salad and cupcakes

 

Food epiphanies.

Ever had one?

I had one in third grade when I decided that I was so in love with broccoli that I wanted to marry it, but that’s neither here nor there (Update: I’ve since ditched broccoli for brussel sprouts for the most part, and am much more satisfied!)

But seriously, I have had some major food epiphanies lately, and I want to share them with you.  But first, a little background information:

You see, I’ve always had an obsession with food, for as long as I can remember.

 

 

I guess you could say that I can pack away some food.

I guess you could say that I can pack away some food.

 

I always thought about food, dreamed about food, and got excited about what I was going to eat next.  And I had a huge appetite!  In fact, when I was a small child, my Mom found me hiding behind the couch halfway through my 4th stick of butter!  I also used to get in trouble when she would realize that all of our teaspoons were missing and she would find them in the box of Bisquick powder that I had been eating.

These habits followed me into my late teens, and for a while I was able to stave off weight gain with activity (5 years of competitive gymnastics, and 2 years of cheerleading), but it eventually caught up with me.  When I finally decided to “get in shape” almost 11 years ago, my diet consisted mostly of fast food, soda, candy, and other junk food.  I distinctly remember wondering how I’d ever go a FULL DAY without fast food.

“What would I eat?” I wondered.

Part of a "Cheat Day"

Part of a “Cheat Day”

Over the next decade I would experiment with a lot of nutrition protocols.  From low-fat to low-carb, 6 small meals a day to intermittent fasting, 1,400 calories a day to 3,400 calories a day, gut-healing elimination diets, full-day cheat days, half-day cheat days, 5 weeks on plan/1 week off plan… I’ve done it all.  And yes, most of it “worked” for whatever my goal was at the time.  But as different as these diets were, one thing remained the same.

They were all a DIET.

As much as I wanted to think that they were a lifestyle, they were all a DIET.  Yes, I’d made lifestyle changes, but I was always looking for the “next thing” that felt sustainable while helping me reach my goals, because none of these things felt that way.

For the most part, I’ve been able to maintain a pretty lean physique, even while battling Hashimoto’s (autoimmune hypothyroidism), PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), and adrenal issues.  And then life smacked me in the face.

As many of you know, I’ve dealt with a few very stressful events in the last few years, namely the unexpected loss of my Dad, the end of a 6 year relationship, and a battle with chronic back pain.  In October of 2012, I found myself heavier and “softer” than I had been in years, weighing about 180-183 lbs.  In addition to those major life events, I was also trying to grow a new gym, work on Girls Gone Strong, start my blog, and move residences.  Stress, much?

The Highs. (L) My before photos in 2004 at 185 lbs. (R) Photos from several months ago at 183.5.  What a difference some muscle mass makes, huh?

The Highs. (L) My before photos in 2004 at 185 lbs. (R) Photos from early 2013 at 183.5.

Over the next 8-10 months, my weight fluctuated a bit, but I stayed in the 173-180 range (I’m almost 5’11″ in case you’re curious). Then, a little under a year ago, I started having some really cool epiphanies about food and those epiphanies (in combination with an increase in exercises, and — I’m not gonna lie — quite a bit of stress!) have allowed me to get back to a more “comfortable” walk-around weight for me, which is ~162-167, and maintain that weight for 8-9 months now  effortlessly (my “comfortable walk-around weight before these epiphanies was closer to 170-173).

 

My most comfortable walk-around weight.

My most comfortable walk-around weight.

 

I shared this in a recent interview I did recently with my friend Nia Shanks of Lift Like a Girl, but I didn’t get into too much detail at the time, and just last night, one of my Coaching Group Clients asked me what they were, so I thought I’d share them with you.

Please note that this is not an exhaustive list, but rather what I thought of that I could jot down in just a few minutes. Hopefully this list keeps growing:

1. Food is (thankfully!) abundant in my life, and I can have almost any food at any time that I want if I really want it.  Nothing is ever off-limits.  

2. I should stop eating an indulgent food at the point in time that the “payoff” (the taste) is no longer greater than the price (the calories). I started recognizing that I would eat an entire pint of ice cream even though I couldn’t taste the last 2/3 because my tongue was frozen!  This is very similar to my friend Neghar’s  Law of First Bites.

