What you see now: a gal who eats dessert every day, enjoys going out to dinner with friends, doesn’t stress about food, and eats intuitively – all while still reaching her fitness goals.
What you don’t see: the 8 years I struggled with disordered eating and thought I’d never be able to have a good relationship with food.
Growing up, I was always a super active kid. I played several different sports over the years and was also a big dancer. I basically lived off carbs and chocolate (not much has changed now tbh) but never worried about my body because of (a) genetics and (b) my activity level.
But then… middle school hit. And my body started changing.
I could actually tell you the exact week I started becoming conscious of how my body looked and thought to myself, “maybe I should start eating healthier and doing actual workouts.”
This wasn’t inherently a bad thing, but it quickly spiraled into one.
What started out as me just making healthier swaps like making a bowl of oatmeal with fruit and nuts for breakfast instead of toaster waffles turned into an obsession with health (in reality, what I was doing couldn’t be farther from healthy).
Just 6 months later, when I was 12 years old, I was diagnosed with Anorexia and forced to go into inpatient care because of how low my weight had gotten.
I spent several months progressing through the various levels of treatment – inpatient, partial hospitalization, and then intensive outpatient.
By the time I was discharged from the program and sent back to “normal life,” I’d regained some weight but hadn’t gotten to the root of my issues at all. That was the hard part, and what I spent the next ~7 years of my life recovering from.
I used to believe that I’d never fully recover. That I’d carry even just a small piece of my eating disorder with me for the rest of my life. I am so thankful and proud to say now that I was wrong!
It’s difficult for me to clearly explain my journey or exactly what I did to fully recover. But, what I can do is share the lessons that I’ve learned over many hard years.
Whether you’ve had a diagnosed eating disorder or have simply struggled with your relationship with food in any way – as I believe most of us have at one point or another – I hope I can provide some light by sharing my experiences!
3 Things I Learned When I Was Healing My Relationship With Food:
Stress about food is worse for you than any food itself.
Oh man, I can’t even tell you the amount of stress I’ve put myself through over the years because of food! There’s no doubt in my mind that this stress did more harm to my body than ANY of the foods I was stressing over would’ve.
And even more than that, I lost out on so much else in life. Experiences, friendships, family, travel… everything suffered because of my unhealthy relationship with food.
I encourage you to ask yourself, “do I feel like I’m sacrificing other important things in my life for my diet?” If so, it likely isn’t sustainable for you.
Yes, food is a big part of our lives – not only do we need it for fuel, but it is also pretty central to socialization. However, it shouldn’t rule our lives or our thoughts.
If I could speak to my younger self, I’d tell her to go eat the damn pizza with friends! There are so many aspects to health aside from food (like relationships), but we often put far more weight on food and exercise. In reality, they all work together and are all equally important! Don’t forget it 😉
Restriction is never the answer.
Restriction is not sustainable. I can firmly say that I will never again cut out any foods from my life unless I have a medical necessity to do so.
Anytime I told myself in the past that I couldn’t eat X, or could only have Y amount of X, it never worked. All it did was make me crave that food MORE.
The biggest example of this in my life is chocolate. I love chocolate. Always have, always will. But for about two years during my eating disorder, I completely cut out ALL SUGAR. After all, everyone says sugar is bad for you… right?
Well, depriving yourself of the things you love and enjoy is arguably worse (like I talked about in #1). When I finally started allowing myself to eat chocolate again, I felt out of control around it. It seemed like I was craving it 24/7 and could never have enough! I panicked and thought, “maybe I just can’t control myself around it.” I listened to people who said to just not buy or keep it in the house so that it doesn’t tempt me. However, this is just another form of restriction, so I found myself still thinking about and craving chocolate all the time.
I knew in my heart that I wanted to get to a place where I could keep chocolate in my house without feeling out of control around it. But I was scared to do what I knew I needed to do to get there: give myself unrestricted access to it.
As scary as it was, I did it anyway. I bought the chocolate foods I loved and craved, and ate them when I wanted to. Yes, in the beginning, I ate a lot of these foods. But after a while of consistently honoring my cravings, these foods started to lose their power in my mind. They were taken off their pedestal.
It took a long time, and there were many ups and downs, but now I am in a place where I don’t feel like I have to control myself around food. And let me tell you, it is SO FREEING!
Life is wayyy too short to deprive yourself of the things that bring you joy.
Your relationship with exercise and your body goes hand-in-hand with your relationship with food.
I remember when I was a teenager, I sent my mom pictures of a fitness influencer on Instagram who shared her journey of gaining weight/muscle. I asked my mom, “do you think I would look good if I gained muscle like her?”
Again, I knew in my heart that that was what I needed and wanted, but I was scared and looking for reassurance. For so long, I was a dancer whose only wish was to be smaller and eat as little as possible. Could I really turn that all around?
Well, thank goodness I did because it saved my life. Once I started weightlifting, my whole view of food changed in the best way possible. Food became a tool to reach my goals, not the enemy.
I realized how important it was for me to have a relationship with exercise that empowered a healthy relationship with food. For me, that meant strength training, because how would I be able to lift heavier and get those gains if I wasn’t eating enough?!
Essentially, I’m describing my mindset change from skinny to strong. I know, I know… it may be cringy, but it really was a game-changer in my life. Point is, if you’re looking to improve your relationship with food, I encourage you to explore how your relationship with exercise may be affecting it – is it helping, or is it harming?
It took me many years to get to the point of having a good relationship with food. Also, I’m still not perfect. I have my bad days just like everybody else. And that’s totally ok! Like any other relationship, relationships with food will always be a work in progress. No matter where you are in your journey or what you’re struggling with, give yourself grace.
The final thought that I want to leave you with is this: there is A LOT of noise out there on the internet, lots of people’s thoughts, opinions, etc. (including my own as I shared here!) especially these days about diet and food. I can’t emphasize how important it is to learn to tune out all of the noise that doesn’t serve you. Nobody can tell you what you need or what is best for you other than yourself.
You’ve got this!!