Healthy and Sane

Diet free living: I think I’m failing

March 15th, 2011 · 54 Comments · diet free living

It was easy the first 10 days or so. I was eating whatever I wanted (to my surprise, the treats were mostly in moderation) and I was feeling so free and happy. I even peaked at the scale after the first week (I know, I know, not good but I wanted some feedback) and I lost weight (I maintained the following week). I felt like I really found the answer!! Of course I also knew things would get tougher eventually.

Then a stressful day at work led to a bit of rewarding with food and I felt guilty. Apparently my self-permission to eat whatever I wanted was conditional and slowly but surely the same old habits of emotional eating crept back in. And I’m once again lost.

The back injury really threw me right back into that horrible binge/overeating cycle. I literally lied on the couch all day on Friday, feeling sorry for myself, crying and eating. And I haven’t been able to stop the eating ever since. I think exercise has provided me with safety and motivation. I no longer counted calories but I had fitness goals to achieve, which meant showing up for my workouts and supplementing them with solid nutrition. And now I can’t do that.

I am absolutely terrified of doing anything to hurt myself this bad again (and of course my chiropractor pretty much told me that whatever I do is at my own risk since until I’m totally healed, I’m at risk of it flaring back up). I’ve been dealing with this lower back thing for 6 months now and I’m afraid that it just won’t go away. This is really messing with my head!!

While I still refuse to count calories/points, I feel like I’m pretty much back to square one. So here are my mini-goals for today to get myself out of my head:

  • Write down all the self-care things I could do for 30 minutes each day, something quiet to let my mind relax (for example, I bought a mandala coloring book months ago and haven’t tried it yet; I also want to find some modern cross stitch patterns). I need to establish some go-to activities for when my mind is racing and it’s important to do these daily so that I know to reach for them when I’m down. Do one of them today (and every day, really).


[Picture source]

  • Try meditation. Christie recommended some active mediation by listening to guiding tracks. I need to commit to this on a daily basis – even if it’s just 5 minutes!!
  • Make a healthy lunch and a healthy dinner. My healthy cooking has been on and off lately which has lead to food choices that have not been making me feel my best. My body is craving veggies; it’s time that I listen and feed it veggies instead of pizza and chocolate.
  • Take 2 hot showers and stretch. And then ice. I need this injury gone!!

I think that should do it for today. Smile Also I may need a little reminder to take deep breaths.

Any other tips for me?

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54 Comments so far ↓

  • #1 - Molly

    I’m not very good at the whole dieting thing, but when I find myself enjoying goodies a little too much, I set up guidelines for myself: I won’t eat anything from a package. Whatever I eat, I will have had to cook myself. Of course, your recipes are all so delicious, that might not work for you. :-/

    • #2 - Elina

      Haha, yes. I didn’t eat too many things out of a package over the weekend. Also, I think I really need to free myself of rules, that’s what’s getting me in trouble mentally.

  • #3 - N

    Elina, don’t worry — you’re not “failing” at anything. This is just life, and it’s hard! You’ve been having a particularly rough week. I know you’ll get through it. Even if you take this whole week just to sit and cry and eat on the sofa, maybe that’s what you need to do — and you’ll reach a point when you don’t actually want to do it anymore, and you really do want healthy food and exercise. Maybe that point will come tomorrow, maybe next week, and maybe that point is now. But it can’t eat right and exercise because you feel guilty; then you’ll just start the cycle right on over again. You have to let yourself have your feelings and do whatever it takes (eat, draw mandalas, talk to friends, anything!) to deal with them. It’s okay to eat pizza and chocolate. It’s allowed. Not just because you’re having a rough time, but because you’re allowed to eat whatever you want. Period.

    You’re not going to turn into Jabba the Hut because of a week where you eat junk food and don’t exercise. I promise! Soon you will honest-to-God want to go to the gym and eat more vegetables, not just because you’re blaming yourself and hating yourself for “failing,” but because you really do want to go to the gym and eat more vegetables. There is nothing morally wrong with eating pizza and chocolate, and yet you’re reacting to it as a “failure.” Elina, you’re an amazing person with a beautiful life and so much to be thankful for. You have lots of people who love you and lots of blog readers who care about you. No one is judging you or telling you that you are a bad person because you sat on the couch and ate chocolate for more than one day in a row…. seriously.

