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.

Comments

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
91 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Eric's Mommy
10 years ago

I needed this post big time! I feel that I am in permanent February mode.

mlegreenberg
mlegreenberg
10 years ago

Yup! Here too. I have been on that slide for the last 3 weeks all the while telling myself it’s fine, it’s just because we have all been sick, I will get back on it tomorrow…but the inertia of fatty foods and zero exercise keep winning out one more day…day after day after day…

Sharon
Sharon
10 years ago

I read somewhere that being thin feels so much better than a doughnut tastes. I try to keep that in mind. Feeling good everyday like you described during your healthful month is so much better than that handful of cookies.

Kater
Kater
10 years ago

Why is it, that when we KNOW we feel better eating and living one way, that we fall into that spiral of the exact opposite?? I’m gonna blame the craptastic PNW February weather, where we reach our limit of sunless days and moisture accumulation. We need a name for it, like February Weather-Induced Apathy Disorder.

Meagan
10 years ago

I’m the same way. I’m about to start a self designed pre-portioned frozen crockpot meal diet, because its the only thing I can imagine that might work for me. I have a 9 month old, most of the time even making a salad for myself seems too much of a bother, much less on demand “easy” health food. I’ve been living off bagel bite pizza, grocery store chicken salad, and nutella & pretzels. Today I had apples instead of pretzels with my nutella and I was all: look at me eating HEALTHY. Because nutella is healthy. :-p So I’m hoping this freeze-ahead thing works out, cause I’m like 30 lbs over my pre-baby weight and I was a bit overweight then. I made my husband buy us an extra freezer NO JOKE we ordered it a Sears this afternoon.

Anyway. Wish me luck. I’ll do the same for you.

Caroline
Caroline
10 years ago

Linda you’ve certainly given me something to think about and inspire me to do better. Thank you for sharing your experience.

Jan Ross
10 years ago

My husband has been working at home for a couple of weeks and he commented the other day “I thought you went to the Y every day and worked out? ” I replied “Uh…yeah…but there was the holidays and then I went to Florida and….” and I realized I was just making excuses. I’m back to going every day. But those excuses are just so easy, aren’t they?

NancyJ
NancyJ
10 years ago

You are like my sister from another mister.
I was great guns in January, pushed a little to hard one day and poof! All motivation out the window. February was a few weeks of sleeping late, chasing my tail all day to catch up.
Finally 2nd to last week in February I got back on track working out, eating right, making good dinners. My goal is 60 days of steady workouts with Firm workout tapes, eating right etc to get me on track for summer.
It might be my age but even with all I’m doing right I still wake up around 3:15am and sweat like a pig at night!

carly
10 years ago

This is EXACTLY how I feel right now, and have felt since before Christmas — that “what’s the point?” feeling and lethargy and general BLAH. Thank you so so much for posting this and giving me a much-needed slap in the face to get going again.

Autumn
Autumn
10 years ago

I live here and I hate it. Not being able to eat a cookie without it turning into 10, making lame excuses for not working out even though I know how strong and proud I’ll feel when I’m done. I cannot figure out why it’s such a struggle, why doing the right and healthy thing is such an uphill battle for me and why the results that I love aren’t enough to keep me on track. I feel damaged as a person sometimes that I’d rather hide in a corner with a bag of chips and lament the hopelessness of it all instead of taking simple steps to make the changes that will greatly improve my life. Your last paragraph sums me up exactly (salted caramel ice cream ftw). That is exactly what I want so if you figure it out PLEASE let me know the secret.

Kim
Kim
10 years ago

Long time reader, rare commenter: I gotta say what you said about low-grade headaches and energy issues when you’re not eating as well is sending off some major red flags for me. I used to deal with near daily low-grade headaches and had increasingly low energy over a number of years. Then I went to a new allergist who tested me for environmental, as well as food allergies. Turns out I was allergic to wheat, corn and soy. Eliminating those things absolutely 100% changed my life, for real. Your symptoms tell me that your diet is probably not just better or worse, January to February. But that there is something specific you are eating more or less of that has a significant impact on you.

Maybe try a true elimination diet, or something like a Whole30 (www.whole9life.com) for at least 2 weeks, then systematically reintroduce common allergense and intolerances? You can try allergists, but many won’t test for food allergies. ENTs are more likely to more holistic testing.

