So I was all gung-ho on the diet and exercise front during January and then I pretty much did the exact opposite for almost the entire month of February. I’ve now spent a week back in January Mode, and I feel about a thousand times better than I did seven days ago. The growing sense of malaise and inertia and It’s All Pointless, So Why Even BOTHER? has receded.

It’s never been so painfully clear to me that how I treat my body has a direct correlation to my mood and overall well-being. Duh, right? STAY TUNED FOR MY MUCH-DESERVED RECOGNITION FROM THE NOBEL COMMITTEE! Look, I know it’s not exactly breaking news, but while I’ve had plenty of cycles of eating well then eating not so well, I don’t think I’ve ever carried it out like a meticulously-designed (if . . . you know, totally unintentional) science experiment before.

One month of eating healthfully and exercising followed by one month of primarily eating junk and being sedentary. During January I mostly ate lean proteins, greens, nutrient-packed fruits, a relatively small amount of whole grains, and I worked out nearly every day. During February I ate a lot of sugar, processed foods, simple carbohydrates, and I hardly exercised at all.

Here’s what I observed a few weeks into January:

• I stopped taking ibuprofen on a daily basis, as is my norm. I had zero headaches, zero sinus pain.

• I had no trouble getting up before 7 AM, and maintained consistent energy throughout the day.

• I slept like a goddamned log, each and every night.

• I had super clear skin.

• I felt . . . good, you know? Generally upbeat. Confident. No mood swings.

That’s in addition to the weight loss, increased strength and endurance, etc. Clothes were fitting better, I was happier with what I saw in the mirror, all that good stuff.

Here’s how February ended up:

• Back to the ibuprofen for daily low-grade headaches. Back to the sporadic intense sinus headaches that I hadn’t had for weeks on end.

• I started turning off my alarm in the mornings, because I couldn’t force myself to get out of bed.

• I had huge energy dips in the afternoons, and started napping. A little over a week ago I fell asleep on the couch—AFTER drinking a triple espresso and eating a handful of Jelly Bellies.

• I had horrible night sweats, the kind that soak your nightgown and sheets and leave you awake and freezing at 2 AM.

• Clear skin: gone.

• Maaaaaaaaaajor issues with gas and bloating. Enough said? Enough said.

• I felt . . . bad. Increasingly depressed, moody, self-conscious.

And, of course, I gained weight.

Like I said, I’ve only been back on track for about a week. It took a ridiculous amount of effort to pull myself together—to stop with the garbage food and make that first overwhelmingly intimidating trip back to the gym (what’s up with that? It’s like I’m afraid they’re going to scan my card and an ALARM will go off)—even though I knew exactly how much better I would feel once I did so. That’s what’s so fucked about getting trapped in the spiral of what I’m now thinking of as February Mode, it’s like you know you’re in the shit, but all your energy and motivation has been slowly draining away and it just feels so exhausting to try and get out of it.

One of my challenges with food is that that once I get off plan, I invariably end up deciding that I may as well just go all out and enjoy every single forbidden food I can possibly think of, because what the hell, I’ll get back to eating healthy tomorrow. Then tomorrow gets pushed to the day after that, and on it goes while I get more and more bogged down with sugary crap, which makes me crave more sugary crap, and in the meantime my energy and motivation to exercise goes right out the window.

Geneen Roth would say that no food should be forbidden and I know what she means but I have not yet figured out how to sledgehammer my own nature into a more spiritually enlightened shape when it comes to moderation. I guess if I knew how to do that I could have a couple of beers on a Friday night like a normal person instead of knowing that a couple could never, in any way, shape, or form, possibly be enough. It’s the same with cookies, M&Ms, tortilla chips, ice cream, crackers, and bagels toasted and spread with butter and cream cheese—one serving isn’t enough. It is, however, often enough to send me straight on my way to February Mode.

Anyway, I’m talking this all through because it’s helpful for me to do so. I’d like to be the sort of person who spends the majority of her life eating well and staying active, but who still makes room for ice cream and other delicious things because come ON, right? Life should include salted caramel ice cream, for crying out loud. I’d like to learn to indulge without sliding completely off the rails. I’d like to genuinely prefer healthy foods, not because I think that’s what I’m supposed to eat, but because I believe in treating myself well.

Most of all, I’d like to be my best January self . . . without that ever-present nagging feeling that the REAL me, the February one, is barely being held at bay.


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12 years ago

Good thing February is a short month!

12 years ago

Oh I’ve been there! Pretty much the same pattern too. January was a good month, February was garbage.

