Like most of us, my dieting history is long and intense. From diet pills and yo-yo dieting in my early teens, to full blown anorexia in my late teens, to disordered eating through my early twenties, to competing in my late twenties, it’s been a fucking ride. Cut to now, I’m 31, a mom, a coach, and my goals are completely different. Now, rather than caring solely about my appearance and performance, my focus is on being a role model for my son and my clients and creating habits that make my life easier.
I have been tracking for almost seven years. While it was a godsend for most of this time, it is not helping me anymore. This is my journey from restraint to flexibility to even more flexibility.
In the context of dieting, restriction or rigid restraint is depriving yourself of your needs under strict circumstances with no room for deviation. Whereas flexible restraint is allowing yourself your needs and some wants with a system in place to help you stay on track. We like to think of this as a sliding scale or spectrum where your eating practices and your mindset all come into play. (Karina made a great post about this,
Restriction and Rigid Restraint
I started restricting in high school with what I would call mental restriction. I had the idea that I should lose weight and therefore I should eat as little as possible. I was constantly thinking “I shouldn’t have this” but I had the things anyway. So while I was not physically restricting, I was experiencing the mental stress of dieting with none of the results.
Then after some tough life events, I decided I was done and I stopped eating. Over the course of two years, I went from 150 lbs to 114 pounds (on stage I weighed around 120 so you can imagine how I looked). I lost my hair, experienced extreme mood swings, isolated myself, thought about food 24/7, changed my major because I didn’t feel capable of taking on more than my eating disorder, and my body hated me.
Through the later half of this time, I was eating, but only a selection of “safe foods”. So while it was less rigid than eating nothing, it was still extremely rigid. I still had the mindset of “I should eat as little as possible,” until the weekends when I would drink and eat everything in sight.
Flexible Dieting/Flexible Restraint
When I was 23, I found bodybuilding and started strength training. I absolutely loved it. Yet, I was still consumed with food and was not making any progress in any way. I was not losing weight, I was not gaining muscle, I was just spinning my wheels in this hell hole of digestive issues, emotional instability, too much cardio, and poor recovery.
After a few more years of flexible dieting with another coach and on my own, with chronically low macros, I was somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. I was eating more, felt it was okay to eat more, but I was still undereating and extremely neurotic about my food. I would consider myself “flexibly restrictive” at this time.
Finally in 2017, I was over my own bullshit. I was done with the chronic dieting. I was done fighting with my body and with food, and I reached out to Laurin. I was familiar with her content and knew she would reverse me and I knew it was what I needed. And so we did. This is when I truly started practicing more structured flexibility. I was able to eat untracked meals without fear. I was able to be moderate when untracked without binging or needing to “make it worth it”. And I was still able to hit my numbers through the week.
I got to such a great place that we dieted down for a photo shoot, then dieted for two shows. Of course, during extreme diet phases like this, you back slide on the spectrum a bit. However, this time it was for a purpose. It was controlled and it had an exit strategy. I knew I would work my way back up the end of the flexibility spectrum, and I did!
After competing, I struggled in coming out of that deficit. I struggled with the weight regain, and I struggled with what to do next, like arguably most competitors do. We have an article about the post show blues that you can read here. But once I got past that initial period and started working towards my next goal of becoming a mom, I started focusing on fueling my body for the task at hand. I ate more, I tracked less, but I used all the food education I had from years of tracking under my belt to make informed food decisions. Once I got pregnant, I went pretty much untracked. I would track every few days to audit my choices but for the most part, I didn’t need to do it anymore.
Now, I have an almost one year old son and I started tracking macros again. While I know I can do it, the mindset I have around it has made it non-productive and has illuminated some things I want to work on. I realized I know how to eat, I know what I need, and I know I can self regulate with a little structure, like habit goals and daily tasks. I don’t need to track and the act of trying in the season feels restrictive.
My Current Goals
So right now, I am teetering in the middle of the spectrum again and want to move fully to the right. Rather than get shredded, I want to establish habits that help me feel healthy, help me train hard, recover well, sleep well, and be productive. This is the journey I am still on and am so excited (and nervous) for. We will be sharing the coaching process on social media and on our YouTube channels so be sure to follow and subscribe for updates as we go!
JOIN OUR MISSION
No matter where you are on your journey with food, know that where you are on this spectrum is not where you have to stay. I am proof that you can change and we are here to help you do that. Stop the cycle of chronic dieting and start making your nutrition work for you.