It’s hard to imagine a donut just being a donut. For as long as I can remember, a donut, among many, many other foods, was this forbidden food that, upon eating, would leave me feeling discouraged, out of control, and even depressed. How could a food leave me feeling so defeated? How could I allow food to have so much power over me?
I have been in an endless battle with food for as long as I can remember, and that’s scary to me. Food has never just been food. Over time, I’ve placed a different emotional value on each food and I’ve allowed food to bring me a plethora of emotions, both positive and negative. I’ve used food to cope with various feelings and have used dieting as a method to break my emotional dependence on food.
I’ve been dieting since I was a little girl. Dieting, in many ways, made me happy. Dieting brought about a fresh start, a new program, and a vision for a different future. Sure I wanted to lose weight, but it was more than that. I wanted to just feel “normal”. I didn’t want to be obsessed with food any longer. I didn’t want to use food to cope. I wanted the donut to just be a donut. Just like a carrot was just a carrot. I wanted to change my habits, lose weight, and cross a finish line that would place me into a land of normalized eating. A place where food was just fuel and nothing more.
In April 2015 I tried out the latest dieting craze, IIFYM. I was thrilled to try something new. Something that seemed to be working for so many men and women. Sure the body builders loved it, but so did the stay at home mom down the street. I bought a scale, a gazillion protein powders, adjusted MFP, and started tracking and measuring everything I ate. I was excited. I was obsessed.
A few weeks later, I realized just how obsessed I was and it scared me. I started to question the diet and started thinking of other options for me. Instantly I was reminded of the comments I had read about me just a few years prior, “Ashley should follow through with just one single thing without shortcuting or cheating! She wonders why she is overweight, and makes EXCUSES for herself, but really it’s because she has no dedication or drive WHATsoever”.
I felt defeated. What was I doing? What did I want? Were they right? Was I just making more excuses for myself? Was I just not dedicated to my diet and that was the problem?
By May I had had enough and decided that I just couldn’t do it anymore. Sure I wanted to normalize my relationship with food and wanted to lose some weight, but I just couldn’t diet anymore. I was tired of thinking diets would fix things, that diets would help me to stop using food to cope with loneliness, boredom, joy, excitement, stress, you name it. Dieting wasn’t the answer and I just had to stop.
Life since then has been interesting. I reached my pre-pregnancy weight by Magnolia’s first birthday by watching what I ate and exercising. I was grateful and my weight stayed the same through the holidays. I’ve wanted to lose more weight, but hit a stumbling block. Since January I’ve been more in tune with how I use food to cope with emotions and it has been overwhelming. It seems like I can’t make it through a day without some form of emotional eating and it’s hard. I realized that I’m not going to be able to reach a happy and healthy weight until I deal with the reasons I’ve used food to cope with my emotions.
Sure dieting has popped into my head a time or two. I miss the community, the support, and the focus, but I still feel strongly about not dieting. I don’t want my daughter to grow up knowing a mom who diets. I don’t want her feeling as though she has to question what she is eating, why she is eating it, and if she should be eating it. I want food to just be food for my daughter and I want to be a living example for her.
Today, I am not happy with my body. I am carrying more body weight than I am comfortable with. I don’t even have an “ideal” body weight in my mind. I simply just want to normalize my relationship with food and truly believe that as a result I will reach a body weight that is comfortable and healthy. As someone who has always had a plan or been on a diet, it is really hard to know how this is all going to work. Food has always been there for me, and as crazy as that feels to say, I know someone out there knows what I mean.
I want to reach a place where food isn’t what I turn to when I’m bored, joyful, excited, stressed, etc and I just can’t even imagine what life will be like when I reach that place and stay there. The truth is, I’ve been in that place before and it is a magical, magical place! Back in 2006 I lost 50 pounds on Weight Watchers while working at Dartmouth and then left Weight Watchers when I returned to DC in 2007. From 2007-2009 I didn’t follow one single diet. I ate when I was hungry, stopped when I was full, and ate whatever I wanted… because food was just food. I was in a really great place in my life and was truly, truly healthy.
A lot happened to me in 2009. Things that I’ve never shared here on Coffee Cake and Cardio and as much as I’d like to share my whole story, I’m just not ready. Some really bad things happened to me and I was left a different person. I left that time in my life a damaged woman. I stopped trusting people and lost myself. The years that followed were really, really hard and in all honesty, I’m still recovering from the traumatic experiences I went through.
Coffee Cake and Cardio started 2 years later and if you go back through the archives you can see how I used dieting to reach a place of normalcy. A lot of really amazing things have happened in my life since 2009 and I have much to be grateful for! I met my husband, had a beautiful little girl, moved further into a career I am passionate about, and have started to redefine myself.
I still miss the woman I was prior to 2009. I was happy. I was at peace. I loved the world around me and had fallen in love with the person I had become. My world crumbled really quickly that spring and I’m sad that my scars from 2009 become open wounds far too often.
Bloggers often get made fun of for sharing their “journey” but for me, this really has been a journey. I’ve had to figure out how to let go of who I used to be, to forgive those who have hurt me, and to allow myself to be myself again. It has been hard to break down the walls I built up, but it is time and I’m thankful to now be able to work with a therapist.
A part of me hated Kelsey Miller’s book Big Girl because she couldn’t do it on her own. The only way she could walk away from dieting was by working with a nutritional therapist (whom she worked with for free because she was a blogger). It scared me because I’ve tired to do it by myself for years and Kelsey’s book made me scared that I won’t be able to do it myself, that i’ll need a therapist.
I used dieting as a temporary band aid for 20+ years, but now that I’ve decided to stop dieting there’s no hiding. The only person I have to face is myself and it’s time to get to the bottom of why I’ve used food for as long as I can remember to hid from my emotions. It’s time to be ok with feeling sad, happy, scared, stressed, joyful, you name it, and not use food to cover those emotions.
I’m in Texas this week (Spring Break – Yay!) and it has brought up a lot of emotions. I love living in Washington, DC but I miss my friends. I miss being able to spend time with friends who just get me and the simpler life here in Texas. DC is a different beast, so although I try not to compare Texas to DC, they are just different places. What I do know is that I am not filling my cup the way I should be. I am stretched too thin and it takes its toll on me and my family every day. It’s time to focus on joy that should spring internal and allow myself to just be myself. It’s time to bring some of the Texas lifestyle I love so much back to DC and to live a happier and healthier life.
I hope to be able to share more about my journey this next year and to find peace with food over time. I would really like to lose a little more weight, just so I don’t feel insecure with what I’m wearing and how I feel in my clothes. I could care less about the number on the scale, but I do care about how I feel.
Normalizing food is hard, but with the right support and willingness to own my habits, I know I can reach a place of peace. Coffee Cake and Cardio is a mirror of who I am and as you can tell, it has changed a lot over the years. I have changed a lot over the years. As you’ve seen these past few months, I’m writing more about my life as a working mom and the balance so many women work to find. I still want to write about living a happy and healthy life, but it’s going to look a little different. I can’t diet anymore and hope to be able to share the realities of creating healthier habits without a diet or plan. I’m sure a lot will come from meeting with a nutritional therapist!
It’s scary, but I believe that true peace will be found by facing the reasons I use food to cope with my emotions, not by restricting food in temporary phases. I am really looking forward to working through my past and finding the confidence I lost back in 2009. It’s time to move on from the pain and to find peace and joy again.