And you know how it’s so easy to say “Well, this day is a wash, I might as well finish this box of thin mints after all”? There’s a handy quote that someone pointed out to me once, and it’d be super awesome if I remembered it all the time:

“If you’re out driving and you get a flat tire, do you throw up your hands in despair and slash the other three tires? No? Then why would you sabotage an entire day just because you slipped up a little?”

12 years ago

I could have written this myself, except in “weeks” terminology instead of months. The weeks when I get 2-3 days of exercise? I’m GOOD. I FEEL GOOD.

The weeks when I let it slide? I feel listless and useless and that nothing is okay.

Supreme DUH for me. I’m learning this over and over this year.

12 years ago

I am a fool for the books The Mood Cure or The Diet Cure by Julia Ross for helping w/ the ‘not being able to stop’ part. I had always been a person that can’t.stop.ever with cake, cookies, candy, ice cream, chips, etc., but I find I don’t have nearly the issue with it anymore after tweaking my diet and addressing some deficiencies and yeast imbalance issues.

12 years ago

You have inspired me to do better for myself with this post, as I see so much of myself in your words, as others do here too. So thanks for that.

Also, thanks for the new Downton Abbey addiction I now have, although I feel there may be no fix for that issue. ;)


12 years ago

I should just copy and paste this on my blog. This has been EXACTLY me this year. I don’t know why I fall of the wagon, knowingly, and then struggle to get back on…knowing how shitty I will feel.

12 years ago

My husband is addicted to sugar and carbs and needed to lose a lot of weight. Two years ago we decided to not keep certain foods in our house including anything with white sugar, most carbs, soda (even diet it seemed to be a gateway to other cravings). It was hard for both of us for a few months but I we still ate the things we liked, we just tweaked them for instance sweet potato fries and turkey burgers on wheat tortillas instead of burger on a bun and fries. He’s lost 50 pounds in two years and I’ve lost 15. We eat little “treats” when we are out but they are small portions. When we see a big piece of cake we both know that if we eat the whole thing it will make us sick and for that reason a lot of junk foods have lost their appeal. I think the key to sticking with healthy eating habits is to make a strong connection in your mind that eating those unhealthier foods regularly makes you feel bad. One thing I learned when I quit smoking is that no matter what you never quit quitting. Eventually new habits will stick even if you fall off dozens of times.

12 years ago

I am your sister in Februaryness. Just wrote about something similar myself. I feel you, especially the part about, why not eat this bag of chips and a few cookies because tomorrow will be so hard core. Except of course, that it’s not. Work in progress. Glad to know it’s not just me!

12 years ago

God, yes. Sometimes I feel like as long as I’m eating a cookie, I might as well eat all the cookies, and as long as I’m doing that, what the point in going to the gym?

There are some things that must be forbidden if I want to be healthy. I cannot have a little tea or coffee or I will want one or the other every day and then I won’t get a good night’s sleep, ever. I cannot have a little pastry or I will want all the pastries, all the time. I cannot have a cigarette or I will smoke all the cigarettes, forever.

Lots of people can probably live without a list of forbidden foods and substances. Lots of people aren’t addicts with a history of failing to moderate what goes in their mouth.

I have successfully kicked cigarettes (5 years this summer) and caffeinated beverages (just over 2 years)…cookies are my final nemesis. Damn Girl Scouts.

12 years ago

I love hearing your story. I needed to hear how AMAZING you felt in January so I can strive for that!

I’d love to hear what you eat for breakfast, lunch etc!

12 years ago

Amen,amen, and aMEN!

Her Ladyship
12 years ago

One thing that my nutritionist told me that helped with the viewpoint that eh, I ate crap once today, I’ll just eat more crap tomorrow and then start afresh, was to look at it as if you’d dropped a dish. Yes, you’d be displeased with yourself for breaking a dish, but you wouldn’t go and immediately smash the whole dish set. Dunno if that helps you but it gave a different perspective to me for it.

And congrats on getting back into January Mode!

12 years ago

I’m doing the Naturally Slim program (and I’m 40 yo). Ten weeks of videos, retraining your body to be satisfied with less while still eating favorite foods, using oj and water to regulate blood sugar thru the day, and cutting out a large amount of sugar. I actually love it (at week 3). I might not have bitten – it’s a cost of about $400 for an individual membership – but two friends have used it with great results (and they have been dieting and exercising for years with little progress at age 55). I don’t like some of the language used, but the concerpts are, happily, revolutionarily helpful to me. : )

12 years ago

Ugh. and WORD infinity. How many times we have all gone through this exact thing, and usually at this time of the year. Oh, and PS…that concealer is AMAZING thanks for the shout out.

Cheryl @ Coffee with Cheryl

I totally feel your pain! I’m not so much into the weight loss, but the feeling good…I think everyone could use a dose of that! My downfalls are coffee, chocolate, and butter. I LOVE butter.

