Sunday, January 3, 2010

Holy Crap it's been awile...

I don't exactly have good or exciting news...I haven't been cooking or creating anything fun lately so no tasty recipes or anything. It's been a weird end of the year. But here's an update on my food journey since I last posted...

I could have predicted that I would fail at my last attempt at "cleansing." I wanted to cleanse so badly, but I just couldn't stick to it as long as I thought I could. It seems that my "cleanses" are getting shorter and shorter; it's like the more often I do them, and the stricter they become, the less I can stick to them for any lengthy amount of time. I just get to a certain day where I say "screw it" and binge. I was so disappointed in myself last time, that I didn't write about it here...that explains my long absence from posting! And because of this avoidance, I can't remember exactly what happened or what I ate that triggered my fall. All I know is that I just didn't last. The foods I was restricting became enticing and unavoidable.

I was so confused! I asked, in anguish, why am I always binging? Why can't I stick to cleanses? Why am I finding it so much harder to stick to restrictive diets after two years of being a successful vegan? To find answers I read a couple books, to help ease anxiety. These were all very interesting and gave me a great deal of insight into my habits and relationship with food. The best books were: "The End of Overeating" by David Kessler, "Mindful Eating" by Jan Chozen Bays (not finished with it quite yet), and "Intuitive Eating" by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resche. These books basically had the same things to say: the more you yo-yo diet, the worse your metabolism gets, and the harder it is to keep off weight. And the more you "restrict" foods, the more your body craves them. You binge when you think you will never eat a certain food again. Foods that are restricted seem magical and alluring.

While none of these books promise a magical and immediate cure, they did help me understand the workings of my mind and how I can work towards establishing a healthier relationship with food. I heartily recommend all these books to anyone struggling with overeating, binging, and eating disorders. Each had something different to offer: The End of Overeating provided a look into our psychology around food, the hidden food triggers, and why we are compelled to binge on certain foods; Mindful Eating provided some helpful tips based on Buddhist mindfulness practices teaching how you can be more present when you eat (this is a wonderful way to eat, although it is SUPER difficult for me to follow consistently! But change is a long, winding road); And Intuitive Eating taught me something very, very valuable: that I need to STOP dieting now and STOP restricting foods, if I want to return to a healthy relationship with food.

I have learned that from my many years of dieting, obsessing over food, obsessing over weight, obsessing over nutrition, and then later becoming vegan specifically for weight loss (and less about the health and ethics) has made my relationship with food a very unhealthy one. Right now, seeing my weight, my strongest urge is to cleanse, to stick to a strict and healthy diet, to go raw again, and/or to go vegan again. And while these lifestyles are all wonderful, if desired as a means to purity, true cleanliness, true joy, and true health, my desires are for a quick fix to weight loss. Period. I'm not saying that weight loss is ALL I've wanted in the past when I have made these lifestyle changes for myself, but I am realizing that these wonderful desires to be healthier have been tainted by an obsession over weight loss.

So where am I now? Over the past couple months I have been taking tips from Intuitive Eating and taking the first step toward re-establishing a healthy relationship with food by restricting nothing. It was a relief at first, although it was hard to fully let my guard down and truly convince myself that I wasn't going to restrict a food/food group again. And I did gain some weight, as I read would likely happen. But now I am starting to feel the ease of having nothing restricted and the allure of certain foods is starting to fade. At first I ate a lot of cheese. Now, while I still love cheese, it's not quite as tempting as it was before. I no longer want cheese or a cheesy flavor on EVERYTHING I eat. In fact, sometimes it kinda grosses me out. Sweets, on the other hand, are taking me much longer to ease up from. It's hard to release the mindset that they are tasty morsels that I must savor before I restrict them again. But I am slowly learning that cookies aren't even that good; they're pretty dry. And cake is heavy. And some chocolates make me shaky. And sweets in general make me feel crappy when eaten in excess. Progress is painfully slow, but I'm learning the hard way that the effects of quick-fix diets, cleanses, and detoxes don't always last. Especially if you have an eating disorder of any kind. Everyday I still get the urge to just stop eating, do the master cleanse, exclude sugar completely, etc. which tells me I'm nowhere near close to regaining a healthy mindset with food. But I'll get there.

