We’ve all been there: doing super well with our workout routine, eating super clean and healthy, and then the holidays roll around, and you feel like you ate so much mac n cheese, you could literally die. You had the best of intentions. You told yourself you were going to fill up on salad and green beans and turkey. (Okay, so maybe you were a bit unrealistic). That didn’t happen, because food is delicious. If you’re like a lot of people, you might be feeling a whole lot of emotions, and probably not a lot of them are positive. I don’t need to tell you that beating yourself up over not being perfect is counterproductive… but I’ll tell you anyway. Don’t worry, I’m here to help.
When all is said and done (and eaten), you probably came to one of two different conclusions, right? One, you say f*ck it, you already messed up, might as well give up. Two, you own up to your sh*t, recover, and get back on track. If you picked one, then we need to switch your whole mindset. How are you ever going to reach your goals (in fitness and life in general) if, for every one mistake you make, you give up and make another four or five? One bad meal or one bad day doesn’t have to set you back for a week or more. So take a deep breath, stop beating yourself up, and take a look at my best tips to helping you get back on track.
Instead Of Beating Yourself Up… Forgive Yourself
I already touched on this a little, but first and foremost, realize that you’re human and no one on Earth has ever stuck to a diet or lifestyle change perfectly. Diets are not designed for perfect execution, but that’s a whole different topic of discussion that I could talk about forever. Bottom line, if you went harder at Thanksgiving than you had initially intended, forgive your mistake and dust yourself off. It’s just a speed bump, you didn’t crash and burn. You’ll be okay.
Instead Of Feeling Regret… Find Appreciation
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Instead of focusing on all the negative feelings, focus on the upside. Did you have a great time with your friends and family? Did you enjoy the food? Did you avoid getting into an argument with Uncle Paul by making sure your mouth was full with mashed potatoes at all times? Regret nothing. The more you focus on the negative, the more you’ll stress yourself out, which will raise your cortisol levels and cause you to further demonize food. If you follow my school of thought, then you know we don’t demonize food—doing so will just make you want more of the “bad” foods you have deemed off-limits, and in the long run, sabotage your own goals and happiness.
Instead Of Doing A Cleanse… Hydrate And Eat Fiber
Okay, so instead of just not eating the next day to counteract the damage, drink a lot of water and make it a point to eat something green and crunchy like a salad (crunchy because of the lettuce, not croutons, sorry) for either lunch or dinner. The water and fiber will help move things along, literally and figuratively. Salad, soups, feel free to add whatever lean protein you want. Avoid processed foods and try to limit your sodium intake, because it will just make you more bloated. But, for the love of God, eat! Don’t try to crash diet or deprive yourself of food or go on a juice cleanse—that’s setting yourself up for more struggle, disappointment, and bad feelings in the long run.
Instead Of Working Out As Punishment… Do It As Motivation
If you feel so motivated, try to get a workout in. To be clear, this is not a punishment for your mistakes. Don’t approach it like that, but approach it like, now that your gas tank is full, you have the resource to go the extra mile. You may find that you are able to lift heavier, run faster and go for more reps and sets. Use the extra fuel as a resource for achieving new fitness goals, but make sure not to over-exercise to the point of injury.
Remember: As long as you don’t give up, you’ll be okay. Keep the vibe and self-talk positive, because literally, EVERYONE on Earth goes through this. What matters is if you choose to bounce back from these setbacks. The difference between progression and regression not just in fitness, but in life, is realizing you’re bigger than your mistakes.
Annnnnd we’re back for the fourth and final installment of F*ck Your Diet. This series is for you if you identify as a food addict, a binge eater, someone who feels stress over what you eat, or if you’re constantly trying to lose weight and going from diet to diet. Here is my disclaimer: if you feel happy and content with your relationship to food and weight, you have my full blessing to keep doing whatever you’re doing. I’m not trying to napalm the part of your life that makes you feel good. If you like your diet, simply don’t f*ck your diet. That’s my general rule of thumb: If you’re happy, I’m not trying to get you to do anything. But! If you feel like something is off in the way you relate to food, this is definitely for you.
I spent the first three installments explaining how food deprivation and restriction actually cause and/or perpetuate food fixation and many experiences of food addiction. I also explain how I went from a food-obsessed childhood binge-eater, to teenage chronic yo-yo dieter, to a weight-obsessed faux-intuitive eater. Dieting was my religion and sugar was the devil I was trying to purify myself from. And strangely, it all became a self-fulfilling prophecy, because the more I restricted food and sugar, the more and more out of control and “addicted to it” I felt when I inevitably “slipped up” and drove to CVS at 11pm in my parents’ car to buy sugar-free protein bars that I pretended were candy bars. But still, if you haven’t read the first three installments, I recommend you go ahead and do that, because you may not understand what the hell I’m talking about in this installment if you don’t. Part 1. Part 2. And, Part 3.
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It was almost eight years ago now that I woke up from my decade-long diet hell. Which means I’ve been eating whatever I want for eight years. And even though in the beginning I was very hungry and spent a few months eating a lot and making up for lost time, I didn’t actually end up spinning into years of chaos like we all worry we will if we stop dieting. The chaos is temporary. The extreme hunger is temporary. I didn’t eat the whole world. And today, even though I have zero (ZERO!) rules around food, I do not eat a steady diet of donuts and McDonald’s and Snickers, because… I don’t want to (anymore). In fact, at this point, I probably eat “better” than I ever did on a diet, because I can actually hear what the hell my body is asking for, and the drama around food is gone.
So, what I’d like to do in this last piece in this series, is address some common fears that come up when people consider “F*cking Their Diet” or “Being on The F*ck It Diet” (which is actually what my site, Instagram, and book are named) or are even just flirting with the idea of not dieting.
“Anytime I try to stop dieting, I eat way more than anyone should.”
You are not alone! In fact, this is one of the big reasons that most people are convinced they can’t give up dieting. But, eating a lot of food is actually a really normal response to dieting or restricting food. We think it’s our bodies proving to us they’re broken or food addicted, but really it’s just survival. It’s just the body trying to make up for a famine scare.
We also tend to think that we should be eating way less food than we actually need. Did you know that in the 1940s, there was an experiment where men were put on a semi-starvation diet of 1,600-1,800 calories a day for six months, and it made them extremely emaciated and obsessed with food, and it made lots of them anxious and depressed, and normal amounts of food didn’t help them to recover at all? Instead it took them 5,000-11,000 calories a day for months to rehabilitate their bodies and their minds? Yeah. That happened.
So if that’s any indication, 1,600-1,800 calories is something lots of people think they should be striving for. Also, 1,200-1,400 calories is how much they recommend you feed your 2-year-old, so, you need a lot more, ok? No wonder we all feel so out of control with food. Most of us don’t even realize we are constantly trying to under-eat, and then we beat ourselves up for eating more than our too-low daily calorie amounts, and then we force ourselves to repent the next day by eating even less. What do you think that’s doing to our bodies and relationship with food?! We just need to f*cking eat consistently, and stop putting ourselves on cleanses, ok??!