    This is what diet-free living IS. You deal with your emotions, you deal with food issues, you deal with your body and all of its ups and downs. You’re not failing at anything — that’s the point. You *can’t* fail at diet-free living unless you start setting more guidelines for yourself (that you’ll later rebel against because, guess what, they’re restrictive and judgmental). Hang in there, Elina. You could never be a failure. You’re a wonderful, sensitive person who is living her life. There is nothing wrong with that.

    • #4 - Lauren at Keep It Sweet

      I completely agree with N’s points as well.

    • #5 - Jessy

      I totally agree with this comment! So I’d only add a few tips … I’ve noticed that the more I stress about food, more likely I’m going to ”slip up”. Try to keep yourself busy and if you can’t work out, go for a simple walk or something. I think when you go back to healthy cooking, your cravings will decrease – at least to me wholesome foods do that. It’s also a good idea to keep away candy etc. from your house. (Unfortunately I can’t follow my own advice, because I live with my family and they keep buying sweets. :S)

      • #6 - Elina

        Jessy – I think I need to learn to live with sweets around. I know it’s harder, but it’s the only way to establish a long lasting healthy relationship with food and stop fearing certain things. Maybe I’m just naive…

        • #7 - Jessy

          No, you’re right, but what I’m trying to say is that it’s probably a good idea to not have too much of candy laying around. I think it’s all about our mind … when we focus too much on food ‘rules’, while it really should be pretty simple, the stressing prevents you from just letting ourselves be. I struggle with this sometimes, too.

    • #8 - Elina

      N – THANK YOU so much for this comment. You are so right; it’s just hard to wrap my head around this. But yes, I really need to stop like I’m failing at this and just truly let myself be (that’s what I did the first 10 days and it worked). The problem is that I’m letting my mind choose too many times instead of my body… and my mind wants to use and abuse food and I’m just uncomfortable with that and do feel like I need to work on it. It’s a journey, I know. Thanks so much for being kind and reminding me that stress and judging will get me nowhere good.

  • #9 - Katie @ Health for the Whole Self

    I’d just add this: remember that it is inevitably going to be a bumpy road. Having a misstep here and there doesn’t mean you’re failing; in fact, it means you’re probably doing it right! I don’t know anyone who gave up the diet mentality and suddenly had smooth sailing from there on out.

    • #10 - Elina

      You’re right – I knew this was going to be a rocky road. I guess here we are… this is one big mountain to climb over!

  • #11 - Hope

    The only thing that really helps me is counting calories, so I’m no help. :p

    Although it does help to surround yourself with healthy foods and to limit your exposure to junk food. Which is why we don’t keep candy/baked goods/chips/etc. in the house.

    It sounds like you’re thinking so much about your weight, it’s making you hungry!

  • #12 - Lauren at Keep It Sweet

    Ah Elina, I wish I could give you a hug! I can definitely sympathize with you on the food struggles, and as for the back pain, that just really is frustrating. I have faith that you CAN become an intuitive eater if you just let yourself and especially if you stop looking at the scale:-) I do think that part of being an intuitive eater is knowing when your body needs healthy foods to make it feel better.

    For me, when I don’t have a well-rounded healthy dinner, I am much more likely to keep searching for more food to satisfy me. Maybe if you get back into cooking that will help.

    I think that the non-food and exercise activities are a great idea for things to focus on. I’d love to hear how the meditation goes.

    • #13 - Elina

      Yes, yes – I totally agree that part of truly eating intuitively is not only knowing what your body needs but also actually eating those foods instead of avoiding those signals. I’ve definitely not followed this rule this weekend… and making some balanced meals should help. Hoping that today can be a turnaround point! Thanks for your support :)

  • #14 - Julie (A Case of the Runs)

    Veggie pizza?? =) (I like to eat veggies w/just marinara sauce… so yummy!

