Friday, March 29, 2013

What is Normal Eating?

Here I am again. I am in the place that I always seem to end up. I got off track for one reason or another, this time it is the development of possibly exercise-induced asthma, or exercise-induced reflux (not sure), but more on that later. When I get off-track with exercising, I almost always get off-track nutritionally. It is that all-or-nothing issue that I struggle with, manifesting itself again. So my clothes feel tight and I don't love the way I look when I look in the mirror. I'm not proud of some of the (poor) decisions that I made to get here and I feel a tinge of guilt for losing control, once again. Sigh.

Here's the thing. I know EXACTLY how to fix this.  I've done it before. I've done it more times than I wish to count. Start tomorrow. Run most every day. Lift weights four days week. Do Yoga. Restrict my diet to only whole natural foods. Start today and within 2-3 months I will be back to my old self. In six months I will be in-the-zone, and within a year I'll be thinner and in better shape than ever before...until the next thing throws me off track. It is a terrible cycle and frankly, I am tired of it.

Writing these types of blog posts suck. I'd much rather be telling you about my kick-ass new training plan, my latest PR, or some other achievement. But this is reality. If I only wrote about the good stuff, there would be times that I wouldn't have anything to write about at all. This is real life. Besides, perfect is boring.

I want to say that I always do it the right way. I diet and exercise! That is the right way, right? I am not relying on some weight loss pill or magic formula. I am not sitting on the couch drinking Diet Coke and consuming 900 calories a day. I'm not starving myself. I work out and eat proper nutrition! The problem? I almost always end up over-exercising and under-eating (for my activity level), despite the knowledge that I have these tendencies and full-well know the consequences. I can logically write a well-thought-out and researched blog post on how to live moderately, I just can't seem to figure out how to execute it.

So what if I am tired of this? I am tired of the scale. I am tired of worrying about it. I'm tired of putting so much stress on myself.  I am tired of it consuming my life. I don't want to be overweight. I am still within a healthy weight for my height, but I'd like to lose 10-15 pounds, but I don't want it to consume my every waking thought either. 

I read something really interesting on the Healthy Helper blog this week. The post is an examination of intuitive eating, an eating style that has been trending heavily on fitness blogs lately, and I even thought about looking into it myself. But as Kaila pointed out, could this possibly be just another "diet" disguised as a healthy eating program, a way to rationalize restrictive eating? I don't know for sure, I haven't looked into it enough to make any judgements about it one way or the other, but it is an interesting point of view, one I haven't heard before. It reminds me to think critically about the things I read online.

What the post did for me was reinforce how I feel about labeling my food choices and food restrictions, whether it is Paleo, Gluten Free, Low Carb, High Protein, Whole30, Vegan, whatever. It is not for me anymore. I am not saying that these things are not effective, and sometimes they are medically necessary for many people, I get that. I've personally just gotten to a point where I am mentally tired of putting restrictions on myself when it is not a medical issue, just a vanity one. If it works for you, great. It is just not for me, It just can't be anymore. 

Living a healthy lifestyle also includes a healthy mind, and living a lifestyle that includes over-exercising and disordered eating is not (in any way) healthy.

The most interesting thing I read on the Healthy Helper post was this:

It quoted an article in the New York Times on normal eating. The article cites a broad definition of normal eating by registered dietitian Ellyn Satter. Here are some of the highlights:
  • Normal eating is going to the table hungry and eating until you are satisfied.
  • Normal eating is being able to give some thought to your food selection so you get nutritious food, but not being so wary and restrictive that you miss out on enjoyable food.
  • It is leaving some cookies on the plate because you know you can have some again tomorrow, or it is eating more now because they taste so wonderful.
  • Normal eating is trusting your body to make up for your mistakes in eating.
  • Normal eating takes up some of your time and attention, but keeps its place as only one important area of your life
Sounds simple, right? Yes, but what is simple is not always easy. But thinking in these terms, I think I can be a normal eater. And that is what I will set out to do.

I need to forget about the 15 pounds. I need to throw my scale away. I am going to exercise because I love to exercise, eat because I love to eat, and just live my life. I am in no way suggesting that I plan on living on wine and pizza (although that sounds quite wonderful), I just don't plan on restricting wine or pizza while I try to make the best food choices possible the rest of the time. Sounds normal, right?

Maybe I will just buy bigger pants, love myself exactly the way I am today, exercise because I love it, and I love the way it makes me feel. I'll work at being a normal eater. Maybe those extra 15 will fall off as a nice side-effect, maybe not. I've decided not to let it define me or my self-esteem either way.

Keep Running,


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photo credit: gifrancis via photopin cc


  1. Thank you for the honesty. This sounds like I wrote it, but I have at least a hundred pounds on you. I appreciate knowing that someone else feels the exact same way I do. It's a bit bittersweet, because people like to think that once you lose weight everything becomes perfect and you never have to struggle with it again. Ah well, I can never quit, as long as I breathe, but I hope that some day I will get to 15 lbs within my goal, as opposed to the 150 that I would like to lose now. Everyone has their own struggles.