“I honestly can’t trust my body or cravings, all I want to eat is cake and cookies and pizza. I’m positive that is all I would eat”
Craving only high-calorie dessert and “junk food” is also a really normal response to dieting. (And I promise it is just a phase before your cravings diversify and calm down.) If your body has been getting intermittent access to calories (like going back and forth dieting and binging and dieting again), or you’ve been trying to eat less food than your body wants for a few months (or a few years), you’re going to crave the densest food that you can find, because that will counteract the state you’re in the fastest. That’s why we crave cake and cookies and pizza and candy and grilled cheese and everything we think we shouldn’t have. Your body just wants dense and easy-to-assimilate calories for a while, because that is what will get your body out of a low-metabolic state the fastest, and back to a normal and more easy relationship with food, with more normal cravings.
The other thing is that when we make any food off-limits, that food is going to have wayyyy more allure psychologically than if you were allowed to eat it. (I used to misinterpret this and think: Ok, if I allow brownies then I won’t WANT brownies. And then I’d be mad at myself that I still wanted brownies. But you can’t play that paradox! You have to actually allow yourself to eat the brownies!)
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“I have to diet! I’m an emotional eater!”
Dieting and restriction can actually make emotional eating worse. I know, what? First of all, many of us actually use dieting as a way to try and distract from our emotions, too. Not only does it bring the promise of beauty, glowing health, and praise, but it also gives us a high on stress hormones. But at the same time, the more we diet, the more chemically rewarding food and eating becomes, and the more food can give us a “high”. So, not only is dieting its own version of avoiding our emotions, but in a way, it actually makes eating a more effective “drug”. And often, people go back and forth between the two “addictions” in a never-ending yo-yo. In order to make food a less effective drug, we need to stop dieting and restricting. Another paradox, I know.
Having other coping mechanisms and emotional support is definitely an important piece of the emotional eating puzzle. I’m not saying that ice cream should be your therapist. But, just beware that going on a diet to heal emotional eating is like trying to put out a brush fire by blowing on it.
“I have to diet! When I don’t diet, I gain weight!”
Ahhhh, yes. Weight gain and cultural fatphobia. This is no small subject. It’s actually at the heart of this whole thing. It’s a core reason why we are all dieting in the first place. And it’s also a subject that makes the villagers take up arms like they’re in their very own mob led by Gaston, and they storm into the comments to rage about the obesity epidemic. Because people feel very, very strongly about weight gain and health, and want to concern troll allll over the health of people they don’t know.
First of all, gaining weight after dieting is also another normal phenomenon. That’s what the body does. It loses some weight at the beginning of dieting, and then it insists you put it back on. It will literally slow down your metabolism and raise your hunger hormones in order to force you to gain back weight. It’s normal. It’s also survival. And we assume it’s the worst thing that could ever happen to us, but our bodies are doing it on purpose. We evolved this way, and it’s actually protective against withering away. Because, no matter what our culture tells us, becoming a nation of teeny tiny little string bean people isn’t actually what makes our bodies feel safest. Having a super low body fat percentage isn’t good for us and can wreak havoc on our hormones.
But we live in a very thin-obsessed and fatphobic society. We just do. And the thing that makes it so hard to even begin to have a conversation about not dieting is that there is a lot of moralizing over health that helps to justify people’s judgement over weight and the way people eat. People feel very strongly about weight and weight loss. Just go to the comments of these articles, you’ll see. But what that means is that being afraid to gain weight, even a little, even weight that your body definitely needs and wants to gain, is understandable. We constantly see how much better people are treated when they are smaller or fitter or leaner, and how much judgment (and concern) comes along with gaining weight. We are praised nonstop when we lose weight. We assume that weight loss is always healthy and impressive, when, hey, lots of people are losing weight because of eating disorders, illness, anxiety, etc. Weight loss is not always healthy, and on the flip side, weight gain is not always unhealthy. But we live in a society where obsessing over food and weight, and developing disordered eating habits, are praised, and even encouraged, and that makes it really hard to tell if what we are doing is healthy or if it’s going too far.
“So you’re saying that I just have to accept my body as it is?! What are you? A monster trying to destroy the American people from the inside out?? HOW is that healthy?!?!”
One of the things that really shook me and woke me up out of my diet and weight loss obsession was learning that what I believed about weight and health was based on misinformation and cultural bias. Because I cared about health. I still do, actually! Believe it or not!
We think we can fully blame people for their weight, and assume that they just aren’t trying hard enough. But, I mean, you’ve heard, right? Dieting backfires. This has been relatively mainstream public health info since 1992. But… we have a hard time hearing it. There is a cognitive dissonance. I used to hear that “diets don’t work” and think, “No no no noo, those scientists clearly aren’t studying the right diet.” But really, weight loss diets backfire long-term. It’s not because we are lazy, it’s in our biological blueprint. Initial weight loss on a diet happens all the time, but our bodies will eventually adjust to try and get our weight back into a range where it feels safe. And the idea that we just need to keep eating less and less and less to try and keep up with our body fighting back is not healthy. That’s not health! That’s focusing on weight at the expense of health.
Get this: a two-year study was done with two different groups of women categorized with an obese BMI, and the group that didn’t diet or focus on weight loss, but instead made subtle healthy lifestyle changes—joyful movement that they actually liked doing, eating in an intuitive, nourishing way that wasn’t focused on weight loss, stress reduction and shame reduction, and being kinder to themselves and their bodies. And at the end of two years, they ended up with improved overall health (blood pressure, blood lipids, mental health symptoms), even though that group didn’t end up losing weight. And the group of women who focused on standard weight loss protocol (good old fashioned monitored, guided diet and exercise, prescribed by a diet) lost weight initially, but gained it all back and then some, and ended up with worse physical and mental health markers that they started with by the end of two years, even when lots of them were still sticking to the doctor-prescribed diet. So what that means is that joy and self-compassion was good for their health, and earnest and doctor-monitored weight loss backfired big time.
I know! I know! Nobody wants to hear this! But in the very least, it’s important information if we want to understand what the HELL is going on when we put ourselves on a diet. And it also matters if what we really care about is our overall health.
So, back to the question: am I trying to ruin the health of our nation? No, I’m just trying to explain that obsessing over our weight and food and exercise isn’t good for our health. A hyper-focus on weight and weight loss and perfect eating actually ends up being a distraction from truly taking care of ourselves. The truth is, when people stop dieting, some people eventually lose weight, but some people need to gain weight, and some people stay the same. Either way, forcing it tends to backfire in more than one way.
I definitely understand why it scares people. It sounds extremely irresponsible, because people still assume that not dieting means eating donuts for breakfast and lunch and then eating mac n’ cheese and Burger King for dinner every night. And then eating an entire cake in bed. Which is actually the kind of thing I was more likely to do when I was constantly forcing myself to diet.
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This is the (actual) book dedication for The F*ck It Diet. I considered dedicating it to my little sister, but her response to me was, “aw that’s sweet but like, don’t, y’know?” So I said, “fine. Cheese it is.” 🧀🧀🧀🧀🧀🧀🧀🧀🧀🧀 (Have you read #thefuckitdiet ????- my sister hasn’t but that’s ok because I bug her enough in real life. You can read the first chapter for free by visiting my site slash link in bio etc etc etc)
These days, food isn’t the drama that it used to be. I eat a varied diet and I eat until I am full. I crave healthy foods, I crave dense foods, I crave vegetables and fruit. I crave pizza. I’ll eat one (or, y’know, sometimes even two!) pieces of cake instead of finishing off the cake at 1am while standing in front of the refrigerator. I eat dessert. I eat pancakes. I eat the bread on the table at restaurants. I eat grains and meat and eggs and lots and lots of cheese. Sometimes people ask me what I like to eat, and I usually can’t even remember because that is how little I think about food now. It’s food. I like it! I like it a lot! I want to feel good, I want to feel fed, I want to feel alive, and I want to go live my life and pet my dog and go get happy hour.
