Stop working out to earn [or burn] your food.

February happens to be National Eating Disorders Awareness (NEDA) month and as somebody in recovery myself I have taken part in it several times before. This time touching on a topic not only those diagnosed with an eating disorder deal with.

 

Eating a bagel for breakfast  = run for 45minutes.*

An ice cream sundae =  a 75-minute spinning class.*

A few handfuls of chips = lifting weights for more than an hour. *

No, I didn’t make up the numbers above. Chances are you’ve seen these kind of equations on a magazine or somewhere online*. And if you’ve spent just a few weeks or months around the blog world or on Instagram – and most of us have been around for much longer, right? – you’ll have seen it there, too. “I know this day seems carb-heavy but: leg day!” or “deserved this treat after a hard session at the gym”. I’m not shaming any of the people making these statements because I’ve been there and occasionally still find my mind drifting off. In the past months, though, I’ve made progress here and being forced to lay off any exercise aside from walking helped change my thoughts.

You don’t need to work out like a mad [wo]man to “deserve food – or rest.

You don’t need to justify your food choices through the exercise you’ve done.

Would you deny a toddler, a doctor [somebody working mostly sedentary] or your frail grandma food? Restrict their intakes because they hardly move throughout the day? Actually,  you wouldn’t deny your rabbit/cat/dog food or hush it around the block for another lap making sure it truly deserved its food, either, no? Deny your child a snack on a long car ride because it didn’t [get a chance to] move?  Granted, there might be mums who do but I’d like to think they’re the exceptions.

Are you nodding now and saying yes, sure, point made but these examples are different from you? They’re not.

You, a toddler, your grandma: all human beings. All deserving of nourishment – in large enough quantities – to exist. Breathe. Get sh*t done [if that’s the way you want to express it]. Actually, yes, you do need to work for your food: by earning the money to pay grocery bills but that’s about the only connection between earning and food. Speaking off earning and assuming most of us either work in desk jobs or study: never forget mental work counts, too. Our brains run on glucose = your carb cravings explained. Or just don’t seek for any explanations.

I’m not suggesting for everybody to stop exercising completely and sit around all day long stuffing their face with all. the. food. Extremes again, huh? Rather, tuning into our intuition will lead us to make the right choices food-wise. And by right I mean right to keep us fuelled and happy throughout daily life – carbs and protein, pasta  and cookies just like nut butter and Greek yogurt.

Almond butter jar_Mandelmus

If we were to take this concept further the same is true for resting. There’s no need to explain why you “deserve” binge-watching your favourite show on Netflix at night. Unless that’s all you do all day every day while bossing others around to work for you. In that case please move your butt off the sofa and get work done.

The problem with shifting the mindset of earning food is its ever-presence in our society that makes it impossible to ignore*. Blogs, magazines, TV shows constantly praise the mentality of “burning off your food” and in also glorify the idea of under-eating [hello, 1200-calorie meal plans].

Exercising just for the sake of it: A gift we – myself included – often take for granted. A luxury exclusive to us living in a society where we don’t need to worry about the availability of food to refuel. An activity that some of us even turn around to be punishment for eating “too much”.

* unless you lived under rock which you shouldn’t feel bad to admit as it’d honestly be an admirable state of blissful ignorance here!

You deserve food. You deserve rest. As much of both as you need to feel energized and ready to tackle your days. Eat. Exercise. Don’t make the former depend on the latter but only the other way around in eating enough to fuel your workouts.

 

No questions. Just your thoughts on the topic.

Happiness inducing today: Many many small things all throughout my day. The sun shining. A short chat with my colleagues in between wokring.

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Why adopting a new diet attracts us so much in recovery.

Before continuing please know that I’m not hating on any diet and say this with a certain group of people in mind. Not every follower of the vegan/paleo/raw or a similar diet is necessarily eating disordered.

Recovering from an eating disorder is hard. Very hard. Especially because it means letting go, allowing the life and appearance you had to change.

I’m not making myself an exception here. Letting go of control is the biggest struggle for me. Intuitive eating is scary for the very reason it offers no set rules. Am I eating too much? Just out of boredom or could I actually still be hungry? Does that little occasional itch mean I should cut out [insert food]? Is eating x amount of fat okay?

