Ever since I’ve watched Earthlings, I’ve really been trying to step it up in terms of eating more plants (my Paleo post, though, remains a goodie). I’m not going to lie, even knowing the atrocities of the meat industries, I do get cravings because my body is just so used to the protein amino acid profile of the actual animal flesh. The deal is that I’ll eat at least three vegan meals a day, maybe two if unexpected. If I end up eating more meat than expected, it’s totally fine, because I’m not perfect. There is always tomorrow and I’m not even a declared vegan to begin with. I’m just a beginner and it’s impossible to be perfect.
That being said, I know that my diet will be higher in carbs, maybe sugars if I eat more fruit (which is unlikely because it’s winter time), and there is something in me that is still afraid of that aspect. I wasn’t afraid of not eating enough protein, but I was afraid that my macronutrient profile will be whacked up and put excess fat on my body. I remember taking into a bite of the donut and the muffin from Cafe Gratitude without fear at first, and it wasn’t until I finished my breakfast when I suddenly broke down inside. I panicked and tried to estimate the ingredients of the pastries and how many carbs and sugars were in them. I felt the food anxieties kicking back in. Here’s the reason why.
The feeling that you have when you are in tip-top shape, where you can do 50 push-ups in a row, run 8 miles without stopping, lift double your bodyweight, do anything you ever dreamed and look toned, fit and lean, is amazing. Being skinny and emaciated is not the same feeling, just so you know–that is a polar opposite that you should NEVER aim for and is not directed to this topic. Feeling tired, cold, sluggish, weak, nauseous and ravenously starving is for a whole ‘nother post. Anyways, long story short, I always craved for the feeling of being “in shape”. Before, I had eaten super clean every week: oil free baked sweet potatoes, kale salads and quinoa, organic tofu or fish with lots of vegetables, plain Greek yogurt, barely any gluten at all, fresh berries and fruit, unsweetened vegan dark chocolate, et cetera. I would also work out every day, making sure I broke a crazy amount of sweat, and feeling sore would be even better. I wasn’t orthorexic where I’d panic if I didn’t get in a super killer workout, if my food timing was off, if I didn’t drink enough water that day, if my vegetables were covered in a little oil, nothing like that. I wasn’t obsessed with the purity of my food–I still ate fish that probably wasn’t wild caught, chicken that was grain fed, fruits there weren’t organic, a little bit of white carbs hidden in certain packaged foods, and plenty of condiments sans guilt. If I did consciously eat something that wasn’t the healthiest, then I would enjoy it and start anew the next day.
At the same time, because I was addicted to the feeling of being fit, lean and strong, I felt anxiety being around certain foods that I did desire, even if they weren’t the healthiest for me. I would constantly tell myself, “Get back in shape, get back in shape”. I was very conscious about certain things and would beat myself up if I fell off track. But I was never cutting for an event. It was only for my personal satisfaction–I constantly imposed this expectation of being fit for myself just to fulfill this psychological need.
What’s sad about that day was two things: 1) I thought I would gain weight the next day–maybe not a whole pound, but a little less than half, and 2) my food and body obsessions were still there even when I decided to try a lifestyle that is seemingly so liberating and spiritually fulfilling that calories, a number on the scale, junk food is experienced guilt free. But with my past of binging and poor self-esteem followed by a time of restriction and obsessive body image, the guilt lingers and sometimes comes back to haunt me. No, I don’t think the muffin and donut hang on my thighs right now, yes, I know that I didn’t gain weight from the junk food, and no, I do not have an eating disorder because this is not an ongoing process. However, those moments shouldn’t be full of fear and guilt anyways. Even if I look back and think, “Wow, I was stupid”, I still will have that anxiety sometimes.
Looking retrospectively, the gluten free and vegan muffin and donut were a huge step in my path to beating food anxiety. I won’t lie, feeling out of shape completely sucks. My jeans fitting a bit more snugly sucks. Having a little bit of a belly pooch sucks. Feeling a bit more tired overall sucks. But do you want to know something else? Dragging yourself to exercise for an hour every single day and not stopping until you sweat sucks. Forcing another liter of water down your throat sucks. Not allowing yourself a bite of your mother’s yummy-looking multi-grain bagel sucks. Feeling guilty because you ruined your progress according to your expectations sucks. Being afraid of sugar sucks. Having to put up with your stomach so deprived that it starts to gnaw at itself sucks.
I believe in the power of the mind. If you tell yourself that you are off track, then you are off track, no matter what you did. Sure, you can’t tell your brain to lose weight, but your mind can dominate your progress if you let it. When I tell myself to do just a few more reps, I even go far and beyond. When I tell myself that a certain food is bad for me, I will always believe that it is bad for me and it is very hard to reverse that thought. Every picture you see in this post is what I’ve considered to be a “cheat” meal or “treat” taken in the last two months. The first ones were the muffin and donut from Cafe Gratitude, both vegan and gluten free. The second one was a large scoop of dairy free almond horchata ice cream from Sweet Rose Creamery. As you can tell, it’s not that many. If you remember my very early cheat with the cupcake, then you know I also splurge a little when I’m in a good mood with family and friends. But for these two cheats, I was alone and independent of my decisions and I gave in. And you know what? I’m okay with that.
Yes, waking up to flat abs and feeling like running six miles are awesome, but so is delicious food. Now I no longer every treat I give myself, because I have no goal. I’m not a model, I don’t do cover shoots nor do I want to be solely known for my body. I am human, the girl next door that loves to run, box and chug on spinach smoothies but also doesn’t mind lounging on the couch with popcorn. Besides, it isn’t maintainable to always look super shredded like you’re going to run a marathon or walk in a bikini competition, nor is it relatable. Sometimes, the more “average” seeming or appearing woman is more motivating than the one who’s picture-perfect.