Too much dieting.
Massive binge tonight.
Too much dieting.
Massive binge tonight.
I’ve been quiet because, well, I haven’t had much to report.
No binges since my last post. That makes more than 5 weeks now, and I was feeling confident enough to actually attempt a conservative diet. I’ve been making an actual effort to drop a little body fat over the past couple of weeks, and things seem to have been going well. I’ve stayed off the scales, but judging by the fit of my clothes and appearances in the mirror, I’ve leaned out a little bit.
This past week was interesting, because it was my daughter’s 5th birthday. This meant I had to contend with a restaurant meal one evening, and an extended family barbecue last night which included birthday cake. I won’t lie and say there was no anxiety about these, but whereas in the past those feelings might’ve taken over my mind for many hours, I just tried to accept that what happened happened, and enjoy the time together.
The restaurant meal was kinda fun, although I did actually compensate by skipping lunch. Bad, maybe, but I was cooped up in a meeting all day struggling to stay awake and not that hungry anyway. I made up for it by filling up on loaded potato skins, panookie and chocolate ice cream. The barbecue was fine – not my favourite meal, since there were no lean protein sources, but I had a burger and a small piece of chocolate cake and loaded up on the salad.
This is where I’m at right now. Food is just food. I can control my body weight and appearance by eating mindfully, but no foods are off the table and flexibility is key. I don’t expect to eat this way for more than another couple of weeks, as I’m not trying to get shredded, just take off a little fluff – but I’m not unhappy with how I look or how things are going right now.
Three quick thoughts.
As I write this, it’s Friday afternoon, and this Sunday (2 days away) will make 3 whole weeks since my last episode of binge eating, or extreme hunger, or whatever terminology you use.
Considering I had a 2 week break before the last one, that’d be one binge in 5 weeks, which would be far and away the best period I’ve ever had since this whole shenanigans started. I am getting really, really confident in my routine and my progress, BUT….
Old habits are creeping in. I am still scared of gaining weight, so in trying to ‘not binge’ I’m tending to fill myself up on salads and other calorie sparse foods, eat low calorie desserts, and generally restrict – just a little bit. And I’m beginning to think about throwing in a day a week (maybe just one.. maybe two) of skipping breakfast to try and get a little weight loss happening and take off some fat. I don’t ever want to get as lean as I was, mind you – I just feel like coming into summer it’d be nice to drop four or five kilos so my belly isn’t quite so big. I’m definitely not planning anything too aggressive but I’m also not sure if this is too early – which is why I thought maybe one day a week might be a good place to start.
Finally, I just finished listening to a podcast from 3D Muscle Journey about transitioning away from tracking macros – I highly recommend it, if you are in a similar situation to me. There’s lots of fantastic takeaways in there. Oh, and (spoiler alert) – they’re working on a course to help people transition away from tracking macros and getting back in tune with their hunger and satiety signals, which will be released in the 3DMJ Vault later this year. And… it’ll be free to access! So that’s super good – I did pay for a similar course from Sustainable Self Development, which was also useful, but knowing the 3DMJ guys this will be well worth checking out.
That’s it for me. I’m off to drink a milky coffee (decaf) and wind down my work week.
I had some daddy daughter time tonight and we got takeaway.
My meal was a schnitzel on a bun, specifically this:
With seasoned potato chips, sweet potato fries and a big salad. Plus some of my daughters schnitzel bites since she is an incredibly fussy eater and didn’t like them much. Afterwards I had a decent hot chocolate with whipped cream and some biscuits, guilt free. It was a big meal, and I’m still pretty damn full a few hours later.
This would have been utterly unthinkable six months ago.
Unfortunately, I had a rather unpleasant encounter with my next door neighbour afterwards, when I confronted them about the loud music they were playing. It left me feeling pretty irritated and could’ve easily triggered a binge but I managed to drink a cup of tea, calm myself down and move on.
