18 Jun MY ROCKY ROAD TO FINDING FREEDOM WITH FOOD
Hey guys! Welcome to my first “lifestyle” blog post. I thought choosing such an emotional topic for my first post was appropriate to write on so you can learn more about me – the real, raw, unedited me. And to know that we all struggle a time or two (or three..) in our lives and it’s OKAY. It is how we grow and learn; and I am thankful for all challenges in my life and for the journey I am on. Everything happens for a reason. But, remember – you are never alone. It’s okay to seek help.
Let me start off by sharing my eating habits growing up; I did not pay any attention to what I was putting in my body. I did not think twice about it actually. Although, I wouldn’t say I had the “best” diet, I did listen to my body and gave it what I thought it needed when it needed it. When I was a child, I loved sugary candy and chicken fingers. My mom cooked dinner mostly every night (meat, potatoes, vegetable – the SAD diet) and packed my lunch everyday (PB&J on whole wheat bread with an apple – seriously every single day). Breakfast was nothing or a bar (Special K breakfast bars – remember those? – filled with chemicals and processed sugar..yumm!) and I had an IV of diet coke in me at all times from high school till a few years after college. Cheese-Itz, wheat thins and goldfish were my favorite snacks. I ran cross-country and track in high school and in college I would make it to the gym once or twice a week on a “good” week. Did I paint the picture well? A girl who could eat whatever and still look thin. I was never educated on food and how it can either nourish or destroy our bodies. Food was never on my radar; I ate when I was hungry and didn’t when I wasn’t. I was always tall and thin; and as a matter of fact, I remember being told often that I was “so tiny”. So I never thought I had anything to worry about.
Throughout high school I started having digestive issues and was diagnosed with “IBS” … which I have shorten to a “BS”. What was making my bowel irritable? No doctor could tell me. No doctor related my symptoms to my diet or lifestyle. They also said they weren’t sure why it happens, but I could take some prescription anti-acids to help.
I took it upon myself to cut out greasy, cheesy and fried foods, which improved it slightly. However, my diet coke did not leave my side and either did the stress and anxiety I was starting to have and internalize. The stress of being in high school and now having to figure out where to go to college, managing relationships and what I want to do with my life etc… filled my head constantly.
I did figure out where I ultimately wanted to go to college (MSU – Go green!) and that was filled with partying (a lot of partying), eating jimmy johns subs, late night pizza, inconsistent sleep schedules, and now the stress of figuring out what I am going to do college, and of course diet coke always.
Fast forward to after college and after multiple panic attacks about what I was going to do with my life, where I was going to work, if and when I would meet someone, will I be happy etc… (because in that moment, I was not); and I had gained 25 pounds. No one was referring to me as “so tiny” anymore. I was stressed, I was unhappy, I was “fat” (in my eyes) and I was only eating chemicals (looking back I notice this now). A normal meal to me back then was a some big sandwich or burger (with a bun), fries, a beer AND a diet coke and of course some cookies or something sweet for dessert. Fruit and vegetables had little place in my diet.
One evening post college when I was living at home, I was getting ready to go out with my friends and realized I had NOTHING to wear; my jeans stopped fitting. I starting sobbing. I ran to the mall and got a “cute” jumpsuit to wear (because jumpsuits were cool at that time;-)). That same evening I woke up at 2 am with a terrible stomach ache and passed out on the bathroom floor. Passing out was nothing new to me. I first passed out in 4th grade when I was being accused of stealing something that I DID NOT steal (stress has a very physical effect on my body clearly). And after that, I had had a few fainting episodes to which I never got an explanation of why.
This specific time stuck with me though, it is when I realized I needed to go to the doctor and get some answers on why this is happening and get serious about my health. My doctor did an exam and ran some tests that all came out fine, and ultimately told me I could lose some weight and watch my diet. I was shocked. No one has ever told me I needed to lose weight. I thought I was always “the skinny one”. No one has ever told me I needed to pay attention to my diet either. I thought to myself, what have I done? I was unhappy, hated my job, hated where I was living, and now I am being told I am unhealthy and fat.
Panicked by my doctor’s advice, I started googling how to eat healthy, what to eat, how many calories I should be eating, how to burn fat, how to lose weight etc. I got serious…and obsessed. I also thought “no wonder I am single, no wonder I am not happy.” The negative self talk about myself was real.
Through my research I found “my fitness pal”, – an app I could track all my calories. I thought it was perfect; I could track EVERYTHING and easily lose weight. Because a calorie in, calorie out, it is simple math, right? (we now all know that is not how it works).
Shortly after that doctors appointment, I moved out of my parent’s house and got my own condo. Trying to seek happiness, independence, and control of my life, I thought getting my place was the right step. I always knew I wanted to move to NYC, but I did not have the money and my parents were not willing to support my move financially. So, I was not only going to control my diet and exercise, I was also going to start to be VERY strict with my finances. After all, I couldn’t afford to drink or eat out (for multiple reasons – calories and finances considered) so this was all working perfectly…. 😉 I was “getting it together” so I thought….
I started running again, added HOT yoga to my exercise routine, and started putting EVERYTHING I ate into my app. Every single almond, every single carrot, every GLASS OF WATER… It was tracked. I had a schedule as if I was training for a marathon or a wrestler trying to move down a weight class. My determination and dedication was impressive, I must say. A trait of mine that can be a blessing and a curse. My workouts were as follows: Monday I ran 6 miles, Tuesday I ran 3-4 and did yoga after work, Wednesday ran another 6 miles, Thursday was like Tuesday and Friday was my “rest day” – just a quick and easy 3-4 miles. Saturday and Sunday were 75 min HOT yoga classes. I recorded my workouts everyday on a calendar. At the end of the month, I would tally up how many miles I ran and how many yoga classes I did, and each month tried to do more than the last.
