When I was 9 years old I was called fat at a sleepover party and that is truly where my journey of dieting, deprivation, punishment, and eventually freedom started.
That weekend I went on my first “diet”, or what my little 3rd grade mind thought of as a diet. This is where the cycle of deprive, over eat, and punish began. A cycle I would be stuck in for the next 20 years. At one point I even took the “punishment” a step further and spent 10 of those 20 years stuck in a pattern of bulimia.
At 25 years old I found myself finally free from the straight-jacket of bulimia, but with no idea where to go. I had started to find my footing in fitness at this point in my life, but still had such an unbelievably disordered relationship with food. I would google things like “how to eat 1,200 calories a day” and would stick to the plan religiously, until I couldn’t anymore and I would lose control, and follow that with punishment and extreme self loathing. While I no longer purged any of the food I was eating, the inability to control a binge once it started was still there. With every new diet I embarked on the overarching question in my head would be “but how do I physically stop putting food in my mouth?”. It seemed like something I would never gain control over.
I tried everything. Being a vegetarian, then pescatasrian, running unbelieably long races, counting every calorie and macro I could. It was all a desperate attempt to feel good. What I would soon discover was that the food I so desperately wanted control over, was not actually about the food. This thought had never crossed my mind until I was almost 30 and read the book “It Starts with Food” by Melissa Hartwig.
By this time I had quit my corporate job, had two beautiful baby girls, had started teaching yoga again, and had been on and off of zoloft since high school. I stumbled across the Whole 30 when a friend had completed it. I did a little research and decided to give it a try in hopes it could help with some chronic digestive issues I had been fighting since I was a teenager. I had honestly never seen the connection between my anxiety, my digestive distress, and my relationship with food along with what I was choosing to put into my body.
This book changed it all. I dove into my first round of Whole 30 and for the first time in my life felt like I was on an even keel. I was given permission to eat some of my favorite foods, like steak and bacon, that were always “bad” in my mind.
I started to learn how food affected not only my weight, but my MIND, my joints, my hair, my skin, everything.
After a few rounds of Whole 30 with proper reintroduction I realized that my joints swell (specifically my left knee) when I eat gluten, my digestive system cannot handle most dairy, and that refined sugar made my brain chemistry and hormones go completely haywire, and made me crave more sugar. This information was not only completely new to me, but it allowed me to take the control over my relationship with food that I so desperately wanted. My food freedom journey is still a work in progress, and it always will be, but this was a monumental step forward.
After being able to wean off of zoloft, and manage my anxiety and digestive distress through nutrition and stress relieving exercises, I realized that I was not unique. Many other people were going through the exact same experience as me, and I actually had the power to help. This realization made me join the Nutritional Therapy Practitioner program through the Nutritional Therapy Association. I cannot wait to help every person I can figure out what makes them feel good and how to execute it in their daily lives.
Today I believe that food is fuel for our bodies and our minds, it is a celebration of flavor and experience.
There are worth it foods to me (hello french fries), and there are not worth it foods (stay away ice cream). I now make almost all food choices based on what is worth it to me, what I know my body needs, and the current situation. Emotions and what food is within arms reach no longer dictate my decisions. This level of freedom over food and nutrition never seemed possible, but of course, it always was. Small choices add up to something big, and when these choices are in line with what makes me feel good I will then do good. Food is the launching point to living your best life, and to reaching optimal health.