Diet, Exercise, Fitness, Food, Lifestyle, Mental Health

Restrictive Eating

Recently, I’ve had a couple people ask me about / ask for advice on a couple of diets that are popular at the moment. Having tried a couple of these diets myself, I’m always happy to talk about them and relate my experience with them.

(To save you all from boredom, I’m splitting this story up into multiple posts.)

This all started a few years ago, when I started my first desk job. In college, I was active 6 out of 7 days a week, and ate whatever I wanted. My jobs in China and Thailand also kept me pretty active, as we hiked all the time. When I got back home, that active lifestyle took a backseat, and I was able to eat all the stuff I had missed for the past two+ years. Add that I got my first desk job, and I put on a lot of weight. I was eating too much and was not active. I blame partly the fact that, at the time, I was in the car commuting to work for three to four hours a day and had a really hard time keeping my energy up to exercise. Before I knew it, within just a few months, I put on something like 25 or 30 pounds. I saw the numbers going up on the scale, but didn’t think it was such a big deal.  “I’ve weighed this before… I wasn’t overweight then…” (please note: the last time I had reached that weight was when I was lifting weights at least two times a week, and exercising 6 days a week. I was lying to myself). I didn’t realize what was happening until I saw pictures and could really see the change in my weight in my face. I didn’t like what I saw and wanted to change.

Around the same time, a friend finished P90, and the before and after photos for him flipped that switch in my brain. I bought P90 for myself and followed the eating plan and did the workouts. Developing the habit of exercising everyday was the most useful thing I learned from that experience. However, on the other hand, P90 was also the start of the issues I still battle with food.

While doing P90, I was eating 1200-1500 calories per day. As the program outlined, this was necessary for me to lose the weight quickly. Eat fewer calories per day, burn more when you exercise. To make sure, I was counting every calorie and using a food tracker paired with my fitness tracker watch. If I went over on the count (didn’t happen often because of how upset I would get) I would beat myself up and limit the food I ate the next day. Negative self talk can be really damaging, and I know this will be a demon I will always have to be on guard against.  However, I will say, one really important positive I took from the situation, P90 helped me learn to adhere to serving sizes. I stopped eating straight from the bag and taking out just one serving, which not only helps cut the calories, it saves a lot of money!

The big problem here was that I started to demonize foods. I wouldn’t let myself have foods because thought they were so terrible because they had more calories than I could “afford” in my diet. They became bad foods I couldn’t have, and I would get upset with myself for wanting them. I also became obsessed with the numbers. I would get upset when I would go over on my allowed calories for the day, and instead of paying attention to the quality of the foods I was eating, I was solely focused on eating within the calorie count parameters of the diet.

Once I started to increase my calorie count again (since I didn’t need to be in a large deficit to lose weight) and started a new exercise program, I was able to readjust my thinking about certain foods. Much of this change came from one of my friends / Beachbody Coach. I started to see my “diet” as more of a lifestyle adjustment. With the help of this friend, she helped me adopt and maintain the 80/20 diet concept – 80% natural, not packaged foods, 20% processed stuff, (pasta, ice cream, etc) because seriously, I don’t want to live a life without ice cream every once in awhile. I realized that the word “diet” shouldn’t refer to the times when you limit yourself. Diet actually means the foods you eat all the time. Your diet is your lifestyle, and referring to the times when you eat so restrictively as a “diet” lends itself to the yo-yo weight gain and loss. Changing my outlook on my diet definitely helped me rethink the “bad” foods. My relationship with food got better, I was exercising regularly, and I maintained the weight loss, for the most part (beer got the better of me for a summer or two at baseball games).  

And while everything seemed great, my skin was a mess, naturally. This was before I decided to eliminate gluten. In the next post, I’ll talk about everything I did to try to clear my skin – elimination diets, antibiotics, and juice cleansing… I’ve put my body through the ringer.

I believe that what I was / am going through was something referred to as restrictive eating, NOT an eating disorder.  The problem I dealt / deal with is much more common than most people like to admit. I think this is because it’s hard to recognize in the moment. My understanding about my problems with food came much later; actually, several years later.  My hope is that sharing this struggle I had can help others dealing with restrictive eating, especially before it gets any worse.


Anyone else out there dealing with / dealt with restrictive eating?


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