I’d call tonight a double win. Just hope I sleep ok and don’t dwell on it – it’s likely there’ll be fallout / continuance of the issue tomorrow and beyond.
This post was inspired by a discussion I had in a Facebook group on the weekend. It started with someone sharing this Instagram post from Dr Spencer Nadolsky about the dichotomy between HAES advocates and Fitpros attitudes towards obesity, and the lack of nuance that often exists in these conversations. It’s something I’ve noticed myself – on one hand there seem to be the militant macro trackers who tell everyone to track all their food and get shredded that way, and on the other are the militant HAES advocates who tell everyone to eat whatever they want (with little regard for food quality) and let your body weight fall where it may, without regard or mention of the risk factors that obesity brings. The grey area in between is massive, and in a world that’s dominated by infographics and physique shots, most don’t expend much effort to individualise their advice or caution people about the downsides of extremes in either direction.
Thankfully I think things are slowly changing in the fitness world. There seem to be more and more people in the industry like Eric Helms, Emilia Thompson, Abel Csabai, Stephanie Buttermore, Jordan Syatt and others who are aware of the potential pitfalls of macro tracking particularly with regards to food anxieties and disordered eating. These folks generally encourage their followers to seek out body composition goals and nutritional approaches that are sustainable for that individual – even if it means they carry a little more weight than they’d ideally like, without ignoring the fact that obesity is a risk factor for many diseases and is something we want to avoid. And that, to me, is the kind of message that I want to support.
So I’m going to put down some opinions here, and then share my experiences and thoughts on how I came to them.
If you answered yes to at least one of these, then tracking macros is probably the best approach to meet your goals, providing you don’t have any contraindications listed below. If you didn’t, then I’m not saying you can’t or shouldn’t track, but I think you can probably smash your goals out of the park without needing to track anything, it might just take a bit of setting up and experimentation to begin with.
If any of these apply to you, then I’d really question whether tracking macros is a sensible idea. At the very least, if you’re going to do so, at least take the time to consider whether tracking is actually adding anything worthwhile to your life or whether it’s making things more complicated. And on that last point, I would argue that ‘keeping my weight under control’ doesn’t really ‘add’ anything; if you absolutely need to track in order to keep your weight under control then in my opinion you’re either trying to maintain a weight that’s too low for your body to healthily sustain, and/or you’re probably quite capable of maintaining that weight without tracking, simply by learning good habits and eating mindfully. However it does take a leap of faith to let go of the MyFitnessPal safety net and go it alone.
Firstly let me say, I don’t hate tracking – at all. I think it can be a fantastic tool and I don’t really regret my time doing it, despite the mess I got myself into with it. As someone who used to be obese and didn’t have any idea or care for what I crammed in my mouth so long as it tasted good, it taught me a lot of important lessons that I’ll continue to use for the rest of my life. For example:
However, as another commenter on the thread stated: ‘I have no “off” when it comes to food. Can eat and eat and eat and eat‘ – and I totally relate to that. For me, when I was tracking, I always felt like I was restricting and eating less than I needed. The longer I did it, the more food became the central focus of my life, the more tired and grumpy I became, and the more food anxiety I experienced. The problem with tracking is that the more you ‘eat by the numbers’ the further and further you get away from your own hunger and satiety signals, and the more your forget where your ‘off switch’ should be! So while the lessons I learned were important, in the long term, for me it was really just putting a bandaid on the problem.
Another commenter suggested that perhaps I was just not eating enough carbs – but no, that wasn’t the problem. Now I’m a fair bit heavier, it’s clear that I was simply trying to maintain a body weight that was too low for my individual body. I dieted to such a lean state that I had barely any muscle mass and was a starving, tired mess – but yet I was still shit scared of gaining weight. Many people who were once obese and go through a weight loss journey will relate to this – I’ve heard it called adiposephobia, Former Fat Boy Syndrome, and other such names.