 

old  iphone pics 5-6-13 008

I make sure that everything I eat is utterly satisfying.

3. I make sure that I’m only eating foods that I truly enjoy (even healthful foods).  When I do this, I find myself craving other things less (i.e. if I have buttery, garlicky brussel sprouts at dinner versus dry broccoli, I’m less likely to crave something more indulgent after dinner). 

4. I no longer stuff myself to the point of major discomfort/pain. I just stop eating when I feel myself starting to get close to full. I got used to stuffing myself on my “cheat day” because at midnight I had to stop eating, and I was so scared of midnight hitting that I’d stuff my face from the time I got up until then. 

5. If I know I’m going to have an indulgent meal, I’ll fast a little longer in the morning (I don’t always fast, but I do enjoy waiting several hours to eat in the morning), or stretch out my time between meals to make sure that my overall caloric consumption is lower. I also try to do a strength training workout that day, but I don’t stress too much if it doesn’t happen.


6. I eat much more slowly when I’m indulging.  I’m an absolute fanatic when it comes to chips and queso, and one thing I started naturally doing is breaking my tortilla chips into 2-3 pieces and taking smaller bites, instead of mindlessly stuffing the whole chip in my mouth.  I eat more slowly, I eat less overall, and it gives me something to keep my hands busy.  I also put my fork down between bites, drink water, and engage in conversation. 

7.  If I’m at my house and I really want something like ice cream or something, I’ll have a few bites, and then stop, and I’ll tell myself that if I still want more in 20 minutes, I can have more. I almost never want more (but if I do, I have more!)

salad and cupcakes

8. (BONUS!)  There is no value judgement placed on food.  You’re not “good” for eating one thing, and “bad” for eating another.  You’re not “on” or “off” the wagon.  You CAN have salad and cupcakes in the same meal… it’s not against the law. :)

These are just a few of the really small changes that have added up to big results and made my eating virtually effortless these days.  No more cheat days.  No more turning down a nice dinner because it’s a Tuesday.  Just living my life.

What about you?  What food epiphanies have you had that you’d like to share?

15 Responses to 7 Recent Food Epiphanies That Set Me Free

  1. Melissa says:

    One of my epiphanies has to do with delayed gratification and “specialness”. I know I could have something anytime, but limiting some things makes them more special when I have them. Take Cinnabons. I LOVE Cinnabons! And my family has them for breakfast every Christmas morning. So, I decided that I’ll only eat them on Christmas, I’ll have a nice big one, and enjoy the heck out of it, with extra icing and everything! It just makes it that much more special.

    I majored in economics in college, and in microeconomics 101 learned about decreasing marginal utility. It’s analogous to your ice cream epiphany and reward/cost threshold. The first bite gives you the most pleasure. The next few, a little less. By the time your tongue is frozen, pleasure (utility, or benefit) is much less. At the lowest point, you swear that one more bite will make you puke. Avoid this point ;-)

    Anyway, just my own nerdy thoughts. Great blog post!

  2. Holly says:

    Molly, I’m pretty sure you and I are twins separated at birth. We’re the same age, same height, same build, and have gone through similar weight/food-relationship/stress/and health issues. Heck, even our names rhyme! :) Reading this made me feel like I was reading my own life-story. I came to the same food-epiphanies almost a year ago, and I am so happy to say I have also found freedom from this crazy “diet” mentality. I can have any food I want in moderation! I’m also now at my comfortable walk around weight at about 162ish (when “dieting” I struggled everyday to stay in the low-mid 170s – ick) and so not stressing about it anymore. Thank you for writing this information and sharing it with us! Keep it up, sista!

