When I think of my time with Monica, there’s a before and an after. Here’s what it looks like:
Before – Mini vacation to Chicago includes me not eating anything until around 11:00, at which time I become famished and eat a keg of caramel corn.
After – I’m considering buying stock in protein bars. I’m still not hungry, but they are the one thing I can actually eat in the morning without my body telling me to go to hell.
Before – I thought a big salad was 90% lettuce topped with 10% cheese. If I had a tomato handy, bonus.
After – Cheese is gone, lettuce is less, protein added, and nutritious veggies dominate. As I detail in my Sick of Salads post, I’ve had so many salads I now consider myself the Dali Lama of roughage.
Before – Wait….what’s protein?
After – Every time I eat I make sure I’m getting some protein (sorry Monica, I’m just not always as sure as you are exactly how much that’s supposed to be….yet).
The biggest, most profound change, though, is the quantity of food I eat. Like so many of us, I was under eating – which, can I just say, is so counter intuitive I keep researching it to make sure it’s right. But it is. Somehow, by some crazy genetic evolutionary mishap, not eating enough can make you weigh more. Gwyneth Paltrow must have some hand in this.
I had a hint of this when my daughter was born 12 years ago. During a brief stint with Weight Watchers I began paying attention to what I ate. Within a few days I realized it was impossible for me to both eat enough points and eat the right kind of food. It felt like juggling with water balloons.
Let me say, to clear the slate, that this girl can hit a calorie goal. Being the over-achieving, please-others Catholic girl I am, if someone in authority tells me to eat 1200 calories, I’ll make sure I hit that number on the head and ask for the gold star afterwards. My problem isn’t that I don’t like food or to eat.
My issue is I’m just not hungry, or recognizing I’m hungry, enough. So by the time I do get hungry, or understand I am, I’m not simply interested in food but ravished and in NEED of food, any food, the quicker and cheesier the better. This was my eating MO.
Eventually these peaks and valleys cost me – weight gain, stomach pain, aches, crankiness. And so by the time I went to the doctor(s) last summer to figure out what was going on, I already had a love-hate relationship with food and eating. After being made to feel helpless, I pulled way back and began eating even less. By the time I came to Monica, I was probably only hitting 1000 calories a day.
Monica’s guidance set me free in a way that seems to make little sense on paper but makes huge differences in reality. Before, I ate when I felt it, which was way after I needed it. Now, I eat with intention. I put food in my body because the purpose of that is to nourish and replenish – so even if I’m not quiet ‘feeling’ hungry, I know I have to fuel up.
Other tips from Monica that save me:
*Always keep something handy – Apples, power bars, nuts, and water come with me everywhere, just like my driver’s license and Target debit card.
*Eat food that counts – Not as in counting calories, but as in will give my body what it needs. I need energy in small packages, so for me, that means planning out my day in a way that accounts for exercise, stress, or other needs.
*I’m not a nun – although I briefly considered it in second grade. I know Diet Pepsi isn’t the greatest for me, but if drinking one every now and then rewards me in some way, then okay. I definitely have foods to avoid – like sugar and dairy – but other staple no-no’s are really controllable go-aheads.
*It’s an (expletive) process – I’m not going to feel better in one week, or all at once, or all the time. I’m not going to up my miles or reps and wake up the next morning ripped. The measure isn’t how fast it comes, but how much better I feel, day by day.
Like everything worthwhile, eating as much food as I need has a learning curve. I still struggle to balance my day so I’m not looking at chugging 500 calories at 9 pm. But my eye is on it, and slowly I’m finding that the more I eat, the healthier I become. And the crazy part, that I’m actually getting fitter and not fatter, doesn’t have to make sense to me. I can hold it in the same place I hold quantum physics and teenage girls – I see what’s happening, but can’t begin to describe why. Luckily, other people, like Monica and Neil deGrasse Tyson, can.