It’s been said a million times already but bears repeating here:

Extremes are easy, balance is not. But what exactly does that mean in terms of eating and exercise? I’m no epert but here are my thoughts on a phenomenon I’ve noticed on social media for years.

Thinking-Out-Loud

Many people all over Instagram – yes, that one neverending source of post inspiration again – are following lifestyles like vegan, high carb low fat (HCLF), paleo, ‘clean’ eating, raw or keto suddenly feel amazing and shun their previous lifestyles. They could never ever eat [insert food] again. They have so much more energy and . And oh, yes, grains/fat/dairy/insert food not compliant with new diet never worked well for their system or appealed to them. They were the child that hated candy and sugar is the devil in anyway so they’re glad they never crave it.

All nice and well. It’s your freedom to post what you want. Only: I [usually] don’t buy it. While yes, for people with a healthy mindset any lifestyle can work well – recovery is different. Or not only that but anybody who went about exploring and following one of these lifestyles primarily for health reasons.

Bremen_Vengo_stuffed eggplant_March 2015

Any kind of diet comes with a set of rules, occasionally some sort of ‘guru’ or other role models with thousands of followers on social media to look up to and ask for advice. What you’re allowed to eat and what not. The macro balance to strive for. If you’re choosing one like veganism for ethical reasons it’s not should or shouldn’t but a conscious decision to abstain from certain foods for the benefit of animals and yes, potentially your own well-being, too. The problem is that there’s a fine line for anybody recovering from an eating disorder when choosing any kind of diet.

I absolutely believe it’s possible to choose a diet different from the one you grew up on after recovery. And yes, there are always exceptions. People who can change their diet in the midst of recovery and in fact suddenly find it easier to gain, tackle fear foods or eat out again. But I’d venture to guess this is the minority. Yes, I’m lacto-vegetarian and yes, that is what some people would consider restrictive. And also yes, I do second-guess my choices every now and then to make sure they’re not coming from a place of restriction. Though I’d been vegetarian for a few years before my ED set I still consider myself in a learning process as with many things in recovery.

It’s hard to give any final advice on how to determine whether or not somebody’s choice for a certain diet comes from a healthy mindset or not. My best suggestion would be to both ask question yourself and your choices regularly as well as having an outside person – at best an expert like a dietitian – evaluate your recovery journey. Which in itself is hard to judge as a person might be long recovered physically but the mind could take years longer to heal [so the “weight-restored” claim doesn’t say much]. A time when our environment deems us healthy but we might still be easily susceptible to any kind of detox/new diet.

Baked II

We want [food and life] freedom but the idea of letting go simultaneously scares us. Hence why we’re all ears the very second we hear of a new trend: intermittent fasting? Sugar detox? HCLF? LCHF? Tell. Me. more. <- the typical – occasionally unconscious – response [= clicking on the title of a post promising information before you gave a second thought on how beneficial reading it would be for you] of anybody who has dealt with any kind of disordered eating, is recovering from an ED, body image struggles or constantly trying to improve their diet.

Potential questions to ask or let somebody else ask you: Are you still consequently following the path of recovery you did before [i.e. trying higher fat foods, “unhealthy”/less nutritious foods], socializing more instead of using food as an excuse to opt out of invitations? Are you being flexible with trace amounts of, say, dairy if you’re usually eating vegan?

Like I said: I’m not perfect here, either. Hence why I also won’t change anything about my diet in terms of cutting any more foods out. Enough about me and my ramblings, though. I’m dropping the micro and am curious for your take on the issue.

 

 

Happiness-inducing today: An overall good day filled with lots of smaller and bigger happiness-inducers.

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Once more no specific question. Just tell me any thoughts you have on the issue.

 

Food with a side of guilt

It’s Wednesday. Or What I ate Wednesday for a large part of the blog world but I won’t play along today. Rather, we’ll talking about something that’s been making me a little sad in some of these posts. Again, I might be interpreting something others don’t see into these observations – in that case I will blame 12th grade German classes in school.