Now I’ve come out the other side and I’m in a bigger body, I’m also carrying a lot more muscle and feel like I’m maintaining my body weight without depriving myself much at all – and I’m in a far better position to get a little leaner when I decide that I’m ready. Could I track food now without anxiety now though? I don’t think so – not for very long, anyway – now I know I’m predisposed to these issues, I don’t want to risk going down that rabbit hole again. And anyway, I feel like I’m so much more in tune with my body and so much better at eating mindfully (not without slipups, though… yet) that I strongly believe I could diet down to an acceptable body composition without needing to track anything, just by manipulating the portion sizes and composition of my meals.
This brings me to the point I wanted to make, which is that saying ‘I have no “off” when it comes to food’ perhaps creates a bit of a self fulfilling prophecy. In my professional life, I have no time for people who don’t want to learn to help themselves, and I guess I feel like this attitude might be similar. If being out of touch with your body’s nutritional needs is a problem, then is tracking the answer? Maybe, maybe not. I had one person say that tracking is ‘The complete opposite of anxiety for me. I just do the math then eat guilt free or whatever’. If someone has this attitude to tracking and it genuinely causes no issues, then I say, track away.
But on the other hand, if tracking causes issues (and I can’t see how it won’t, at least occasionally) then in my limited experience, eating mindfully and intuitively is a skill that can be learned like any other. I’d be willing to bet that most of us could figure out where that off switch is and how to utilise it with some practice and experimentation. The problem is, it does take more time and effort than tracking – it’s not as simple as ‘eat X calories to maintain my weight’ – there are lots more factors at play. But the more I learn and the more I practice, the more confident I feel that this is the most sustainable approach for me to achieve my training and body composition goals while still finding joy in all types of food.
So I’m gonna write this post a bit differently. First, the TLDR; then, if anyone is interested, they can read my longer explanations and thoughts. It’s cathartic for me to get that stuff off my chest, but at the same time, I feel as if it’s probably not very interesting to most people – so perhaps the take home messages are the most important thing – so here goes.
Today, despite all the things rattling round in my brain, I continue to move forward. That is my vow.
Now – here’s the long version.
The last few weeks have been generally excellent – I’ve managed to keep my stress under control, feel like I haven’t yelled at my child or my dog in weeks, and my eating has fallen into a pretty regular pattern. It was date night on Saturday night, so the wife and I went out for a restaurant meal which was awesome – and although I still made my choices with health in the back of my mind, I wasn’t super anxious about macros or calories and even enjoyed a decent dessert. To be fair, the dessert was shared with my wife, but that was genuinely out of fullness, not fear. And I still ate a damn lot without feeling any concerns whatsoever.
At home though, I’ve been tending towards low calorie desserts again, mostly out of fear that eating a more ‘normal’ high calorie dessert will trigger off a desire to binge. This feels a little like restriction, which has been concerning me, and perhaps the fear is legitimate given what happened – but I don’t think that it was entirely the dessert that did it this time around.
The thing is, I’ve got a little bit of a minor groin injury, which has been bothering me for a while – yet I still keep squatting. I’ve also had a pretty sore biceps for ages (it started months ago, when I was doing curls almost every gym session) which I self diagnosed as tendinopathy. This has never really got any better, and every time I perform movements which hit the biceps it gets a little angry – then on Thursday last week I did some heavy rows (knowing full well I shouldn’t have) and really made it hurt a lot. This started off a bit of depression and disappointment in myself because I should know better by now, and it’s definitely going to impact on my lifting til it heals. I went in and trained on Saturday as normal, and during that session managed to hurt my back on the leg press (an injury I have experienced before – very painful, but will be right as rain in a couple of weeks). So you can imagine me going out for tea on Saturday night, hobbling round with a sore groin, a very sore back, and an arm that can barely lift anything – I was feeling pretty sorry for myself.
