Transformation Tuesday – Abby Norton-Levering
When did you start Flexible Eating?
In March 2017, almost 9 months ago.
What prompted you to get started?
When I was your Transformation Tuesday about 6 months ago, I wrote about my desire to stop snoring. My husband kept telling me I had apnea. I would stop breathing at night and wake myself up. I felt terrible. It was either lose weight or start using a CPAP machine.
Also, a couple years ago I gave birth–I was a gestational carrier (surrogate) for the the beloved child of my stepson and his wife. Afterwards I was just broken down–physically and emotionally. This turned out to be a valuable opportunity for me to be put back together in some new ways. I was 41 years old and I finally saw the value of self-compassion for the first time. I noticed my pervasive self-shaming thoughts in some new ways, and I set out to try to talk to myself differently–as I would talk to a good friend.
I think that if I hadn’t done this work, I wouldn’t have succeeded with Flexible Eating. After all, Flexible Eating is really just another opportunity to practice mindfulness in your eating, and honesty and kindness towards yourself.
Now I’m gonna preach to you for a minute. I’m a really big believer in ABT–Always Be Tracking–even on those days when you eat nothing donuts and drink nothing but booze. Not that I’ve ever done that 😉 I am to track everything with as little shame as possible, and then learn what there is to learn, even on days I think I’ve “failed.” I try to get real curious about why I made the choices I made. What was going on below the surface of my thoughts and feelings? I believe human beings are designed to learn; when you fall down, it’s just an opportunity to see things from another angle and learn from the experience.
What changes have you noticed in your body?
In Crossfit, my limiting factors used to be my breathing and endurance. I’d get out of breath really easily and usually finish last, even when I’d scaled considerably. Now my limiting factor is my recovery–because I’m lighter and stronger, I can push myself so much harder than I ever could before, so I am dealing with challenges like additional muscle soreness and tendonitis.
I see all the normal changes: down several clothing sizes, clothes fit better, yadda yadda. I had to buy a new suit for Jason and Roz’s wedding because none of my old preacher suits fit me any longer!
What’s more interesting to me than the changes in my body are the changes I’ve noticed in my thinking. Flexible Eating helps me keep the bigger picture in mind, so I have an easier time saying “no” to that mediocre brownie offered to me by well-meaning people. I’m able to be more planful about eating the things I do find delicious (spanikopita, anyone?) and more gracious to myself on the occasions when it all falls apart.
What has been your biggest obstacle that you have overcome or are working on?
I wrote last time about running into my perfectionism–how it’s really difficult to hit my numbers as a vegetarian when I’m traveling for work, and that’s still true. I’ve learned to do what I can to prepare by packing protein, like protein powders and bars, and if I can bring a cooler: pre-cooked veggie sausages, marinated tofu, greek yogurt, mozzarella cheese sticks or cottage cheese. Sometimes, though, this isn’t practical, and then I need to let it go when I can’t make it work out exactly.
What’s one piece of advice would you give to someone just getting started?
Here’s what works for me: I put my food into two categories, understanding that I need to eat foods from both categories most days, to be happy and healthy.
My categories are:
1. food that I get excited about, like dinner out with my husband or a friend making me a nice lunch. I’d also throw catered meals at the office and basically any food that’s yummy and more difficult to track into this category. That glass of wine? That ginormous cupcake from More Perecca’s? Those are category 1 foods.
2. food I eat to hit my numbers, like my ubiquitous smoothies made of greek yogurt, protein powder, soymilk and berries, or the bowls of lowfat cottage cheese I often eat at the end of the day. These category 2 foods don’t have to taste bad, by the way. But their taste isn’t as important as the fact that they help you to hit your macros for the day.
Whenever possible, I try to plan my whole day of eating, the night before or morning of each day. I first program my best guesses about my category 1 foods into My Fitness Pal. Then I choose category 2 foods to eat the rest of the day, in order to hit my numbers.
Does this mean I am sometimes eating foods that aren’t my favorites, in order to meet my numbers? well, yes. And it also means that ginormous cupcake tastes all the better, because I’m eating it without guilt or anxiety or judging myself for eating a “bad food.”
Another discipline I took on is to notice my natural rhythms of hunger throughout the day. There are times of the day when I’m not hungry, other times when I’m less hungry, and times when I don’t care that I’m hungry. It sounds obvious to say but I’m learning to save my macros for when I’m actually hungry and I care about it.
Before I started Flexible Eating, I thought eating a big breakfast every day was the healthy choice. But when I’m paying attention to my natural rhythms of hunger, I see that I don’t actually need a lot of food in the morning–a smoothie after my early morning crossfit is usually plenty to hold me till lunch. I don’t need a lot for lunch either, especially if I’m busy at the office or on the road. This leaves me with more macros to enjoy at dinner and as after-dinner snacks–and after dinner is when I really mind feeling hungry.