    What about walking? Now that it’s light out later, maybe after-dinner walks would be a good escape?

    • #15 - Elina

      Apparently I shouldn’t be walking too much either :( Seriously, I feel so helpless!

  • #16 - Lauren @ Healthy Food For Living

    Assuming that walking won’t be a detriment to your injured back, heading outside may distract you from eating when not physically hungry. This works for me! Hopefully the weather will warm up for good in the next couple of weeks. When you feel that urge to eat (but know that your body doesn’t actually need sustenance) head out for a stroll around the city. It not only distracts you from wanting to eat, but also provides a bit of an energy surge from low-impact exercising.

  • #17 - Corey @ the runner's cookie

    It was so nice to meet you last night, Elina! It’s hard to read about all of your struggles and set backs with food and exercise, because you are such a sweet and motivated person! I think it’s great that you are setting little goals for yourself each day, and I’m sure in time you will have a better idea of what will be the best next step for you. In the meantime, I hope your back heals quickly, and immersing yourself into the non-physical activities that you love is probably the best thing you could do for yourself!

    • #18 - Elina

      It was really nice meeting you too, Corey!! Hopefully next time we meet I can talk about something more positive than my stupid back 😉

  • #19 - MelissaNibbles

    I don’t understand what you think you’re failing at. Isn’t the point of “diet free” living to be living, well diet free? Focus on being the wonderful person that you are Elina. We don’t read your blog because of what you weigh and people don’t enjoy your company because of your weight either. I hate to see you putting this much of your self worth into a number. I’ve been there (am still there) to some extent and it sucks. Take care of your body right now to heal your injury and do things to make yourself happy. I honestly think your minigoals are going to make you focus more on exercise and weight loss then get your mind off it.

    • #20 - Elina

      Thank you for this – I know people like me not because of how much I weight but unfortunately I like me more when I weigh less (obviously something I’m working on!). I’m surprised to hear that these mini-goals seem weight loss related to you. I’m talking about self-care and feeding my body foods it’s been wanting instead of falling into the “I’m sad so I must eat chocolate” mentality.

      • #21 - MelissaNibbles

        I think the first one is good, but the others seem focused on diet. I’m just confused as to what you really want. Do you want to lose weight or do you want to live diet free and accept yourself as you are? You say you’re happier weighing less and want to weigh less how can you live diet free? You need to do what makes YOU happy. As bloggers we’re always so hesitant to say we want to lose weight. Why that is, I don’t know. I guess my point is that even if you succeed at these goals, will you be happy because you still don’t weigh a certain number? If not, maybe the goals should be tailored to finding what makes you happy that doesn’t have to do with weight loss, food or exercise.

        • #22 - Elina

          Hmm, very insightful questions here. I guess I just don’t believe that my “normal” weight is my weight today so I DO want to lose weight but I don’t want to do it through dieting. I know that for me to truly let go, I need to come to terms with my weight – whatever it is – so I’m working on that but it’s hard.

          • #23 - Elina

            Oh and those goals are just for today. I wrote them out this morning so this is what I determined would make me happiest today. 😀

  • #24 - Val @ Balancing Val

    I know you have probably heard all of this before, but its progress that counts.

    You made a mistake . . . you thought you gave yourself permission to eat anything but in actuality, you learned that you really didnt.

    The upside to this is that you were observant of this and now you know what the problem is and probably are less likely to do it again.

    Im glad you decided to keep going, sometimes some hills are so high that people would rather tumble back down then fight to get over.

    Stay strong and keep climbing girl!!

    You really can do this!!


    • #25 - Elina

      Thanks, Val. I think I need to work on “observant” rather than “judgmental.” I’m definitely still going for it; I see no other way.

  • #26 - Lauren @ Sassy Molassy

    Hey Elina, I know you’re trying to heal your back so definitely take it easy. But some walks and gentle yoga should still be safe, I would imagine. In high school and college when I was having back issues, yoga ALWAYS helped. Good luck!