Let's talk

Why do we try to explain eating that piece of chocolate by stating we worked out extra hard that day and ‘deserved it’. Or when did we start feeling like we had to state a certain day shown was “rather carb-heavy” or “more indulgent day than usual”? Or making a point that we balanced out that piece of cake with plenty of vegetables at dinner? Or state that yes, we ate a lot but we also exercised for this and that long? Don’t hashtag your meals #cheat, #YOLO or #sorrynotsorry or state that you “don’t eat that way every day”. Yes, it’s called the healthy living blog world. But healthy isn’t about eating ‘clean’ all day every day. It’s not about eating vegetables at every meal. Not even about eating vegetables every day if you don’t feel them.

When I stumble upon your WIAW I don’t analyze your choices and categorize you: “glutton!”, “how can she eat grains for every meal?”, “geee, that’s a boatload of almond butter”. No. Rather, I – and I’ll make the advanced guess this is true for the majority of readers – am curious about seeing different people’s days of food. Actually, I might find you a little more sympathetic if you have a huge sweet tooth and heavy hand on the nut butter, too. Choose the foods you genuinely enjoy eating and that make you feel good. Again, I might be more sensitive here but I wonder if these defending statements hide an insecurity or shame for the choices these people made.

Vapiano

What would be the worst outcome? Strangers assuming you had a deep love for pizza, pasta or pie if that’s what you happen to have enjoyed on a given day? That doesn’t sound too awful to me and again: I don’t think people judge like this. Or if they do: never mind because: Those who mind don’t matter. Those who matter don’t mind. Just ask yourself how you read food posts. Do you make quick assumptions about people solely based on the food shown? I’d guess not. The same should go for everyday ‘real’ life. Aside from the fact nobody chooses their friends based on their food choices: Would we be more attracted to the girl ordering the salad with the dressing on the side or nothing [yes, that was me for too long] while you want to get pizza? Or the one who’s up for a spontaneous meal, doesn’t stress about macros and how much she worked out on a given day?**

** Please note that once again, I’m not shaming anybody for choosing a certain diet or lifestyle. My point are choices or statements coming – consciously or unconsciously –  from a place of guilt or shame.

eating out_Dean and David_curry_vegan

Let’s make more room to talk just about the food, not the macros. Tell me all about the deliciousness on your plate [by the way: the above plate was a vegan curry at Dean & David’s]. What I ate Wednesday: not about comparison [with yourself or others], judgement, restriction or guilt. All about enjoyment in food. It’s hard not to compare or push aside food guilt when one and a half million articles offering ‘healthy’ advice tell you to feel bad about carbs/fat/sugar. But we can make a start in stopping to explain our choices. It tastes fantastic and makes you feel good? It’s good for you. Because a free and happy mind can enjoy life more.

 

Happiness-inducing today:Seeing one etting one of the cutest puppies on my walk home and then spontaneously petting it. I’m not usually one to do that because you never know if the owners like it but I couldn’t resist. It definitely made me smile.

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Your thoughts on defnding food choices: Is it something you’ve noticed before? Do you find yourself justifying meals or treats through exercise or else? Let me know whatever comes to your mind on the topic.

Are protein bars actually fuelling your recovery?

Protein ice cream. Protein bars. Protein Bread. Protein Pasta. You name it – there’s a protein version for it out there*.

*Note that I am not saying any of these products were inherently bad, that people shouldn’t eat or I’d never buy them out of curiosity. The focus of my thoughts here is a different one as you’ll see in a minute.

While I’d been aware of the high popularity of a certain brand of protein bars – okay, Quest bars – among bloggers for a long time it wasn’t until I joined Instagram that I noticed a pattern. The seemingly biggest group consuming said bars, shakes and other protein cookies/puddings/ice creams? Not the body builders or figure competitors the companies probably created them for in the first place. No, people recovering from eating disorders. People whose intention [or at least this would be my assumption and personal goal] is to re-learn a normal and intuitive eating behavior. Call me quick to judge but I see protein treats as a potential barrier on the recovery road. Allow me to elaborate.

