I’m gonna get real about my relationship with food for a minute. Today, food and I are lovers and friends. But it wasn’t always this way.
In college, I really struggled with eating. This manifested itself in an incredibly restrictive diet, ocd amounts of exercise, and a short but real bout with bulimia. Which was really, really not okay. And hard to get over. But with lots of work and honesty and resources, I got through it. I realized I had a problem, and that I didn’t want to feel uncomfortable and anxious and gross and unhappy with my body all the time. I wanted to change, I went on a journey, and eventually I did. It all came down to not feeling good about myself, and wanting to control my personal perceptions of “good enough” by being the skinniest person in the room or at least feeling “in control” of my weight. Not quite the best way to define your self worth (UNDERSTATEMENT).
Seven years later, I’m so, so grateful to be in a much healthier and more balanced place in my life. I never thought I’d say this, but I rarely struggle with eating fears anymore, though body image issues still creep every once in a while.
I feel better than I ever have in my own skin, I exercise in moderation, and I eat basically whatever I want (though I try to be pretty healthy most of the time).
Which leads me to today’s post on incorporating more nourishing foods into my diet.
How are these things connected?
In college, I was incredibly restrictive when it came to food. I was all about low fat, low calorie. I started using only skim milk, I thought lean cuisines and diet coke were the jam, and I would inhale cereal and baked lays or 100 calorie packs of shitty snacks like it was my job. If it was low-cal, it was a-ok. I had brain-washed myself in a big way.
I knew that what I was eating was pretty empty food, but at the time I thought that it was what I was supposed to be doing. My friends were eating similarly, low cal/no cal was still all the rage, and I didn’t really care as much about my health as I cared about being thin. The result was a really terrible way to live.
Over the following years, I basically had to let go of my food obsession and learn to allow myself the freedom to make choices and eat real food again. I had to ward off of all restrictions. I worked with a nutritionist to learn which foods were healthy and nourishing and which weren’t, but I found that what worked for me at the time was not overly obsessing about any one thing. I had to learn to let go of food habits and rituals and crazy planning and dieting. And I did it.
The only thing that continued to nag at me was that as a result, I became afraid of making any major changes to my diet. I was afraid to do anything that could translate itself in restriction, comparison, and ultimately spiral back into fear.
This year I’ve been working really hard on body image, thanks to some amazing guidance and tools provided by Caroline, and I feel the strongest I ever have. Not only that, I have started to really crave nourishing foods and to crave kicking chemicals, etc. I’ve started to make some small, healthy tweaks to my diet that are not limiting, but rather things to add in or swap in when I feel like it. I’m in no way restricting, and still letting myself eat whatever I feel like.
Instead, I really feel like I’m listening to my body and what it wants to thrive.
Here are a few of the things I’m working on incorporating or eliminating:
- Cutting out caffeine– Caffeine was a really tough one for me. For years I’ve had a HUGE coffee or two in the morning at work, and felt like I couldn’t get to lunch without it. Then, I’d have one or two diet cokes. Now, I have a tea in the morning, sometimes with a small bit of caffeine, and no more diet cokes. It was super tough at first, but I feel so much less anxiety and more alive. It feels great to shake that dependence.
Adding in more greens– whether through adding in spinach when I’m making dinner or throwing some kale into a smoothie, I’m trying to get in as many new greens as possible.
- Finding more nourishing breakfasts- I’m a fan of cereal, but it may be the least nutritious meal out there. I wanted to find an option that actually made me feel like I was fueling my body. Lately I’ve been turning to gluten-free oatmeal with chia seeds, cinnamon, and some fruit. Today, I made my first mason jar steel cut oats.
- Swapping in brown rice or quinoa pasta- Italian cooking is huge in my family and I’m no exception. I’ve been doing whole grain pasta for a while, but recently was turned on to the idea of cutting out unnecessary gluten by trying alternative pasta types. Turns out, they’re just as good! And they make me feel better.
- Whole Milk- this is a really tough one for me as it’s been ingrained in my mind that skim milk is the only way to go if you want to be fit. But, since I’ve been eating healthier breakfasts, I have been using less milk and trying to just put a bit of whole milk in to cut down on hormones and processing. So far, so good.
For me, it’s all about small, simple changes and moderation. I’ll still have plenty of days where I eat regular pasta, or have cereal for breakfast because I feel like it. But I feel great knowing the foods that I’m choosing are contributing to my well being in a big way.
And it feels amazing to have kicked such a big food fear in my life.
P.S. it’s tough for me to talk about my past eating disorder, but it’s also incredibly important to me to be honest, vulnerable and to own my story. If you or someone you know is looking for help, here are a few incredible resources that helped me:
- Life Without Ed– an amazing book that is eye-opening if you’re in the midst of or recovering from an eating problem.
- Mary Dye– a wonderful and caring nutritionist in the city
- Erin Cohen– A counselor and great listener, whose support helped me to work through a lot of my early 20s anxiety.