I'm the first to admit that I have sworn that I would never be able to do moderation, after all I have this all or nothing personality and I can't just eat one cookie...or can I?
Before I go delving into my personal journey I really want to make one thing clear, I'm not here to tell you that there is a wrong or right way to do things and my hope is to be a voice of reason in what seems a chaotic dogmatic approach to health and fitness that surrounds us. You can take it or leave it, I won't be offended, I'm not everyones personal taste and some will simply not like what I have to say, however I know that there will be plenty of people out there that are walking this health journey feeling conflicted and just down right confused.
Most of you know the history with my journey, for a brief overview for anyone that doesn't I will start back at October 2008 when I decided to turn my health around, I wanted to lose the weight that I felt was holding me back from living my life. I started a low carb diet and then found Primal and it was the answer to all my prayers, I lost 42kgs in a year and I felt A.M.A.Z.I.N.G!!! I had found the key to my health and I was living breathing proof that you can change so much about your body and live an amazing life if you really put your mind to it. I was so passionate that I blogged my entire journey, I wanted to shout it from the rooftops, fat is oh soo good, grains will kill you, sugar is evil, you know the drill. I was an avid Primal follower for life! Until my version of it became a very long winding roller coaster of a health journey.
I thought I had found balance, I would eat a strict low carb version of primal during the week and come the weekend I would go balls to the wall on all the food I really wanted to eat, you name it I ate it, I convinced myself I was like a drug addict but with sugar and carbs. Either I could abstain entirely from the carbs and sugar or I was a crazy lunatic filling my body with all kinds of junk. Looking back on it now I know that I hadn't found balance at all, I was just in denial.
You know "they" say that maintaining weight loss is the hardest part of weight loss and I wholeheartedly agree, I used to think it was a breeze but I was wrong, it's hard, the struggle is real and I am here to tell you that it's not always smooth sailing.
I had declared back in my Moderation post that I was the extreme all or nothing personality that could never ever do moderation, I mean I remember vividly not that long ago that I would eat something like hot chips and vow to only eat a few and before I knew it I had eaten the bowl and was searching for my next fix while most other people around me were satisfied with just a few, I was always so frustrated that I couldn't just eat in moderation like everyone else, I thought it was just my "broken metabolism", I never thought it was just my shitty relationship with food that was just a cycle or restriction and binging.
Where did things go wrong?
Well after my initial weight loss of 42kgs I had hit 65kgs and over the next couple of years I bounced around 67-75 never quite hitting that 65kgs again, I had that number so ingrained in my mind and it was this never ending challenge that I could never quite get back down to that magical number I had so desperately wanted to achieve again. I felt like a failure, I had thousands of people following me inspired to be able to find their health and lose weight like I had and here I was struggling myself. In an effort to get back down to that weight I started fasting, I did lots of intermittent fasting, I tried eating windows of 8 hours and 16 hour fasts daily, I did 24 hour fasts a couple of times a week, I did 48 hour fasts once a week, I did Ketogenic dieting where I went super low in carbs and dropped my protein, I did fat fasts, I did Whole30, I dropped my calories to a mere 1200 calories, I had done it all in the space of a year and all this had done was warped my relationship with food even more, I just couldn't quite grasp why I was miserably failing.
Until I let go...
I stopped it all, I stopped driving myself crazy. I don't know what exactly did it but I really delved deep, I stopped hating on my body and giving it grace, after all I have put it through over the years I knew that in order to find peace I had to. I gave myself permission to love the body I have now even if that means I don't have the scale number I so badly wanted again, what if I could just stop the insanity, find some balance and learn to truly love the body i'm in and heal my warped relationship with food? What if I could just feel normal about it all and not punish myself with the next crazy diet. What if I could find moderation....
And I have!
Well I almost have, I have found balance, I have found moderation and I have learnt to love myself in it's entirety. How you ask? by not following any extreme diets or any labeled programs including primal, paleo, low carb, clean eating or whatever you want to call it. I started to eat a much more balanced diet and yes that includes some grains, carbs and sugar, call me crazy!!! I have heard people talking about eating everything in moderation for years, and I mean pretty much all my life, I thought well wouldn't that be nice, I wouldn't have become so overweight if I could just eat in moderation. I was convinced it was a personality trait that I couldn't follow moderation. What I have discovered is that I actually can do moderation when I'm not restricting myself so much.
I have taught myself to eat and exercise in moderation and it was not easy, I still have times that I struggle with it but I have found such a place of balance that I can't believe I have gone through years of torturing myself with such extremes.
It all started with eating more carbs, not going so crazy on the fat and just eating 3 times a day and a snack if I felt like it. I started walking, because all of a sudden I actually had energy to exercise again. I started doing Body Balance (Yoga/Pilates/Tai Chi) and I started lifting weights again. All of these things had fallen away because I was so all consumed with trying to eat less that I had zapped myself of energy because I wasn't fuelling myself with enough food.
At first I thought if I allow myself to eat whatever I want I am going to become obese again, like I didn't trust my body, it had failed me for years so why all of a sudden am I going to be able to eat in moderation. There were definitely days were I went a little crazy and just ate way too much and felt physically uncomfortable that I had to get horizontal, and then there were days that I didn't and I felt great! I wanted so badly to heal and to be able to eat what I consider to be a relatively balanced diet that I was willing to gain a little weight back if that's what I needed to do.
For the last 6 months I have been working on this and it hasn't been easy but oh boy it has been worth it. At first I gained a little weight, my jeans were soo tight, it was disheartening but I stuck with it because I was determined to eat more that a mere 1200-1500 calories a day for the rest of my life, I really like food and I wanted to feel normal and get my energy back. After a few months my weight stabilised and the water weight and bloating I had gained dissipated. I can now eat about 2100-2300 calories a day, I wear a fitbit to see how many calories I really am burning and my weight is stable because my skinny jeans fit me perfectly again, I don't use the scale anymore as I just can't hop on it without wanting to go on some extreme weight loss plan. I am still recovering, I think I really did a number on my adrenals after all the fasting and dieting over the last couple of years but I am finally feeling my health return and it feels awesome.
The last month that I have been off social media was such healing time for me, I have done plenty of soul searching, doing body balance and walking has been so amazing for me reconnecting with my body. So after all of that does this mean I'm not longer Primal? well not exactly, I just hate the label that it brings, I still concentrate on eating real food most of the time, I love my meat, eggs and dairy, fruit and vegetables and starches like potato and rice so those make up the bulk of what I eat on a daily basis but if I feel like some oatmeal for breakfast or some toast with my eggs or a bowl of ice-cream made with real sugar then I'm going to eat it. I don't seem to have any issues with gluten and dairy. I used to have huge gut issues after being super low carb and I couldn't tolerate any gluten, after 6 months of eating fermented foods like sauerkraut and foods with resistant starch (cooked and cooled rice and potatoes) I have restored my gut flora and can now eat gluten with no problem which is awesome.
Do I still think that low carb is the way to go?
Well I think that it depends and it is definitely a case by case basis. It was effortless for me to get my weight off with low carb but I think that a long term low carb diet isn't always so black and white and you need to be honest with yourself and how it's affecting your health. If you are doing great on it then awesome, keep doing what you are doing. I'm just here to offer my experience so that others out there that may be experiencing some negative effects won't feel so alone. Most of us know that this journey is not an easy one. I may lose some of my low carb followers and thats ok, I'm not here for popularity or to make money and I have always vowed to be authentic. The weight loss industry is full of all sorts of people trying to make a quick buck and it can leave many people feeling really vulnerable and desperate. I hope some of you found this helpful to help you find your balance :)