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Transitioning to Real Food

April 6, 2011

I’ve gotten a few questions recently about my transition into eating “real food” after being stuck on low-cal diet foods for so long. At the same time that I made this transition I was also seeking to lose the extra weight I put on during my eating disorder recovery. The period is admittedly hazy to me . I can’t recall my exact thought processes regarding to food and calories at the time, but I will do my best to explain how it worked for me.

Though I recovered from anorexia weight-wise, I never recovered a normal relationship with food. While I was gaining weight it was more about eating whatever I wanted without fear. I didn’t eat burgers and french fries every day because my health-freak mentality wouldn’t allow for that, but I definitely indulged fairly often. I think the biggest problem was that I got used to having to eat past fullness. My stomach had shrunken in size, and gaining weight meant I had to ignore my natural hunger cues in order to eat enough.

Because I didn’t really understand my own hunger, I found myself unable to stop gaining weight. I continued to eat past fullness because it was so programmed in my brain. Then, a combination of unhealthy relationships and new living situations meant I was a bit all over the place psychologically. I was unhappy and found myself binging at night. It was bound to happen though – I was eating so few calories during the day in the form of “lite” yogurt and diet meals that my body was always craving more.

Finished multiple desserts while abroad in Dublin, 2008

At the time I was reading more and more healthy living blogs and was astounded by how much food, and real food these women were eating. It just didn’t seem possible to eat that way and remain fit and healthy. But I guess at some point I decided that I was so fed up with my current eating habits and heavier weight that I decided to give it a try. It all began with one breakfast: Kath’s oatmeal. A drastic change from the usual lite yogurt or apple I would try to sustain myself with, I was terrified that this huge meal of carbs and fats would just set me up to eat excess calories that day. But not surprisingly, it didn’t. I was in love with the breakfast, the satisfaction I had after eating it, and the satiety I felt for hours afterward. It seems silly to say that a bowl of oatmeal could change my eating habits, but it inspired me to make more of my meals revolve around real foods. I started eating sweet potatoes, whole wheat bread and pasta, new veggies, and healthy fats. I felt great, weight started coming off, and my binging began to lessen.

One of my first bowls of oatmeal, 2010

As far as I remember, I never calorie counted or put myself on a strict meal plan during this time. I did have a rough estimate of how much I was taking in each day, but never measured my tablespoon of almond butter or anything like that. And while I had the same breakfast each morning, I varied my other meals. There were a few favorites that I rotated pretty often, but nothing was extremely regimented. I still went out with my friends and drank, but tried to keep it reasonable and to avoid late night eating afterward.

One of my favorite meals - roasted sweet potato and veggies

One major part of this transition that cannot be left out is that I also began training for a half marathon. I had never been a runner but during the same time that I was trying to overhaul my eats, I also decided to overhaul my exercise. My body had become accustom to my 30 minute elliptical routine and needed a change. I decided to give running and shot and ended up falling in love. I started slow with just a few miles at a time, but a few months later began training for the race. The longer distances meant I was burning more calories, but even more importantly they taught me that I needed to fuel myself properly. I couldn’t get by on a single yogurt when I was going to be running 8 miles! Training reinforced the need to eat well-balanced, real food meals.

Running my first half marathon

So that’s how it happened for me! I didn’t have to being extremely conscious about each bite I was putting in my mouth, but aiming to eat more real food and getting in more exercise naturally led me to achieve a healthier weight.

**I will add that I was also a pescatarian at the time and think that eating less meat helped me eat more nutritious meals. I don’t think this is necessary for successful weight-loss or healthy eating, so I didn’t put much emphasis on it in the post.

18 Comments leave one →
  1. April 6, 2011 2:25 pm

    omgggggggg. this is exactly the way i did it. i love how you explained it. you did such a great job girl and you continuing to do one. hang in there and realize you are healthy and happy….that’s what matters most.

