As I sit here to write this I have two conflicting feelings.

  1. Are people really that bothered to read about my experiment?

  2. Will I be judged for my next course of action?

However, even though I have been sitting with this conflict, I know that I want to share my thoughts with you more that I don’t want to. If you (the reader) hold any judgment then that’s ok, everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Now that’s out of the way; I’m going to start from the top…

10 weeks ago when we started lockdown (and a bit before that)…


23rd March 2020:

When lockdown was announced, I took some time to reflect on where my head was at with my ‘self.’ I had started off the year in great stead with my training, I hit some personal bests and made some decent progress in the gym with my strength in a short time. I decided in January of this year that at the end of March/April time I would book another photoshoot, it’s been 3 years since my last and I wanted some new shots for my website and for myself. At the end of February, I hired a coach to keep me accountable (yes, I am a coach, I hired someone else to keep me accountable. Not because I can’t but because it’s good to have a second pair of eyes to help you, to guide you, and to give you the support you need to stay consistent), and I started to drop some body fat for the shoot. I could see I was making progress pretty quickly, and I loved the aesthetic changes that were taking place. I didn’t drop much weight on the scale, but my photos, clothes, and the mirror told me otherwise.

What most people don’t tell you is that when you have been training for an extended period of time and have a decent amount of muscle mass, your body composition will change much more than the scale will. There does become a point in which scale weight isn’t a good measure of progress. If your shape has changed, but that scales haven’t moved much, it tells you that your body composition (fat to muscle ration) has changed/is changing, and realistically that’s all that matters, not the number on the scale.

Anyway, obviously, the shoot got cancelled, training in the gym got cancelled, and I was faced with a decision, what should I do now?

Business came first.

At the start of lockdown, I had a lot of admin and coaching to do so looking after my mental wellbeing, and protecting my energy was of high priority. I always say to my clients, “you cannot pour from an empty cup – protect your energy.” Focusing on my aesthetics at that current time was on the bottom of my list, I had no photoshoot, so looking after my business and my clients came first.

I have 3 “self-care” non-negotiables that I stick to regardless of how busy I am because they help me stay sane and feel good (mental wellbeing):

1- Train x 3 per week (minimum) Resistance Train/Gymnastics/Yoga/Run

2 -Eat to nourish and honour my hunger.

3- Move a bit each day i.e. walk every day

With that in mind, I decided I would do something I have wanted to do for a long time, focus on number 2, but this time, remove food rules, embrace an intuitive eating approach and run it as a bit of an experiment.

WHY?

For a long time, I have always lived with food rules, as many of us have:

“Don’t eat this; eat that.”

“Eat less; move more.”

“High Protein is best.” etc.

Some rules/beliefs serve us well; some don’t whatsoever; you are the only judge of that. Taking myself through an intuitive eating approach allowed me to understand where this came from, and just like most chronic dieters, it started from a young age. To me, knowing this information serves no purpose other than “ok so you didn’t know any better,” focusing on the past doesn’t get you anywhere, accepting it and moving forward does. You can’t change the past, but you can shape your future.

Acknowledging this helped me to rebuild trust in my own decision making again. See the thing is when you have been told what to eat (diet intervention) by a book/a diet plan/a health professional, and so on, you start to build a level of distrust with your intuition. When your tummy rumbles instead of answering that with “I fancy…..”, you answer it with a question, “what should I eat…?” therefore, you feel a sense of disconnect.

I am a curious person, possibly an over-thinker, but I like to embrace that as a person, so at the start of lockdown, I began to get curious.

I wanted to see what would happen if I no longer chose to follow any food rules and passed no judgment.

So, I permitted myself to go all in.

I had no aesthetic or performance goal, and I was happy to embrace any outcome – it is important to remember this.

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Living with no food rules did not mean I ate cake for breakfast, pizza for lunch, and doughnuts for snacks, and so on. There is a huge difference in eating with a “rebellious mindset” and eating through “choice.” I didn’t feel like I needed or wanted to be a rebel I ate pretty much the same thing most days because it’s what I fancied. I honoured my hunger, which means – if I was hungry for lunch at 11 am so what? Somedays I chose to cook/eat foods that I wouldn’t have eaten ‘before’, such as a cheese and pickle sandwich for lunch instead of a “high protein” meal. I journaled my fullness (made notes, sometimes even just mentally) which meant some days I left food on my plate, and other days I cleared it fully, it didn’t matter which I did what felt right. I practised and fully submerged myself into “intuitive eating”.