Good luck! There’s a lot to gain from futzing with your diet and to be honest, it’s easier to walk the straight and narrow when you *know* a certain food will really eff with you.

anniea
anniea
10 years ago

I’ve been in Feb mode since.THANKSGIVING!

Katharine
10 years ago

So I don’t know if this will be helpful or just another perspective for you to say “No, it’s not like that” to, but here it is anyway.

Portia de Rossi’s memoir about her eating disorder, Unbearable Lightness, is now a book I recommend to everybody who mentions that they have food issues. It is harrowing. More importantly, it makes absolutely explicit how a woman with an unhealthy relationship to food thinks and feels and behaves, in clearer and more humiliating terms than most other eating disorder work I’ve read. At the end of the book, she says that in order to find her happy medium in terms of weight, she had to stop thinking of “bad” foods as being scarce.

She stopped bingeing when it really, truly sank in that she could have potato chips any old time she wanted – that there was no law that said she couldn’t have potato chips tomorrow, too. (Or ice cream, or fries, or whatever.) Of course she had them in moderation, that goes without saying. But before she could really get to the point where she was eating in moderation, she had to get it through her head that it wasn’t like after this bag of potato chips, she was saying goodbye to potato chips forever. She could have some tomorrow, too. And that meant that she only had to eat enough of them to enjoy them, and then could stop, knowing that there would be more to enjoy later.

This idea of non-scarcity for foods that are ordinarily defined as anti-diet foods has really changed my attitude about eating. I admit that I have less of a problem with “bad” foods than a lot of women I know, but it really helped me get my head on straight about it when my head was on crooked and causing me significant anguish.

Again, I don’t want to be barking up a tree that’s unhelpful to you, since I know you have other addiction issues that I can’t identify with. I just wanted to try and be a little helpful. And if you haven’t read Portia’s book, read it, it’s incredible. Not in the least another crap Hollywood make-a-buck production.

Christie
10 years ago

Agreed! With all of it. And every single comment. Suuuuuch a ridiculous food and activity funk over here. Had big plans heading into January. Got de-railed on the 2nd by a major health crisis. Haven’t quite jumped back on the band wagon. Always with the excuses about how it would be SO much better to get back at it NEXT week. Argh! Stop the insanity!!!! I think I should print your post and tape it to my bathroom mirror, and the pantry door, and the fridge, and the car steering wheel. No more excuses!

Sara
Sara
10 years ago

I live in Bellingham, so have a good idea how little sun and/or light you are actually getting, and imagine this must be a big part of it? (this is what I tell myself, anyhow)

and yes. I’ve been in the same place. the same mode. Have continued with my crazy workout schedule…….but the wine drinking, simple carb eating has been off the chain.
I think winter is hard here. And that life doesn’t help- it seems to tilt us one way or the other.

GL to you- I’m trying (Really trying!) to get back on track. (making an amazing lasagna for dinner and eating 1/3 of it didn’t help tonight)
Sara

Jen
Jen
10 years ago

The daily head-aches, the nasty night sweats, the morning exhaustion, the napping…omg, that’s 100% my life. Starting in the morning, I’m going clean. Thanks for sparking the motivation/inspiration I’ve been searching for for weeks now!

whoorl
10 years ago

February was a REALLY crappy month in terms of exercise for me as well. Need to get my arse in gear pronto.

WHY is it so hard to stay consistent when we know how much better we feel when we work out?

Lori
Lori
10 years ago

Wow, this could (almost) be written about me. (I have a fear of the gym but otherwise…) I spent much of this evening thinking “There’s only a handful of peanut butter m&ms left in this bag. If i eat them tonight I won’t be tempted to eat them tomorrow and my NO SNACKING can start tomorrow”. (I ate them)(I feel gross).

I don’t know if this is helpful but, I find your honesty and open-ness about your struggles with these issues to be hugely encouraging. I’ve been lurking here for a long time and think your example is what initially kicked my ass off the couch a few years ago.

Thanks for today’s reminder that, for me, it’s not about anything other than feeling better. And maybe a smaller pants size (or at least a more comfortable pants-wearing experience).

squandra
squandra
10 years ago

GET OUT OF MY HEAD.

