Health blogging made me fat

Last year on the blog I wrote a post very proudly sharing with you all that I’d managed to lose a stone on a ‘yeast free’ diet and that I was keeping it off.

So now I feel like a statistic about people that can't keep their weight-loss off when I tell you that one year on from writing that post I have in fact put back on all that weight.

But I think it’s really important to explore the reasons why, and I’m going to warn you now, you might not like them all. 
 

1. I gave up on a yeast free diet


After a lot of soul searching I published this blog post back in March sharing with you all that I had decided that I could no longer call the way I ate a ‘yeast free’ or ‘candida diet.’ The science isn’t sound and I didn’t want to mislead people that this was a well-informed way to lose weight or tackle IBS.

What I was eating was in fact just a much healthier diet – higher in fruit and veg, lower in refined grains and sugar. Nothing to do with candida in my gut. Everything to do with more wholefoods and cutting down or out groups of foods.

Fruit and veg shop

I got incredible support from the online community for writing this including the likes of Laura Thomas PhD, The Rooted Project and Angry Chef. I felt like I’d make the right decision.

But without that framework and list of ‘Eat Me’ and ‘Don’t Eat Me’ I was suddenly left in no-mans land.

This turning point was also around the same time as the clean-eating backlash, where the whole media and online world seemed to be saying: “eat what you want!” “don’t restrict yourself!” “Nothing is ‘bad’” “Everything in moderation!”

All positive messages. But for me? I had found the strict list of yes and no foods the most incredibly helpful foundation on which to get myself into a healthier lifestyle.

Without it I have definitely had to work harder to select foods to eat and I think it is fair to say this is where part of my weight gain has come from. 

On the plus side my diet is even more varied now (getting dairy back in there, mushrooms (!) and soy sauce for example) and I live without the "good vs. bad" labels which makes for a healthier mindset.

This way requires more will-power and isn't black and white - but it's better in the long run. 
 

2. I stopped tracking my food and weighing myself

As I talked about in that original post on weight loss, one of the things I did alongside diet adjustment to lose weight was track my food and weight. 

Just this week I was watching Rhiannon Lambert talking on her Instagram Stories about how many people in her clinic she sees that are obsessed with the scales. She encourages all her clients and followers instead to embrace a lifestyle free of weigh-ins and focus more on how you feel than the number showing on the scales. 

Also this week Registered Nutritionist (RD) Claire Baseley has shared her experiences using My Fitness Pal and they don't make for encouraging reading! 

However having just undertaken the Future Learn Food As Medicine course online (run by Monash University and endorsed by the AfN, so not nutribollocks I am assured), I was taught that one of the consistent healthy habits of those that maintain weight-loss is in fact:

“self-monitoring weight regularly. In other words [these people] weigh themselves at least once a week and if they’ve gained a little bit of weight they’re active about losing it again so they don’t get that weight creeping upwards.”

I am not obsessive about tracking my food or weighing myself. But I do find just doing a small amount of it mindfully helps keep me accountable, see where I’m adding extra calories into my day and how I need to adjust what I’m eating the next day or week to get back on track.

I completely understand that for some this monitoring can be a slippery slope to an Eating Disorder. But for those of us that aren’t predisposed to that, can we not track and self-monitor in a healthy way?

 

3. I started a healthy eating blog

Throwing this one in there but it’s logical. If you are churning out a recipe a week for a blog and sharing a post most days on Instagram, then you end up eating a lot of stuff!

I absolutely love cooking, making recipes and sharing the results with the world. But making batches of muffins and photo-worthy food each week means you get through a lot and your whole brain is constantly consumed with food and what you’re eating next.

Blueberry and lemon muffins from the blog. What do I do with a whole batch?!

Blueberry and lemon muffins from the blog. What do I do with a whole batch?!

I loved listening to Jessica Murnane and Laila Ali recently talking about their weight-gain when writing their cook-books recently. It was so candid and reassuring. Any other health bloggers feel this?!
 