    • #27 - Lauren @ Sassy Molassy

      PS – I just read your post about the back pop happening during yoga!!! YiKES! So, disregard my suggestion. :) Follow what the doc has you doing and you may want to see a Phys therapist as well so they can identify and help you with the areas you can and need to strengthen. When I’ve followed my PT recommendations, I’ve been surprised at how well it works.

  • #29 - jaime

    Elina, this is the exact same thing that happened to me. I have been working on my intuitive eating (on and off – sometimes just overeating and ignoring my body’s signals) for almost 5 months.

    At first it was easy and I didn’t even want sweets and I too lost a bit of weight. I have read a lot of people feeling the same way. It is such a breath of fresh air that it seems like an instant cure.

    As hard as I have tried, I cannot get rid of my desire to lose weight. I truly believe that diets are the devil, but eating what I want with unconditional permission has not helped me stop obsessing over food, so I think you are so right about the part where you said your permission to eat was not unconditional after all.

    I think when we start with intuitive eating it is definitely a bumpy road. I am not throwing in the towel, but I am focusing more on weightloss (I am not within my healthy weight range so I don’t think that focusing a bit more on losing weight is a bad thing). I totally understand how discouraged you feel. I see people who have succeeded with IE and I so want to be there, but I want my weight to be healthy too. Just hang in there and keep trying to listen to your body. my mantra is “honour your hunger and respect your fullness.” I know if I was truly doing that I would have lost weight because I often observe myself eating past the point of fullness, but I guess that is just part of the process. I think healing your relationship with food takes a reaaaalllllyyy llllooooooooonnnng time. But in the end it will be worth it.

    Just hang in there and things will even out

    • #30 - Elina

      Jaime – this is kind of what I’m scared of so I think body acceptance should be my #1 priority right now. I am kind of on the border of overweight (can be in the normal category within a few pounds – easily achievable) so I need to really rid myself of this NEED to be thinner. The rest I think will follow if I listen to my body. Good luck with your journey. I think you have the right mindset!! 😀

  • #31 - Bianca @ Confessions of a Chocoholic

    Definitely stretch (maybe some gentle yoga?) I love unwinding with a good book or magazine too. Stay strong girl, and good luck!

  • #32 - Shannon

    i would definitely not say you are failing! and everyone’s comments seem to be spot on… there will be ebb and flow, and things WILL get better :)

  • #33 - Laura

    Elina, have you ever tried OA? I tried it out for a while and there is a lot of support in that fellowship and through the 12 steps, which will help releive you of the things that are blocking you from harmony and peace with food, and ultiamtely with yourself. The only issue I had with it is that some meetings are very heavily focused on the food struggles ahd the reinforcement that a compulsive overeater may never be normal in regards to food. I truly believe healing is possible, and so is normalcy. But I am curious what your thoughts might be if you attended a meeting. I am in NY, but I bet a metropolis like Boston has some fantastic ones as well :)

    • #34 - Elina

      I haven’t, Laura. Never even considered it to be honest but it sounds like there may be bingeing groups as well. I need to look into that. Because I’m not really overeating in that usual meaning of the word (I mean, it’s not like I’m unable to stop eating because it tastes so good; it’s that I reach for food to deal with my emotions). Thanks for the suggestion!!

  • #35 - Laura

    Btw, I was blown away, more like gently whisked away, by the gentle spirit of the post by N. What incredible wisdom there! If all else fails, ask God to “grant you the serenity to accept the things you cannot change, the courage to change the things you can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” That’s it. Take it easy, sistah! This back injury is probably just a blessing in disguise, an opportunity to rest and digest (no pun intended) your emotions and feelings around this food issue and to just be still with yourself. Even through the chocolate and the pizza. Someone was so right when they said it is not of weak moral character to eat bread, cheese, and cocoa! Easy does it, and you are dong fantastic. This journey from food obsession is rarely a straight line. I mean, you are meeting your true self through all of this, and that beauty will manifest in the perfect size for you.

