So, This is Me On Food – Designing My Life

This is the part of my blog where I drivel on about my lifestyle challenges accompanied by fun and factual illustrations.

Several months ago, I wrote about my new adventure with food, or rather, my relationship to food. When it came down to it, I really hadn’t realized that I’d whittled out so much “no-no food” from my diet, that I was basically starving myself – and yet, STILL GAINING WEIGHT.  It wouldn’t come off no matter what I tightened up on, or how much I increased my physical activity. Clearly, eating less was not the answer, nor was exercising more. My body was in protest. My metabolism flipped me the bird and gave up.

Aside from the slow, relentless weight gain, I noticed that my hair was more the texture of burlap than silky corn tassels.  But I was eating healthily! I used nice, chemical free shampoos. I didn’t abuse my hair with flat irons or colour processing. And yet, it was so dry that split ends emerged out of newly trimmed locks within days of cutting them.

Let me tell you a bit about my lady stuff. Yes, LADY STUFF. For years, at least dating back to my early 20s (I’m now in my late 30s), I’ve had a condition called Fibrocystic Breast Disease. My doctor recently told me they’ve removed the “Disease” label and replaced it with “Problem”. Basically, it’s non-cancerous lumps that present themselves in one’s breasts. The only link it has to breast cancer is that people with this “problem” run the risk of being so used to encountering lumps that they might not take urgent notice of a new, potentially dangerous lump as they might have otherwise.  This has never been the case with me. I’m often feeling myself up and monitoring lumps. Once per year I get them checked out with ultrasound (mammograms are so over).  My latest and largest lump had been present for several years – maybe 5 or more. They come and go, but there always seems to be at least one, or more, present at any given time.

During ovulation, I would quite often experience a sharp, deep pain in my seat and abdomen. It would last 20-30 minutes, completely stopping me in my tracks, and then it would disappear. I’ve never had that diagnosed as anything, not that I haven’t seen a doctor for it.

I’ve learned to navigate and live fairly happily with these things – my lot in life, and all of that. Imagine my surprise that when I finally recognized that I wasn’t EATING ENOUGH FOOD, and did something about it, my body started correcting all of these woes.  My hair feels human again – that happened within the first month – and over the last few months, my ovulation pains have nearly completely subsided. The large 5+ year old fibroid/cyst in my breast is gone! My yearly ultrasound isn’t until January, but I’m interested to see the changes when it does come.

My body is thanking me for simply giving it adequate fuel. What the fuel is doesn’t seem as important as the quantity and frequency of consumption. I started being present in my body and deliberately not ignoring hunger pains (because, seriously, I have a problem with that. Who has time to be hungry? Eating is such a pain in the ass) and then nourishing myself with whatever I felt like eating, but focusing on carbs (oh dear carbs, why did I forsake you?), salt, sugar and saturated fats in the moments when I just need to squelch the hunger pangs. Of course I still eat a lot of healthy, whole foods, but I’m not avoiding foods for the sake of “health” anymore.

The challenging part of this all, other than remembering to eat,  has been the rather rapid change in my body over the last several months. You can’t train your body how to function in scarce times (shittily, I might add) and then expect it not to hoard when times of plenty start coming around. My poor body is hanging on to every morsel, getting ready for the next famine. Except, my goal is that there won’t be a next famine. Eventually my metabolism will kick in high gear and my body will be convinced that it can let go of the excess because I’m not going to starve it again anytime soon. It’s like it’s learning to trust me again. Poor metabolism. I’m so sorry.

I’ve gained somewhere in the neighbourhood of 25-ish lbs and I’ve gone up one full pants size (on paper) but I suspect more in actual fit. I laugh when I think back to my first post about this when I thought the weight gain was slowing down at only 10lbs. I’m not even eating excessively. I’m just adding foods back into my diet that I once avoided because I bought into conventional dieting wisdom.

What I wasn’t expecting so much in this process (though Matt Stone does mention in his book that some women experience this) was increasing a whole bra cup size (thank you very much, but please stop now) and I think I’ve even gotten taller! Pshhht!  As if! The jury is still out on that, but I get measured, too, when we measure the kids. Since last October, I’ve grown darn near a 1/4″. I know, that’s just crazy talk. But maybe not. The body is a many splendored thing.

I’m starting to increase my exercise again, but I’m dealing with injured Achilles tendons so I’m still keeping things gentle with yoga, walking and a little strength training.

What I’m learning from this whole experience is that I don’t feel as badly about my body at this size as I thought I would. In fact, I am feeling fairly comfortable with me these days. That’s not something I have ever been able to say before, even when I was quite thin. By no means am I fat, really, I just feel that way when trying to put on clothes that are now too snug. Finding clothes that fit well helps a lot. If you don’t like how it looks and/or feels on you, get rid of it! That’s not to say I don’t have struggles with dealing with my new shape, but it’s not about bashing myself for “letting myself go”.  I think that phrase is turning into something positive for me, actually.

Let’s give ourselves a break – quit striving for health in a grossly unhealthy way.  It does take a not-small measure of courage, though. Do you trust your body to figure it out? I’m working on it. I’m a tiny bit of a control freak, so it’s hard. Sometimes, honestly, I think I’ve gone mad. But I’m riding this out for at least a year to give my body a chance.  I’ve come across another health coach on a site called The Fuck It Diet. Her philosophy is more about changing your relationship with food and with your body, and I think it’s worth checking out.

My goal is to trim down again, but I’m sure as heck not going to starve and beat myself into it.  That’s just silly.  I recognize that I have to give my body time to get things in order. I just have to remember to keep feeding myself. No ignoring hunger. No restricting foods for the sake of restricting foods. I must eat. My body needs me to. It’s all part of designing a healthier me.

Does this concept scare the bejesus out of you? Or is there a part of you that feels like it makes perfect, logical sense?

See part 3 of this exciting adventure here.

More about Julie Prescesky

Julie spends much of her time paying attention to what's happening around her. At Design Inkarnation, she's head designer, illustrator, writer and creative problem solver.

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