Keto, Vegan, Daniel Diet, Vegetarian, Dairy-Free, Low-Fat, Paleo, Military Diet… blah blah blah. I have gotten caught up in all of these (and more) at one time or another. I have watched success story after success story, so why couldn’t these work for me?
I have failed many MANY times trying the next fad diet, and it left me feeling defeated and discouraged. Then, I had a ‘come-to-Jesus’ moment and decided that I wasn’t going to give up the food I enjoyed while I chased after health. Because long-term, I will never give up the foods I really enjoy.
So here are 3 things that helped me succeed in my health journey while staying away from diet culture.
1: I RECOGNIZED THE ROOT ISSUES WITH MY FOOD HABITS – EMOTIONAL EATING
My whole life, I have had an extremely unhealthy relationship between emotions and food. Victories in life? Celebrate with food! Valleys in life? Trudge through it with food! Blame it all on my genes, but I am an over-emotional person. Pair that with my unhealthy relationship with food, and we had a huge problem on our hands.
I was living to eat, not eating to live.
Let me paint you a comical picture: Mikayla had an awful day and comes home to have (yet again) another mental breakdown over work, school, whatever – you name it! She sits in her car and Kim K ugly cries for 30 minutes until it is time to take a break (because crying that hard really is exhausting). She goes inside, straight to the pantry to grab her beloved chocolate and the jar of peanut butter. The rest of the night is a bloated blur of cry, eat, and repeat. The occasional shower sobbing is also included.
Y’all may think I am joking, but ask my poor husband – this was our reality for so long. Don’t get me wrong, I still have those days, but (for the most part) I handle them a lot differently now… because I recognized that instead of working through my problems, I was suppressing them. And that had to change.
So then what?
2: I CHANGED THE WAY I APPROACHED FOOD & FEELINGS
For one, I (try to) talk about my feelings instead of suppressing them with food. I no longer partake in avoidance, but instead, acknowledge the situation and my feelings for what they are. This conversation often involves Jesus, my husband, therapist, or a trusted friend. The most important part about your health journey is encompassing ALL aspects of health – including taking care of your mental health. Recognizing certain events and feelings as triggers, helped me get ahead of unhealthy tendencies and replace them with healthier alternatives.
Secondly, I release my emotions through a ‘stress walk/run,’ a weight-training session, or a simple (but often underrated) nap. Sometimes our body needs to let off steam and sometimes it simply needs rest. What it doesn’t need though, is a 5th donut.
Lastly, I took on a whole new perspective: life is either happening to you or for you, but the decision is yours. This helped me take on every situation in a new way. It no longer feels like the end of the world – it is just another circumstance that is making me into a warrior, preparing me for my journey ahead.
3: I RESPECTED MY CRAVINGS & BUILT A SUSTAINABLE LIFESTYLE
For such a long time, I had an all-or-nothing attitude, and it was a total setup for failure. “I am going to workout daily and eat a salad for lunch and dinner.” Well, surprise surprise – that lasted for 3 days, and when I fell off my plan, I felt so much shame. Cue the box of brownies!!
Either my cravings were all I thought about, as I tried to choke them back, or my goals simply weren’t realistic. Either way, I set myself up for failure with the attitude I had. So then, I changed my mindset and it changed my life.
Instead of not “giving into” my cravings, I listen to my body when it says it wants chicken wings for dinner – and that is exactly what I give it! I honor those cravings and simply plan ahead – smaller portions, a light lunch, or a walk after dinner.
You don’t have to deny yourself of food you love, that isn’t sustainable. Just plan accordingly.
I still eat the things I like, I just cut back my portions and eat them less frequently.
So why wasn’t I succeeding? Because it wasn’t sustainable. And it isn’t what I have been feeding my body for the past umpteenth years. I am a real woman, who gets real hungry for real food. And no, Karen, somedays I don’t want to waste my belly space on a quinoa salad – I want a big, fat, juicy cheeseburger with fries.
Making small, sustainable changes will lead to success – not quick fixes and cutting out the foods you love cold turkey.
Give yourself some grace while you make those small changes. They will add up in the long run.
You’ve got this,