  2. April 6, 2011 2:30 pm

    Great post! When I started reading healthy living blogs, it was also that the point where I was only eating foods with exact nutritional info on them so I knew every calorie going into me. I, too, was amazed at all the foods these people were eating and still looking great! Now I that I eat that way, I feel so much better mentally and physically.

    • April 6, 2011 2:34 pm

      Another very great point. Learning to cook for yourself instead of relying on prepackaged foods with calorie counts is a huge step. It was scary at first, but it is so liberating and FUN!

  3. April 6, 2011 2:52 pm

    Wow. Way to go. I’m trying to ween myself off prepackaged foods too. Saving money too.

  4. April 6, 2011 2:59 pm

    omg we have identical stories…. getting used to eating past fullness.. eating a first bowl of oats– its crazy!!!!!!!!!

  5. April 6, 2011 3:04 pm

    what a great post! I try not to eat prepackaged foods as often as possible!

  6. April 6, 2011 3:07 pm

    Great post! I used to be scared to eat too much and fear the weight gain but then I realized as long as I was eating natural, clean foods that wouldn’t be an issue. It still amazes me to this day how a long a good, balanced bowl of oatmeal can hold my hunger off compared to sugary low-cal cereal and how mcuh better my body can function with these foods vs processed foods!

  7. squigglefloey permalink
    April 6, 2011 3:31 pm

    Yea, I understand. I think a lot of girls recovering from ana have the fear of being unable to stop gaining the weight back once they do. A lot of ppl tell them that that’ll never happen, and that their bodies will just adapt to the situation and find it’s own balance. Your story is interesting! I’m sure there were a lot of other factors that came into play as well.

  8. April 6, 2011 3:46 pm

    I really love the lessons here – so many people could benefit from reading this (and I’m sure a lot will!).

    That picture from your half marathon is way too cute. I’d be red faced, pouty, or falling over!

  9. April 6, 2011 4:48 pm

    Hooray for real food. What a great post. I’m sure this will help a lot of women out there. You rock 🙂

  10. Paulie D. permalink
    April 6, 2011 4:49 pm

    Who could have imagined the power of a bowl of oatmeal?
    Here’s a possible marketing slogan:
    Oatmeal: The start of a great new life!
    –Clare Brady, blog queen

  11. April 6, 2011 5:04 pm

    That’s awesome! I enjoyed reading how you overcame your fears of eating. It’s so cool what the blog world can do for many people. I hope you continue to eat the right kinds and amounts of food!

  12. jamie permalink
    April 6, 2011 5:14 pm

    Thanks again for this. It’s the eating past fullness that gets me– I got so used to doing that to put on weight that I forget what “satisfied” feels like! But I’m getting there, one meal at a time 🙂

  13. April 6, 2011 6:43 pm

    So oatmeal helped you! Ha, power to the oatmeal!
    Interesting story you have here. I’m glad you’re eating real food now instead of the diet crap, and letting some of the misunderstandings about food and nutrition go. It seems, however, that MOST of the recovering girls (and guys) I’ve talked to all have the same problem of night eating…saving up calories for the final binge. We can’t ever fool our bodies into thinking we’re satisfied when we’re not!

  14. April 6, 2011 7:32 pm

    Great job Clare…..being healthy is all about moderation, getting to understand yourself and loving and honoring the beautiful body you live in! You should be proud of yourself and your accomplishments. Many people never take the time to devote to themselves. Your post is a testimony to your dedication to health, wellness and yourself.

  15. applesnoats permalink
    April 6, 2011 8:25 pm

    i have such a similiar story to yours and its so excting to have found someone who went through what I went through! It’s hard letting go of those strict eating disorder tendencies and becoming more relaxed about what you eat and how much! Congrats girl your beautiful inside and out!

  16. April 7, 2011 6:10 am

    Thats an awesome story, congratulations on kicking that disorder!! You look so fit and healthy in all your photos….


  17. April 7, 2011 12:19 pm

    SAME story girl! I think we talked about this before! But getting so used to eating past fullness and keep on putting weight on! and eating real foods! Oatmeal has def helped me a lot too! I love you girl!! 🙂

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