4. I started going to the gym

When I lost weight last year I did it entirely through diet. I didn’t step through a gym door once or put trainers on to do a home workout or a run in the park. I lost weight purely by adjusting what I was eating (amount as well as type of food) and focused on hitting 10,000 steps a day as my only physical activity. Yes I was slimmer, but was I healthier? 

Since getting more involved in the health blogging community (HBC I'm looking at you!) I have been so inspired by people that push themselves physically as well as eating healthily. So in the last few months have been slowly increasing my gym sessions and getting back to running again.

I have definitely felt the benefit of re-engaging with exercise on a more regular basis: I feel stronger, happier and proud of myself for doing that class / run / squash session. 

I’d like to think some of my weight gain might now be muscle rather than fat, but that’s impossible to know for sure. Maybe I should investigate getting a % fat vs. muscle measurement and then I can use that as a better judgement of my health improving than standing on the bathroom scales.

5. I changed my goal - but it is still aesthetic

Last month I took part in the Rooted Project’s fantastic book club in which we read Louise Green’s Big Fit Girl. It was a really eye-opening book and I came away with some powerful messages. This was the first:

Everyone can be an athlete. Have a goal which is fitness related, and not aesthetic.

That's a really lofty ambition and my biggest struggle with the book was that Louise didn't document in any detail how she shifted her mind set.

I think we all have to acknowledge how hard it is to change overnight from an aesthetic goal to a fitness one. When you have spent your whole life thinking you need to be a certain weight or look a certain way it is really, really hard to un-do that.

I have run two marathons so I do understand about setting physical goals and achieving them. But that has not stopped me wanting washboard abs!

Big Fit Girl

I have wracked my brains in the last couple of months for another physical goal to set myself. I would love input and advice on this from gym bunnies - what's a great goal or target to work towards?

But for now I am slowly, and I mean really slowly, moving towards a goal that isn't just about being small and weighing less. Going to the gym more has made me focus on being toned rather than tiny. It's still an aesthetic goal for now, but it's definitely a healthier one. 
 

6. I live to eat and that's in my DNA

The second message of Big Fit Girl that I took away was:

Eat like an athlete: consider whether each thing you eat is helping you towards your goal.

I live to eat, I don’t eat to live. There is a real difference and I have been aware of it my whole life with parents in opposing camps.

My Mum is “eat to live.” If she didn’t have to eat she wouldn’t, she doesn’t find huge joy in it.

My Dad is “live to eat” and I have inherited that. We obsess about food and want to make it as tasty and enjoyable as possible every time we cook or share a meal.

Me and my Dad last month

Me and my Dad last month

Ben Coomber tackled this on a recent podcast episode. It’s great to “think like an athlete” if you just want a chicken breast, some sweet potato and broccoli to hit your macros. But not if you really want to make something incredible in the kitchen every night and continually aspire to make your meals taste better than the last.

The growing world of nutritional genomics opens up the possibility of understanding how our genes leave us with a predisposition to weight gain or loss. It's something briefly covered in that Food As Medicine course I mentioned, and was also a topic covered by Dr Giles Yeo at his Rooted Project seminar.  

I’m reassured in the knowledge that it’s not a lack of discipline or laziness that results in my physical appearance and desire for food. Some of it, as well as environmental factors, is down to my DNA. And I wouldn’t change my DNA for the world.

 

My blog is and always has been about tackling IBS and what I have learned. Weight loss or gain, understanding what triggers my symptoms has been incredibly empowering. I have even been nominated for an award in the Free From and Illness Recovery category at the Health Blogger Awards and I take my responsibility of providing sound advice in this blog very seriously. 

But as a young(ish) woman living in a society that bombards us with images of slim women as an ideal body image, weight loss was always my little personal triumph that came as a benefit to what I have managed to achieve controlling my IBS symptoms.

I could see this gain as a negative. And some days I do, I'm not going to lie! But I'm trying really hard to see the positives and the lessons I've learned over the last year and how many things in my diet and lifestyle are now much healthier as a result.