At that time, it seemed like it was certainly “just a phase” – restricting eating, over-exercising, eating in private, and even bingeing on food. Everyone does it, as I remember telling myself in my head as I found myself spending an hour on the treadmill after cheerleading practice those nights, and deliberately “forgetting” to skip dinner. On other days, it seemed like I could eat an endless amount of ice cream, feel mildly satisfied, until a shadow of lurking guilt and shame came over me leading me to find the ice cream going right down the toilet drain that very same evening while the shower-head was running, hoping nobody in my parents’ home could hear their 16 year old daughter purging herself of such guilt and shame on a school night. I didn’t realize how much of a toxic relationship I had with my thoughts, actions and reactions with food.
It began with a diet. At 12 years old, it was a simple means to lose some weight I had put on after a 3 week trip to Europe. Combined with the early years of puberty, and a childhood of always being smaller-framed, a diet seemed like a quick fix to my feelings of insecurities of putting on a few extra pounds on my cheeks, thighs, and what felt like all over my body. Once again not realizing this 3-day diet was going to be the gateway to a series of irrational decision making with food, and body dysmorphia.
Over the years, nothing ever became truly extreme behavior; I was functioning fairly well, despite the loss of a father at 16, achieving high grades, working a part time job and also stayed highly involved on the school cheerleading team. Going to college, several of my old habits happened to wreak havoc on me as both food and alcohol became easily accessible escapes from the stressors of school, an attempt to self-identify with my own values and consequently, friends, my on-going appeasing my long-distance ex-boyfriend at the time with a body that I thought would increase my appeal to him over other girls he want to school with, and as always, trying to uphold all the high expectations of a high-achieving daughter, as my parents always had.
There was no clear point in time where I ever felt that I “overcame” this toxic relationship with food, but I can confidently say that I chose to do my best to part ways with the old ways of thinking of food (and drink) having certain “power” over my mindset, my actions and the way I chose to nourish my body.
It started with seeking professional help from a nutrition coach, and it took a lot of work. I didn’t realize that hiring her was going to become the turning point in which I was going to be able to regain my control and decision making power with food to better nourish my body, and to break the cycles of chronic under-eating, over-exercising and the occasional binge episodes. It took several months of steadfast diligence to eat enough, before I could even start counting macronutrients or weighing out food.
Working with my coach in conjunction with re-framing my exercise programming to focus on performance and opportunities to challenge myself, rather than “punishment” also led my body to respond differently to the way I ate and worked out. Eating more food, especially protein and carbohydrates, built new lean muscle for me. Increasing loads and varying intensity levels with my exercise broke the monotony of long, drawn-out sessions of cardio to “burn off” what I ate, and invigorated me with a new outlook on going to the gym.
Although it wasn’t a linear progression after hiring my nutrition coach and changing my exercise routine, looking back, I know that this was where the transformation begun–with a commitment to change. The best part about it? I was open-minded to this change. Unlike being distasteful to the changes in my body at age 12, or resistant to the many life changes my teenage and young-adult self had experienced, and masked that discomfort with food and drinking. It’s never been an easy road, as it never is, surviving any toxic relationship. Heck, there were times that weighing and measuring food, tracking it daily for a few years also turned on me. But today, I am a survivor, and you also–do not need to have food overpower you, your mind or body, and you can take control in your hands today, even if that’s by reaching out for help, or simply making a commitment to a life change.
Schedule a chat with our in-house nutrition coach, Cheryl by clicking this link. Your first consultation is free!