2012: The year I hit diet bottom and found Intuitive Eating. – life+running

2012: The year I hit diet bottom and found Intuitive Eating.

(Trigger Warning: this post could be triggering to those who have had experience with eating disorders.)

I hate year in review posts*. Mostly because if you’ve been reading a blog, you know what’s going on with the blogger. So, I’ve been trying to decide if I should write this post or not. Ultimately, I’m writing it on the off chance that my writing this post will help somebody else who’s struggling with their weight. Also, this is going to be a long post, and I’m sorry. I will try to break it up into chunks and highlight key things for you.

If you take anything away from this post, be sure it’s this:

DIETS DO NOT WORK. // lifeplusrunning.com

Yes, if you have a short-term, temporary goal in mind — like a class reunion, or a swimsuit competition — then a diet might work. Unless you’re like me and have dieted your whole life, then the older you get, the less likely a diet will be successful. The key word to remember is temporary. You WILL gain any weight you lose while dieting back — if not all of it, then some of it or in many cases, more pounds than you originally had. Ask anybody whose dieted and hit their goal weight just how long they’ve stayed at that goal weight. So unless you plan on tracking points, calories, fat grams, etc. for your whole entire life, diets are not a great plan.

Why don’t diets work? It would take a whole series of posts to cover that, and we’ll get to that, but the short version is that they mess up your hunger cues, make you crave “forbidden foods” (things you otherwise wouldn’t crave), make you obsess over food, and they starve your body, which slows your metabolism, making it harder and harder to lose weight.

But you’ve heard this all before. I know I did. I thought I was done dieting, but it turned out that my entire life I’d been dieting, and that diet mentality is really hard to kick.

are you REALLY not dieting? // lifeplusrunning.com

Think you’re not on a diet? Ask yourself these things:

  1. Do I track calories, fat grams, carbs, or anything else on a nutrition label so I stay within a “healthy” or “acceptable” range for my body for the day?
  2. Have I denied my hunger because I didn’t work out, just ate recently, or because there wasn’t something “acceptable” (according to your rules, not taste) to eat that was available?
  3. Are there foods that you won’t touch because they are “naughty”, “bad”, or “forbidden” (food allergies/sensitivities and food snobbery aside)?
  4. Do you have fat days? Or good / bad eating days?
  5. Have you worked out recently because you felt it was necessary based on your food intake?
If you said yes to any of these questions, you are on a diet, or are stuck in diet mentality, which is essentially a diet. You’ve probably noticed that:
  1. Food doesn’t taste good unless it’s “forbidden”.
  2. You have binges. And you’re always hungry.
  3. You seemingly have no control over your weight, no matter what you do.
  4. Working out is a chore.
  5. Most days you’re unhappy, and it’s due to your weight.
I don't want to live like this anymore. // lifeplusrunning.com
Yuck. This is NOT how I want to live my life. But I’ve lived my life this way for most of my 28 years. So how do I stop it?

Before I talk about how I’m going to stop this nonsense, and start making peace with food, let’s recap my year in diet hell.

my year in diet hell // lifeplusrunning.com

January graphic // lifeplusrunning.com
I signed up for WeightWatchers (WW) along with my boyfriend under the guise of wanting to understand the system so I could help him lose weight. In reality, I wanted to shed the 10 lbs I gained at the end of 2011 when I’d quit running, and started eating my feelings.

february graphic // lifeplusrunning.com
I had gained 5 lbs on WW, and attributed it to a flawed system (tangent: it does have flaws — free fruit, for starters — fructose turns into fat and we have no receptors to know when to stop eating fructose, unlike our fat, protein, and carb receptors, which is why a lot of binges are sweets and sugar-laden processed foods — but this is a different discussion for another day).

march graphic // lifeplusrunning.com
I got desperate with WW, and quit counting my exercise and started counting my fruit as points. My weight did not budge, but I did start to lose the “calories in/calories out” mentality — so at least that was nice. I did some nutrition counseling at Iowa State University with a student in our dietetics program, who introduced me to the idea of intuitive eating, but I wasn’t ready to give it a try.

april graphic // lifeplusrunning.com
I quit WW and gifted my subscription to my sister, after deciding that WW wasn’t for somebody who was already in their healthy weight range, and that the system is flawed — but I hadn’t realized that diets do not work. Plus, I had signed up for a new bootcamp that promised to shred my body back down to my “happy” weight.

may graphic // lifeplusrunning.com
I started Fitmixer Boot Camp, and was very hopeful. We had to track our calories and macronutrients (carbs, fat, protein) — more complicated than what I had done in the past, which was sheer calorie counting. I deemed the calorie range they gave me as too much for me, so I asked them to reduce it down, again, and again, until I was left with 1200 calories — which I was SURE would be the key to my weight loss.