  • #36 - Marcee ...... ILLINOIS

    Hi Elina ~
    You are NOT failing. Just rethink your intake of calories. If possible … gradually embrace gentle workouts in your week. All in good time. Making daily choices of what to eat is always difficult. Rough for all of us. We should eat to live …. not live to eat.
    Years ago my surgeon (I have a history of hernias) told me to pick and choose food careful. Be mindful and selective. She also had serious food issues to deal w/daily because of continual back problems.
    Work toward a healthy food program Elina. Especially now, when young. You definitely should plan (most) meals ahead of time. It saves headaches. Load up on super-yummy “garbage” salads!! Put a bit of dried fruit in your bowl to sweeten it up! Eat good bread/soups. Very delicious and healthy too.

    FORGET the “die-ting” thing. Sure, I do realize what you are saying when you speak of dieting. Just keep eating good quality wholesome foods Elina. Candy + sweets are unhealthy for ALL of us. We become addicted to them. Gotta say no to that poision! Once-in-awhile a sweet is okay. Limit them though. Sugar is sugar in/to our bodies.
    As human beings …. FOOD is a necessity for our “engines” to work properly. You can do it Elina! Yes-yes-yes …. you can!!

    Best of Elina ~

  • #37 - Meghan@travelwinedine

    Be sure to reach out when you need to. A quick email, text, tweet, DM, whatever, and I know I would be happy to just chat if you felt like it!

  • #39 - Kerstin

    It sounds like you did amazing the first couple of weeks so I’m sure you’ll get back on track soon :) It’s SO hard having an injury and then feeling bad about not being able to work out – hope it’s better soon!

  • #40 - Jen

    Hi Elina!
    I hope your back heals up strong and fast. I don’t really have so much a tip, but I do totally empathize with you. I feel like I’m in the same boat except I don’t have the excuse of having a back injury. I just haven’t been eating mindfully or doing my workouts for going on a couple of weeks, and I’m beginning to see the pounds creep on. I tried a Mandala coloring book, too, many years ago- and I only ever colored two! All I can say is try to keep focused on making whatever you eat, even if it is a splurge, as healthy as possible, like have it with a side of greens or a tablespoon of flax seed, you know? Good luck!

    • #41 - Elina

      Good luck with finding that balance for yourself as well! Also, hope you try the mandala coloring again if that’s something that appeals to you. I tried it a few days ago and enjoyed it. I felt very artsy, coloring away. :)

  • #42 - One Healthy Apple

    You haven’t failed at anything, girl. I know it’s hard- I don’t have it right either. I once heard somewhere that if one of your tires is slashed, you don’t go and slash the other 3, right? Just patch up that one tire and keep going. Easier said than done, but it helps me when I eat an extra snack, dessert or huge meal. Pick your fabulous self up, and keep going.

    • #43 - Elina

      It was Jillian Michaels’ thing. I’m pretty sure I even blogged about that exact tire analogy a while back – love it! Reminds you that healing and moving on is very important!!!

  • #44 - Audrey

    I’m sorry to hear that you are struggling too. The best advice I think I can give you is the advice I got recently, which is to let go of the instinct to plan or create a schedule whenever you feel out of control. The hardest part is to cut yourself the same slack, and be as loving or yourself as you are with others or would like to be. I know I would never like my future child to feel the need to plan her meals, enjoy certain foods only is small amounts or once in a blue moon, or excercise for weight, so I recognize that I should not tell myself that that is what I should/have to do.

    • #45 - Elina

      So true, Audrey. Why are we so much harder on ourselves than on the people we care about? Seems silly.

  • #46 - alicia

    When I’m feeling overwhelmed I make myself a nice cup of herbal tea and just sit and sip it quietly. It’s like a mini meditation.

    Yoga is a good suggestion, but it doesn’t have to be traditional postures (due to your back). Yoga can just be sitting and deep breathing (like you would do in a class – deep in and out through your nose). Focusing on your breath can help to relax you!

    Feel better Elina – and injury can really mess with your head!!