I had this conversation with my partner the other day – “Can you actually be an intuitive eater if you’re thinking about what your intuition is telling you – that you’re observing your thoughts”?” probably not, so was I full intuitive? I don’t know. In hindsight, you cannot do something new without teaching yourself how to do so in the first place, so I’m saying I practised what I could.

For the past 10 weeks, I let everything go, food rules, how many meals should I eat rules, eat high protein, calories, weighing out food rules etc, and it has been fascinating.

As I said I am a curious person and in my own time I have been studying intuitive eating not only by reading but through intervention, using techniques from E.Tribole & E.Resch from the Intuitive Eating Org.

Today (June 1st) marks the end of that – and I am ending it through choice.

THE RESULT…

June 1st - 10 weeks post Intuitive Eating

June 1st – 10 weeks post Intuitive Eating

I’m going to bullet point this because it’s what feels right:

  • I didn’t feel any urge to binge eat, not once. Because food was never off-limits, I didn’t feel like I ever had to have “the last supper.”

  • I did sometimes eat more than I was hungry for, and that’s excellent feedback, it has taught me to recognise fullness I need to eat slower and without distraction.

  • I eat healthy food because I love healthy food, not because I feel I have to.

  • I don’t always need to eat high protein to fill me up.

  • I have 1-2 days a week in which I want to eat a bit more junk food, and I have no issues with that.

  • My body shape has changed, I am not as lean or as athletic looking as I was back in Feb and I can live with that.

  • I pass no judgement with how my body looks as a result of eating without rules.

  • I have gained a bit of body fat, and a very small scale increase.

  • I am still able to do all the things exercise-wise that I love to do. However, feeling heavier is a lot more challenging for gymnastics and calisthenic style training (which at current is how I love to train).

  • I now have a much better sense of how I feel best, physique, and performance-wise.

  • I developed better eating and behaviour “tools” for life – not rules, tools.

  • I can distinguish between feeling hungry and feeling discomfort, boredom, tiredness, fatigue, hormonal – but I am not a “bad” person if sometimes I eat for comfort – it’s normal.

  • You cannot intuitively eat and expect to lose weight/change shape. You can, however, maintain a physique (perhaps not your lightest, unless you’ve never really struggled with food and your weight) and use these methods to help you establish a better mind to body connection which CAN help you to lose weight if you choose to diet at some point.

POST 10 WEEKS…

As I said before, I have chosen to end the intervention.

Why? Well, to be 100% honest with you, I pass no judgement on my aesthetics, if I were to stay how I am right now, I’d be ok with it.

But…

I don’t want to just be “ok” with it. My appearance is important to me, and I have no shame in saying that. I think a lot of people are actually scared to admit that looking and feeling good about themselves is important to them. Maybe because people have said passed judgement on this before, maybe because vanity is deemed as not important and health is? I don’t know, but what I do know is this: yes, my appearance is important to me, and it makes ME happy to look at myself in the mirror and say, “You go girl!” “You look awesome” and “I feel great”.

Right now I feel “ok,” and for me, that’s not enough, I want more, and again I won’t let anyone shame me into thinking otherwise.

I love this quote: YOU DO YOU.

Also, I perform BETTER for my preferred training style when I am lighter and more agile. I like how my body feels in specific exercises when I am carrying less weight/body fat.

Find a training method that you LOVE to do and you won’t look back.

Find a training method that you LOVE to do and you won’t look back.

WHAT NEXT?

I am going to put myself into a calorie deficit, for the next 4 weeks, stay as consistent as I can and hold myself accountable.

Then I will see where I am in 4 weeks and re-evaluate.

I will be tracking my calories because I want to (not have to/need to/should do).

I will be working towards losing some body fat.

I will use mostly photos and clothes as a rule of measure; however, I will still track scale weight for feedback.

I will be using the mindful hunger and fullness tools that I have learnt practising intuitive eating to help optimise this dieting period.

I am choosing to diet, because I WANT to, and because I GET to.

I get to change my physique – it’s empowering when you think of it this way.

There are some rules back in place, but I have learnt that rules can be life-enhancing, not life prohibiting.

I have completed a few calorie-controlled interventions and had great success so I know this is achievable for me.

That’s a wrap!

I was going to write here “I’ll have another go at intuitive eating again someday…” but I don’t think that’s necessary, I will do what’s right for me at the time. I am happier than I have ever been, I know what I like, I know what I don’t like and I pass no judgement or shame on either. We are always learning, we are always evolving and I think, if you’re in a place where something or someone is no longer serving you….own it. Because if you don’t, no one else will for you.

With Love,

Angi x

About the author : Angi Pilika

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