Sensible people would probably take some time out of the gym, but I still trained on Sunday as well. The session went OK, but I guess in the afternoon I was feeling pretty sore and sorry for myself and depression set in. Sunday night happened to be my fortnightly evening alone, when the girls go to visit family without me – I generally enjoy these nights as they’re an opportunity to eat whatever I want in peace and quiet, but unfortunately they all too often turn into hours of obsessing about what to eat, and this was one of those times. It’s a bad recipe, scouring restaurant menus and Facebook food groups trying to decide on a food option for hours at a time, as well as feeling yukky about myself, so this is probably the first problem. Lately, I’ve been very good at letting those thoughts pass and saying ‘worry about dinner at dinner time‘ and not allowing myself to obsess and preplan too much. This time, I failed at that.
Ultimately I decided I wanted a nice takeaway steak sandwich with sweet potato fries – but that’s logistically difficult as I’d have to cook the fries at home – none of the local takeaways do them. I decided to go and buy steak and bread and make it all at home instead – and to many this would be considered a trigger, substituting a ‘healthy’ option for what you really want. However, and I’m sure this isn’t the ED voice talking, deep fried takeaway chips make me feel crap and genuinely aren’t nice/flavoursome enough to me to be worth it, so I don’t know whether I did the wrong thing or not. For better or worse, I made a steak sandwich on sourdough bread, with scotch fillet steak, an egg, full fat (shock horror!) cheese, sweet potato fries and salad. And fuck, was it good. Good enough that I decided to go all out on dessert and have strawberries, blueberries, ice cream, real (not sugar free) chocolate topping and a smattering of M&Ms. And that was bloody good as well. So good, in fact, that it made me want more. So. Much. More.
I typed out all the food I ate here, then decided it might be triggering for some. It was a decent amount, and it was all high calorie dessert type food, but I’ve certainly had much worse binges in the past. And, funny (not really) story – normally I make a cup of tea for the wife every night, and have a decaf or tea myself at the same time. When she got home, I was absolutely stuffed, but still wanted to have a hot chocolate with her tea so I had that, and also ate half a Kit Kat. Because, like, I knew I was extremely bloody full, but it was a limited edition Ruby Kit Kat which I hadn’t tried before and I just wanted it – but I really felt no urge to eat the whole thing. Even that, in itself, is progress – in the past I probably would have just eaten it all. And the Aero bar and the Cherry Ripe that were in the fridge with it.
So here I sit, a day later, reflecting on things. I’m putting this one down simply to the fact that I was sad and in pain, and I let myself obsess about food too long instead of accepting those feelings and letting them pass without acting on them. But having said that – I had a pretty decent night’s sleep and a good breakfast. I’m feeling a little heartburny, but not dreadfully so. Life will go on, these injuries will heal, and I will be a better, stronger person. Next time, I will do better.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost a month since my last post here. I’ve been meaning to bang out some thoughts for a while but life kept getting in the way. Anyway, I’ve found a quiet moment, so here goes.
On the eating front, I’m quietly optimistic things have turned a corner. After my last post, I did end up having a feast a day or two later. Went another week or so without one, then went away to Queensland for an extended weekend to visit family. I was apprehensive about this, for a few reasons. But I had a good time catching up with my siblings, found a cool gym to train at and had a couple of solid lifting sessions, and things were mostly ok until some family stress brought me undone on the Sunday night and I hit the food hard; including a couple of late night walks for Cold Rock, hot chocolate, more ice cream and chips and cereal.
When I got home, I struggled with the adjustment back to family life – after 4 days of mostly adult company, puppies and kids and life stuff felt like a real shock and we had a few major blowups, and I ate like an asshole for a couple of days solid.
But since then, I’ve somehow managed to stay in control of both my moods and my eating. 10 days without an episode. Let’s hope it continues.
In semi related news, the dietician I’ve been seeing has referred me on to counsellors / psychologists as some of these issues are outside her wheelhouse. Fair enough. It does feel like these episodes have moved on a bit from frantic, insatiable episodes of extreme hunger to lately more like ‘I feel stressed/sad/lonely so let’s eat til I feel better’. It’s more of a habit than a compulsion. So now I need to work on stress management and mindfulness as much as anything. I’m trying to decide whether to see a local counsellor or a local psychologist or see someone remotely who might specialise more in my particular issues.