In conclusion: I think sweet potatoes and green juice are healthy, and I like them, and I eat/drink them! But being afraid of nachos was ultimately very bad for me. Maybe that applies to you, too?
It’s been so great to get to share my story and experience with Betches readers. I know some of you hate me now, but that’s just the name of the game when you talk about diets. People get cagey. People are very devoted to their diets, and in some ways, diets are the new religion of the 21st century. If you read this series and you’re like, “this is… interesting to me, but I’m not convinced,” my book The F*ck It Diet goes wayyyy more in depth. You can also start researching weight stigma and Health at Every Size, and start reading all of the things that helped open up my eyes to the dark side of dieting. You can also follow me on Instagram at @thefuckitdiet. (I post a lot of instagram stories of my bernedoodle if you’re into that sort of thing.)
And remember, if you’re having a great time dieting, or doing whatever you’re doing, I really don’t care if you diet or not. I promise. Everybody should do what works for them. Don’t F*ck Your Diet on my account. BUT, if you’re stressed out over food and weight and have been in a dysfunctional cycle with dieting, I invite you to come join us over here on the other side of diet culture. There are snacks! There are cheese boards with dried fruit and sourdough bread! You can take naps! You’re allowed to buy clothes that actually fit you! Nobody will ever force you to wake up at 4:30am to go to the gym! And there are no diets.
Images: @dietstartstomorrow/Instagram; @thefuckitdiet/Instagram
It’s not a secret that many women, and many Betches readers and Diet Starts Tomorrow listeners, struggle with the cycle of dieting. That’s why we tapped Caroline Dooner, author of The F*ck It Diet and a recovering “food addict”, to share her journey with Betches. From yo-yo dieting to intuitive eating, from self-loathing to acceptance, she will be chronicling her decades-long struggle with food and how she overcame it over the course of this four-part series. New installments of F*ck Your Diet will drop on Mondays, so follow along, and follow Caroline at @thefuckitdiet.
I was one of those kids who went over to friends’ houses with a singular focus on eating as many of their snacks as possible. Screw the almond butter and apple slices at my house. This was my element. I couldn’t wait to finally have the resources to focus on my passion: cool snacks. Sugar and food dye. Powdery sugar. Sugary cereal. Sugar in any form, really. The best households were the ones where the kids had free rein in the kitchen. Their mom was in the other room, doing whatever people did before the internet, and we were allowed to just…get whatever we wanted. This was living. After sitting down and inhaling a pack of fruit Gushers, my friend would be ready to get back to playing some weird game where we pretended to be Simba and Nala. She was somehow satisfied by one little bag of Gushers, and I would pause as if I was thinking really hard and then say, “What if we had another snack first?”
We’d get another snack, and then I would repeat that pattern a few times until I got some form of pushback from my friend (“But… we just had 6 snacks…?”) and I would finally let us go and play our Lion King game. From these interactions alone, it was clear that I was obsessed with snacks, and they were not.
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Dear @ww and @kurbohealth and @oprah – putting kids on diets is doing active harm. Leave the kids alone. Let them eat chips without thinking about tracking or weight. Seriously, if you care about health: LEARN about weight stigma and the harm that this is doing to kids. Angrily/sadly/incredulously, Caroline. (Last slide from the @kurbohealth site by way of @lindatuckercoaching ) #weightstigma #disorderedeating #ww #wakeupweightwatchers #eatingdisorders #mentalhealth
Another friend of mine had an Easy Bake Oven. The luxury! The excitement! I couldn’t believe that just sitting there in her family room were little packets of powder that would make tiny doll-size cakes. I don’t even remember having the patience to wait for them to bake. I just remember ripping open bag after bag and eating the powder. What a life.
But because of all this, I grew up believing that I was a food addict. Actually, to be fair, I don’t think I knew what an “addict” was, especially back then. But it was very clear to me that I was obsessed with food—way more obsessed with food than anyone I knew. It didn’t concern me, it was just a fact. The only thing that concerned me was how to get more cool snacks. But I was actually very lucky, because so many young kids are put on diets and forced to focus on their weight at such a painfully young age (looking at you, Kurbo!). Body size is generally…luck. I ate more than ANYONE I KNEW and was the smallest of them all. I was able to avoid focusing on weight while I was a kid, because I was just a skinny little girl obsessed with pancakes. My humongous appetite and laser focus on sugar all seemed like more of a novelty than a concern to people because of my low weight. I have lots and lots of thoughts on this, how it affected me, and how this double standard affects us in general and as a culture, that I will elaborate on later in this series.
But the most fascinating thing (and the thing that I am eventually going to be elaborating on later in this series), is that my friends whose kitchens were stocked with all of the “junk” we never had in our house, didn’t care about snacks. They ate one, or two, and then wanted to get back to doing other things. They could take it or leave it. And that’s because (and this would take me twenty years to learn) food addiction doesn’t really exist. In fact… feeling food addicted, and addiction-like behaviors (which definitely DO exist, I was exhibit A) have only really been seen when there is “intermittent access” to food or sugar. What that means is restriction, and even perceived restriction, can wire us to fixate on, and act addicted to, food. Much much more on this later.
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Once again in tweet form: @ww and @oprah – get it together. Listen to the legitimate critique of this and pull it. (New to this outrage? @ww just launched a new app for kids as young as 8, promising a healthy relationship with food, but encouraging kids to count and track every bite, and posting before and after weight loss photos or CHILDREN. If our culture had more awareness about the damage this can do, this could and should be considered child abuse. Stop the madness.) #wakeupweightwatchers #eatingdisorders #weightstigma #diet
Because of my childhood skinniness, my early life was mostly just a lighthearted snack-gorging montage until I started gaining weight in puberty. My ability to eat three full-sized Snickers in a row in 20 minutes flat didn’t feel comical to me anymore. It felt more like, omg…oh no oh no… Is this why a food addiction is NOT fun or funny?
All of a sudden, I didn’t feel comfortable. The boobs I had literally prayed about for years (“Please god let me look like a teenager!”) were here, and they were humongous. I didn’t even fit into Victoria’s Secret bras. This was a code red. An adult body happened, and I was NOT having fun anymore. How do I go back!?!?
I have to think that if I hadn’t lived in a culture that encouraged women to look like pre-teens forever, and actually normalized puberty weight gain, it may have been easier, but it’s hard to say.
On top of all of this, after a hormonal test and an ultrasound, my doctor diagnosed me with PCOS, which is a hormonal disorder that is associated with acne, weight gain, infertility, diabetes, and way more. They casually told me I should diet and exercise and to “make sure I didn’t gain weight”. And all I could think was… Oh no. I did this. I caused this with my gorging on cookies. I think I caused this with my eating!?!?!
