When Healthy Becomes Unhealthy

"A halo only has to fall a couple of inches to become a noose."Farmer's Almanac

When I'm left to my own devices I can get stuck in a very rigid routine.

I was single for most of 2013 and worked 40-70 hours a week. With 4+ jobs and training for a marathon I had to keep a very strict schedule to ensure I could attend to all of my responsibilities. I woke up between 4:30-5 a.m. every day (even on the weekends), was in bed by 9, and food prepped on the weekends since I had little time during the week to cook. Food prep for a single person usually entails you make 1-2 big meals and eat the same thing for lunch and dinner every day.

I'm totally okay with that.

The schedule I gave you above does not allow for much of a social life. In November I started dating again after taking a year off. In the last few weeks my routine has been disrupted in the most pleasant way possible. I sleep in until 7 a.m. on the weekends. I go out to eat. I laugh more and stress less.

I still prioritize eating healthy and exercising, but I'm learning to let go of keeping to my 'strict' nutritional requirements and fitness expectations. It's not always easy. This past weekend I went to a local health food store with a friend to pick up something to eat for dinner. He grabbed a sandwich and some tabouli out of the deli case within a minute of walking in, and I roamed the isles for about 10 minutes absolutely bewildered as to what I should do. 90% of my meals are planned out and I rarely go out to eat alone so it was hard for me to make 'the right' decision on the spot. Will this fill me up? Is it high in calories? How can I incorporate vegetables into this? I'm not starving I should just get some snacks. But, then I'll be hungry later and just have to eat more. Screw it, I don't want anything let's just go home.

The incident wasn't as dramatic as I'm portraying, but it serves as a good example of how I may be letting my desire to be healthy become unhealthy. Just grab a damn sandwich. I ended up getting a gluten free frozen burrito from Amy's (pretty tasty!)

I don't like going out at night and worrying about how late I'll be up as it may interfere with my ability to wake up at 5:30 a.m. to run the next day. I don't like having to look up the menu of a restaurant we go to before we go so I can make sure there is something 'healthy enough' there for me (although as a Vegetarian I'll likely always pre-screen restaurants!) I don't like that it's virtually impossible for me to cook dinner with someone because my meals are typically boring ass vegetable/protein based meals that most normal people wouldn't eat, or eat as a side to a main dish.

I have challenged myself to quit counting calories. As someone who advocated Intuitive Eating I should know better. I should just listen to my body. Eat when I'm hungry, until I'm full, and pay attention to what my body is telling me it's craving (fat, protein, salty, etc.) I'm reluctant to let go of my healthy habits out of fear. Lingering fear of becoming overweight again. Even though I've been this weight for years I don't think you ever get past being obese. I also fear that one of the biggest parts of my persona will be lost. I'm the token health nut. One of my jobs (this blog and my freelance work) is based in some part around my healthy lifestyle. I need to realize that I can still be healthy, perhaps even be more healthy, if I loosen up a bit.

You know what the biggest 'ah ha' moment has been that's helped act as a catalyst for this realization? After over a year of missing my period I've had two normal cycles in the last two months.

That's some damn convincing evidence that running less, working less (therefore stressing less), eating more diverse foods, and generally being happier having fun in life with someone has physically changed me for the better. Throughout all of 2013 I tried to find a cause for my amenorrhea. First it was my newly diagnosed thyroid disease, then I thought it was an issue with estrogen dominance (turns out I had zero estrogen!) and finally I wondered if marathon training was the culprit.

Maybe all of those things did play a part. Maybe I just needed to take a metaphorical chill pill and reduce my cortisol.

What I do know is that I have a choice. I can lead one of two lives.

Life 1:

  • religiously exercise
  • stick to a strict diet
  • forgo activities with friends and the bf that may keep me out late or interfere with my schedule
  • maintain a low body fat and weight

Life 2:

  • exercise often but not worry if I miss more than one day a week or cut a workout short
  • regularly make healthy eating choices but not obsess over a glass of wine or some dessert
  • let fun plans win over exercise obligations more often
  • maybe gain 5-10 pounds (perhaps losing my IBTC status!)

Given I have no idea how much time I have left on this earth I certainly don't want X amount of that time to be spent over-analyzing the effing breakfast I had or worrying about my next workout.

Life #2. Let's see where you lead.