[May '09 - counting calories & deprivation] [Summer '12 - living my life - happy & carefree!]
note: I was not my heaviest here but still unhappy
One of the reasons I decided to pursue a career in holistic health counseling is because I’ve been there.
There as in a place where I tried everything (I mean everything!) to make my body change when it wouldn’t budge. There as in frantically adding up my calories for the day during Psychology class, while pretending to take notes. There as in canceling Mexican night with my girlfriends because I feared a margarita and quesadilla would make me fatter. There as in feeling like a little kid on Christmas every time the scale went down a pound, while feeling like I wanted to crawl in a hole and die every time it went up .2 pounds.
There as in hooking up with boys to make me feel better about myself and my body, and feeling I wasn’t skinny enough, pretty enough or good enough. There as in calling a pile of rice cakes with fat-free peanut butter “dinner.” There as in having a mental breakdown every time I ate something “bad” and then rushing to the gym to “burn it off.” There as in looking in the mirror and hating what I saw.
Throughout my teenage years and part of my early-twenties, I tried hundreds of diets, shed countless tears, consumed pounds of “diet” food (I call it fake food now) and yo-yoed up and down in weight. Every day, I felt frustrated, tired and guilty. I wanted answers and I wanted them now but I was looking in all the wrong places: diets, restriction, outside approval.
I remember when I became fed up for the 1,000th time, I finally scheduled an appointment with a local nutritionist the summer after graduating from college. She had me bring in a list of everything I was eating, and so I did. It looked pretty much like this: egg beaters with veggies for breakfast, salads with fat-free dressing for lunch and diet meals or grilled chicken strips and microwavable veggies for dinner. I also consumed fruit, rice cakes, fat-free cheeses, sugar-free jello, Crystal Light, and anything labeled “Low Calorie!” or “Low fat!”
The nutritionist weighed me, told me that I was overweight for my weight range, looked at my food journal, and then I’ll never forget what she said to me next: “Nothing here stands out to me. It all comes down to one thing. You must be eating too many calories. Calories in, calories out.” Mind you, at the time I was exercising nearly every day!
I left there feeling completely shocked. Less calories, is she kidding me? I, even during my most distorted views on food, knew that couldn’t be right. I already knew I was restricting myself and that restricting myself even further wasn’t the answer. Looking back, I now can clearly see I was forcing my body in a state of starvation mode, wasn’t eating enough and most importantly wasn’t eating REAL FOOD. I was nutritionally deficient! No wonder I wasn’t happy with my body, nor losing weight.
But what that nutritionist said really stuck with me. The next day, I woke up and realized I had two choices. I could (a) continue the way I was eating and spend a lifetime depriving myself & cut my calories further as the nutritionist recommended or (b) Forget everything I ever told myself about eating and just live.
The thought of the first option made me sick to my stomach. If all of my friends can go out for pizza without having a panic attack and eat whatever the heck they wanted, then why should I need to cut back further? It simply didn’t seem fair. It wasn’t right, and I knew it. So I went with the latter, and decided that if I’m not losing weight by restricting myself to the limits, why not enjoy life instead even if that means gaining a couple of pounds?
I have to be honest: it was scary at first. Eating whatever I wanted, listening to my body (something I’ve never done) and trying to eat “normal” was so outside my comfort zone. But I did it. And every day it became easier. The best part? Once I started fueling my body with REAL food, loving myself for who I am, and experimenting with exercises that made me feel good inside, to my surprise the weight fell off.
I proved that nutritionist wrong.
A calorie is not a calorie if you’re nutritionally deficient and putting chemicals into your body. Cutting back on calories isn’t going to make you lose weight if you are not happy on the inside. Living at the gym is not going to make frat boys want you more if you are not in love with yourself first. What you eat isn’t nearly as important as HOW YOU FEEL. Your relationship with yourself & your body is the most intimate and precious relationships of all. Women don’t need to spend their lives feeling guilty, alone and deprived. Life is meant to me enjoyed to the fullest!
This does not have to be you! If you see yourself in my story, please don’t hesitate to email me. I am here for you because I would have died to have someone hold my hand, listen to me and tell me it was all going to be OK, to ask me “How do you feel?” So yes, I’ve been there…I’ve been SO there. And now I’m here to be there for YOU. Check out my health coaching programs for opportunities to work with me one-on-one. In the meantime, you can check out these 10 positive mantras I told myself to break free of diet-obsessed living.