I can feel that I am coming closer to getting over the temptation of restricted foods, now that nothing is restricted (besides things I don't like, such as meat) and I am also getting better at the other steps toward Intuitive/Mindful eating such as actually listening to my true hunger, being present when I eat, eat while sitting down (not at my desk at work!), not snacking just because I'm bored but sitting down to a small snack if I'm really hungry.

And my weight? I'm not happy with it, but I know I am doing what is right for my body. I'm exercising a moderate amount, probably not as much as I could, but I am walking regularly and doing yoga occasionally (I REALLY want to get back into yoga again!). I'm still reading and absorbing knowledge. I've been fascinated by Ayurveda for some time, and I've been reading a few books such as "The Complete Book of Ayurvedic Home Remedies" by Vasant Lad. While some of the Ayurvedic concepts don't resonate with me 100%, or just don't fit into my life at this time, there are a lot of things that I do find will improve MY life (remember, people; ONE book, concept, school of thought, author, etc. does NOT have ALL the answers for YOU. We are all different, so don't be afraid to accept the things that are true for you, and leave behind the things that don't suit you...I'm learning that myself, as it is hard for me to think for myself's easier to be told what to do, and assume it's for the best because some other author/person/book says so, and force myself to stick to it.) such as yoga and meditation when I get a quiet, private evening to myself, breathing deep, being mindful of how certain things affect the doshas and keeping them in balance. And in order to appreciate my body NOW since I have to love the one I've got no matter what shape it's in, I've been enjoying this cute book, "101 things to do before you diet" by Mimi Spencer. This is a very uplifting book that is obviously aimed at people like me; people who are done yo-yo dieting but still want to eventually reach their perfect weight and look good while doing so. There are little tips on both nutrition and fashion, in a way that makes you feel beautiful and accepted. I'm only about halfway through with the book, but it is very enjoyable. I like the fact that she offers a number of tips and urges you to chose the ones that work for you, without promoting one lifestyle/diet (for example, she offers a tip about eating raw, another about eating more soups, another about eating more greens, another about practicing the ayurvedic principle of eating your biggest meal during lunch, etc.) It helps me get out of my obsessive mentality of wanting to follow a strict diet and restrict foods, and helps me think for myself.

So here I am. I am building up a lot of knowledge and am creating my own beliefs. There are some things from my previous lifestyles that I agree with, and I am adopting other beliefs too: raw fruits, veggies, and nuts are wonderful for the body and make me feel so good; I still love vegan foods, although some are far lighter/less dense than others; mock meats and vegan cheeses are tasty on occasion but shouldn't be a daily staple for me; it's all about the basics- fruits, veggies, unrefined grains, whole foods, pure foods, organic foods; dairy is tasty on occasion but it is heavy and best eaten in small amounts, like a sprinkle on salads or on top of pasta; I like to enjoy the occasional junk food, such as nachos, pizza, popcorn, and quesadillas, but don't feel good when I eat these things daily; a daily salad is divine; I love soups for lunch; when I'm not hungry in the morning, I prefer to skip breakfast; when I am hungry in the morning I like cereal, oatmeal, or fruit; I still love chocolate and sweets, but I don't feel good when I eat them daily. I'm craving raw gourmet meals again, but I am aware that for me, it is best I eat them on occasion when they truly sound yummy, not just because I know how cleansing they are...that mentality just leads me to food/weight obsession once again.

Slowly but surely, I will learn what suits ME best. Certain foods are perfect daily staples; others are fun on weekends or when going out to eat on a date with the boyfriend. I feel like a child. I know I will keep learning. I know I will hit snags in the road. I know it will get easier. I know eventually, I won't be obsessed with certain foods. I know my body is beautiful now, even though it is plumper in places. I know I'll fall and then I'll get back up again.

I feel bad writing such uplifting posts about how good I've been doing, how I've mastered moderation, how I've lost weight only to alternate with posts about how I've binged, how I've crashed, how I've gained weight. But you know what? I'm human. I'm learning. I've got issues. We all do, don't we? I'm just me and that's all I can be. I will, however, work to become the best me that I can be, flaws and all included.

To the new year ahead! I was on a budget the last couple months so I could buy presents for my loved ones, but now I think I will be financially comfortable when it comes to buying food, so I anticipate some tasty recipe-making! I'm craving Carmellas Kelp Noodles in Peanut Sauce like crazy, so hopefully I'll be making that soon! And how about some raw desserts, to keep those heavier desserts away? We'll see...