Fitness has been a part of my life since I was 13 years old when I picked up my first set of dumbbells. I fell in love with the weights, but nutrition wasn’t something that I started working on until I was about 18. I took some nutrition classes in college, and that was when I began to focus on eating healthier(no more McDonald’s and Skittles every day!).
I ate pretty healthy from then on for the most part, but I didn’t restrict or watch calories or care about how many carbs I was eating. I didn’t know what the heck a macro even was! I was in a really good place with my food and my body image. I freely ate what I wanted to as long as it was healthy with absolutely no restrictions. I definitely just ate intuitively at that point, but I was becoming more conscious of trying to eat more protein and vegetables. I enjoyed working out and building muscle, but I felt good about my body and didn’t obsess over my abs(or lack thereof). I didn’t diet or restrict any food group at all at that point.
But then one day I decided I wanted a 6 pack. Even though I had been working out for years and was never overweight, I was never lean enough in my midsection to have visible abs, so it was a goal that I thought would be really cool to achieve. And that was when the food obsession began.
I really had no clue how to get a 6 pack or how to go about losing fat, so of course I consulted the place that has all the answers-the internet. More specifically, sites like bodybuilding.com.I began searching for how to eat to lose fat and get a 6 pack, and of course back then I was so ignorant of nutrition that I believed everything I read.
That’s when the food restrictions began. I started eating only “clean” foods and cut back on carbs. There were certain rules I would follow, one being that I could only eat carbs early in the day but not at night. If foods had multiple ingredients, they were “bad” for me, and so I started fearing all these foods I used to eat but wasn’t “allowed” to anymore. I was constantly thinking about food and what I “could” or “couldn’t” have, or what was good or bad for me, and making sure that I didn’t eat too many carbs or whatnot for the day. All junk foods were eliminated except for a cheat meal on the weekend, where I would completely gorge myself with all the foods I restricted myself from during the week.
Then someone introduced me to macros. I had never tracked my calories at all before, but I decided that I would start. I actually wanted to do this to make sure that I was eating ENOUGH, as my goal was to build muscle. Tracking macros was definitely eye opening for me and taught me a lot. It was actually really good in the sense that it helped me to be free of the strict “clean” eating mindset. I began to understand how you could really eat anything as long as you stayed within your macros, so I stopped fearing certain foods and food groups.
At that point, I re-introduced many things that I had taken out of my diet previously and also increased my carbs, which I had been scared of for so long. I no longer felt guilt about eating anything. I started eating cereal for my post workout meal, and an oreo or two after dinner at night, and it was amazing! I realized that there are no foods that will make you fat as I had previously believed, which took away all the food guilt I had associated with certain things. It was so freeing.
Eventually, however, it came to the point where I just didn’t want to be a slave to a food scale or logging into myfitness pal all the time to see what I could eat for the day. I realized that even tracking macros, as freeing as it was, could also become obsessive, and I just wanted to be free of all the stressing about food in any and all ways. I felt that not tracking was the way to full freedom from food obsession.
It was a little scary to stop tracking at first, but since then I haven’t tracked at all, and it’s great. I have a good understanding of portions and calories and all that now, and I know how much I need to eat, so I really see no reason why I would ever need to track again. It was very helpful, but not a forever thing for me.
During this time, my mindset about fitness and health and body image was changing. Or, I should say, God was changing my mindset. I began to see that fitness and food had consumed my life to the point where it was of more importance to me than my relationship with God. It’s not something that I did purposely, as is usually the case when our relationship with God gets pushed to the backburner, but it just happened. It was all I thought about and read about. I spent more time thinking about food and workouts and planning workouts and working out than I spent with God, reading and studying His Word.
Since then, I’ve come to realize how the striving and chasing and obsessing over our bodies and food is really not what matters in life. When I’m consumed by these things, even things that are good like eating healthy and working out, I can’t fully commit myself to fulfilling God’s purposes for my life. When my mind is filled with these thoughts of food and workouts all the time, I’m not able to hear God’s voice.
I now have a more eternal mindset, and I want my identity and fulfillment to be in God alone. I want to focus on the things that matter to Him-not waste my life nitpicking and obsessing over food and my body, wasting it on something that God doesn’t even look at(outer appearance)! I don’t want to be a slave to my body, to food, to working out, to anything. Having this mindset has made all the difference. I’m in a good place now with my nutrition and workouts. I’m not obsessive about it like I once was, because I realize that there are more important things in life to focus on, like helping others and spreading the Gospel and just enjoying life!
One thing that really helped was no longer following most fitness competitors(as I’ve realized many of them have disordered eating and body image issues) or even health bloggers. I follow people now who promote balance, a healthy relationship with food, and a positive body image. I think it’s awesome that there are people out there promoting the message that you don’t have to HATE yourself or live in fear of food.
My relationship with food has improved SO much over the years. I don’t fear carbs or processed foods, or any food for that matter. I really enjoy all my meals and am eating foods I love, not choking down foods I hate. I don’t feel like there’s any food I “can’t” eat. I don’t freak out if I can’t eat “on plan”. I can relax and not stress about food on vacations or when eating out at a restaurant. I don’t have to track every ounce of food I eat or worry about going over my fat or carb grams for the day. I don’t restrict or try to “work off” something I ate if I feel like I’ve overindulged. I try to get in my veggies and nutrients, but it’s not a source of stress or anxiety for me anymore. I know that as long as I’m not eating junk food all the time and I’m exercising consistently, that I don’t have to be perfect or stress about being healthy. I do the best I can, but I’m not gonna let the pursuit of health limit my quality of life like it used to.
Just like with food, my body image has gotten better as well. I no longer take comparison pictures all the time or critique my body in the mirror. I can go a whole day without even thinking about how my body looks. Yeah, of course I still take mirror and flexing selfies, but now it’s out of a place of love and appreciation for my body, not to see what I need to “fix”. Those days are over! My hope is that if this is something you are struggling with, they can be over for you, too.