** Trigger warning. This post discusses disordered eating, diets and calorie restriction**
Food and I have always had a very complicated relationship. As a child I was a very picky eater, I hated meat and bread and truly lost my appetite when most food was put in front of me (as a parent of a very picky eater, I can empathize with what I put my parents through!). By the time I was 10 I was experiencing heart palpitations and extreme dizzy spells, which I learned years later were the result of Celiacs Disease (allergy to gluten) which had ruined my digestive tract and caused anemia. By my late teens I was on an extremely restrictive diet to manage my symptoms and heal my guts. Of course along the way I was also a young woman concerned with being thin and was entering the fitness industry.
This is my journey from trying every “diet” out there to moving towards food freedom and feeling good in my body:
During the low-fat years (my late teens and early 20s) I ate only lean proteins, did my best to use little cooking oil for all things, restricted how many nuts I ate, made my salad dressings out of vinegar and fruit juice, there were lots of other ridiculous time consuming things I got into… the results: In terms of my weight, I was quite thin and not strong, I was hungry all day, and I practiced pretty significant calorie restriction (ie- the best way to screw up your metabolism long term). During this time in my life, calories were BAD and if I ate “too many” I needed to exercise extra hard to burn them off.
Next came Atkins (early 20’s),
I still hated fat, but now I needed to restrict carbs too. My energy was low, I’m sure I was cranky, and I was hungry all the time. I read the South Beach Diet and my life revolved around eating the “right” things, and burning off “excess” calories. My weight stayed the same, but my obsession with food and calories continued to grow! So much wasted energy!
When I met my husband and started to think of having a family, my doctor suggested I eat a little more and exercise a little less, since my periods were sporadic. This was really hard on me mentally, but I managed to get my body fat percentage high enough that my periods were regulated. I had a personal trainer at Goodlife at this time, and he often made recommendations to reduce my body fat well below what is considered optimal for women. It is completely beyond his scope of work as a personal trainer to recommend a woman, who had just gotten her periods back and was trying to get pregnant, to lose weight. Most women have struggled with disordered eating, and it’s no wonder with the pressure we are under and the misinformation we receive our WHOLE LIVES including from professionals.
Now my baby-making years were a challenge.
I was lucky enough to get pregnant on my honeymoon and by Oct 2008 I couldn’t keep anything down. If I walked past my fridge I would throw up. By the end of my first trimester I had actually lost weight and my doctor had a serious talk with me. He said, “you’ve eaten healthy your whole life and you are full of nutrients for your baby, right now calories are more important than anything, stop trying so hard to only eat vegetables and start eating what is appetizing and you can keep down”.
Holy Moly. Talk about a mindshift… calories are GOOD??? I need them??? I shouldn’t burn off every single one that I ate and a few extras??? Get ready for the pendulum swing that happens after years of starving myself! I started eating. The only things that I liked and I could keep down was white stuff with cheese on it… bread and cheese, pasta and cheese, rice and cheese… don’t even talk about vegetables… and meat ugh!
Now, something magical happened
When I watched (yep, in the mirror) my little baby Abi emerge from my body, and when I made milk and fed her. My body had given me the greatest gift, my body was amazing and I would happily gain a hundred more pounds if it gave me my beautiful daughter. My mindset had shifted, I needed good calories to make good milk, and I started eating more normally than I had in years. I still had my allergies so I didn’t eat gluten and avoided milk products but I ate protein, fat and carbs 3x a day or so.
By the time my baby was 6 months old my weight had slowly shifted back to its normal range without any extreme diets and regular exercise most days of the week, it was pretty great! I thought to myself “why have I been trying so hard!??”. I had this realization that healthy people are never on diets, they just have healthy eating habits most of the time and enjoy some treats sometimes (which is also healthy!). This philosophy served me well through my second pregnancy, I was finally off the diet train, or so I thought!
Then came some very hard years as my marriage dissolved and my stress levels soared, food became an issue once more.
During times of high stress
(And I’m talking HIGH, not it’s been a rough day, HIGH like i’m going bankrupt with 2 small children to feed and I work part time at a community centre) my appetite leaves me, I struggle to eat, exercise is my escape and I workout extra hard – Nothing like a workout that makes you feel like you might not survive to get your mind off things for a little while! By mid way into my first year of divorce I felt terrible, low energy, barely sleeping and worn down. Eventually the pendulum swung in the other direction and I used food as therapy and ended up over-eating and feeling like garbage for different feelings.
Finally I said to myself “I will eat as well as I can, and I will exercise as well as I can, and I will learn to love my body wherever it ends up”. That was ALOT of work. But I was successful at letting go of most of my insecurities around my body, and realizing that my weight is literally the least interesting thing about me. Here is where I focused as I learned to love my body:
- I only said nice things about myself, even in my head. If I wouldn’t say it to someone else, I didn’t say it about myself
- I cooked most of my meaonly ls from scratch and balanced my meals well (It wasn’t perfect but it was an improvement).
- I started crossfit – finally a fitness focus that measures progress by what your body can do and not what your body looks like!
- I did kind things for myself often (met with a friend, went to a yoga class, went for a walk, snuggled with my kids, anything that felt nice!).
- I STOPPED WEIGHING MYSELF
As I worked away at being healthy, getting really strong and being kind to myself, I started to feel good in my own skin, despite the fact that the number on the scale had increased.
My new reality:
- I am strong
- I enjoy my food and treats
- I have energy to workout
- The food and weight stress is gone
- Did I mention I am strong? At 40 years old I am significantly stronger and fitter than I was when I was 25 years old!!
Now, I would be lying if I didn’t tell you that in very stressful times I still struggle, but my struggles are far less extreme. I still have days when I feel self-conscious about my body and size (usually right before I get my period) and I still have that little voice in my head that tells me I’m not good enough. I have made a conscious decision to choose to love myself and work towards feeling stronger every day.
If you are an LYB member – come to crushing your goals, I love to help women get off the diet train, it is just so freeing! If you are not – I would still love to support – send me a message!
Please remember that you are beautiful exactly how you are,
With all my love,