june graphic // lifeplusrunning.com
july graphic // lifeplusrunning.com
august graphic // lifeplusrunning.com
september graphic // lifeplusrunning.com
october graphic // lifeplusrunning.com
november graphic // lifeplusrunning.com

Two pounds down, two pounds up. Three pounds down, four pounds up. And on we go like that for the rest of boot camp, and through the rest of the year, though I was diligently tracking every single morsel of food that crossed my lips. This was my diet bottom. I started going to counseling, and my counselor brought up the idea of intuitive eating. And suggested I quit tracking. I couldn’t grasp that idea — if I wasn’t tracking, how will I know that I’d eaten enough protein to support my workouts? And won’t I just keep eating, and eating? I was not ready for this.

december graphic // lifeplusrunning.com
I stayed home sick one day with my recurring stomach issues, and I watched “Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead.  In the movie, an Aussie goes on holiday to the US and does a 60-day juice fast, while meeting others who he convinces to try a 10-day juice fast. He lost more than 100 lbs, and recovered from his diet-related illnesses. What convinced me to try a juice reboot (as they call it) was woman at a healthy weight who tried it for 10 days, her migraines went away, and she felt better overall. I was intrigued by both the promise of weight loss and the idea that I could kick my GI issues if I juiced regularly.

At the same time, I picked up the book “Intuitive Eating” at the suggestion of my counselor. Had I not done this at the same time I did my 15-day juice reboot, diet mentality would have taken over and I would have found myself binging on solid foods at the end of each juice-only day, and I would have gained back any weight that I lost during the juice reboot within a very short amount of time.

i'm not dieting anymore // lifeplusrunning.com

But, I didn’t gain much of the weight back (1 lb of the 5 that I lost). And I’m not dieting anymore. About 7 days into the reboot, while reading Intuitive Eating, I gave myself permission to have one solid meal a day, consisting of whatever I wanted, since the book advised to give yourself permission to eat anything you want, and eat when you are hungry. I still wanted to juice most of my meals because I had more energy from juicing, and my stomach issues were non-existent. Though this was counteractive to the juicing-for-my-GI-system idea, kicking the diet mentality will probably help my GI system in the long run anyway, and it will help me live my life free from diets. I’m planning on doing a 5-10 day juice-only reboot in January after my first experiment.

I’ve been eating solid foods for about 2 weeks now, and juicing about 1 meal a day (usually breakfast) most days. I’ve focused on plant-based foods because I’ve noticed a difference in my energy level and with the way I feel. And I’m having fun finding new ways to enjoy vegetables that I otherwise would have ignored. But, it’s really hard to kick the diet mentality. I’m trying not to deny my hunger based on the last time that I ate, if I planned to or had worked out on a given day, or how many calories I’ve probably had that day. In fact, I just had my second breakfast while starting this post, only an hour after I ate my toast with peanut butter. And by eating this way, I’ve not gained any weight. In fact, I lost a half a pound since I really started focusing on eating when I’m hungry.

but i am quitting sugar // lifeplusrunning.com

Coincidentally, I read “Sweet Poison” and “I Quit Sugar” about a week ago. Since then, I’ve started being conscious of how much sugar is in the food I eat. I’m trying to eliminate ALL fructose (yes, including fruit) from my diet until I’ve kicked my sugar addiction (about 8 weeks), and I’m not planning to introduce any of those sugary foods back into my system at the volume I’d been eating them. I’m going to try to stick to 6 teaspoons of fructose (20 g) a day (lactose and glucose are both digestible and are detected by your system). However, I’m not keeping a running tally of my sugar intake. I’m just avoiding foods that have sugar in them (in any form, including honey, and agave — which is actually 90% fructose), and limiting my fruit intake. Again, another discussion for another day, but I wanted to throw that out there because I am keeping track of something, but I’m not dieting — I’m focusing on limiting foods with fructose, just like I’m focusing on eating mostly plant based. To others, my plate of food probably looks like I’m on a crash diet, though it’s full to the brim with food that I enjoy, and I’m satisfied after every meal, and I’m not denying myself anything that I want to eat (aside from sugar, but I’m trying to break an addiction to that substance, which is not dieting).


Anyway, that was a really, really long post. Thanks for sticking with me! This is just an introduction to a discussion/book club that I would like to start very soon. Look for another Intuitive Eating post very soon. I’m also going to do a follow up on my experiment/decision to quit sugar. I’m also going to have a few guest posts by a registered dietitian and a nutrition biochemistry student in the near future.

I want to stress that I’m not perfect, and I’m nowhere near where I need to be with kicking the diet mentality. This is a process, and I’m just starting it.

Have you ever dieted? Or hit diet bottom?