  2. Totally feeling you here. I recently competed in my first Bikini Competition, and then a 2nd one a few weeks later. I was planning to keep up with the intensive training and strict diet and go back for a 3rd, but then I have found myself flip-flopping about whether I want to compete again right now or switch gears and maybe train for another mud run or another 1/2 marathon. It gets pretty mentally exhausting to maintain the strict diet and tons of training each week and following super restricted plans it seems like the slow 1 lb. a week weight loss of contest prep turns into a quite speedy 1 lb. every couple of days weight gain with just a little indulgence here and there. Still having internal turmoil about what I want to do, taking a break/reset for a bit sounds nice, but I was REALLY looking forward to rocking the awesome bikini body I worked SOOO hard for at least this one summer (hubby and I are talking about having another baby next year.)Anyways, enough of my tangent....
    Thanks for the post on "normal" eating. It really puts into perspective how the majority of people fall on one end of the spectrum or the other and so few fall into this "normal" category. It would be easier to think less about what and how we should be eating and to just eat "normally" if there were more "normal" (unprocessed, non-GMO, whole) food choices readily at our fingertips everywhere we went. =)

  3. This is a great post. The longer I am on this journey the more I realize it's about trying to find some sense of balance. Keep striving and you will get there.

  4. "normal eating" is HARD! i often eat too much because i'm hungry... or i'm just in a habit of cleaning my plate

  5. I could have written this. I am so familiar with the "cycle". I'm in the up-weight phase of said cycle as we speak, and trying to convince myself to stop being neurotic about it and just get back into the swing of things...

    I'm not sure that I will ever master either normal eating or not being so damn hard on myself for falling off the wagon. Frankly, probably not. But part of the journey for me is just tying up my running shoes, putting Fergus on his leash, and getting out there. That's when I remember that lbs don't matter - enjoying the fresh air and time with my best buddy and all the heart healthy benefits that go along with it are more gratifying than those few lbs. Sure, the feeling only lasts as long as the endorphins do. But it's something to remind me, when I do step on the scale, that I am a happy and healthy person... most of the time!

  6. I think your plan is a great plan. Do those "healthy" things because you love to do them and they make you feel good. Exercise and nutrition are not just a means to an end - they are an enjoyable lifestyle in and of themselves.

    It seems that, like most people, you struggle with balance. What are some things you do to keep balance between all the different pursuits and priorities that you have? What are some things you can do to remain balanced in thought and in action?

  7. I started doing intuitive eating a month ago and it's working great so far. I've posted 3 or 4 posts about it so far, you're welcome to come by and see what I have to say about it!

  8. This is so very true and a great reminder to everyone. I think we pressure ourselves because of how we THINK society looks at us. I truly believe that society normally doesn't care - and we should have a little bit more of that attitude. Staying healthy is the key, not the numbers on the scale. (But that is so easy to say and hard to do!)

  9. That sounds like the most common sense I've heard in a while! If you have to work at something that is never routine, and you always feel like you're depriving yourself of doing something, of of doing a program 'wrong', it's not going to work long term. But we've gotten so far away from being intuitive with our bodies, from sleep to eating, that we have to learn what's normal all over again. I think it's an issue for so many of us, so thank you for writing this :)

  10. Great post - honest and insightful. Thank-you for writing it. You've blogged about the cycle of how many of us have been living - we are all seeking that balance. Carol

  11. Oh, yes! It seems that every type of eating has a "label". I do agree with making better choices when you can and having a treat every now and again. Unless your goal is to be on the stage in a fitness contest there is no reason to restrict yourself severely. And all these different "diets" only perpetuate the need for us to constantly think about something that should be totally natural.

  12. I blame scales and jeans. I really mean the jeans we wear because women can fluctuate in weight quite a bit, but jeans are one of those things that are super unforgiving of this. I am at the point now where I can't figure out if my body is in a permanent shape change or if I will be able to fit into certain jeans again...I too, don't want to have to make myself crazy with diet and exercise to fit into them again.

    This is definitely something a lot of people can relate too! Thank you for sharing!!

  13. The Intuitive Eating book is good - I read it recently. Forewarning though, the author is quick to suggest that you may have to accept a higher weight in the pursuit of finding your natural weight.

    I think that you're being hard on yourself. I do that too! You fell off the health wagon and gained few pounds. None of us are perfect (I should be giving myself that advice)!

    Good luck. Love your blog.

  14. Thanks for sharing my post and for linking back to me! Great insight!

  15. thank you for this, it got me thinking and I wrote about it in my blog today. In 2010 I lost a large amount of weight and for 2 years I was happy, ate what I wanted and then in Sept I thought I should lose a few more lbs. Back on that merry-go-round and now I want off. A week of death and illness in family members and friends reminded me life is too short to worry about a number on a scale. I need to live and enjoy life, whatever my weight.

  16. I love this post! I know how you feel, Lea, you're NOT alone. This is the struggle of 90% of us normal women and it's an individual journey for all of us. Whatever you do, I like the sound of you being kind to yourself, resolving to do your best but not beat the crap out of Leah over it. I hope you take it slow and find balance. The scale is that thing that throws us off, puts us in a spin for an entire day or month and propels us into this panic mode of dieting. Whatever you do, share it here and you'll get support because it's not easy but it sure feels better to get some internet hugs, doesn't it?


  17. I'm totally working on this as well right now... just eating normally with normal workouts simple because it's what I enjoy... It's hard though.

  18. Unfortunately "normal eating" these days appears to be overly-processed Monsanto-food. That is one of the reasons we struggle with our weight. There probably is something to the whole paleo "normal" in terms of how we are supposed to it. But when one has gotten use to a more tasty western style diet, the way we are supposed to eat no longer feels normal.


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