When I first signed up for Lean Eating, one of the first things my coach told her team was that the year ahead would involve doing things that were hard. This warning has stayed in the back of my brain. I keep asking myself: Am I uncomfortable? Am I challenging my established way of thinking? Honestly, all in all, it has been smooth sailing until Thursday of last week when I encountered my first major challenge: I had to clean out my pantry.
Remember about a month ago when I talked about eating to 80% full and revoking my membership to the Clean Plate Club? Well, I’m at a point where I can pitch three bites of my turkey sandwich into the trash because I am physically satisfied and I don’t feel guilty. But when asked to throw out all of the “red light foods” in my kitchen, I only wanted to rebel.
The good news is that my pantry is pretty “Lean Eating friendly” already. The bad news is that I poured alcohol down the drain and donated a bottle canola oil and two cases of diet soda because they needed to go. I threw out my stash of waffle fries because they contained too many ingredients. Even the condiments in my fridge have been thinned out.
Food waste stresses me out, and getting rid of a garbage bag of stuff from my fridge and freezer almost caused me a full-blown anxiety attack. This whole exercise was really hard, to the point where I considered skipping it entirely. Except that Precision Nutrition always knows what to say, and I was given pause when I read the following advice:
Don’t feel badly about “wasting food”. Most of what you’ll throw out as “red-light foods” and “yellow-light foods” aren’t actually foods.
Listen, I can’t make the argument that Diet Coke is food any more than I can argue that the Earth is flat. So I won’t even try. As challenging as it was, I just had to let it go. The results surprised me.
First, in place of my aspartame habit, I’ve taken up drinking tea. A lot of tea. I’ve never been a big tea drinker but while I was in the field this summer, everyone was drinking tea and the habit rubbed off on me.in terms of flavour, quite frankly tea is a lot more interesting than Diet Coke, and I don’t care if that’s a betrayal. I’ve noticed without all of that artificial sweetness, I find myself craving other sweets less often and enjoying the taste of other foods even more.
But secondly, cleaning out my pantry has meant restocking it with “green-light foods”. I’m supposed to be eating simple, whole foods with only a few, recognizable ingredients. I am aiming to eat a serving of lean protein every time I eat and 5 servings of veggies each day. My grocery bill is astoundingly low, which is a huge relief because I’m about to be unemployed again.
And even though it was stressful to throw out all of my junk, I was relieved to come home to the safety and sanity of my kitchen on Sunday. I’d been out of town this weekend, attendeding the Belle River Open Powerlifting Meet. Even though I was only a spectator, I engaged in some serious calorie-loading. I have patchy memories that consist only of a haze of donuts, tacos, margaritas, fro yo, chocolate covered pretzels, pastries, cheese biscuits, McDonald’s and lots and lots of shortbread cookies. Honestly, as much as I fell off the wagon and landed in a pile of carbs and self-loathing, I felt fat and physically ill.
So that’s where I am now. On Friday morning before I left, I was feeling pretty good about my body. On Monday morning when I returned, I was feeling downright awful. But it was easy to pick up where I left off: with some spinach smoothies for breakfast and stir fry for dinner, as though I’d never fallen off the wagon in the first place. I’m hoping that a three day bender hasn’t undone 9 weeks worth of progress, but even if it has, there was no way I could continue down that path in my current environment.
Meanwhile, the meet I attended was a good experience for me emotionally. You know when you spend time with people that you care about and are just left with a deep sense of fulfillment and satisfaction? Well, it had been a long time since I felt that way but I sure felt it on Saturday. I needed to see some of my friends and know that I have real friendships that aren’t just faceless voices on the internet.
Plus, I felt that urge in the bottom of my soul to pick up a barbell, which is a feeling that went missing for a while. And now I just miss strength training! And I was reminded of that fact over the weekend when a few of the other lifters told me I was talented and asked when I’d do my next meet. It’s funny – as much as powerlifting can be a solitary sport, it does have an overwhelming sense of community.
I am finding it challenging to do circuit workouts and I have discovered that one-armed dumbbell bench presses are about the most amazing accessory lift on the planet (right after one-legged RDLs). I am still lifting and performing the fundamental movements. But I want to strength train for strength! Goblet squatting with a 20lb dumbbell only makes me feel weak, not empowered. I want to rip a heavy barbell off the floor! I want to stand on the platform, with 405lbs at my feet and then pick that baby up.
I confessed to Gary over brunch that I missed lifting heavy. I know I’ll eventually go back and run a 5×5, but Gary chastised me for the time being. As much as I believe in the value of sticking to a program, in practice I’m always ready to bail and move on to the next program. Why should my “bodybuilding” routine be any different?
The thing is, the powerlifting community will always be there for me – next year, when my relationship with food is more stable then I can allow myself to enter a meet. In the meantime, I am considering volunteering at a meet here in November so that I can remain active in the community. And at the end of the day, I am still lifting. I am mobilizing with every workout. I am doing cardio regularly and noticing improvements in my conditioning. I am working my core and my triceps which will make me a better lifter long-term.
I guess that means for now I’m stuck with this routine and wholesome eating – veggies and protein and tea. No one said this would be easy, but I know I can do it.