There’s plenty of neural rewiring to do on the food front – I’m eating almost anything I feel like, and never going hungry for too long, but still have a few fear foods. And another thing I discovered – when I was in Queensland we ate out a lot and unlike here, there were soooo many menus that had the kilojoules listed right next to the name of each dish. I found this awfully triggering…. and I NEVER chose the high calorie option. We had Vietnamese one day and I had the no noodle salad (unlike my brothers) because it was lighter. At one point I walked into a Chinese bakery and looked at all these amazing pastries but couldn’t bring myself to buy one because they were so calorie dense. It’s bizarre…. if I don’t know; or don’t look at the macros, I can trick myself into eating this stuff but once I’ve seen it, it can’t be unseen.
Anyway things are not awful right now. I hope things keep trending in the right direction.
So my last post might’ve seemed a little bit negative, and it was. At that point, I was feeling very down about things. But I’m posting again to say that since then, things have got a lot better. Somehow, I’m now on day 5 without a feast. Which is the longest I’ve gone in quite a while. What’s changed? I don’t know. Maybe that crash the other day caused me to reassess and resteel my resolve to beat this motherf***er once and for all.
I’ve definitely been doing everything I can to ensure I don’t go hungry for too long – no skipping meals, no compensating, just eating.
Last night my wife decided we’d have a packet mix risotto for dinner, which is a bit of a deviation from our normal Tuesday night meal. Six months ago this probably would have freaked me out, but now? I couldn’t care less. I covered up the macros with my thumb when I looked at the cooking instructions, and managed to completely avoid reading them. The last step was to stir in a teaspoon of margarine – and I didn’t skip it.
I’ve had dessert every night (last night it was warm chocolate brownie and ice cream; on Sunday night it was cheesecake!). Lately, eating one dessert has often triggered the desire to eat many more, but somehow in recent days the Dmitry voice has been fairly quiet.
I’ve also been doing my best to let his thoughts pass through my head without reaction too. For example, I often find myself preplanning meals way before they happen (like I’ll be about to have breakfast, and will start thinking about morning tea, or some other subsequent meal, and how the day’s gonna snap together) and I’ll simply tell myself to forget about that, and worry about it when the time comes. Of course, I bring food to work to make sure I do have those snacks available, but as I said, there are plenty of shops nearby to work too, and often people bring food to work; today I didn’t bring sweet stuff, but fortuitously a colleague bought chocolate cake. And yes, I ate a slice 🙂
I think that doing this is helping to ease the food focus, which is helping to ease the scarcity mentality, which is helping to limit the desire to eat the entire contents of our pantry. But still – it’s only been 5 days. I’ve gone this long before, and relapsed into old habits, so I don’t want to get ahead of myself. However, I am cautiously optimistic.
My Fitbit is on eBay, and will sell in the coming days.
I am getting better, slowly but surely.
On a related note, a timely post from Tabitha this morning:
Lots of this stuff rang true for me. I started writing a bit about it, but time is short right now, and I decided I couldn’t do it justice at the moment, and I want a coffee. A milky, frothy one, from the bakery. Because that’s how I roll now.
I’m feeling pretty discouraged at the moment.
This week started badly. Binged in front of the F1 on Sunday night. Actually gave up on watching the race, because I was struggling to stay awake and ridiculously full. Had a fairly big all-day binge on Wednesday as well. Today (Friday) I ate all the food I’d packed for work by 10:30am, plus some extra cake and biscuits, then made sure I ate plenty at lunch and afternoon tea as well.
Being depressed about how I’ve been eating is leading to a vicious cycle of eating more to try and not feel depressed and I’m beginning to wonder how much of my eating these days is actually ‘extreme hunger’ and how much is just me feeling totally depressed and empty inside, and wondering if it’s all worth it, and if I didn’t have a wife and daughter relying on me, would this be a good time to ‘take the open door‘?
