Really and truly, I try not to let food run my life. But 37 years young, and here I am.
I’ve done it all—low carb, low fat, counted calories, worked out religiously. And still, my weight is within 10 pounds of what it was in high school, which was almost 20 years ago. It makes me wonder why I waste any effort at all thinking about the foods I eat.
Of course, eating healthy is more than just the number of the scale. I care about my heart health, and when I’m unhappy with a number on the scale, I look at the numbers from my most recent blood work and know I’m doing a good job.
So what’s the struggle? For me, it’s the constant worry and energy I devote to thinking about food. It’s hard to just enjoy the food. If I indulge a bunch of chips and guac or warm, fresh-from-the-oven chocolate chip cookies, I stress over what that means for my calories that day. What do I need to skip tomorrow to make up for today?
And while my greatest successes come from tracking calories because it stops the mindless eating, it’s not how I want to live. I don’t want food—or the stress over food—to be front and center in my life.
Over the years, I’ve really loosened up my relationship with food to make it more enjoyable and less of a focus. That doesn’t mean I don’t still think about food constantly. Since my weight has stayed the same plus/minus 10 pounds for 20 years, I feel like I’m where I’m supposed to be. And I know when I need to reel it back in.
COVID has been a prime example of that. Back in March, I was soaking in the time with my kids—making cookies, brownies, pancakes. It was like we were living in that glorious week between Christmas and New Year’s, where you have no idea how much time has passed, and baking fills your days.
But six months and piles of pounds later, and that behavior can no longer fly. At first, I matched the cookies with long lunchtime walks pushing the baby in his stroller, brownies with HIIT workouts from my phone, and pancakes with lacrosse and soccer in the front yard. But then summer hit. And work became insane. And the novelty of everything kind of wore off.
So I have been dusting off my bag of tricks lately, something that I realize has become my go-to over the years. For better or for worse, my 10 pound yo-yo is what keeps me in check and from spiraling out of control.
I’ve gotten back on track and strict about counting my macros (Fats, Proteins, and Carbs) along with calories. I know this can’t and won’t be a long term thing, but for the next month, I’m hoping to retrain my brain and get my habits back in a healthier place. And I signed up for a Diet Bet challenge for $35, and if I hit my goal of losing 4% of my weight in that time, then I get to split a pot of over $10,000 with whoever else hits their goal.
At the end of the day, you’ve got to give yourself some grace. But I also think there’s real value in discovering your happy, healthy weight and knowing when to relax and when you need to get strict and keep yourself in check.
While there’s no one program I use on an ongoing basis, these are a few of my tried and true:
- MyFitnessPal – The free version is plenty. The paid version lets you track your macros by meal and also mark the times that you ate, but that was the main value of the paid over free for me.
- DietBet – This is a fun app that I’d forgotten all about, but it’s really low maintenance and an easy way to motivate yourself through money! You only lose up to the amount you bet (usually $25-50), but if you hit your goal, you at least get that back, and anyone who doesn’t hit their goal, that money goes into the pot for you to split with the others who hit their goal. It’s fun to do this with friends and family, but the large pools are where you can really make money.
- Intermittent Fasting – I can still eat and drink what I want, but I just start later in the day, and I can’t mindlessly snack after putting the kids to bed because my eating window has closed.
- Exercise – Whatever you do, just move your body. I’d love to say I do this every day, but I don’t. I do aim for a minimum of three times a week though, and I feel really good when I hit four or five.
You can follow along with my daily adventures over on Instagram.