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7 Questions to Decide If You’ve Taken Healthy Eating Too Far

By Jessie Russo

Young beautiful women refusing cookiesRecently, I came face to face with my Restrictive Eating Cycle and was one teetering step away from diving right back into my old habits and patterns. Thankfully, I have this practice of mindful eating in my toolbox and was able to redirect myself back to an Instinctive Eating Cycle after I had taken healthy eating too far. But I’m not kidding you, it was a very close call!

I had to laugh when I returned to work on Monday, and sitting in my inbox was Michelle May’s article, A Diet by Any Other Name is Still a Diet! I couldn’t believe Michelle had written about the exact experience I had just had!

Here’s what happened using the seven questions Michelle suggested in A Diet by Any Other Name Is Still a Diet.

1.    What is your Intention?

In my opinion, I have a very healthy and well-balanced diet. I eat whole, nutritious foods that fuel my active lifestyle. I’ve always had a sweet tooth so since learning about Am I Hungry? I have enjoyed eating the desserts I love without guilt.

Recently though, my boyfriend and I have been eating desserts in excess and not mindfully at all. It had been going on long enough and regularly enough that I had started to feel very real and very negative physical, emotional, and mental effects. I wasn’t sleeping well, my anxiety was getting worse, I had major brain fog, and generally just felt awful. Yet every night, there we were again, walking across the street for another dessert.

From past experience, I understood that my physical symptoms were coming from my diet so I knew I needed to make some changes. However, also from past experience, I was fearful of eliminating any food groups again and obsessively jumping right back into a restrictive lifestyle. On the flip side, I am a person who responds well to structure. So now what?

After months of “starting over on Monday,” we decided to commit to 30 days without sugar My intention was to remember how good I felt before I started eating it in excess, then after 30 days, find a balance between fueling my body properly and enjoying desserts more mindfully and moderately.

2.    Do you feel restricted?

At first no. In fact I felt amazing! My anxiety was reduced to a minimum, the brain fog lifted, and I was getting restful sleep every night. I had an abundance of energy that I hadn’t felt in months! I was still eating plenty of foods I loved and felt satisfied, in fact, I didn’t have any cravings for nearly two weeks.

After two weeks I could hear the restrictive voices whispering in my ear: “You look really good!” and “Wow, you’re not bloated anymore.” I started to fear what would happen when the 30 days was over. Then I heard the voice and the comment that always sent me over the edge in the past: “Now that you’ve come this far, you can’t ever go back”

Uh-oh…

3.    Does your life feel bigger or smaller?

In the beginning it felt bigger. I had more energy to do the things I love (and to tolerate the people I love!). But then as social events came up, I felt like my old restrictive self, nit-picking ingredients and restaurant menus. I couldn’t even enjoy a s’more at the bonfire we hosted at our house.

Life was definitely beginning to feel smaller.

4.    Is it worth it?

Nope. That bonfire changed everything. There I was, hosting a bonfire, drinking sparkling water, and avoiding the s’more tray as if it were the plague. My intention for the bigger picture was to eat to fuel my body for my active lifestyle, and mindfully enjoy some sweets when I wanted to. Feeling socially awkward and deprived because of my “diet” was exactly what I didn’t want. I know I said this was just for 30 days, but seriously? Missing out on life and a gourmet s’more with friends just wasn’t worth it.

5.    Would moderation be more effective than none?

Yes! I could enjoy a s’more or two. I didn’t have to eat all the s’mores!

6.    What about pleasure?

I’ve seen how good I feel without an excessive amount of sugar for two weeks. My intelligent brain knows one s’more won’t create the catastrophe my restrictive voice was trying to convince me it would. So I ate one with my friends and enjoyed every single bite! Then life went on. Surprise! The world did not end.

7.    Have you turned mindful eating into another diet?

I sure had for a couple of weeks. On one hand it was very mindful of me to recognize that overeating certain foods wasn’t making me feel good so I made a mindful and conscious choice to eliminate them temporarily. However even temporary elimination turned into restrictive eating for me. That was an important lesson that I won’t forget.

Mindful eating is, in fact, a journey. This probably won’t be the last time I overdo the sweets or resort to restrictive thinking, but I have proven to myself that I have all the tools I need to return to mindful eating as soon as I become aware of what it happening. Since the s’more awakening, I have restored balance to my life. I am back to fueling myself with nutritious, delicious, satisfying foods, and enjoying the occasional dessert or dinner out without stressing over every ingredient. I still choose to steer clear of foods that don’t make me feel good and I am confident in those decisions. I am grateful to have this knowledge and a community in Am I Hungry? to take this journey with.

Did anyone else relate to Michelle’s article? Have you been able to make voluntary dietary changes without going overboard? Please comment below; I’d love to hear your story!

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About the author

As a former dancer and now Yoga instructor, Jessica has always had a passion for, nutrition, movement, and the mind-body connection. Jessica is a 200 RYT certified yoga teacher through Bala Vinyasa Yoga, a Baptiste affiliate studio. Her fitness background includes work as a PureBarre instructor, and both Mat and Reformer Pilate’s certifications through Balanced Body. Jessica is also a certified holistic health coach receiving her training through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and has gone on to become a licensed Am I Hungry?® facilitator, focusing her coaching work in mindful eating for individuals, groups and in corporate wellness. “My mission is to empower, educate and inspire each individual through the practice of yoga, and mindful eating, guiding them to live a purposeful life. I am committed to supporting and uplifting my community bringing them into their greatness and passing along the gifts my teachers have given to me. “ Am I Hungry?® was the missing link for me in my journey to ending my eat-repent-repeat cycle and developing a healthier relationship with food. After living my entire life in a restrictive eating cycle mixed with "yo-yo" dieting I decided it was time to break free, stop constantly beating myself up for each bite of food that went in my mouth and learn to nourish and fuel myself in a healthy way. What I love about this program is it takes the mindful practices I use in yoga and applies it to my relationship with food, helping me to meet my true emotional needs that food and exercise cannot provide. This practice of mindfulness has carried over from my mat, to my relationship with food, to every other area of my life, helping me to live a more vibrant and fulfilling life. Jessica will lead you through powerful and challenging work both on and off the mat. Using her nurturing sense she will gently guide you to your personal edge, pushing you past your limitations and inspiring you to step into your most powerful and purposeful self.

2 Comments

  1. Restricting could be my middle name. My mother used to make our own yogurt. It was a staple in our home. My whole family loves it, but we do not make it. The problem was it was being used as a replacement for dessert. The evening meal over and now looking for a snack, I would get a yogurt, maybe two. Well, of course, it did not satisfy me. Being annoyed now , I would look for another substitute instead of what I really wanted.. Maybe it was a slice of cake or an ice cream. Now I will go for whatever everyone is having if that is what I want. Being restrictive is hard work. Eating what you really want is so much more satisfying. A content feeling.

    • Yes! I know it sounds counter-intuitive at first but eating what you love (and loving what you eat) satisfies our innate hedonic hunger (the need for pleasure) so we feel MORE satisfied – often with less food. That frees us up to move on to the next activity until we get hungry again.

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