I’m about to tell you guys something I have never confessed before.
I’ve always had a negative relationship with food. It wasn’t until I had my daughter and totally changed my eating habits that I realized just HOW BAD that relationship was. We’re talking eating-disorder-bad here.
Yep. I used to have an eating disorder.
I have never said those words out loud—not even to my husband. I knew in my heart that the way I viewed food (and my body) wasn’t healthy, but now, looking back, I can see that what I suffered with was a true illness.
Now, let me clarify. There are many different types of “eating disorders”. Although I never purged my food (bulimia) or starved myself to the point of being fatally thin (anorexia), I have dealt with constant ups and downs in my eating patterns in order to stay “skinny”—trying so hard to fit into a body that I wasn’t even happy with because I was battling a low self-esteem and dysmorphic body image as well.
At one time, I would focus so hard on eating low-calorie, low-fat, sugar-free foods that I wasn’t taking in nearly enough calories to maintain a healthy weight. (I remember some days only eating around 1,000 calories while being on my feet for 12 hours at work. Yikes.)
At other times, I definitely fell into the Binge Eating Disorder category, eating when I wasn’t hungry just because it was there or if I was having a rough day. Then I would tack on some additional cardio to try to burn off what I ate during those binge sessions. It’s a viscous cycle, I’m telling you.
So what changed, you ask? I swear, it was like a light bulb went off one day. I was 6-months postpartum, unhappy with my post-baby body, battling mild postpartum depression, and just feeling frail and WEAK. I had been following a few inspiring nutritional gurus on Instagram, and started looking into what this “clean eating” stuff was all about.
Long story short, I was intrigued. I started doing my own research about how the body uses food for fuel and what types of food could make it function at it’s best. I figured I would try to cut some of the crappy things out of my diet little by little and replace them with nutrient-dense, whole foods.
Once I started doing this, I noticed an immediate surge in energy. The depression started to disappear, and I began to feel less “foggy”. I was like, “Hmm…there might actually be something to this clean-eating lifestyle!”
Next, I had to deal with the issue of calorie-obsession. I had counted calories for years and always been very strict with myself. My line-of-thinking was “calories in vs calories out”. If I ate less than I burned, I wouldn’t gain weight, so I always aimed for below my basil metabolic rate (the amount of calories your body uses while at rest). While this is true in theory, you can be eating total JUNK, stay within your caloric goal, and look unhealthy and feel like JUNK.
Fast forward to a few months later. Now that I was eating more nutrient-dense foods, I found that I didn’t need to count calories. As long as I was eating wholesome foods, making sure to eat every few hours, and keeping my meals balanced (meaning good amounts of fats, carbs, and protein with each), my body was taking care of itself--and LOVING the extra fuel I was giving it. My metabolism sored, my body leaned out (in a healthy way, as it was getting rid of all the built-up toxins), and I just felt GOOD.
Slowly, I started to ignore the calories that were on nutrition labels on food and just focus on the nutrients it provided (fat, carbs, and protein) and what ingredients was in it. If you’ve ever struggled with an eating disorder (not to mention, Type A personality—helluuurrrr), you know this is a huge mental battle. Just take it one day at a time, one meal at a time.
I am proud to say that I now I don’t even look at calories. While I do track my food on My Fitness Pal to ensure I am getting my macronutrient requirement to meet my goals of building lean muscle, I don’t ever look at my logged meals and think “Ugh. That was too many calories. I need to eat less at dinner.” I don’t “punish” myself for eating meals higher in calories. If it’s healthy and balanced, I’m gonna eat it, dang it! With that said, I do like to take breaks from tracking my food to allow myself to intuitively eat. I find this helps me not slip back into old habits.
Am I perfect? Um, NO. Definitely not. I most certainly have days when old demons come back to haunt me…I may binge a little more, eat when I’m not hungry to deal with stress or emotions, and then look in the mirror and feel defeated because I knew I shouldn’t have allowed myself to give in to the Binge Monster.
Overcoming an eating disorder isn’t an overnight deal. I’m a constant work in progress. The important thing is that I acknowledge these feelings, pray for strength to push them aside, and then remind myself that tomorrow is a new day.
For once in my life, I am fueling my body and not fighting it.
And it’s SO. DANG. FREEING, y’all.
Thank you for letting me pour my heart out. I became a personal trainer because I wanted to help other people get fit. In the process, I have learned more about myself than ever! I hope that someone finds hope in this post.
[If you or anyone you know suffers from similar feelings, or perhaps they do show signs of other eating disorders, please go to http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/find-help-support to find help in your area or talk to someone.]