I love to eat. When I’m upset, pizza or a cheeseburger (comfort food) hits the spot. Also, I don’t have the innate desire to exercise like some, so when I agreed to a 10-week weight loss challenge, I knew I had my work cut out for me. With determination, sweat, discipline and some tears, for the first time in my life, I committed to a diet. Read on to find out how I learned self-care and what we eat matters.
Now, I don’t like using the term diet because I did not follow a specific diet such as Paleo, Atkins or go vegan. I essentially changed my previous lifestyle to a healthier one. I ate more fruits and vegetables, keeping my daily calories to 1,200, exercised three times a week and loved my body with massages and chiropractor adjustments.
What I quickly learned was to “spend” my calories wisely so what I ate had the most nutritional value. I realized I did not want to spend 240 calories on two slices of bread when I could have a hearty salad for nearly the same number of calories.
My muscles have been extremely tight for quite some time now. My theory is, if my muscles were no longer filled with knots, the massages and chiropractor adjustments would help in releasing the “blocks” in my body and my blood would be able to flow easier, allowing my body to release the toxins I unnecessarily was holding onto. Instantly, I was more flexible. Miraculously, I could suddenly touch my toes.
What started as a weight-loss challenge at the beginning of the new year, ended up being a journey to self-care. Self-care is more than eating healthy and exercising, it’s honoring the truth within and working through why we sabotage ourselves from being the best we can be.
Because I stayed away from comfort food (otherwise I could have easily eaten my entire day’s worth of calories in one meal), I was forced to work through my emotional eating. My emotional eating reared its ugly head within the first two weeks when I had just finished eating a nutritional meal and I was still ravenous. At this point, I had to ask myself: “What am I feeding?” I knew there was more to it than just being hungry.
This is a tough question to ask oneself. It requires you to look deep within and be honest. Sometimes, this isn’t so easy. I meditated on the question “What am I feeding?” and I saw I was punishing myself with food.
I am acutely aware I punish myself through negative self-talk and verbally abusing myself. I’ve had a couple of people even use the term “flogging.” I have a bad habit of flogging myself for the smallest of mistakes. Now to add using food to punish myself, well, I wasn’t surprised but it still saddened me.
To say those 10 weeks were challenging is putting it lightly. In the final week, I was having a particularly bad day and all I really wanted to do was have my go-to fast-food meal, filled with grease and cheese to ease the pain. At one point, I was even willing to give up all my hard work in the previous weeks for this one comfort meal. What stopped me? I knew the emotional consequences of eating one comfort meal would far outweigh the physical ones, the extra calories and water retention (from the amount of sodium). I would be filled with regret knowing how close I was to the finish line.
Everything you read about a healthy lifestyle is true.
- After two weeks: My mind felt more “clear”
- I no longer felt sluggish
- I woke up / got out of bed easier
- I felt more awake / had more energy
- I was motivated in other areas of my life
- My clothes fit better
- I slept better
- Spent less money because I wasn’t eating out
- My body is noticeably more limber
- Because of my health issues, I typically need to take a two- to three-hour nap after a long walk or hike, but at eight weeks, I can sustain the energy achieved through exercise.
- At eight weeks, I did a one-day juice fast and the next day did a four-and-one-half-mile walk…so much energy
- At the end of 10 weeks, I lost 14 pounds
Now, here’s the interesting part: Every day of those 10 weeks, I looked forward to when I could “eat” again, and the moment the weight-loss challenge was complete, I went back to my old ways. Quickly I found myself depressed, lacking motivation. When I was eating better and exercising, my negative self-talk subsided, but now it had returned with a vengeance. I couldn’t help but wonder—do food and exercise really affect our mood?
Of course, we know exercise releases endorphins, but not many talk about how the foods we eat affect our emotions. When we eat foods with “life force” (fruits and vegetables) we are ingesting the very essence and attributes of those foods! How can the foods we eat NOT have an influence on us?
Through this journey, I learned self-care is about loving ourselves enough to care what we put into our bodies, keeping our bodies agile with exercise and movement, and working through our sabotaging or limiting beliefs which keep us from loving ourselves and living the life we deserve or dream of.
What does self-care mean to you?