I want to talk about positive things. Learning guitar. I bought one. It arrived Tuesday and I’ve had a couple of brief attempts at working through some beginner lessons. I want to talk about the correlation between eating disorders and an over-fixation on health and body image, my loss of identity (apart from fitness) since having a child, and how learning guitar is an attempt to reinvent myself, and find other means of evaluating my self worth. But of course if I fail at learning it, this might backfire.
It does seem as if it is taking less food to actually feel satisfied and stop a binge. Maybe that’s progress, I don’t know. Or maybe it’s just because I’ve been making an effort to eat so much more earlier in the day, that I physically can’t fit much more in.
I hate to think what I weigh at the moment – it’s been two weeks since I last stepped on the scales. I think I look fat, and I think the tightness of most of my clothes is exacerbating that feeling. Maybe I need to go back to wearing more baggy clothes so I don’t have to deal with the constant reminder of how much weight I’ve gained.
And now it’s after 10pm, sitting here bloated after a big dinner, half a tub of gelato, countless biscuits, cakes, chocolates, chocolate brownie and hot chocolate drinks, I know it’s gonna be another hot, sweaty night of shit sleep and aggro with the wife and daughter and dog and I’m wondering when all this is going to end, who will I be when it does, and will I be happy with the person I’ve become?
I posted this on my Insta this morning, but as I’m trying to keep this blog kinda anonymous, I won’t link and will repost with a bit more detail here…
It may not be obvious but the difference in size and weight between these two bags is enormous.
I got the bag on the left in June 2017 in my Avatar Nutrition days. It’s an Innovator 500 by Six Pack Fitness. Let’s be prepared, I said. I loaded each compartment with different varieties of snacks, my own tea and coffee, protein powders and shakers, cutlery, as well as my standard lunch and the other foods I planned to eat for the day. I was gonna hit my macros come hell or high water!
I’ve been carrying this bag to work every day for two years. For the last few months or so I’ve not eaten anything out of it except my standard lunch. And it’s so big and unwieldy… I have to stop and wait for people in the hallway so I don’t bump into them with it, and given that I also carry a backpack with my laptop and other equipment in it, it’s a pain in the bum.
The stupid thing is, my lunch is only in it from the kitchen to the car, then the car to the fridge. I’m office bound most days, with access to a fridge, microwave, and a fair few shops within walking distance. So it’s completely unnecessary, but yaknow… habits.
Today I downsized and put my lunch into this smaller bag instead – it’s maybe a quarter of the size and weight. It might seem like a pretty minor thing, but this is another (small) step in the process to fixing my relationship with food. The smaller bag is so freeing – and ya know what? Food is just food. Meals don’t have to be perfect. If I’m hungry – I’ll go buy something. And in fact, I plan to – because shop bought sandwiches taste so much better than what I make at home, and actually, I might feel like a burger.
Don’t let food become a chain around your neck. Don’t let a fixation with your body size and shape ruin your life. I did, and I regret it so much. So many arguments at mealtimes, yelling at my wife and daughter because I was hangry, avoiding social and family events because the food didn’t suit me, or (worse) attending and starving myself because I refused to eat sausages because OMG SO MUCH FAT… or compulsively walking day in and day out to try and burn off the calories and make sure I stay lean.
It was a pale imitation of a life and it’s one that I refuse to live any more. Food is good. All of it. It’s there to be enjoyed. My body is the least interesting thing about me. It really is – and the benefits of eating enough food to fuel my body are evident in my energy levels, my gym performance, and my overall happiness.
That’s not to say I want to get fat again, or that I don’t care what I eat. And it’s true that I’m bigger than I want to be right now. But this is all part of the process of attaining balance in my life, and some sort of peace with food.
I refuse to diet again until I am confident I can do it without turning into a monster. Til then, I’ll just have to live with how I look. It’s really far less important than how I act and how I feel.