IF Series, Part 3: The Prison of Guilty Eating

By on January 26, 2021

Food is not in a pill. It’s not in a juice, a bar, a powder, a diet label, and it definitely is not in a pill. Food is real. It is crunchy, flavorful, chewy, colorful, and can bring people great joy. We need food to live and it is meant to be enjoyed. If you eat something because a diet plan tells you to eat it and it doesn’t bring you joy, I get it. I have been eating foods that I don’t enjoy for too long. Guilt and food describe my life in short. Until January 2019 when I decided to try eating without guilt.

Food is meant to be enjoyed.

I wish I could remove all guilt. Unlike other life experiences, guilt doesn’t do us any good. It makes some of us eat more. It can make us crave unhealthy food and drink. We think food/drinks will make us feel better, remove the guilt, but it does nothing but make us feel worse. This is the story of my entire life – eat, feel guilty, eat more, drink something to ignore the guilt, continue this never-ending cycle.

Disclaimer: We talk openly about food addiction and are well aware of our keenness for food. We continually work to redefine our food relationship. We don’t have an addiction to alcohol. We have traveled the world, and unlike in the US, most of the world takes a different view on alcohol. It’s ok to have a glass or two of alcohol with dinner, maybe have an occasional night with more. It’s not ok when your body craves it, can’t get enough of it, and you can’t stop drinking when you start. I lived with an alcoholic. It was painful to watch the destruction. I never wish that addiction on anyone. Brian and I love to enjoy good wine, creative cocktails, and we know our limits. We consciously take time off from alcohol. For example, we typically take 4-6 weeks off at the start of the year for a good cleanse. As of this post, we are on week 4 of “dry January,” we haven’t decided when we will start drinking again, and I promise, we will be talking more about alcohol in another post. For now, back to food!

When I found intermittent fasting (IF), the prison walls of guilt eating started to crumble. They still stand but there are huge cracks in my prison cell. To read about how my IF journey started, click here and read post one in this series. I don’t know if I will ever be paroled from guilt. I feel guilty for what comes out of my mouth, what goes into my mouth, and much more. If you don’t struggle with guilt, I wholeheartedly commend you. I am not here to talk to you about where my guilt comes from, my therapist holds the key to that web, but I do want to tell you about how the prison walls started cracking and the bars began to open. Though I haven’t always practiced IF “correctly,” I have seen I can eat one or two meals a day without my warden, guilt.

I vividly remember when I started IF in mid-January 2019 because I gave myself permission to eat whatever I wanted as long as I only ate one meal a day. I was in love with my new regimen. For the first time in my life, I ate whatever I wanted without guilt. It was like the warden let me have a taste of the great outdoors. Mind you, Brian had not started IF but he was thrilled when I would text him and ask him to bring home pizza. He was curious as to how I was eating our favorite foods for dinner and losing weight. I am confident it is why he so quickly jumped into practicing IF himself. Who wouldn’t? Since we were already denying ourselves wine because it was “dry January,” then pizza, tacos, and burgers were the perfect substitutes. Another Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor, rather I am just sharing our journey. If you read the first two blogs in this series, you know that we haven’t practice IF “correctly,” and ultimately, we didn’t lose any long-term weight but we did maintain our weight which was, at the time, a major victory.

Something was working with this practice of intermittent fasting. I lost weight in the beginning, Brian did too. What we now understand is that it wasn’t our time for weight loss. First, we had much to learn about eating without guilt. We had to in essence give ourselves permission to just eat because we had been dieting since our marriage started. But let’s get back to 2019. February came too fast, we started to add wine back in with many evening meals. March and April came even faster and we got busy with Brian’s musical (something we produce together for Brian’s high school students). We loosened up the one meal a day and started having a snack and a meal. Then summer came. If you don’t know, we spend our summers adventuring either in our RV or on the Camino. In 2019 we walked the Camino which you can read about here. We planned to walk 10-15 miles a day so we worried that we needed to eat more. We still practiced IF but we only skipped breakfast. Further, we drank way too much of that beautiful Spanish wine and indulged in too many plates of mouthwatering Portuguese pastries. We were on a two-month holiday and it was wonderful.

However, once those habits changed to a wider eating window it was excruciating to go back to one meal a day. In fall 2019 we stuck with eating two meals a day and have been practicing that ever since. In 2020 we continued to fast for about 18 hours a day, eating lunch, snacks, and dinner in a 6-hour window. You would think it would lead to weight loss if you have read about intermittent fasting but you don’t yet know what we ate in that window. 🤣 I’m getting there.

For the most part, our previous weight loss success was by following Weight Watchers. We learned we should eat 6 or 7 times a day to “keep our metabolism up.” That’s a truckload of crap, people! A truckload of full-on crap! All that eating plan did was make me feel deprived, tired, and upset that I would only ever eat tiny, unsatisfying meals. The worst of it: Not only did we believe we needed 6-7 meals a day but we told others they did too. We told people breakfast is the most important meal of the day. More crap! I want to genuinely apologize to each person we fed that information to in the past. I am deeply sorry. Breakfast means to “break your fast.” It is not the most important meal of the day, that is just what cereal makers want us to believe. Read this blog on Dr. Jason Fung’s website, or this one on the calorie debacle, and then read his books (linked below).

