Food Fight

Brooke Dilling | @brookefrances

I have an unhealthy relationship with food and exercise. I’m fairly certain it started at the height of a stressful divorce, when I went from being athletic and strong--and a size 8--to a size 4. Granted, I wasn’t healthy. But I was skinny. Ridiculously so. And it felt awesome. But . . . stress doesn’t last, and neither did that size 4. When the weight came back, I wasn’t the same “athletic” size 8 I had been before. I was a stressed-out, can’t find time to exercise, single-mom, flabby size 8. I looked and felt horrible.

Something had to change. At the advice of a friend, I got a Beachbody membership. Beachbody has a variety of workout programs. You can order the DVD sets or work out online through Beachbody On Demand. Their programs include familiar titles such as P90X, Insanity, and 21 Day Fix.

Beachbody programs allowed me to get fit at home. Going to a gym with two kids in tow was impossible. Plus, the programs included nutrition plans and accountability groups on social media to help me stay on track.

And while all of this sounds good in theory, this is where my problems began.  

Perhaps it’s not the programs or the nutrition guides. Perhaps it’s the accountability groups. Perhaps it’s me. But this sort of plan/lifestyle feels all-or-nothing. Don’t ever miss a workout. Don’t deviate from the nutrition plan. Track all your food. And your water intake. If the nutrition plan doesn’t allow for alcohol, then you should not drink any alcohol for the duration of the entire program…or you aren’t committed and you are giving up on yourself. Ummm. I’m a single mom. Can we please get real?

And so I would miss a workout. Or have a slice of white bread. Or an ice cream cone with my kids. Or--gasp!-- wine. Lots of wine.  And then I would feel horrible about not being committed enough.  And the other people in the accountability groups seemed to be getting so toned. Or losing a lot of weight. And my changes weren’t coming fast enough. All I saw are my flaws. So I would add in extra workouts as a punishment. I’m fairly certain this was not a healthy way to live.

I began to see some trends that were concerning to me. I want to have a healthy relationship with food. I do not want to track everything I eat for the rest of my life. I want my children to have a healthy relationship with food and with exercise, too. My behavior is an example for them. I should be exercising as a celebration of what my body can do, not as a punishment for what I eat. Plus, feeling guilty about food is never healthy. I decided to reach out to a friend to start getting a handle on my issues.

Natalie Main is a friend who used to live in Denver, but now lives in Florida. She is a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner certified with the Nutritional Therapy Association. During our conversation she had several insights about what I consider my unhealthy relationship with food. She said, “in reality, there is no relationship with food. Just like you hopefully do not have a relationship with shoes. Food either is effective or ineffective. It is not ‘good’ or ‘bad’--there are no morals with food. These terms were created to just to put a label on something. Those that believe they have an unhealthy relationship with food… it goes deeper, it probably has nothing to do with food, you are just finding comfort in the numb that food can provide. Like a sugar high. When people die what do friends do? They bake you a cake…it numbs you.”

I shared information with Natalie on my struggles (and guilt) with Beachbody Exercise programs. I wanted to know if the programs themselves are a problem. Natalie felt that the programs are effective for those that want to be on a podium some day for something sporty or athletic. “Yes, measure; weigh. Do what you need to do to get there.” But…the programs are “ineffective for those that want to live a healthy and happy life (author’s note: this does not read as those that want to be skinny) and have no big sporty plans for a podium.”

But why don’t these programs work for the normal person? “Weighing and measuring and majorly eliminating can cause super stresses on our bodies. When the body is stressed, it cannot digest…that defeats the whole purpose of eating.” Natalie continues, “ eliminating a food that does you no good--is ineffective--is an okay thing to do. If you know it causes issues then why eat it?”

She also encouraged me to enjoy the occasional sweet, or wine, and be ok with it instead of giving myself the guilt trip.

Ok, so how do I really do this? How do I begin to change the “relationship” I seem to have with food?

Natalie suggests I begin by “looking within” and finding the root causes for my emotions. She also recommend anyone who wants to get at the heart of struggles with food works with a holistic nutritional specialist. This expertise “can help find the most optimal way to eat that benefits a person’s body and mind the most.”

I don’t have it all figured out. But I do know life is too short to feel guilty about every glass of wine or every scoop of ice cream I eat. I have some work to do on my overall health and wellness. And I’m committed to doing it the right way for the sake of myself and for my kids.

LifestyleVirginia Santy