  • #47 - Willow @ Making Food Simple

    Self-care and self-compassion can be such difficult things! I thought of you when I read this post from Katie at Health for the Whole Self this morning: Hope it helps!

    • #48 - Elina

      Thanks, Willow. Katie is awesome. I actually saw this too a few weeks back. So true!

  • #49 - Rose

    I know that it seems so so difficult now and it seems as if what you are going through might be slightly different than what everyone else has gone through… but many of us have experienced exactly what you are right now.
    Just remind yourself everyday that intuitive eating takes a while to learn. And the more you stick with it… the EASIER it gets.
    So please dont beat yourself up.. it takes time. And you are so beautiful the way you are now too.. so you dont even have to worry!!
    Also. I dont know if this will help you but my mom gave me probably the best advice ever the other day.
    We were in our car driving home from the gym and I was having a bad body day. I was in a bad mood, feeling down and started crying on the way home. As we were turning the corner to my house we saw a lady in a wheelchair with her friend walking down our street. The lady was about 30 years old and she was laughing with her friend. She looked so beautiful and her face just glowed with love, grace and happiness. She looked like the type of person you would just want to talk to.
    My mom stopped talking and turned to me and said “look at us… worried about our bodies… how dare we.”
    And it just struck me… there is so much hurt and loss and so many problems in this world. The natural disasters, the wars, the famine… we are so so so lucky. Life is so so much more than our bodies.
    And Elina you are beautiful.
    Keep on working on it… do whatever you want… no guilt… live life… give love and just remind yourself intuitive eating is a lifelong process.

    • #50 - Elina

      Thank you for sharing this, Rose. It’s definitely a good reminder that these are small things in the big scheme of life. I know with my current back issue, how I should have been thankful last week about being totally healthy instead of beating myself up over how many cookies I ate. It’s definitely tough though.

  • #51 - Patty

    I think self-care is definitely the right track because that is what is the essence of a weight loss/maintain journey. Remember to do what you can…when you can. Hope your back is feeling better today.

  • #52 - laura

    Hey again! Just wanted to say that OA is all-encompassing (bingeing, overeating, emotional eating, and the other end of the spectrum) I think you will find that the meetings are as divese as its members! The name “overeaters” is a little misleading, and I thought it was just for that also before I tried it out. But overeating means a whole lot of things. There are so many incredible people there, and nearly all are on a spiritual journey. Some are very thin, some are overweight, and some are just in between. It’s all about finding peace and being relieved of food obsession. Would love to share more with you if you are interested. Let’s learn to get full on life rather than full on food :)

  • #53 - Martha

    I’m with N (what insightful advice). You haven’t failed. Life and the transition from dieting to intuitive eating is a life long journey. I’ve been at it for years now and sometimes it feels like 1 step forward followed by 2 steps back :-) Focusing on getting healthy and happy instead of the weight is what has helped me the most. And I so empathize with your back injury. I once had sciatica so bad I had to slither out of bed onto a heating pad to start the day and limped for almost a year! Focus on taking care of yourself and doing what makes you happy. Your body is definitely trying to tell you something – it’s your job to listen and figure out what it’s saying. I hope you are feeling better soon.

  • #54 - Deb (SmoothieGirlEatsToo)

    I know that I’m very late to the game on this but I just wanted to weigh in (ha) on what you’re going through from my perspective, having been there.

    The brutal truth FOR ME is that I simply can NOT weigh what I want to without some form of ‘watching’ my diet. It’s not possible at all.

    I admire and envy those skinny girls who say that they eat intuitively. Every time I’ve tried it, I’ve gained weight. So now, I have to make smarter choices. I don’t go hungry, but instead of having something delicious that won’t fill me up well, I may have to stuff my face full of foods that are filling, low-cal, higher protein, and then have a small amount of what I really want. It’s just a reality for me. I wouldn’t say that I’m on a diet per se, but I’m definitely watching my diet, and not eating what everyone else is eating. That’s for sure.

    I don’t know if that’s helpful to you or not, but I just thought I’d share my experience :-)

    Hang in there.