Carbs? Scary. Fat? Potentially scary, too. Protein? The least scary macronutrient ever to anybody in the #fitfam and people in recovery. But: recovery should be scary. It should mean challenging yourself and facing fears. Having a protein treat rather than a real one deserves the hashtag #cheatclean, yes. Because you’re cheating yourself by sticking to a ‘clean’, non-scary lifestyle. It’s like bargaining with your ED: Fine, you’ll eat more but you make sure it comes from the presumed ‘healthiest’ source of calories – protein. And yes, you might gain the much needed weight. But you might slow down your recovery process and probably won’t loose the fear towards certain foods [sugar, white flour, …].

Quest bar_s'mores_protein

If you’re thriving on a high-protein diet that’s cool. I’m not telling anybody to drop the protein bar and I will openly say I’m curious to try some interesting protein treats, too [see picture above; explanation to follow in my next post]. Yet for me this is merely curiosity and not the belief I’d need to monitor or manage my macros.I know what works for me and also that different people have different needs. I might be off here. There’s always time for diet experimentation but when protein bars or shakes are considered meal replacements, people apparently skimp on the carbs even at family gatherings or special occasions I do wonder about the reasoning. It could be because I – as somebody with a history of [and still in recovery from] an eating disorder – am more sensitive towards these things.

If you declare a protein cookie to taste ‘just like grandma’s’ than I assume/hope you do eat the latter on occasion, too. Or do you bring your own protein treats to family gatherings [and potentially offend grandma]? Recovery is about getting back a life you will be able to sustain in the long term. Is it realistic to find protein versions of all the foods people around you eat in every setting in your life? What about holidays in different countries? Traveling for work? Or simply living in a place that doesn’t offer easy availabilty of high-protein treats like Quest bars, Complete Cookies and what not all? At least from my experiences it doesn’t seem like an easily sustainable lifrstyle plus we don’t actually need all that much protein and can cover our needs eating real foods but that just as an aside.

Mint chocolate

The moral of the story? Like any other food [and what every package of supplements tells you] protein bars can be part of a balanced diet. Just make sure you’re not using them to replace real and/or fear foods. No choices in our lives should come from a place of fear. If you want a protein bar because you really enjoy the taste – go for it. Grandma’s cookies or that bar of chocolate? Same.

Happiness-inducing today: Talking to a friend on the phone while out on a walk. If we can’t walk outside together this is a good compromise.

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No questions but I’m curious to hear your thoughts on the topic.

Why Intuitive Eating is Making Me Sad

 Contrary to what the title suggests I like Intuitive Eating. No, scratch that, I’m absolutely fond/smitten/insert other excited exclamation here of this concept. We’ll get to my point in a minute.

And who isn’t? Look around the blog world and you’ll see dozens, hundreds, thousands of people singing the praises of this wonderful revolutionary trend. This amazing new concept that finally frees them from food worries and restriction. We’re finally allowed to eat just what we want again. Heureka! Oh and have I told you about how I intuitively ate a cupcake today yet? Yes, really, just wait for it …

Intuitive eating

Stop! That’s what is making me sad. We – myself included – are getting excited about exploring the joys of intuitive eating. We eat when hungry. Listen to our cravings. Stop when full. Only: it’s not new. It’s the oldest way of eating around. Dating from way before the first weight loss diets were invented. The way our grandparents ate. And their parents. What we do is get back to our original state. The way we were born.* The way of eating that was stolen from us by the confusing messages sent out by magazines. Blogs. Nutrional experts. Certain doctors. …

*granted, I don’t feel I ever ate truly intuitively but this is part of my own story I have yet to share.

What is making me sad is that millions of women  [and men!] have lost touch with their intuition.

What is making me sad is that we even need a term to describe the way of eating we were born to have. [That being said intuitve eating does sound a lot fancier and upscale than ‘normal’ eating so I’ll roll with it.]

What is making me sad is that we marvel at people who eat intuitively. It shouldn’t excite us but be something we do without even thinking. Just like walking. Brushing your hair. Washing your hands.

What is making me sad is that we’re willing to pay a good amount of cash for programs helping us get back to that state of mind and acting. This isn’t shunning any of these programs because while I haven’t tried them myself yet I know they worked wonders for some/many people and that’s great. The sad aspect is the fact we even need those programs.