Victoria
10 years ago

Thanks for talking this out, I’ve been doing the same thing and it’s always great to hear it from someone else.

Emily
Emily
10 years ago

ugh, thank you so much for posting this. I was consistently 15 lbs overweight for most of my twenties and have now completely let myself go, to 60 lbs over that. I was thinking today about how active I used to be and conscious of what I ate, and how hard I was on myself for being that 15 lb overweight. You are an inspiration and a reminder that I can get out of it and get back to where I was. I’ll let you know if I ever break out of the cycle.

Erika
Erika
10 years ago

Dude, I’ve been in February mode for over a year. I’m now 100 pounds overweight. I just started trying to get myself together. Saying that it is hard is a major understatement. Here’s to trying to treat ourselves well.

Lanie
10 years ago

Try vegan, the kind diet. Love it.

Jen in Germany
Jen in Germany
10 years ago

You are me! I don’t know why I am continuously blown away when I read one of your posts that perfectly articulates the thoughts going on in my head-it’s not like I don’t read your posts for a reason.

As far as the moderation thing goes when it comes to junk food with me, I can’t do moderation. I believe the refined sugar and chemicals in the processed food is addictive and messes with my system. When I eat clean, I feel good. Junk food completely derails that and I do not stop until the entire bag of peppermint patties are gone and then I go hunting for ice cream or whatever else I can find. When I clear the house of junk, there are still a couple of days where a troll the kitchen like an addict desperately looking for something I might have overlooked.

I think the “learning to eat in moderation” mantra was more intended for natural whole foods. You can’t really apply it to the chemically engineered junk “food.”

trackback

[…] of pounds during these periods, it’s the mental toll that seems to cause the most damage. Linda wrote yesterday of what a no-brainer it is to commit to taking care of yourself, but that despite knowing and […]

Sarah
Sarah
10 years ago

I can’t second Kim’s post above enough; try an elimination diet. I have now been through three rounds of the Whole30 she mentions and it’s only now that I’m learning how to moderate the consumption of sugar when I’m not in strict elimination mode. It DOES get easier for sure, but I’ll never be one of thos people who can ‘just’ have a little bit and then not think (obsess) about having more. But when the sugar beast gets to be too much for me, I go back on the Whole30 — even if it’s just for a few days and it seems to work for me. Good luck! I know exactly where you are; I spent the first 45 years of my life there.

Terri
Terri
10 years ago

I’m sorry, but so many of you are just making more excuses!! I realize you’re trying to help and possibly console her (and yourselves), but is that really what you want, Linda? I mean, it’s obviously the weather according to the comments.

If you really truely want that change, YOU will make it happen. YOU will MAKE it happen. No excuses, no pity parties. How badly do you want it, ladies?

Its not about dieting. It’s about making healthy changes that last a lifetime. Just like someone said above, you can have sweets, you can have chips. Moderation!!

Just remember abs are made in the kitchen and everything that you put in your mouth is FUEL for your body. If you are constantly eating junk, you’re fueling your body with junk. You cannot expect a race car to do well on crap fuel, and you’re body operates the same way!!

If an elimination diet works and you find your triggers, great!! If paleo makes you feel good, awesome! If clean eating alone is it, perfect.

Just go for it!! Eat healthy, feel healthy!! It’s do much easier to go ahead and not do it though. Excuses will get you no where. You have to want it. And want it bad. Do you want it?!

Anne
10 years ago

Oh, I do that too. So, so much. There is something about “letting” myself have whatever crappy food I want that snowballs and becomes eating as much of EVERY crappy food in the world as I can possibly fit in my face. I will eat ALL OF THE THINGS. And for added health/reasonableness I do it when T is sleeping or not home so no one sees. Because then it doesn’t count, right?
I’ve read Geneen Roth, and Portia de Rossi’s book, and a million other books, and none of it sinks in. But I keep trying, keep going back to the January me (as your post would call it), and that seems to be what I can do, so I go with it. I’ll become February me again, for sure, but I’ll also become January me again, too.

eve
eve
10 years ago

Oh, Linda, it’s like you’re in my head! I relate to everything you wrote- the food issues, the alcoholism, the self-sabotage. I wonder if I will EVER get the hang of moderation…

jen
jen
10 years ago

I have had an awful sinus thing for a month now and oh how I’ve used it to be lazy lazy lazy. I’ve run maybe once a week and eaten a lot of not so great things. And I am right with you on feeling tired, skipping alarms, etc. I thought it was from being sick but now I’m not so sure it’s not from food. Maybe a combination of both or some sort of vicious cycle. And with me, the best I felt has been after I ran and the day after that. You would think that would make me run more but for some reason it doesn’t. Why is it like that?!?!