Why do we still practice intermittent fasting if we haven’t lost weight? Because we both feel a thousand times better than we did on weight watchers or not following any eating plan at all. We eat real food. We eat food that feeds the soul. We eat food without guilt. In 2020 we tried eating Keto. It’s ok but I love bread. I already have to eat gluten-free for my gut health. I have been gluten-free since 2013 and my gut is much happier. Managing my PCOS and Hashimoto’s well means being gluten-free but that’s another story, for now, back to bread… mmmm! We lowered our carbs and were feeling good but we both refuse to ever go back to counting anything. We are not now, nor ever, going to count calories, carbs, fat, or anything. We want to eat (feasting), we want to not eat (fasting). That’s it. We never again want to agonize over anything or any number again. We did that for too long and we weren’t happy. But yes, we started settling into a decent low carb life, we were feeling good, and then COVID happened in late March 2020.

COVID cocktail hour while our Governor provided daily briefings

Here’s how the rest of 2020 eating looked: Open our eating window with a cocktail hour, eat lunch, continue the evening with more cocktails or wine, eat a hearty dinner, and maybe have a dessert. In our six-hour eating window, we enjoyed delicious food and mouth-watering drinks. We managed our feelings and isolation the only way we knew how – to eat and drink. But that’s ok. Our world was experiencing a major crisis, we were all coping. Ultimately our clothes got a bit tighter, we were putting a band-aid on our feelings, and the happy train left the station without us. Something was different though. We weren’t gaining weight as fast as we would have in the past. Every time we pulled back on the cocktails, cut out the snacks and dessert, tighten up our feasting window, our bodies said thank you and we dropped a couple of pounds back off. We didn’t miss the lesson here but summertime was upon us. We spent the summer in our RV traveling out West avoiding people as much as possible while still adventuring in our national parks. We continued our somewhat ridiculous eating and drinking in a six-hour window but because we were doing a lot of walking and hiking, our clothes loosened up a bit more. YAY! We finished our summer trip at pretty much the same weight that we had started it, how often can you say that after vacation? Especially one that is two months long. Not us.

Intermittent fasting was working, there is no doubt about it. However, both of our doctors reminded us that we needed to give our livers a break and be a bit more thoughtful about what we ate. My blood pressure was high, Brian was diagnosed as pre-diabetic. It was time to put on the brakes and rethink our priorities just in time for Christmas indulgences. It was time to start with the basics about IF again so we turned to audiobooks and podcasts while driving to Tennessee to spend a quiet holiday in the RV. We listened to Eve Mayer’s book, Life in the Fasting Lane. We listened to Dr. Fung’s podcast. We worked on setting S.M.A.R.T. goals, focused on reminding ourselves why we love IF, and figured out how to do it better.

I am learning to walk out of my guilt prison. I am learning to lose while winning!

The prison walls of guilt have been crumbling since we started IF in 2019. In order for them to be gone forever, I have to learn how to balance between eating what I want, eating what is good for me, and figuring out what I can live with forever. I have learned to eat without guilt but learning to eat well and lose weight is a process. I have learned how to maintain weight and that is our biggest win thus far on our two-year IF journey. A win I am proud of because I never maintained my weight before on any diet plan. I was never happy on any diet plan – period! Losing weight is easy when you are on a diet but maintaining that loss when you are living the rest of your life is an entirely different challenge. If you have followed our journey from the very beginning, you understand we intimately know the weight maintenance challenge. Learning to lose weight again, well that is our 2021 plan and we are set up for success. We’re not getting into the details of what’s happening yet because I need to see how much “sticks” before I can speak on it intelligently. However, I will tease you by saying something is working. As of this post, Brian and I are already down quite a bit of weight, our blood glucose numbers are better, my blood pressure is already normalizing, and our waists are smaller. I like looking in the mirror again – the biggest win of all so far. One day at a time. I am on the happy train and I have no intention of getting off again.

If you are thinking about starting intermittent fasting, or maybe you are already practicing if but not getting anywhere, I challenge you to read about it. Get the facts from those who have been there or are the experts. Do not just listen to me. Others have so much more to teach you. Do not follow my eating habits! Start with Dr. Fung’s book, The Ultimate Guide to Intermittent Fasting. It is life-changing. I am reading it again and I can’t believe how much I forgot or skipped over because I wasn’t ready for this change in 2019. He also wrote the books, The Obesity Code and The Diabetes Code. They are outstanding! I am also re-reading Gin Stephen’s books, Delay, Don’t Deny and Feast Without Fear. Gin put a new book out in 2020 that I can’t wait to dive into Fast. Feast. Repeat.

Come back next week when I talk about how this gym rat got fat again. 🤣 Last week I talked about out-running the yo-yo diet phenomenon with over-exercising. Next week I will talk about how I balance good exercise habits without guilt warden showing up when I don’t exercise “enough.” I promise I will talk about IF and our relationship with alcohol after that post; I am going to explore how wine is a metaphor for living well. Then we will reflect on what we have learned during our first two years practicing IF. Finally, at that point, I think I will be ready to talk about where we are in 2021. If you want me to talk about something specific related to our journey of living well and in good health, leave a comment or email me.

Thank you for coming along on this journey of self-reflection. Subscribe to our website to get notified when we post new blogs. I pray these blog posts help you on your own journey to good health and even better living. Ultimately we have one life to live. The goal should be to live it well.

To go back and re-read post #2 in this series, click here. To read post #4 in this series, click here.


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