When Food Is Fuel

I used to be a totally different person when it came to exercise. Always NEEDING to workout because I ate this thing or that over the weekend. Feeling joy when I ate something super indulgent immediately followed by dread thinking about how many miles I’d have to run to burn off what I had just eaten. Dragging myself to the gym and hating every minute because I felt obligated to be there. And then one day I made a choice that changed my life. One day something clicked in my mind that has made the biggest difference in every single way that I look at working out and how I eat, and even boosted my self-confidence.

That one change was this: food is fuel. Let that sink in. The main purpose of food is to propel you forward, to give you strength and endurance, to feed your muscles and cells, to give you energy to make it through the day. Food is not your enemy, it’s the complete opposite. I think that so many people work against themselves with food instead of using it to their advantage! I know I definitely did. I think the change began when I started getting more involved at my gym. I was more committed than ever to regain my lost strength due to having 4 babies in 3 years. My back and core were the weakest they had ever been and I had aches and pains in my knees and lower back from crazy weight gain (60 lbs with Eva, 70 lbs with the twins and 50 lbs with Esme!). Once It dawned on me that hey, I’m important too and I should want to take care of myself and not just the kids all the time, I made a commitment to myself that I’d go to the gym just to feel like me again. During that process I fell in love with taking care of me.

I had picked up tips on how to eat properly while staying active 4-5 days a week from a friend who is a personal trainer and loves fitness even more than I do. But I also did a lot of research for myself. I loved learning about how your body absorbs certain nutrients and in what situation your body calls on those nutrients to perform a certain task. It was just so interesting to me to learn that food isn’t just something we eat to feel good, it had a purpose. I began looking at food in a different light and with much more appreciation.

Food for me has always been a comfort thing. Not to mention I have a Culinary Arts degree and I just WANT to cook all the things and experiment with any and all ingredients. I had to learn early on in our marriage that not every meal needed to be a 4 course sit-down extravaganza. I had to reel it in when I felt pressure to put a protein, starch, vegetable, salad and dessert on the table every night. I was working against myself in many ways, I wan’t feeding my body what it needed to feel it’s best. I used to be sluggish and tired. NEWS FLASH: if you eat crap you’re going to feel like crap, plain and simple. I’m sorry to put it so bluntly but it’s the truth! If you put nutritious and wholesome foods in your body it will respond positively. You will be able to see a difference, I guarantee it.

Listen, this doesn’t mean we can’t indulge every now and then. This doesn’t mean I don’t eat everything I want. I have a raging sweet tooth that doesn’t know how to quit, I’ve been trying to years to tone it down but it’s impossible. So I give myself grace and margin. I allow sugar in my diet but I limit it to a bite or two. I don’t have to bake the entire batch of cookie dough just because it’s there, make a few cookies and freeze the rest of the dough for another time. Starting with small changes and really learning how to eat to get the most out of your food. I eat anything I want within reason. I align my diet with my goals and don’t let temptation and sugar rule my life. I don’t give in to every single indulgent food video I see pop up on my Facebook feed. I remind myself what’s important to me and how looking at food in this new light has literally given me life.

I used to get so down on myself when I ate too much sugar or something really ‘fatty’ or, heaven forbid, something fried. I made myself feel like a failure, like one meal was going to ruin all my progress with working out or I was going to gain back all the weight I had lost. THIS IS NOT WHAT WILL HAPPEN. Your weight changes every single day! That’s one of the reasons weighing yourself daily is pointless. You become obsessed with something that is inconsistent and you expect it to give you confidence. I recently weighed myself because I had a stomach flu in November but before that I hadn’t weighed myself since April! I don’t care what the scale says anymore. I care about what my body is telling me, do I need more protein? More water?  Am I putting myself first in fitness and nutrition? If you put yourself first you will see changes, it’s a process and you need to embrace it. There is no magic pill, only consistency and patience and grace.

I know this is probably old news to many people but I wanted to share it because it’s part of my story and it’s important. Maybe this will strike a chord with someone today and it will encourage them to make a change in their life and the way they look at food. There’s freedom in this, friends. I love food and I no longer have a love/hate relationship with it. I don’t punish myself for eating, I use it to my advantage and it’s exciting!

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