The details of the story I’m about to share with you has been floating around in my mind for quite some time now. Ever since I read Renee‘s #RealDietStory. For some reason I haven’t felt comfortable enough to talk openly about my relationship to food on the blog, so I started small and shared this story to my email list 2 weeks ago. Now, once the initial scary part is over, I wanna share my (slightly updated) story here on the blog as well.
This is a topic I believe isn’t talked openly about enough. There are so many ways in which people are struggling with food and eating habits. Some can be placed under an eating disorder, and some are more vague or sporadic. Regardless of what you name it, talking about these struggles openly is paramount to breaking destructive eating habits and prevent it from becoming normalized.
By sharing my diet story I hope to bring out the courage in you guys, to speak up and put your own struggles into words. That is one helluva big step towards letting go of your complexes and start accepting your body!
So, inspired by Renee, here’s my Real Diet Story:
I was probably 10 or 11 the first time I remember being aware of my weight and that the cookies I ate weren’t “healthy”. That awareness didn’t have immediate consequences at the time, but around around the age of 13 I opted out the butter and cheese on my breakfast sandwich and replaced it with cucumber & tomato. At the same time I also began working out.
Suddenly I noticed all these faults on my body that I needed to correct. I’ve always been short and rather slender, but my desires for a lean body went beyond realism.
I loved cooking already then, so my newly arisen body awareness never made me skip a meal (except for that time around 14-15 when I would sleep in as long as possible so I would “miss” breakfast).
Instead, eating became a controlled pleasure. Never too much, and never too little either. Always at the right hour. Even if I was ravenous at 5 PM (because of poor school lunch) I didn’t allow myself to eat until dinner, simply because I wasn’t “supposed” to. It was too early, and everyone knows that snacking away in between meals isn’t good for you. Or at least that’s how I rationalized it.
For many years I was so focused on being at my optimal health and doing everything “right” that I completely missed the whole point. Which was actually feeling good in my body. I was healthy in theory. Working out 2-3 times a week, eating regular meals with lots of fresh vegetables and fruit. I was mindful with candy and took care of my teeth etc.
Whereas in reality, I had major stomach issues, anxiety, eczema, chronic throat ache, frequent colds, dry scalp and irregular sleep. I was irritable and impatient, and could snap or break down crying into my pillows for the smallest of things. Of course I was always mindful of keeping up a facade of being OK, which became increasingly difficult over time as the burden got heavier.
I pushed away people that were close to me simply because it took too much effort to stay in this persona I had built for myself. My longest relationship lasted for just under 2 years, and most jobs I only kept for a couple of months.
My controlling around what food I ate, how much of it and at what time of the day caused a lot of stress, which (I believe) in turn caused the hormone imbalance that I still struggle with today (well, birth control pills probably had something to do with it as well). Paradoxically, all these physical problems have a tendency to make me focus even more on the food. I believed (and still do at certain weak moments) that if I could only find the perfect formula of eating, I would heal myself.
Parallell to all this, I was experimenting with vegetarian food. I first became a vegetarian when I was 14, but at that time I think it was honestly an image thing. I was already a punk, a study nerd and apparently a lesbian (my schoolmates were way ahead of me when it came to figuring that out), so I might as well be a vegetarian too.
It wasn’t until I was 19 that I started reading up on the environmental side of the meat industry and learned about animal welfare. This made me more dedicated to my vegetarianism and it transformed into something beyond wellness. Ok, it was partly because of a boy (yeah, I still hadn’t figured that whole lesbian thing out just yet). So I really have this boy to thank for being my gateway into a more hardcore plant based eating.
At around 21, I was the skinniest I’ve ever been. I partied a lot for being an introvert, I felt insecure, unlovable and fake and I found comfort in looking good and performing well at Uni and through my creative projects. I kept my apartment tidy, my finances in control and I finally got accepted to Art School after years of trying. It was the perfect surface of having it all figured out and being on a path towards success.
At the same time, I felt bad when I missed a workout session and I punished myself for having candy at weak moments by being extra healthy the day after. I was constantly busy and notoriously afraid of being lazy. I was also constantly hangry from not eating enough calories. I realized I couldn’t care less about the relationship I was in because I was too busy with myself and my issues.