Based on everything I read online from Dr. Google, it seemed like food and weight were the underlying problem with this condition. So, it made sense to me that because I had been binging on snacks my entire life, that I had caused this problem, instead of understanding that it’s actually genetic, environmental, and very, very exacerbated by stress. But I figured that if I could eat less (or no) carbs, lose weight, and look like a J.Crew catalogue model in her tiny chino shorts, I could be healed. I would simply reverse my condition with a steady diet of steak, cauliflower, and almonds. Easy.
What that means is that I spent the next 10 years trying to be on a diet. And I tried them all. Atkins, South Beach, French Women Don’t Get Fat…all of them. If there was a new trendy, doctor-endorsed diet, I was on it.
I would follow the diet religiously for a few months, and I’d lose a significant amount of weight and feel high on life and praise (“Wow Caroline you look WONDERful!” Omg thank you so much! I pretty much only eat rolled up turkey slices and bell peppers and pickles and Cool Whip Free. I’m finally living my best life, being MY BEST SELF.) But below the surface, I was fighting a constant battle with food. After the zeal and adrenaline high of the first few months (or weeks) of dieting wore off, I would be gravitationally pulled to the kitchen. I started binging on the foods I was allowed to eat on the diet, and then I’d repent the next few days by being even more strict on my South Beach Diet. But soon I’d be gorging on foods that were not allowed at all. This was what solidified my belief that I was a food addict. There was something wrong with me. I couldn’t even stick to an extremely low-carb diet for four months? Was I a monster? All I did was think about food. It was clear to me: I had a problem.
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This is a big reframe: bingeing is actually a GOOD thing. We tend to think bingeing is PROOF that we canNOT be trusted, but did you know that bingeing is actually your body trying to combat and make up for past (or future) restriction? That’s another reason why stepping out of the diet and restriction cycle is so important.
There was one fall in high school when I didn’t go trick or treating, because, first of all, I’m basically an adult. And second of all, I’ve lost my taste for candy, because I am currently a reformed food addict. But you’d better believe the next week I was sneaking into my brother’s room to eat tiny piece of candy after tiny piece of candy. By the end of the day, I’d eaten most of his candy. And by the next week, I had gained back all of the weight I lost, before I put myself on another, better diet.
This happened over and over and over again, for a decade. I would start off following a diet perfectly, losing some weight, but soon I was sitting in a pile of wrappers with chocolate all over my face, furious at myself, wondering what the f*ck was wrong with me. It was actually really scary, because I had so little control. I believed I had a real food addiction, and not only was this addiction making my eating and weight erratic, but it was also apparently the reason I had hormonal problems and cystic acne and a hormonal syndrome that would probably only get worse and worse. I truly believed that if I didn’t get it under control, like any addiction, it would also just get worse and worse for the rest of my life. And my constant dieting was my attempt to get it under control. Impulse control! Will power! This was what I had to do. But no matter how much I tried, no matter how important it was to me, and no matter how well I would follow a diet for the first few months, I kept losing control.
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I am not a food addict anymore, because again, food addiction isn’t real—or at least, it isn’t like other addictions. In fact, I am now one of those people who sometimes even forgets to eat lunch (not that that’s better, it’s just extremely different). I assumed that my relationship with food would be a lifelong battle, but thank the f*cking lord, I was wrong. And the cure wasn’t the perfect diet, it wasn’t detoxing my body of carbs, it wasn’t Adderall or an exercise addiction or a very chic and French cigarette habit, or anything else I used to think would be the thing that could save me from myself. The cure was actually stopping dieting, and stepping out of the scarcity mentality once and for all. You can’t treat food like a drug addiction, because we actually need food, so any sort of scarcity actually makes your body more addicted and fixated.
The cure for my “food addiction” was actually… food.
I’ll be back next week to explain what finally woke me up, and what my healing process looked like. Stay tuned! In the meantime, I’ll be eating.
Caroline is the author of The F*ck It Diet, a book for chronic dieters. She loves TV, her dog, and doing the least amount possible. Find her on Instagram and Twitter.
Images: thefuckitdiet / Instagram
When the first days of summer made their long-awaited appearance, you probably had the best of intentions when it came to your diet: lots of fruits, veggies, lean protein, and low-calorie alcohols. But if three months of exactly the opposite (hello, burgers, fries, and beer) have left you a little, well, bloated, who can blame you?! You were just living your best life.
Still, it can be discouraging, and actually physically painful, to feel like your belly is always poking out and doubling in size after you eat certain meals. It probably makes you swear off all your favorite foods, at least temporarily, before a 2am craving hits and you start the cycle all over again. The good news, though, is that you probably don’t have to eat less to get rid of bloat. You may just have to make different food and drink choices, and not all of them are boring!
To make sure you get the absolute best anti-bloating advice—and are able to zip up your favorite pair of high-waisted jeans now that fall is upon us—we chatted with Monica Auslander Moreno, RD, and nutrition consultant for RSP Nutrition. Here’s what she had to say about beating bloat .
First, Make Sure You Don’t Have Any Major GI Issues
If you’re a victim of cruel and painful gas and bloating nearly every time you eat, the solution could be a matter of eating differently—but you could also have an underlying medical issue that needs addressing. “Visit a GI doctor to rule out a medical cause, like IBS, SIBO, or lactose intolerance that could potentially require medication or further workup, and firm up a diagnosis so you know how to leverage your food intake,” suggests Moreno.
If you do test positive for one of these conditions, your doctor may prescribe you medication and suggest you try certain diets to see how they make you feel. Dr. Moreno adds, “If you’re diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), for example, there’s a pretty concrete protocol we employ to help clients identify their own bloat triggers (it’s called the FODMAP diet) but it must be done under a dietitian’s supervision, because it’s incredibly meticulous and nuanced.”
Keep A Food Symptom Diary
If a doctor confirms you don’t have any GI issues (or your bloating isn’t actually severe enough to visit one), start keeping a food symptom diary to figure out which foods are causing the bloat in the first place. “Common bloat triggers include caffeine, alcohol, carbonated drinks, artificial sweeteners, chewing gum, vegetables like brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, legumes (beans), corn and popcorn, spicy foods, high salt foods, sugary foods, fried foods, leeks, onions, garlic, deli meats, jerusalem artichokes, and apples,” Moreno says.
While that (very long) list is a great place to start when it comes to identifying bloating culprits, everyone’s different. Just because your friend gets massive bloat after her daily jerusalem artichoke (as an important sidenote, we’re pretty sure jerusalem artichokes aren’t the problem for most people), doesn’t mean you will. The most important thing is that you pay close attention to what your triggers look like.
Before you freak out about having to give up caffeine and alcohol forever, it’s worth paying attention to times of day when you get more bloated—and how much of certain foods you have to eat before you get bloated—because it’s not always the actual food that’s the problem. “Everyone’s bloat triggers can be different, and some people notice they’re more likely to bloat if they even eat a certain food at a different time of day, or that they have a certain threshold with bloaty foods,” Moreno says. “Maybe you’re fine with half a cup of beans, for example, but not a whole cup.”
Load Up On Water
Now, let’s get to the good part: exactly what to eat and drink to beat bloat in the first place. When it comes to beverage choices, ditch the beer and diet soda and load up on water and herbal teas instead—specifically mint and ginger teas.
