We can’t outrun our diets—for a long time I didn’t want this statement to be true. But it is.
We absolutely cannot outrun our diets.
But what can we do?
I’ve written before about how it’s not fair for celebrity moms to pretend publicly that their workouts consist of chasing children. Come on—we all know this isn’t true.
That said, when a mom friend of mine recently jokingly replied to a post of mine about “skinny moms” that, darn we can’t get “skinny” chasing children? It really got me thinking because, frankly—we can.
Because we cannot outrun what we eat. What we eat, how much we eat, how we eat—these things all catch up to us, eventually at least.
I love to exercise.
I do not get to exercise as much as I would like to during the span of my full-time parenting days, but I do move my body often and regularly.
So while we cannot outrun what we eat, we can move our bodies because it feels good and it makes our bodies healthier.
I move my body every damn day. Every day. Still, I made a commit to myself before becoming a parent that I would not let working out be more important than my family. I’ve found, too, that this is a delicate balance at times, especially because my taking care of myself is a positive thing for my family and for me.
I used to run over 13 miles a day, weight lift, do cardio, Pilates, etc, etc—essentially I completely over-exercised and was full-on eating disordered.
Along my road to recovery, I visited a nutritionist who said my diet was wonderful. And it was, wonderful. What it wasn’t, however, was enough food for how much I was moving myself.
Part of recovering fully from my eating disorder was admitting to myself that I do genuinely love working out and moving, and then learning how to be true to my athletic nature while also not becoming unhealthily obsessed with it. I decided it was unhealthy, for instance, to place a workout above the welfare of my family, but this doesn’t mean not prioritizing exercise either; making excuses or not demanding a little bit of time most days.
I remember sitting around a campfire late one night with my husband-then-boyfriend, when we lived in New Mexico. We got into a discussion with another avid backpacker and exerciser that, essentially, we didn’t think a person could exercise away a bad diet.
My husband-then-boyfriend and I shared our passion for movement and, especially, for outdoor exercise, but, equally, we shared the passion for eating good food and eating what our bodies needed. In short, we practiced moderation.
Moderation was not easy for me to achieve.
For years, as an eating disordered person, I spent time either consuming an entire pint of ice cream or banning it from my diet. It took me awhile to finally admit that these two patterns went hand in hand: when we ban “bad” foods, or foods that we can’t control ourselves around, it fuels this lack of control when we have access to them again, because we know it’s limited.
So what I did was simple, but it wasn’t easy.
I stocked my freezer, at first with pint-sized ice cream containers and insisted on having part of it, in special little bowls, without just ripping into them with a spoon. There were many nights when I overindulged and wanted to once again ban ice cream from my freezer, but I didn’t. I kept trying and doing this, until it registered subconsciously that I would always have ice cream in my freezer, if I wanted it.
I “upgraded” to stocking larger containers of ice cream.
It took trial and error, but it worked—having foods that scared me around my house helped me to not be afraid of food in general.
When we were younger, my husband-then-boyfriend and I loved having Cheetos as a treat. He always bought smaller bags and I, being frugal, always bought the larger. He—this guy who has always had an unusually healthy relationship with food—told me that he didn’t know how I could stop myself from continually reaching my hand into the larger-sized bag. I told him that I had “trained” myself.
He moved to New Mexico a college semester before I did. After he moved, I realized that I still wanted to have Cheetos every now and then—it turned out that my college boyfriend wasn’t the only one I kept them around our apartment for.
But, still not fully recovered from my eating disorder, foods like that scared the bejeezus out of me. So I, having even less money as a poor student who now didn’t have her boyfriend as a roommate, still bought the large-sized bag, but I would come home from the grocery store and immediately divide them into smaller, individual “servings” in Ziploc bags.
However, by the time I moved out to New Mexico, I had already “graduated” and didn’t need to divide them up anymore—I had, again, subconsciously recognized that the Cheetos weren’t going anywhere and that I could have more at another time. Because the following is the biggest, overall nugget of truth that I’ve gleaned on my quest to be an eater of moderation; this is what always helps me to not overindulge.
There is always tomorrow.
I don’t need to have a third helping of Cheetos because I can eat more of them tomorrow if I still want them. Spoiler alert: you won’t usually wake up still thinking about one more Cheeto, or that extra spoonful of ice cream.
This also helps during those times when I do eat a little too much: there’s always tomorrow and a healthy diet and, more, a healthy person, is not created by one day of living.
No, our lives are made up of our choices, and our choices become our habits; become our lifestyle, become our days, become our lives, become our stories.
My story sometimes involves ice cream—and sometimes it doesn’t. I’ll be honest, I don’t eat really Cheetos anymore. It’s not that I don’t like them, but I don’t run 13 miles anymore and, even if I did, it’s just not what I typically crave as my indulgence.
Because I’m not a celebrity stay-at-home mom with a nanny or even an extra set of hands on most days, unless you count my five year old, who genuinely loves to help.
This said, I’m glad that I got out of the trap of needing to workout in order to burn off what I ate the day before—that’s an awful cycle to be in. Now, I move my body because I want to, and while I don’t eat everything that I sometimes want to, I found another secret of being a balanced eater: I don’t find my joy in my food.
Not that I don’t love food—I do.
Not that I don’t believe that food is something that is meant to be enjoyed and appreciated—I do. But people who are able to say “no” or, as my twin sister and I did when my dad was pouring us milk as kids—“when”—know that happiness will never be sitting there waiting at the bottom of an empty ice cream container. And that’s the real thing to address: is food something that we are enjoying, or has it become a frenemy?
I made friends with food.
After a long time of being outright enemies, and then frenemies, I made peace with my diet; my diet that I can’t outrun or out-lift or out-Pilates.
Sometimes the simplest answer is the one that works. For me, this was true. Food will always be there tomorrow. So will second chances.
So today was a day of choices you wish you hadn’t made? The great thing about life is that each day is a new beginning; every day is an opportunity to become a new “best.”
It starts with making friends with ourselves.
We can’t outrun ourselves either.
The problems that I carried inside moved with me to New Mexico. I had to address them there, unless I wanted them to move with me again, when we got married and moved to Pennsylvania.
Eating too much, running too much, drinking too much: these are all covers for what is going on underneath our surfaces. Self-discovery isn’t always fun—it’s not always pretty and easy to deal with—but it’s necessary, if we want to ultimately like ourselves.
My food choices reflect my self-love—the self-love that I worked hard for.
I reached a point in my life years ago, where I got tired of hating myself and tired of having a bad relationship with food—so I said “when.”
The funny thing is that when I stopped fighting food, my relationship with it healed almost naturally—that’s why having “scary” foods around the house helped: food wasn’t actually my enemy, I was.
And that’s exactly the piece of knowledge that helped me the most: I had to stop placing my self-love and acceptance into bowls with my ice cream.