Kim
Kim
10 years ago

As usual, coming here to read this was timely and perfect.

Angie
Angie
10 years ago

I’ve been doing Weight Watchers for a long time (successfully, before and after kids), but I still haven’t really grasped moderation and doubt I ever will. So – “I’d like to learn to indulge without sliding completely off the rails.” I hear you, lady, I really do. Even as a (relatively) successfull weight-loser, these kinds of demons are always, always lurking around.

akofaolain
akofaolain
10 years ago

Last week I said that Leap Day was my favorite post ever. I changed my mind. It’s this one. :)

maggie
maggie
10 years ago

I will be 40 soon and decided it was time to get in shape. I am tired of having no energy. I started doing Insanity and eating high protein, low fat and carbs. I feel amazing in only a week! I have so much more energy. I have dieted and worked out in the past, but for some reason this time I have noticed such a profound difference and it feels great! I allow myself one day a week to indulge a little, which really helps get through the other days (ice cream just tastes so damn good!). Keep up the good work!!

Lori
Lori
10 years ago

My experience and research shows there is some validity to the processed food as addictive chemicals theory.

Here is more research on why you choose certain foods and what could satisfy those cravings: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/8-reasons-why-you-act-against-your-own-better-judgment/#axzz1oChJQIzy

Ellie
Ellie
10 years ago

Ha – I think the same thing. When I got pregnant and didn’t put on much weight, I smugly told myself that I would be one of those women who got skinny right away. You know, I’d be “better” than my friend who are still carrying around extra weight 6 months later. HA! Oh humble pie, how smug you taste. Anyway, I stumbled upon this today and thought, yep. And Linda’s post.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lp7E973zozc&feature=relmfu

Maggie
10 years ago

I had a January week and a February weekend. I’m doing the post-baby weight loss thing (for the 3rd time no less) and I STILL have NO idea how to not eat ALL the cookies. I think I just can’t have it in my house. Or I can have 1 serving in my house, but no more. If I make cookies with the kids I have to send them to work with my husband the next day. I have to PLAN how to not eat all the cookies which is such a (humiliating and pathetic) bummer.

Bethany
Bethany
10 years ago

Your post is like a swift kick in the head! In a good way. It is SO HARD to get off the couch, but it’s so worth it. I’m much worse off in the healthy department as you, but I remember running a triathlon last spring, how GREAT I felt afterward, and immediately sitting down and not getting back up. Why, why, why, why, WHY?
Thanks for the reminder that it DOES feel better after exercise. Maybe that’s what I need to get out of this funk. Just remind me of that five minutes in, because my adrenaline doesn’t seem to push until AFTER I stop working out.

MRW
MRW
10 years ago

I had two ridiculously shitty weeks at work these last two weeks meaning I didn’t get to exercise, ate crap food, and had far too much stress. Nearly instantly my skin went to hell and my ability to sleep through the night went right with it. Work has eased up and I’m back on the exercise/decent food bandwagon and it makes such a difference. It’s bad enough when I do this kind of thing to myself, but when work makes it nearly inevitable I feel even more bitter. Bleh.

Jenna
Jenna
10 years ago

I seldom comment, but I had to pipe up because I identify so strongly with what you’re talking about. I wish I were better at moderation, I really do, but the best I’ve been able to accomplish thus far is to compile an ever-growing list of things I just shouldn’t bring in the house. I had a roommate last year who was great at moderation, who could buy a single package of Oreos make it last a goddamn month! Needless to say, Oreos are on my list of controlled substances, and usually I would covertly eating hers. Because I’m an adult with dignity and self-respect. You alluded, I think, to the idea of an “addictive personality,” and I think about that a lot. Aside from my love of delicious food, I’ve never struggled with an addiction, but alcoholism runs in my family and I always wonder if that has anything to do with my lack of self-control with food. Anyway, sorry I’ve got no useful advice, just empathy!