*Shortly after I wrote this, my friend Amanda decided to do a year-in-review linkup and I decided, what the hell, I’ll link up, if for no other reason than the fact that I like her. 🙂

26 Comment

  1. This ‘intuitive eating’ concept is really interesting. I picked up the book and flipped through it at the bookstore this weekend. I know I suffer from a lot of ‘guilt’ eating, myself. Maybe I’ll give it a try?

    And although I never thought of myself as on a diet, I def checked off a few of those traits :/.

    Good luck with quitting sugar!

    1. chimes says: Reply

      Yes at least take a look. Regardless of if you actually practice all of the concepts, some are important to everybody (like getting over guilt).

      1. The guilt is the worst – it makes it so hard to enjoy yourself! And enjoy just living.

  2. Brandi says: Reply

    I have never heard of the ‘intuitive eating’ concept BUT it turns out that is what I used to kick my diet mentality. I used to cut calories to the point where I was only eating 500 calories a day, lost a bunch of weight, and as you can imagine I gained it all back. Since I began eating as sensibly as possible when I am hungry I have actually lost 5 lbs. I only work out when I want too (sometimes that means drinking some coffee and putting on my running shorts to get motivated) but it has helped me enjoy myself. I feel better about myself when I look in the mirror because I don’t see calories or the number on the scale. Stick with it because if this is exactly what I have been doing, it has helped me kick what was the beginning of an illness. Keep it up!

    1. chimes says: Reply

      YIKES. that is scary. 500 a day? The worst I ever was at was 800 a day, but I’d run 8-10 miles on that (yikes). The hardest part for me is going to a restaurant and allowing myself to pick anything on the menu. It’s getting better. I’m going by how I feel. So for instance, though my mind is saying “DUDE. get a cheeseburger and fries because you haven’t had that combo since you were 12” I know that I can’t do that because I will physically be sick if I eat all of that. It’d be smart for me to get either or with a salad or nothing to go with it. 🙂

  3. Great post, Calee! I totally agree with the key points of intuitive eating, and I definitely agree with the “no diet” mentality. I would like to quit all refined sugars, and to be honest, I don’t eat too much of it as it is, but I’ve noticed more has crept into my diet lately. I’d like to take that back to where I was before. Personally, I’m okay with keeping fruit in my diet–but I know that every individual body can react differently to fruits–so do what works best for you! Happy New Year!

  4. Feelings of guilt? Check. Exercise starting to feel like a chore? Check. Eating that cookie because it represents my feelings? uhhh, check, I guess. I don’t even know. I’m starting to hate food.

  5. I’m thinking about cutting back my gluten. My chiro has been tossing around the idea of me eating paleo but it’s mostly to reduce the sugar in my diet. I’m thinking if I start my eating gluten-free, then I’m at least cutting out more sugar from the carbs but not denying myself the forms of protein that I still need in my diet from being vegetarian. And since I’ve been vegetarian for now 11 years, I’m not willing to change that…

    1. Paleo is a diet…I would say to reduce sugar or gluten if that makes you feel better but Paleo is a little different. I’ve heard in my nutrition classes over and over that high protein diets are NOT the way to go. <3

  6. this is so freeing to read Calee. I think yo have to hit almost rock bottom before you get stronger, mentally and physically. ya know?
    We just got a juicer last month too, it’s done wonders!

  7. Kate says: Reply

    I’ve been struggling with tracking my foods and being obsessive about my workouts lately. Trying to eat 100% clean and only eating this and that. It’s been eating me up so much that after reading this post today, I burst. I broke into tears in the car with Tony and said I wanted to be done with it all. I don’t want to obsess anymore. I don’t want my mind to be filled about food thoughts. I’m driving myself crazy and it’s affecting other parts of my life. This isn’t good. Why can’t I just be normal?

    So, thanks for this post. It sparked something in me today. It showed me that I DO need help. Now. I am going to get it too. Contacting a dietitian at my school right now who I contacted earlier about my stuggles but never went through with her offer of help.

    I hope your intuitive eating is going well still. I hope to get there too.

    Thank you from the bottom of my heart, Calee!

  8. I love this post, and I am SO happy you’ve found your path. It’s all about finding what works best for you. I’m right there with you on the sugar cut (with the exception of fruit). It got a little out of control over the holidays and I’m really noticing a difference in how I feel. Junk-Free January is ON!

  9. The thought of quitting sugar scares me. I look forward to reading your posts! I’m back to juicing this week. I took a break for NYE.

    Happy New Year!! Hopefully we meet up soon in 2013!

  10. Your first line made me laugh because I was linking your blog to my 2012 recap. 😉

    It’s funny because it seems like a lot of the “healthy living community” struggles with the restrictions but they don’t really see it or mask it as “healthy living tips” or something. I really hope people read this post and truly think about their views on food/diet/exercise! Being honest with yourself is NOT easy, so good for you for posting this!!

    With this past year in mind, be careful with the sugar restriction! <3

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