  3. Ky says:

    My food epiphanies are very similar to yours. I feel like if I eat more at dinner even if it is more potatoes I will feel more satisfied. I did the whole low carb no grains thing years ago and it was helpful at the time and I learned not to stuff my face with pasta but since then I have realized that I like those foods sometimes and I don’t eat bread or pasta often, maybe 2-3 meals per week, I love good whole grain toast on the weekends and sometimes have a post workout wrap with tons of protein for dinner. I have also reintroduced myself to eating more oats than I used to (1.5 tbsp coconut oil + 2 tbsp honey + 2 cups oats and whatever mixing baked at 350 till golden = best crunchy granola ever).
    Another trick I have is that I don’t keep super unhealthy treats and choose slightly less indulgent treats, so say I get a tub of coconut milk ice cream, I will say this is my only treat for a while so I can eat it all tonight or spread it out. In my head spreading it out means ill get 5 servings instead of 2 so it wins every time!

  4. you’re amazing. i love you. such an inspiration xo

  5. Bianca says:

    I can so relate to every word in this post.. thank you every single one of your blog posts has been extremely motivational for me!

  6. Shane Mclean says:

    This is a great, honest post about your previous struggles with food. You’re a great role model. keep up the awesome work.

  7. Shelley says:

    Um, so now all I want are buttery, garlicky Brussels sprouts. Would you mind sharing your recipe?? Thanks!!!

  8. Alison says:

    Molly,

    Thanks so much for this post. I 100% agree with you and I have been struggling for the past few years to find something that is sustainable for me. Dieting is wayyy more mental than I ever realized. I think I have come to some of the same conclusions as you, but especially I have learned to eat when I am hungry and not because I am bored. Some days I find that I am starving and can’t wait until the next meal and others I feel I could go without lunch. It’s been quite a challenge for me to learn to listen to what my body really wants! BTW I am loving your workout program! I have been doing the Level 2 workouts for two full months now and am seeing great results! It has been great to have a good program that I know that I can stick to. Thanks for all you do!

    Best,
    Alison

  9. Betty says:

    Number 7 is my favorite! Thanks for the great words of wisdom!!!

  10. Laura says:

    This is so incredibly helpful. Thank you for sharing. After years of struggling with food issues I’m finally (at 51) getting to a healthy relationship with it. Wow, that sounds like it is a person, doesn’t it? Ha ha. This article was extremely helpful and teaches the lesson of how to live a more balanced life. Thank you again. I recently “gave up” sugar including sugar replacements just as an experiment to see if it helped with mood and depression. After 6 weeks (yes I’m still counting the days), I’ve noticed I really don’t miss it and recognize that I can really have it anytime I want but if I do decide to have anything, then I (like you) want it to be super duper delicious – not just your run-of-the mill ice cream or candy. Ha ha. Thanks again. This article is a keeper.

  11. Cat says:

    These all really apply to me – they are things I know… but I’m not great at remembering them when faced with a more indulgent meal! This was a great reminder though, so thank you!

  12. Joanne says:

    Molly thanks for this . What a great philosophy on eating you now have love it . May I add I love ice cream but like many I am lactose intolerant . I could eat a whole pint at one sitting , and be sick or take a pill and feel great but sad at all the extra calories. What I now do is add a few tablespoons to my otherwise healthy smoothies and me and my belly both win. For the most part for me food is fuel it took me 50 years to recognize this and am teaching my daughter and son so it take them ever so long . Many hugs for all you do for our bodies and souls. Thanks again .

  13. Keturah says:

    I really appreciated this post so, so much! I feel this is what healthy eating is about. I took a break from calorie counting and have been using similar eating habits over the summer. I’m 5’11 and I’m fluctuating between 165-170 lbs. without starving, counting calories, removing carbs or fats, or other measures. Before that I was killing myself just to hold my weight at 175 lbs.

    I appreciate you, Molly, and all of the work you’re doing with GGS. I always felt out of place and that I didn’t measure up because I’m not under 20% body fat; I don’t have a visible six-pack or ab veins. I’m just looking to be fit, reasonably lean, strong, and healthy.

    with much love and appreciation, xo
    Keturah

  14. Rachel says:

    I’m so hoping I can get to this stage one day. I’m 5 stone down but still have a way to go, I’ve started strength training but in the very early stages and really want to get to a positive place where it’s about fun and pleasure, thanks so much for all you fantastic supportive posts I find your info really helpful.

  15. LG says:

    I read this one twice. Thanks very much for posting and being so honest.

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