And as we say goodbye to summer, take advantage of the final days of melon season to get rid of the little pooch. “Go for snacks high in water content and low in bloat potential, like cantaloupe, papaya, and honeydew,” suggests Moreno. Another helpful anti-bloat agent? Yogurt. Or if you and dairy don’t exactly get along, a lactose-free yogurt. “Try a lactose-free kefir, which is yogurt-like drink packed with probiotics,” says Moreno.
Bloating, while unappealing and uncomfortable, happens to the best of us. So if this is you lately, don’t beat yourself up! Beating bloat could be as simple as eliminating a few foods and adding new ones in. You’ll be zipping up those high-waisted jeans again in no time.
Images: Mike Mayer / Unsplash
Last week, most people flipped the f*ck out when WW (formerly Weight Watchers) announced it had purchased and was relaunching the app Kurbo, aimed for kids ages 8-17. While WW insisted the app was not a weight loss app, many people (us) felt like WW was not being completely transparent, and the app was just a thinly veiled weight loss app. Gary Foster, the chief scientific officer at WW International, called Kurbo “an app that teaches in a game-ified, fun, engaging way what are the basics of a healthy eating pattern.” But in an official statement, WW referred to Kurbo as a “scientifically-proven behavior change program designed to help kids and teens age 8-17 reach a healthier weight.” Hmm, so which is it? Are we teaching kids to lose weight or nah?
Kurbo uses a “traffic light system” to classify foods as red, yellow, and green. App users can play games to determine which category various common foods fall under, and there’s also a tracking component where they can record the foods they’ve eaten. As someone who did Weight Watchers as a “kid” (I was like, 15 or 16), I was initially torn when news about this app came out. On the one hand, the CDC claims childhood obesity has more than tripled since the 1970s, and nearly 1 in 5 kids aged 6-19 are obese. I would have probably done Kurbo in 10th grade when I went on Weight Watchers. On the other hand, kids already have body image issues, and appealing to that and encouraging weight loss for literal 8-year-0lds is pretty ridiculous and premature, and as many pointed out, it could promote or lead to disordered eating. So I decided to download the app to see for myself, and honestly? It’s worse than I thought.
I downloaded Kurbo, input my information (I pretended I was a 4’8″ kid who weighed 100 pounds, which is technically classified as overweight). Then I played a game called “Red Raisins”, where the app shows you pictures of various foods and then you have to determine which are red, yellow, and green through a variety of exercises. (Sometimes you’ll drag a fork to the “green” food, sometimes you’ll erase the “yellow food”—stuff like that.) Not going to lie, the game was actually pretty fun and may replace my desk habit of mindlessly scrolling through dating apps. However, I was seriously gobsmacked at some of Kurbo’s classifications. The green and red foods didn’t surprise me (carrots are green; fried chicken is red), but the yellow foods were another story.
From the Kurbo app, green foods mean “healthy foods—eat up!”, yellow means “watch portions”, and red means “eat 4 or fewer” (I guess per day, though it doesn’t specify). Seems like a pretty logical and intuitive system, until you get to what Kurbo considers foods you should watch your portions for.
Baked chicken breast?? Are you sure?? The same baked chicken breast annoying fitness bros swear by? Surely that baked chicken breast cannot be a food kids need to watch out for. And, to be clear, this is chicken without skin. Now, here’s the crazy part. I am on Weight Watchers (I’m Lifetime, which means I’m not losing anymore, I’m just maintaining), which works on a points system. Basically, depending on factors like your height, goal weight, age, whether or not you are pregnant, etc., you get a daily allowance of points per day. Each food (and beverage) has a certain points value, depending on things like calories, protein, sugar, carbs, etc. Guess how many points chicken breast is on the WW app. No, really. Guess.
Zero. Zero f*cking points. Don’t believe me? Here’s a screenshot from my app:
I don’t know what psychos are eating raw chicken breast, but the point is that adults can eat a serving of chicken breast and not have it count towards their daily points allowance. So why are we telling kids that this is not a “safe” food? If anything, you would think we would be more lenient towards kids, who are still growing and developing. But nope! Stay away from the chicken breast, children!
Check this out! Unsweetened applesauce is a yellow light food on Kurbo. Now, I kind of get that, because obviously no kid (or person) should be eating, like, 10 pounds of applesauce per day, sweetened or not. But, and you’re probably getting better at this game now, guess how many points WW assigns to 1/2 cup of unsweetened applesauce?
Correct! Zero points!
Even crazier? A baked chicken sandwich (which they depict as baked chicken with lettuce and tomato on a bun—no cheese) is a red food. That’s wild, considering that in my WW meetings, we always say that a grilled or baked chicken sandwich is a pretty safe option when you’re going out to eat. Crab is a yellow food, when lump crab meat is zero points on WW. It just doesn’t make sense.
To be fair to Kurbo, some of the games were helpful. I played one that had you guess what proper serving sizes are for foods, using things like the palm of your hand for reference. That’s useful, considering most people can’t properly eyeball 3 oz. of meat or 1/4 cup of nuts or whatever. But the food classifications were another story. You would think that an app owned and run by WW would be consistent for children and adults. You’d also think, again, that they would be more forgiving for children, because they’re growing and I’d venture that kids are generally more active than adults. But nope! You’d be wrong on both accounts. Instead of teaching children how to make healthy choices (a goal I kind of take issue with in the first place, since a lot of the time children don’t have much control over what they’re eating, and it’s up to the parents to provide healthy meals for them), we are teaching children to demonize the same foods that adults are permitted to eat freely! To borrow from Ramona Singer, wow. Wow, WW. Wow.
Images: Dan Gold / Unsplash; Kurbo (2); WW (2)
These days, it seems like every person on Instagram has an opinion about what meal plan or exercise program you should follow. But, as we know, you can’t trust influencers’ fitness advice. So who do you turn to when you have a question about, say, the pros and cons of keto and Intermittent Fasting? You turn to the pros, of course. Jorge Cruise is a celebrity fitness trainer, distinguished weight loss coach, brand partner for Cece’s Veggie Co., and #1 best selling fitness author. He has influenced celebrities such as Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Lopez, Khloé Kardashian, Steve Harvey, Miley Cyrus, Tyra Banks, 50 Cent, and Eva Longoria with his diet and workout plans. That’s more celebs than in the famous 2014 Oscars selfie. Except, this time you get an invite to join the squad and hear what Cruise has to say about the Intermittent Fasting and Keto diets, two of the hottest diets that all your friends are probably talking about right now.
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Watch this clip from Revenge Body where @KhloeKardashian challenged me to personally help Lauren lose 55 pounds for her wedding day. . Remember the most important principle I’ve learned over my career, is that you cannot out train a poor eating plan. If you are ready to lose 55lb, make sure to click the link in BIO to get started today. #KhloeKardashian #FtinessBeginsintheKitchen #CruiseControlFasting #JorgeCruise
So, WTF Are Intermittent Fasting And Keto?
They may be really popular at the same time, but these two diets couldn’t be more different. According to Cruise, “Intermittent Fasting (IF) is when you eat in a time restricted window, typically 8 hours to eat and 16 to fast” and “Keto is focusing on high fat, high protein and leave out carbs.” Cut out carbs? Over my bread body. Thankfully for me, Cruise agrees. He states, “Personally, I feel like IF is better because you can eat carbs, it’s a more balanced approach and is more practical. The 16 hour window of fasting you allow your body to do housekeeping, or autophagy, which is vital to longevity and disease prevention.”
