It took me a long time to figure out my nutrition. As a teenager who was unhappy with her body, I started experimenting with restricting fat from my diet as young as 14. That quickly moved to restricting calories and exercising obsessively. When I graduated high school, my dress was a double zero, I was under 90lbs (40kg), and my mother was in tears because she thought she was going to lose me. I had anorexia nervosa, and while I was under a doctor’s and a dietician’s care, I didn’t really want any help getting better. Food was something I had full control over and it wasn’t something I was ready to give up.
A swing in the opposite direction
During my university years, I struggled with depression and ended up putting on some weight. I was binging (mostly on ice cream, sometimes on cereal, or cake, or bread: anything high in feel-good carbohydrates), but I couldn’t bring myself to throw up, so I would exercise compulsively. I was still unsatisfied with my body. Nothing seemed to help. My binge eating worsened and my weight ballooned. In less than 4 years, I had gone from my lowest weight to my highest.
A new discovery
After university I backpacked around Europe for three months. I was no longer working out, but I walked everywhere, only taking public transport if it was absolutely necessary. I had been vegetarian for a number of years already and I continued this while in Europe. My eating naturally relaxed (mostly… I still wasn’t keen on fat in my diet); I was on a budget and I also wanted to be able to eat the traditional cultural food of the area I was in. I fell in love with bread and cheese while in France, and pizza and gelato while in Italy. I had forgotten that eating could be pleasurable, that food can taste good, that eating with friends is about connection.
A better approach
Upon returning home, I tried to be more open-minded about my nutrition, but it was an ongoing challenge. Wanting to be ‘healthier’, I started tracking calories again. The difference was this time my aim was 1800-2000/day instead of less than 1200. I also felt more comfortable eating out at restaurants, as long as I was able to check out the menu first to see what would fit into my daily allotment. I added white meat and fish back into my diet and the amount of food I felt was on the ‘good’ list was much bigger than before. Overall I was feeling better and looking better and I had found a better balance with my nutrition.
No more calorie counting!
I lived in Australia for two years, in 2008-09 and in 2013. Their nutrition labelling is different than nutrition labelling in Canada. Instead of calories, they use kilojoules; 1 calorie = 4 kilojoules. I was still counting my calories and I remember little scrap pieces of paper everywhere, trying to keep track of how many calories/kilojoules I was consuming. Sometime in 2013, I gave up; it was doing my head in doing the constant math for everything I was putting in my mouth. Giving that up (eagerly, I might add, with no second thoughts) was one of the best decisions I made for my mental and physical health.
A continuing experiment
In my late thirties I dated a man who loved food. One of our first dates was at a pizzeria and while I ate pizza, it was usually vegetarian with a little cheese; a nutritionally sound choice. On this date, he ordered chicken wings and lasagne, two foods I hadn’t eaten since my early teens. We had just done a long hike in the nearby National Park and I was starving. Despite having some anxious thoughts about the food we were about to share, I dug in and… I enjoyed it! Every bite. With him I explored so many more foods, dishes, and cuisines; we were constantly trying new things, whether it was in our kitchen, at a local restaurant, or abroad. While our relationship didn’t last, I am grateful that he helped me on my nutrition journey. While discovering new foods, I was also learning how to nourish my body and listen to my hunger cues. My body responded in turn and I felt good about how I looked and how I felt. I was strong, capable, and fit.
Now in my forties, I feel healthier and happier than I’ve ever been and there is no doubt that my nutrition plays an integral role. My love is as passionate about food as he is about cooking, and we both enjoy preparing healthy, flavourful meals. I meal plan and we grocery shop, being mindful of our budget. My nutrition is continually evolving, as I’m now pregnant and my body has different needs. It will continue to evolve as we age as well; it should evolve as you enter different life stages. I believe eating healthy and nourishing your body can be so much simpler than what the diet industry wants you to believe. If you read my story and recognize parts of your story in mine, or if you’re intrigued by a simpler way to feel better about yourself and what you eat, check out my Wellness 360 coaching programs, schedule a free Discovery Call, or send me an email for more information. I would be happy to guide you on your wellness journey!