Sunday, June 16, 2019

A Lifestyle, Not a Diet

That moment you lost the weight you were lifting every day.
I hesitated writing this blog post because I didn't want to sound like I'm patting myself on the back, tooting my own horn, or achieved anything of importance. I felt inspired to share this little 30 day journey I had with you because I think it's encouraging to know that things are not as impossible as they may seem. I didn't think it was possible to overcome what I joked was my "sugar addiction." I have been a stress eater on and off, finding food to be an answer to problems. It was something I looked to in order to alleviate suffering...whether it was stress caused by studies, deadlines, family illnesses, loss, loneliness, or anxiety. 

Food should be something to enjoy and a pleasant part of our lives, but I started to feel like it was taking over my life. Ever since I was in the monastery, I felt like I had to eat a lot at each meal because you had to wait till the next one to have something, and it might not be that much when you got there. Even though that was seven years ago, I don't think I ever shook that anxious feeling that came sometimes when I was hungry. 

Then I started to do some reading and learned that stress eating is a form of alleviating negative emotions. I have negative emotions? I found this very interesting and realized I needed to make some changes in my life. Changes not just in eating habits, but changes to bring in those positive emotions. So I called it my "feel better" program. I didn't follow a specific diet because I knew I would give up. I didn't cut out everything that was unhealthy because I'm too chicken to go cold turkey. (See what I did there?) When it came down to it, I knew I needed a lifestyle not a diet. 

My story included three simple things: exercise, food, and recreation. I set my own goal to lose 10 lbs in 30 days and was determined to achieve it. Not just because I wanted to lose a little weight, but I wanted to prove to myself that I could live a different way. I could change my lifestyle. I could be someone who found ways to overcome a problem I was struggling with. That I was the one who made the decisions rather than my anxiety.

Exercise: I exercised every day, mostly 30-45 minutes on a stationary bike and read books while doing so. This is my preferred exercise because it helps the arthritis in my knees (which seems crazy to be talking about at my age). Or I would supplement with walking my dog two miles for about half an hour to change up the scenery. I would also lift (pathetically) 5 lb weights 30 times and did some sit-ups. Starting my morning with these routines helped me both physically and mentally. Now I actually look forward to that time because it jumpstarts my day on a positive note. 

Food: I personally found a high protein/low carb plan to be fruitful and cooked at home. Note, high and low, meaning I still ate carbs but just not as much. Yes, I cut out processed foods and sugary desserts. But here's what I still ate. Breakfast: yogurt and a piece of fruit, or bacon (yes bacon) and an omelet. Lunch: homemade grass fed beef hamburger with pickles and ketchup (except on Fridays ;-). Dinner: pork and asparagus, eggplant parmesan, tacos, chicken and zucchini, or spaghetti and meatballs.  Snacks: fruit (sometimes with whipped cream) cheese, or yogurt. Drinks: sparkling water, black tea, chamomile tea, and water. I also tried intermittent fasting between 5pm and 9am, which is really helpful to reset your system. Wait...you lost weight eating your favorite foods? I believe it is more what I wasn't eating (like processed sugar) than what I did eat, which still could be healthier. I admit I found it important to cheat once a week with a hot fudge sundae to keep me going ;-) A shoutout to Urban Cookhouse for my sometimes getting healthy meals out!

Recreation: This was the most important to me. I started to create a regular sleep schedule of about 8-9 hours, as well as a routine for myself during the day--a harder challenge when working from home. I would do something relaxing in the evening (not on a screen) like reading or doing puzzles or socializing. I utilized coping skills that I found helpful at stressful moments (one of which was rearranging my whole house). I prayed a LOT. I planned meals ahead and tried to only buy what was on my grocery list. I spent time with supportive family and friends (one of whom was my accountability coach and inspired me in the first place!), and ultimately tried to keep things in perspective.

So what's the point of all this? That if you find yourself struggling with something similar and feel it is unachievable, I want to say you can do it. Goals are possible. That cliche saying of "you can do anything if you set your mind to it" is so true. You just have to want the goal more than what you are giving up.

So do I still go out to eat sometimes? Yes. Do I still eat that occasional hot fudge sundae? Yes. Was it hard to get through the 30 days? Yes. But! Does being hungry bother me like it used to? No. Is food still the answer to my stress? No. It was by filling my life with positive outlets that gave me the answer. Then food became a part of my life rather than my life. I hope I am the better for it.

May this journey of mine helps readers out there in some way! 

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