What Are The Pros & Cons Of Each?
No diet is ever right for you, the word literally has the word “die” in it. But, if you’re going to give one a try, then you should do one that would best suit your lifestyle. Cruise says, “IF is for someone who wants a lifestyle and balanced program where you can enjoy carbs. Keto is just for short-term and only if you like high fat, high protein and don’t like or don’t mind not eating carbs.” Who the f*ck wouldn’t mind not eating carbs? No one. Absolutely no one.
How To Prepare
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One of my favorite workouts to show all my celebrity clients is called the “Leg up”. It strengthens the core better than anything else and best of all you don’t have to get on the floor if you have a bad back. All you have to do is the following: Standing with your feet together and hands behind your head. Exhale and lift the right knee as high as you can. Inhale and return to the starting position. Exhale and lift the left knee as high as you can. Alternate sides for a total of 10 repetitions on either side. Try this this holiday season to sculpt and tone your stomach! If you want to workout alongside us, head to Brooke’s app, #BrookeBurkeBody on the iTunes store or @brookeburkebody (brookeburkebody.com) and try it 7-days for free today! #brookeburke #jorgecruise #CruiseControlFasting
We’ve all been there, having a “Last Supper” before going on a diet, where you eat like you’re never going to be able to eat anything flavorful ever again. I mean, it’s literally the inspo behind the name of our podcast, Diet Starts Tomorrow. But just know that if you do that, you’re doing it wrong. You should prepare for a diet mentally, not by thinking about how much you are going to miss eating ice cream, but by reminding yourself of your motivations for starting the diet. Cruise states, “Regardless of any diet, having strong motivators to do so is very important. If you don’t have a strong enough reason it will be hard to start anything. I suggest to my celebrity clients to find a reason beyond looking good for summer—something significant. Maybe that’s transforming their confidence so they can improve their relationships or get into a better one, connect it to their career knowing that if they are healthier, they have more energy and confidence and can earn more. For some it’s family, being a role model for their kids or their spouse. Find something strong to motivate yourself.”
How To Stay On Track
It’s easy to get off track, but remember that smart eating decisions start in the supermarket. Cruise suggests, “For IF, fresh produce is good, and focus in on healthy fats and protein. You can also have carbs like vegetables and even pizza, pasta, and fried rice.” As far as vegetables go, Cruise says, “My go-to and what I recommend to my clients is Cece’s Veggie Co., a line of organic spiralized and riced veggie products that go from pan to table in minutes. Cece’s makes it easy to add fresh veggies or swap in veggies for pasta and rice for a fraction of the carbs and calories.”
For keto, same thing, but no carbs. “Choose organic, and you may need more variety since it’s high fat high protein,” Cruise says. Another way to stay on track is through exercise. Cruise says, “I think exercise is something you should do everyday. I think you should do it in the morning while you’re fasting , it’s scientifically proven to be the best time to burn belly fat. Make sure to stay hydrated with electrolytes and water. With keto, a lot of people work out as well.”
How To Have A Life
Going out to dine with friends can transform your night from a nice, relaxing evening to an anxiety-filled disaster when you’re on a diet, but it doesn’t need to. On IF, Cruise says, “you can customize your eating window around what plans you have. You can eat at night with your friends if you go out or in the morning/afternoon. You can enjoy the foods you love on IF like pizza, pasta, and wine!” However, he notes, “with keto it’s trickier because you have to focus in on healthy fats and proteins only. You won’t be able to eat bread, drink wine, etc. so it’ll be a little trickier since it’s more limiting. You will need your friends’ support since you can’t be eating as many carbs.” So, I guess this is a good way to find out who your true friends are. If they can handle you at your
carb deprived worst, then they’re real ones.
So, Which Is Right For You?
Ultimately, I don’t like to sign up for something that doesn’t allow me to eat cookies whenever I want, but that’s just me. But if there had to be a diet that was less painful, Cruise says, “IF is easier as it’s a lifestyle plan, it’s what I do and teach all my clients.” In regards to Keto, Cruise explains,“Keto is a great way to lose weight rapidly, but unfortunately, you can’t eat a lot of carbs. They both can cause you to lose about a pound a day,” Cruise points out. So it all comes down to this: what’s more important to you: midnight snacks that you can eat on keto, or carbs that you can eat on IF. You can only choose one.
If neither of those sound amazing, Cruise created his own diet explained in his book,The Cruise Control Diet where you eat in an 8-hour window. And unlike IF, there’s an eating plan that ensures people aren’t hungry. He says, “The great thing about the Cruise Control diet is that there’s NOTHING that’s off-limits.”
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Hope to see you this Sunday at 2 PM ET at @barnesandnoble in Union Square… and make sure to wear comfortable shoes. Because yes, we will be doing an 8 minute workout. No equipment needed. No gym is required. . Link in bio to reserve your spot.#CruiseControlFasting #BetterThanKeto #8MinuteWorkout #JorgeCruise
So, that’s the tea on Keto and Intermittent Fasting from a celebrity trainer. If you’re brave enough to take on one of these diets, I wish you the best of f*cking luck. If not, let’s get pizza some time.
Images: Jorge cruise (3) / Instagram
Guys, I’m so tired. I’m so tired of slathering my entire body in makeup because I’m wearing a dress. I’m so tired of being told that a laxative tea, one that will surely f*ck up my digestive system, will make me look like a (Photoshopped) celebrity. These impossible beauty standards and the toxic messages I’ve internalized are wearing me out. I’m SO TIRED. And so is Jameela Jamil, who is, yet again, calling out the Kardashians for telling women that we’re not good enough unless we have an 18-inch waist. Jameela’s most recent gripe is over Kim’s new body makeup, which women can use to cover their entire body and blur things like veins, bruises, or any other “imperfection” that might make a man think that we are human *gasp*! Excuse me while I go burn everything to the ground now.
This is obviously not the first time that Jameela has come for the Kardashians, it’s just the latest battle in the war she is waging against the unattainable beauty standards the world has set for women, and that the Kardashians continue to perpetuate and profit off of. Such a lovely family! So, in honor of Jameela’s most recent display of straight-up badassery, let’s take a look at all the times she went after America’s First Family of Flat Tummy Tea.
The Appetite Suppressant Lollipops
Of all the awful things that the Kardashians hath wrought, appetite suppressant lollipops are the worst of all. Well, the lollipops and Tristan Thompson, but this article’s not about him. Last year, Kim promoted these lollipops on Instagram, telling her 142 million followers that not eating is cool! Going to extreme measures to look like Kim is cool! Let’s all get eating disorders together! (I’m only paraphrasing a little.) Naturally, Jameela took issue with this advertisement:
No. Fuck off. No. You terrible and toxic influence on young girls. I admire their mother’s branding capabilities, she is an exploitative but innovative genius, however this family makes me feel actual despair over what women are reduced to. ☹️ pic.twitter.com/zDPN1T8sBM
— Jameela Jamil ? (@jameelajamil) May 16, 2018
As my aunt likes to text me, “you go girl!” Personally, I would have used even a few more expletives, but I’m from Jersey. Those Brits are way f*cking classier. This is the first time I noticed Jameela going after the Kardashians, and it made a big splash and started a narrative. Eventually,
the check cleared I guess a modicum of shame got to Kim, so she changed the caption to just a lollipop emoji, but WE ALL KNOW WHAT YOU DID, KIM.
