Have you ever ate really good all day and then gotten to 3PM, starving, and reached for the most unhealthy thing in your pantry? By that point, you probably decided to “screw it” and gorged yourself on everything unhealthy you could find. Am I right?!
Believe me, I was once there. I dealt with horrible disordered eating patterns for a LONG time through college and well into my late 20s. But, it took getting pregnant with my first child to FINALLY shift my mindset…
One early February morning, I woke up, peed on a stick, and shoved that stick in front of my sleeping husband’s face. “I’m pregnant!” I exclaimed. We kissed and then I continued to put on my running clothes and head to the gym for a 7 mile run on the treadmill. Yup, the morning I found out I was pregnant, I went and ran 7-miles as if nothing had changed. Insane.
Even as my baby bump continued to grow, even after telling our family + friends, even after finding out that our little bean was going to be a precious baby girl, I still continued to obsessively count calories. Luckily, I had relaxed a bit and didn’t beat myself up if I went over my still extremely low for pregnancy calories. I was even still weighing myself daily, making sure I didn’t gain more the ½ to 1 pound each week.
I don’t really know what changed, but I remember WHEN I stopped obsessively counting my calories. We went on vacation to our favorite spot – Gulf Shores, Alabama – and for the first time, I didn’t take my calories counting notebook with me. I typically wouldn’t count my calories during vacation, but would always hop right back to it when we got home. But, something had changed during that trip. I had eaten everything my body was craving, I enjoyed ice cream every night, and when I stepped on the scale the day after the trip, I had only gained 1 pound. And I hadn’t counted a thing.
The flip had switched. That trip helped me realize that I actually DID know how to fuel my body correctly for it’s needs. I DID know how to listen to my body for when I was too full or when I was hungry and needed to eat. And when I tried to go back to counting calories, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. It felt like as hassle and totally unnecessary, and I was able to spend the rest of my pregnancy enjoying my cravings, listening to my body (because really, what better time to listen to your body then pregnancy, right?!), and gaining a healthy 30 pounds with my first child.
So, here’s the question I know you’re asking now, “Did you go back to counting calories after the baby?!”
Full honesty here: I tried and couldn’t bring myself to do it! I HATED it! Part of it was because I was so busy with a newborn to really have time to sit down and do that, but really, I HATED it! I had learned how to listen to my hunger cues. I had learned what it felt like to be pleasantly full and not stuffed. I learned that I could still eat what I wanted and not have to worry about gaining weight. And, while it took me almost 9 months, I was able to lose every last pound of my pregnancy weight without having to count a single calorie.
Oh, and the best news of all, I was able to stop weighing myself daily. I was finally feeling FREE of my disordered eating pattern – and for once, I actually felt in control of my eating – the thing that I wanted most when I started counting in the first place.
Here are my TOP FIVE best practices for intuitive eating:
Focus on high quality foods (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats) the majority of your meals. I try to have a fruit or vegetable with EVERY meal and some kind of protein (as a pescatarian, this is a constant struggle for me). I eat carbs, but try to limit the amount of wheat products I eat because it gives me gas! And I LOVE nuts, nut butters, and avocados and will eat them DAILY – without fear of gaining weight!
Eat until you are COMFORTABLY FULL (not stuffed). I eat until I am about 80% full and then try to remove myself from food completely. Sometimes it take physically removing myself from my house, but most of the time, I just need to find something else to do to fight boredom eating! I will clean or work to keep my mind busy and OFF OF FOOD!
Eat the things you love… in moderation + without guilt! You guys, I drink a beer almost nightly. I eat dessert every day. And I look forward to my pizza night on Fridays – with a beer! However, I watch my portions. My husband and I typically split a beer (or 2). I buy Halo Top Creamery ice cream so I can eat half a pint (or get a small serving of regular ice cream at our favorite local frozen custard shop). And my husband makes our pizza from scratch at home, so I can eat half a pizza without feeling too much guilt, but it’s also my splurge for the week and I don’t feel an ounce of guilt. And if I feel stuffed before I finish half of the pizza that is mine, I wrap it up and enjoy it for lunch the next day.
THROW AWAY YOUR SCALE! Or at least put it away so you get out of the habit of weighing yourself daily. Once I got past weighing myself every day, I no longer felt guilty if I ate too much because I didn’t see the number go up on the scale. There was no more beating myself up for gaining 0.2 pounds overnight. Now, it’s all about how I LOOK and how my clothes FIT! I’ll be honest, there are still times when I HATE my body, but I usually can look back on my eating patterns and realize I haven’t been doing the above things!
Let go of your “all or nothing” mindset. This was the hardest thing for me to do. I either ate healthy ALL the time, or once I had a bite of chocolate, that was it and I would gorge myself with everything unhealthy. THAT is unhealthy in itself! Stop the thought process of EVERYTHING being healthy all the time. Give yourself some wiggle room (see #3), and know that if you have a bad eating day (mmmm, chocolate, beer, pizza…), that the next day or the next meal can look completely different! I tend to front load my healthy meals (smoothie in the morning, salad at lunch) so that I don’t have to feel bad if I eat 2 (or 3 or 5) cookies after dinner.
You guys, eating healthy doesn’t have to be difficult! It doesn’t mean you need to obsess over EVERYTHING you put in your mouth. Just remember, food is fuel and you only have ONE body, so treat it nicely. Fuel it appropriately, thank it with nutritious foods, and ENJOY the foods you LOVE to eat!