Käthe
10 years ago

APPLAUSE.

adequatemom
10 years ago

I have been doing this crazy thing. It’s so simple, yet so difficult (and sometimes kind of terrifying). Ready? Here it is: I only eat when I am hungry. Not when I’m bored, or tired, or feeling the need for a reward for keeping my offspring alive for another day, or whatever. No more eating as rewards or comforts. Just eating when I’m hungry.

(I have been doing this for about 2 weeks, and I have had 2 bad slip-ups. Just so I don’t sound like a self-righteous douche.)

I think more than any other program or plan I have been on, this one has the potential to IMPROVE both my skills of listening to what my body needs and my relationship with food, rather than helping them deteriorate which is what I think every other diet I have ever been on has done. The saving grace of this is, like you say, there is no forbidden food and I will never feel deprived (because when I get hungry? I get to eat!). The trick is, of course, that when I am no longer hungry, I have to stop.

This plan is forcing me (happily) to find other outlets for my emotional needs rather than always turning to food. It’s kind of fascinating to work on that – I’m learning a lot about myself.

Mallory
Mallory
10 years ago

I love your posts like this – I feel exactly the same way. Why is it so difficult? I know exactly what to do and I feel so much better when I’m doing the right things. We must be so hard-wired as humans to conserve energy and eat, eat, eat – it is just so difficult to overcome.

Shilpa
Shilpa
10 years ago

What usually works for me is to keep none to very little of the foods that temp me at home. I have discovered over time that my chocolate craving is mostly induced by the knowledge that I have chocolate within reach. If there is none, I don’t crave it.
Of course, it is hard to not have such foods around when you have small kids, but maybe there are a few things that you can eliminate? Especially ones that really get the better of your will power?

Katherine
Katherine
10 years ago

My suggestion is to get really specific with yourself. Get all scientific on this thang. Determine for yourself exactly what is a healthy portion of ice cream, cookies, your other “danger” foods. And how often it’s healthy, in your view, to eat them. And give yourself an available quota. Make a chart. Check off your consumption of your allotment as you go. If you get a half cup of salted caramel ice cream per week, then there should never be more than three checkmarks next to that item on the chart. And if you slip and have it four times one week, then you allow only two the next. You’re budgeting the food, that’s all. It’s not about scarcity: you have budget to spend. You just have to plan the budget and stick to it. Moderation, for some people, doesn’t come naturally. Perhaps you can teach yourself to do it though. Like you’d teach your kids, right?

Katherine
Katherine
10 years ago

Oops, meant to say a half cup of the ice cream three times a week. Three times, three checks.

Mel H.
Mel H.
10 years ago

New blog or flicker request for Linda:
Post photos of your healthy meals/snacks everyday!!Pretty please? You inspire.

Kate
10 years ago

Thanks for letting us know your feeling better. You always look great to me but I know how the blah can try and take over and I’m glad you on the other side.

H
H
10 years ago

Ack, I have tons of food issues (anorexia in high school, emotional eater, control issues) and while I can’t identify exactly with your situation, it makes me feel less alone knowing that…well, I’m not. I am currently doing well after slowly losing some excess weight but my fear of losing control is making it difficult to switch from losing to maintaining. (Not that I want to keep losing, but I fear gaining.) I hope you find the moderation you’re looking for and thank you for sharing your feelings.

Karen
Karen
10 years ago

So true. All of it. And I know you’ve written before about the evening hours, after the kids are in bed, when the brain reminds you… “You DESERVE a treat.” That’s my downfall, every time. I can do well all day, but once it’s after kid bedtime, all bets are off.

What’s great, however, is that you swing back. There’s nothing so wrong with a February like that, as long as you’re balancing it with a January and a March like those. Sure, in an ideal world there’d be no swinging, just steady healthy choices, but it’s more than just you and your own choices. There are pulls and pressures and media and marketing and advertising and habits and all of that.

Thanks for sharing all of this. As much as I wouldn’t want any of us to suffer through all of this yo yo’ing, it really does help to not feel alone in it.