Vapiano

Our intuition is built in like a cars engine but was since replaced with worries about calories. Doubts about which diet we should follow. Is it okay to eat x amount of sweets per day? Is gluten/sugar/fruit the devil? A whole industry is built on the fact that we’re completely confused in terms of an essential human need: food. Eating.

Why am I, why are we having such a hard time shutting out the blubber of magazines and social media and simply listen to [and trust!] our inner voice. It has no intention of harming us which I think can we’re righteously doubtful about with certain magazines …

Where does all of this rambling out loud leave me? Am I never going to mention Intuitve eating again? Far from it. Finding my way back to normal and at that intuitive eating and living is still my goal in recovery. Lost connection with your intuition? Start reconnecting. Today. It’s not easy but worth reclaiming.

 

Happiness-inducing today: The sun. Talking to a friend about potential summer holiday plans (!). Editing another family member’s work.

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No questions for you today. Just your thoughts on the issue or experiences.

Not disordered enough? [NEDA week]

While I might not live in the US I’m not oblivious to the fact it is once more National Eating Disorders Awareness [NEDA] week. Like I mentioned last year I wish this was international in anyway because eating disorders [unfortunately] don’t know any borders. They’re taking over lives of people and stealing happiness everywhere on this planet with no end in sight. What we can do, however, is contribute to share our experiences to encourage others struggling to reach out and feel less ashamed as well as help those who never struggled understand the going-ons better.

I’ve been thinking about posting this or not because it’s a huge part of my story [that I have yet to share in its whole]. In the end, I decided to let my thoughts out loud.

Just as a warning ahead: I briefly mention weight and calories so if you feel you might be triggered please skip this post.

  • I didn’t cut out any foods, much less whole food groups. Not disordered enough, right?
  • Sugar has never been the devil for me at any point. Actually, I remember living off semolina pudding cooked in chocolate soy milk for almost every main meal for a short time. Not disordered enough, right?
  • I didn’t exercise for hours on end.  Most of the time, I even took rest days. Not disordered enough, right?
  • I never stopped eating completely. In fact, I never dropped below those magical 1,200 calories. Not disordered enough, right?
  • My lowest BMI was nowhere near the ones of others dangling along the lines of 12, 13 or 14. So, clearly not disordered enough, right?!

Oh, how wrong. I was clearly disordered. If it wasn’t obvious enough from reading those lines that – in one way or another were actually running through my head – I was showing physical signs, too. Anybody but me knew what was going on or had their suspicions.

 

For a long time I saw the skinny people around, the unhealthy behaviours. They all deserved help ASAP in my opinion. Yet I never deemed myself ‘disordered enough’. Was I counting calories? Weighing myself obsessively? Skipping meals? Check, check and check. But still: not severe enough for my [disordered] mind.
I once – at the demand of my parents – attended a therapy group that involved eating with the other patients. And when I wasn’t satisfied at the end of the meal asking for more they told me I couldn’t really be disordered [note that I was at one of my lowest weights at this point!]. See: not disordered enough again.

Yes,there will always be somebody who is even skinnier. Somebody who works out for longer. Somebody who eats less. Maybe even nothing anymore. But: is any of this actually commendable? By far not. Starting recovery ‘too early’ isn’t possible. Too late, however? That sadly is a possibilty.

To those who have never struggled with an ED: I know for a [sad] fact I’m not the only one who had or has those thoughts. It can occur in people at every size. What to you looks like the most obvious sign of the disorder can look like the opposite for the woman [or man] struggling. ED voices aren’t logical. At all. But they can be very powerful and convincing in their non-logical logic. [see above ‘not disordered enough’ examples]

Don’t ever assume – much less tell! – somebody they weren’t disordered enough or make comments on eating disorders without further knowledge of their seriousness.  There is no set weight, BMI or other physical sign to determine how much an ED might influence a person’s mind and overall life. Some disorders can hide for a long time with a lot of damage going on below the surface already. A lot of grey space.

Source

So if you are struggling with food and weight but that voice in your head tells you you weren’t disordered enough: think again. You deserve help. You deserve to be happy. You deserve to live. We all do.

No questions today but I’d love to hear your thoughts on the issue.

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