I couldn’t for my life figure out what the problem was. I was doing everything right.
I wish I could say that there was a certain event that made me feel like I’ve had enough of controlling and enough of trying to be good and please everyone. But it has rather been something gradual that happened alongside me figuring out some stuff about myself and how I wanna live.
I also started caring much less about my body when I started dating women. I guess there were less norms and expectations around how to look or behave in the queer community, and I found that very liberating and good for me.
I’ve written about my hormone imbalances and attempts to address those by changing my diet on the blog before, but every time I try and “fix” it, I fall back into these oh so familiar patterns of extreme control and sudden fears of random foods being “bad” for me. Given my orthorexic tendencies, restricting myself with diet simply doesn’t work.
I firmly believe that my physical issues in the past and now are rooted in psychological issues such as my “good girl complexes”, forcing myself into an extrovert lifestyle, suppressed sexual identity and not paying attention to my sensitivity and need of a radically different lifestyle than my peers.
I know now that these are the areas I need to address if I ever wanna be able to deal with my anxiety in a healthy way (which I btw still struggle with).
And as soon as I identified stress and related psychological issues as the root problem, I realized that the stress reaction in my body that happens when I start ruminating over “should I or should I not eat this thing” is causing me so much more harm than actually eating the thing itself. So when I catch myself thinking these thoughts, I just go ahead and eat the damn muffin or cookie before I can think twice.
The restriction of not eating meat is so habitual to me that I don’t even reflect on it (I’m coming up on 9 consistent years now), but for the sake of my own mental health, I allow myself to eat both dairy, sugar, gluten, coffee and occasionally alcohol when I feel the spur of the moment. I try to listen to what I want rather than what I should, and enjoy live as much as I can without feeling bad about my choices.
Today, as a part of my self subscribed cognitive behavioral therapy, I focus very hard on doing exactly the opposite as what I instinctively wanna do.
Here are some things that my rational self is telling me
1. It is probably wise to keep your day job as long as possible, until you’re sure that you can live off your freelancing.
2. At least keep it until you’ve landed a mortgage for that permanent home you’re planning to buy.
3. At least at least keep it until you have a little bit of savings in the bank.
4. You are very busy and very anxious this week so it’s best to isolate yourself and not see any friends.
5. You’ve been feeling so tired today and you have a long day tomorrow, so it’s best to skip that afternoon chocolate indulgence and make a nourishing smoothie instead.
6. Make sure to plan all your meals beforehand and bring food with you at all times. Then you can eat healthy meals at exactly the right hours every day and hence be at your optimal health.
And here’s what I do instead
1. Resign (true fact) 🎉
2. Trust that we will find a new home when the time comes and that there’s no point in ruminating over it.
3. Also trust that commissions will come and that my business will grow as long as I’m dedicated and keep showing up.
4. Go out mid week to listen to awesome music and stay a little extra long to drink prosecco and celebrate small victories.
5. Take a break, eat chocolate, watch a movie, be lazy! Instead of trying to push through the day despite being so tired and worn out.
6. Eat when I’m hungry and discover how cool it is that my body knows exactly what it needs and when if I only listen to it properly. Also discovering how much mind space I have when I let go of trying to plan out my meals beforehand all the time.
And as soon as I let go of control, it does wonders for my health.
I remember one specific moment from this summer during yoga practice, when I for the first time ever felt peaceful enough to be grateful for forces outside of myself instead of being so wrapped up in my own issues. I literally had nothing on my mind that I needed to address at that moment. Simply thanking mother nature and my friends and family at the end of practice was enough.
I wanna take the opportunity to thank you guys for always being so supportive of me. Otherwise I wouldn’t have the confidence to share these experiences with you. So thank you! For being here and for listening <3
If you think writing down your own #RealDietStory would give you some sense of relief (like it did for me), please do. I would love to read it!
When sharing, make sure to give credit to Renee of Will Frolic For Food for starting this initiative, and leave a comment below so that I can find your story :-)
Until next time,