The “Kim Looks Anorexic” Comments
In case you were giving Kim the benefit of the doubt after the lollipop fiasco, let me get you some more sticks to fuel that rage fire. Later in the year, Kim posted an Instagram story where her sisters told her she looked anorexic and she was so excited and thanked them. So yeah, she’s promoting anorexia. But guys, it was just a joke! Fun and games! My fun and games involve shaming my brother with embarrassing photos in our family group chat and commenting “never forget,” but sure! Anorexia is hilarious too! In response to this story, Jameela posted the following on her own Instagram:
THANK YOU. It’s sad that we all need to be reminded that our weight does not determine our worth, but I certainly can use the reminder literally all the time. Jameela also created an Instagram account called @i_weigh, which is about “radical inclusivity, so that no one feels alone.” I highly recommend it as a follow in between the life-sized Barbies that are popping up in our feed.
Their ‘New York Times’ Interview
I actually only included this incident because after the Kardashians did an interview basically saying they can do whatever they want for money (SERIOUSLY), Jameela said that “their pockets are lined with the blood and diarrhea of teenage girls.” This is the most epic insult I’ve ever heard, and in my dreams I came up with it myself. I hope the money is worth it, ladies!!
All Women Want is to Eat and Lose Weight
Khloé posted in an Instagram story earlier this year that all women want is to “1. Lose Weight and 2. Eat” which obviously set Jameela off:
This makes me sad. I hope my daughter grows up wanting more than this. I want more than this. Sending love to this poor woman. This industry did this to her. The media did it to her. They fat shamed her into a prison of self critique. Dear girls, WANT MORE THAN THIS. ❤️ pic.twitter.com/RFkb0GzxZY
— Jameela Jamil ? (@jameelajamil) January 10, 2019
Sadly, for some of us, especially me (hello garlic knots, my old friend) this is true. And it’s because people like the Kardashians have been telling us for so long in so many ways that skinny is the best way. So, maybe, just maybe, if certain people stop promoting waist trainers, and laxative tea, and appetite suppressant lollipops, women will stop only wanting to both lose weight and eat. And for the record, women do want other things. I also would like to own a bookstore/coffee shop, get a dog, and to meet my goal of reading 50 books this year.
Khloé Promoting Flat Tummy Tea
And finally, we have the epic post where Jameela called out Khloé for promoting Flat Tummy Tea and acting like it’s the reason she looks the way that she does, when we all know that’s not true.
I’m so glad that Jameela said this. Because most girls aren’t as cynical as me and don’t realize that Khloé Facetuned the sh*t out of this. Most girls don’t follow multiple Instagram accounts that point out all the ways that celebrities enhance their images (or read our weekly Photoshop Fail articles). Most girls don’t have the free time to deep-dive the Kardashian archives and see all the times they’ve sold us snake oil. It must be pointed out. FYI, Khloé eventually deleted the post. PROGRESS.
So, if this article hasn’t proven to you that God sent the Kardashians down to us as a test and that we failed, I don’t know what will. I’ll just be over here bracing myself for the next big flood. Thanks for trying, Jameela!
Images: Giphy (1); jameelajamil/Twitter (2); jameelajamilofficial, commentsbycelebs/Instagram
Hey, it’s me. The girl who tries terrible fad diets and writes about them. You may remember me from the time I ate Halo Top ice cream and nothing else for a week. Or the time I accidentally set off a war in the Whole30 community. Or you don’t understand either of those references and are just here today to learn about the confusing and scientifically unfounded lifestyle that is Food Combining. Regardless, welcome.
A few weeks ago I found myself at a happy hour discussing, what else, fad diets. Usually once people hear that this is something I do willingly, they start throwing out wild suggestions that only lead me to believe that they are hoping I die in the process of attempting. May I present to you, a shortlist of diets that have been suggested to me by friends and strangers alike:
- The Potato Diet in which you eat, you guessed it, plain cooked potatoes and nothing else
- That insane Vogue diet that circulated Twitter and allows you an entire bottle of wine, three hardboiled eggs, and one steak a day (still not off the table tbh)
- The sushi and Jamba Juice diet, which is less a fad diet and more the very real eating habits of my suburban Californian high school self
- “Just like…eggs?” – a man who wasn’t even involved in the conversation but had to stop and offer his two cents
- “Vegan!!” – any Vegan in a two mile radius
But this particular happy hour was different, because a woman there offered up a viable and interesting option that I actually hadn’t heard of before: Food Combining. In its essence, Food Combining is driven by the principle that the less energy your body exerts on digestion, the better. To achieve that, the goal is to eat food in a certain order or in certain combinations to aid digestion and promote weight loss, better nutrient abruption, increased energy levels, and various other benefits.
While the origins of Food Combining are a little cloudy, like most modern wellness trends it can be traced back to the Ayurvedic medicine practices of ancient India. Shout out to the ancient Indians for providing 90% of my subject matter. I can never thank you enough for the Golden Milk.
Food Combining reemerged into public consciousness in the mid-1800s and then again later in the early 1900s, rebranded at those times as Tropology and the Hay diet, respectively. But no matter what you call it, the sentiment is the same: different foods should be combined in different ways for optimal digestion.
It became immediately clear in my initial research that scientists do not agree with the logic behind Food Combining. The theory is this: different enzymes in your intestines digest different food groups, so by eating those groups separately you are creating the most optimal digestive environment. If you were to combine those groups, the digestive process would take longer, giving the food in your stomach time to rot or ferment, which leads to bloating. It’s not the most insane thing I’ve ever heard, but that probably shouldn’t be the litmus for effective diet practices.
It turns out digestion is an incredibly complicated scientific process that can’t just be hacked by eating foods in certain orders. In fact, digestion starts in the mouth, which kind of negates the entire idea that all the food you eat is sitting wholly untouched in your gut waiting to turn you into Violet Beauregarde if those enzymes don’t get working ASAP.
All that being said, just because Food Combining’s principles may not be entirely based in scientific reason doesn’t make the diet unhealthy by nature. In fact, I found it to be helpful for kickstarting a cleanse that I’ve been trying, and failing, to get after for weeks now. At its heart, Food Combining is just a process that promotes clean eating and mindfulness, because you have to think exceptionally hard before you eat anything. It wasn’t so much that I found myself unable to eat things I wanted, just that I had to plan when I could do so effectively. In fact, I had to create an Excel sheet just so I could plan out my meals, which, tragically, is my most efficient use of Excel to date.
I would like to make it clear that even after 10 days, I am not an expert here. In fact, I think I merely scratched the surface of what I believe to be the Titanic-sized iceberg that is Food Combining. If you are someone who follows it religiously or, better yet, grasps anything beyond the basics, you’re probably going to be annoyed from here on out. My sincerest apologies.
There are many nuanced rules to this diet that, to be completely honest, I do not understand. While there are many articles about why Food Combining doesn’t actually make sense, there are very few that offer hard and stringent rules to follow. I am but a simple girl looking for a Buzzfeed list of recipes to follow, but no such thing existed, apparently. So without any official (reputable) source to go off of, I found myself cobbling together bits and pieces from various blogs, one poorly designed website, and information shared with me by the woman who turned me onto Food Combining in the first place. This, combined with a general sense of disregard for anything that would complicate my life more than necessary, led to 10 fairly regimented days of vegetable-laden salads with varying bits of protein, because previous fad diet endeavors have left me with what I now believe to be a pathological fear of ingesting carbs.