12 years ago

Want to reiterate what others have said about possible low grade food allergies. I have often thought your boys might have something similar with the sudden stomach problems and ear issues.

BTW my best guess is a milk allergy , which would correspond to the weight gain, chocolate , cravings etc.

But test it out with them elimination diet!!

12 years ago

@Jen in Germany — I laughed when I read your comment; my thoughts exactly! And @Her Ladyship, the dish analogy is great. I think so many of us are guilty of that exact mindset — “oh well, I’ve blown it today so why not go all out?” Here’s to finding hidden reserves of willpower under the February funk.

just words on a page
12 years ago

I don’t normally disclose this (however, your posts always always give me the confidence and courage to say stuff) —

I began my journey 225 pounds over weight. Yes, I know, that’s two teenagers or one 6 foot 3 man or one morbidly obese person.

Being morbidly obese was tough to see, say and live — last year I sought out a therapist who helped me enroll in Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) — I learned that I had an eating disorder and the only difference between me and an alcoholic is that I use food not alcohol to cope. If I drank like I ate I’d be at the bottom of a bottle and I would probably spent time at Betty Ford.

It was hard for me to learn and understand why I was continuing to sabatoge myself and start and stop fitness programs but I did.

I so get where you are coming from I found myself nodding the entire post.

12 years ago

Loved your post – I think it’s honest and truthful about how most people feel about themselves. Give yourself some credit, BUT know that the one part of your plan that is missing is FORGIVENESS. Forgive yourself if you fall off the rails, nobody is perfect and society leads us to believe that we must be able to follow a PERFECT diet everyday to be worthy… which just isn’t true OR realistic. You’re on the right track – give yourself credit for that…and keep being honest, your readers appreciate it.

Nothing But Bonfires
12 years ago

Oh yes, EVERYTHING you said. EVERYTHING. I just want to highlight every single sentence, because that’s how I feel too. I’ve had entire YEARS in February mode, and it’s just so hard to pull yourself out of it. I do well for a week or so, feel SO much better (more energy, clothes fit, stop throwing full glasses of water across room at husband etc) and then slide off the rails somehow into a few weeks of crap eating/no exercising. But then it just feels like SO MUCH EFFORT to pull myself out of it, even though I’m surprised anew every single time about how much better I feel when I take care of myself properly. Am glad to hear I’m not alone.

12 years ago

I agree with you totally. I had all these good intentions in January and them BAM February kicked me in the face. I feel sooo much better now that I’m back to taking care of myself. Great post.

12 years ago

[…] but man, I have REALLY dropped the ball in regards to working out the past few weeks. When I read this post by Linda, I couldn’t stop yelling “YES, EXACTLY!” at my computer. (I talk to my computer […]

12 years ago

I can relate. I’m working on the emotional aspect of why I drop the ball on self-care when I know it does wonders for me. I always feel more energetic, balanced, happy, better rested, with clearer skin when I work out and eat right. So why don’t I do it consistently!?

Whoever finds the key to that is going to make millions.

12 years ago

Oh man I am with you. I have a running issue with this. I used to run 30-35 miles a week. I ate well, but because I ran I could indulge. Then I moved to the city. I haven’t found a run that I love. I do it about 1-2 times a week or not at all. All the false starts have me thinking that I was never really that fit in the first place.

Body in motion… is so true. When you get it going you just roll with it. So much better than the fight.

12 years ago

boy can I ever relate to this post.

Something about February.
For me it was all about late night snacking and a ridiculous amount of television viewing.
The two go hand in hand.
March seems much more promising though.
At least so far.

Here’s to staying on the right track and being good to yourself.

12 years ago


This is me, exactly.

Erica @ Expatria, Baby
12 years ago

I’m with you. Exactly. I actually tell myself that its cool that I’m eating this entire bar of 70 precent chocolate because I love a challenge and so why not make it worth while and go big and then really show weight loss who’s the boss.

So over it. I’m cleaning up my diet tomorrow.

And totally agree that life needs to make room for salted caramel ice cream. Maybe the ticket is making a rule that junk may not cross the threshold. Treats are for when you’re not at home. I think I’m going to give that a try.

12 years ago

About 100 lbs ago, I realized that exactly the way you are with beer was me with certain types of food. I can’t pretend that I’ll be normal one day and be able to eat sugar and flour moderately any more than you’d be able to have a casual beer. It was hard, but I cut it all out and I feel so much better! The cravings were gone after a few weeks and now I can serve the stuff to my husband and kids and not even want it! I kept it up during a pregnancy and now I’m within 10 lbs of goal weight after 6 months. I don’t know how you kicked the alcohol, but I’m a big fan of OA when it comes to the food.

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