always changing and evolving, and this is certainly not the full story. It's still often frustrating and it still requires a lot of diligence, but it's all 100% worth it.
And I daresay, I wouldn't change a thing.