The first thing you need to understand about Food Combining is the food groups, which are broken out as follows:
- Protein – any meat (red or otherwise), dairy, or eggs
- Starches/Carbohydrates – any kind of grain, bread, legume, pasta, or starchy vegetable like potatoes, squash, and corn
- Neutral Vegetables – pretty much any vegetable that isn’t a starch
- Fresh fruit – self-explanatory perhaps, but this encompasses all fruits
There is much dissent amongst the Food Combining community about where certain foods belong—the one with the greatest effect on my daily life being avocados. After much deliberation and a little bit of self-interested research, I decided avocados were neutral. It was a controversial move, but I stand by it, because a vegetable sandwich without any kind of dairy or avocado attached to it is a sad site to behold.
From there, you have one cardinal rule that you must follow: you cannot mix protein (meat, eggs, dairy) with carbs (all the things you love). Ever. There are about 100 other limitations or regulations stemming from that, but this mantra is the foundation upon which your new life is built.
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After ample research, I landed on a few other rules that I thought gave me an authentic enough experience for the sake of this experiment. So for the past week and a half, these are the guidelines that have dictated my life:
No combining carbs/starches and proteins: This is the single phrase you will find yourself repeating ad nauseam to friends, family, and coworkers when they inevitably ask what half-cocked diet you’ve decided to take up this time.
Fruit on an empty stomach only: Fruit takes the least amount of time to digest and thus should be eaten first, lest you fall victim to bloating.
You must wait three hours between meals when switching food groups: No one offered any real logic here, so I’m going to go ahead and assume it’s because the enzymes are tired.
But if you do get hungry between meals, eat neutral vegetables: Apparently the enzymes are never too tired to digest a leafy green composed of nearly 70% water.
Drink lots of water, but not while you’re actually eating: Hydration is a pillar of most diets, but what’s wild about Food Combining is you’re not actually allowed to drink anything during meals. The idea is that doing so will dilute the enzymes and stall digestion. So guess what happens when you eat something exceptionally spicy at the beginning of a meal?? You suffer.
No nuts/legumes in the first week: Both of these groups have long digestive periods, so most followers of Food Combining recommend forgoing them during your first week as your body adapts to its new lifestyle.
Start every meal with some kind of raw vegetable/leafy green: This supposedly kickstarts the enzymes and/or wakes them up from their nap. Idk.
No added sugar: The digestive period of sugar was never mentioned, but I think this aligns more to the general idea of eating healthy than anything else.
A couple of blogs also recommended that you pair your regimen with Intermittent Fasting, something that I attempted with varying degrees of success throughout the 10 days. Sometimes you’re on top of your sh*t, and sometimes you go to a work dinner and the entrees don’t even arrive until 9:00pm. Sue me.
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Days 1 – 3
The only way I can describe the onset of this experience was overwhelming. If you were to have come across me while I was researching this diet, you’d probably have thought I was studying for a test. I had notebooks out. Word docs up. More tabs than I’m comfortable with open on my computer. I was manically highlighting things without reason. It was like finals week all over again, but without the Adderall or sense of impending doom. But once I took a step back and really thought about it, I realized that Food Combining was less a diet and more of a lifestyle. That sentence in itself makes my skin crawl, but bear with me here.
Food Combining isn’t meant to restrict what you can eat, rather it’s just there to make you think about what you’re eating. By slowing down and actually recognizing each individual ingredient, I found I was able make better decisions than if I had just ordered something at a restaurant and assumed it was all healthy. It was tedious, but….rewarding? I don’t even know who I am anymore.
Day 4 – 7
The enlightened wisdom of days 1–3 slowly waned as I realized that I hated salads without cheese. Food Combining isn’t a fan of premade dressing and highly recommends a combo of olive oil and lemon juice, which while light and refreshing, isn’t exactly packed with flavor. But then it was like God heard my cries for help and threw down a single olive branch in the form of this list that I found online of neutral cheeses.
Listen, I know this website looks like it was created on a word processor in 1998. I know that some of the info on it directly contradicts rules that I’d already established for myself above. And I know that you shouldn’t blindly trust things you read on the internet, but none of that mattered. Suddenly I could have feta on my salads and ricotta on my avocado toast, and I was a woman renewed.
Day 8 – 10
After my first week, the routine of Food Combining was so completely ingrained in me that I didn’t even realize I was still following it. I had abandoned the Excel spreadsheet long ago, and no longer eagerly counted down the seconds until noon when Intermittent Fasting allowed me my first meal. The sight of the rampant baked goods in my office didn’t send a painful jolt through my chest like they had a mere few days ago. I was drinking water without setting reminders for myself to do so. In short, I was behaving in the ways that I think a functional human being might, and it felt good.
But then, on the eve of my last night, disaster struck in the form of a fancy work dinner at a fancy Italian restaurant full of fancy pasta and fancy desserts and the social expectation that you eat those things to avoid looking like an asshole.
Food Combining is a proponent of moderation, and so I thought, why not? I’ve worked hard, I’ve been diligent, what’s the issue with one little bowl of pasta, even though I had a meat entrée on the way? What could one tiny dessert hurt, after already having combined the cursed carbs and protein? What could possibly happen to me and my pristine, temple-like body at this point?
Uh, everything could happen, it turns out. I learned this on the drive home, at which point my stomach expanded to what I can only describe as a second trimester level of bloat. I waddled into my apartment and threw myself onto my bed, immediately passing out from what I’m assuming was the over-exertion of my sad stomach enzymes. I woke the next morning to find myself still in terrible shape, and dug out the loosest possible outfit to wear to work. I continued to feel like sh*t for the rest of the day, eventually going to bed without dinner because the thought of eating anything at all made me nauseous.
While I’d been lulled into a false sense of security by the serenity of my new routine, in the end Food Combining ended up being like every other lifestyle/diet I’ve tried thus far. Sure, you feel great in the moment, but one misstep sends you on a downward spiral of shame and despair that leaves you feeling slightly betrayed and with a lingering sense of guilt.
Over the 10 days I tried Food Combining, I lost about five pounds. Over the course of a single Italian dinner, I gained two of them back. Nearly half my progress, erased by a moment of weakness. This isn’t an experience exclusive to Food Combining, but indicative of the fallout of any drastic lifestyle diet. You feel invincible during the highs, but you have to remember that there will be lows. The honest truth is that most of these regimens are not sustainable. You know what is? A healthy lifestyle of moderation and exercise. That’s it. That’s the secret.
Eat healthy. Be active. Treat yourself on occasion. Don’t rely on scientific hacks to fool your body into weight loss. Your enzymes know what they’re doing without your help, I promise. But most importantly, be kind to your body. It endures all the stupid sh*t you inflict upon it on a daily basis, the least you can do is put up with a little weight fluctuation here and there.
Have any fad diet ideas that eclipse the stunning suggestions above? Leave them in the comments section and maybe I’ll find myself feeling brave enough to try them out in the future.
Images: Giphy (2); Amy Shamblen / Unsplash; dietstartstomorrow / Instagram