My meals were PLANNED OUT without any room for error. No matter what I felt like eating or what my body was trying to tell me I needed, I had a strict schedule to follow if I wanted to lose weight and “be healthy” so I ignored it all. Breakfast was a few almonds or ½ a banana, with a plain fat free yogurt and some berries. Lunch was greens, cucumber, canned tuna, carrots, peppers, banana peppers, fat free feta cheese, with red wine vinegar. My “Carb” was pop chips 100 calorie pack. My afternoon snack was a bar of some sort (which I stressed over way too much). “Was I going to burn it off? Do I need it? Can I get through my work out without it?” Those were the thoughts that filled my head all day long. Dinner was one of 1 of 2 things. Eggs with veggies and a ½ an English muffin with 1 tablespoon of peanut butter OR veggie stir fry (no oil) just some low sodium soy sauce. No rice, just veggies and tofu. I FEARED fat and carbs. No olive oil. No avocados. No fat at all except some nuts in moderation because I read almonds can help you lose weight. I even was afraid of a banana because of all the carbs and sugar. Looking back, I was SO misinformed. I had the same grocery list every week and I ate the same meals everyday. I allowed myself $100 dollars a week to spend. $50 went towards groceries and the other $50 went towards anything I needed to buy that week (that included if I needed paper towel or toilet paper for my condo). It was TIGHT.
After about 8 months of this behavior, a suffered social life, a very agitated personality and 35 pounds gone; people started to voice their concerns. I was not interested in hearing anything anyone had to say though. And to those who were concerned, I was very convincing at telling them that I did not have a problem and I was okay. And I am sure some noticed and were too afraid to say anything. For those who did voices their thoughts, my thoughts were: “people run marathons – I’m running 20-30 miles a week, that is nothing, people do that all the time”. I would go to yoga and see people doing double classes. I did only one a day, I was fine. I eat bigger meals (big salads) than most the people I know. I am FINE. I told myself all day, everyday I am fine, I am doing everything right – I am eating well and working out – that is what you are “suppose to do”. The mind is very powerful, the more you tell yourself something, you truly do start to believe it. I was in denial and I was also too embarrassed to even THINK I had an issues, so I did not even let my mind travel there. But, at that same time, I was questioning myself constantly on if what I was putting in my mouth would make me gain weight. I would have the worst anxiety having to go to work dinners or any social events where there would be food served. But, the truth is I was so addicted to the fact that I could control something in my life and see a result. It was a high. I have control over something and I was seeing “positive” results.
I woke up one morning and I weighed myself (as I did every morning – I was addicted to the scale). It said 95 lbs. Now, I am 5’6, so you do the math, but that number shook me. That is not a comfortable or “healthy” weight for ME. I had a panic attack. I started sobbing. Asking myself: “What did I do to myself? I did not do this intentional, I was trying to lose some weight and be “healthier”. How did this happen?” I also didn’t know what to do. I ignored my emotions, as I was really good at doing and just kept going with the same habits. I kept internalizing. This is when I realized, wait I may have an issue and it scared me.
One afternoon a few days later, I had an annual gyno appt. I left work, had my exam, and she did some blood work – which was unusual for an annual exam. She asked me about my low weight, but I lied and told her I was training for a marathon and I’m eating as much as I can. She seemed suspicious but didn’t push, and just told me to make sure to eat more. She also said she would call with the results. The office called a few days later and said the doctor wanted me to come in and talk about the results. I said I didn’t have time, you can tell me over the phone. She refused. So, I went back a few days later, to find out that my pap was fine, but my blood work results came back and were not fine. They showed my liver was not functioning correctly, my body was eating my muscle to stay alive, among a few other levels that were off, and she wanted me to check into an inpatient rehab center for my “eating disorder”. She said she called ahead and they were “awaiting my arrival”. Say what? Eating disorder? Umm, okay? I looked at her like she was nuts. I grabbed the paperwork, refused the care (which I had to sign off for), and cried in my car on my way back to work. I did not share this information with anyone except my mom and a few family members, and even when I told them, I totally dumbed down the results to make it sound not as serious. I did not have an eating disorder I told myself. I just need to not be so strict with my eating a gain a few lbs and ill be fine. I thought my body just loses weight easily and I got a little too carried awayy with working out. But, basically I felt like I needed to gain a few pounds so people will get off my case.
About a month after that doctor appointment and minimal change in my habits and behavior, I got some GOOD NEWS! I got a job offer in NYC and I took it without question. I was ready to move. Perfect time right? 😉 (yes and no) This is what I have been waiting for and wanting for SO long. I feel SO drawn to the city. My heart still fills with love when I think about the city. My love for NYC is real – I believe I have had past lives there, but I digress for now….
The company that I accepted the job with needed me to start in 3 weeks. So that meant, I got out of my current lease on my condo, quit my job in Michigan, sold everything I owned on craigslist and had a garage sale (yes, for real and it was highly successful); and moved to NYC with only 2 suitcases. For the first month, I stayed with my friend in her Dad’s apartment in Harlem while I got settled in the big apple.
I was VERY happy to be in NYC. I felt so FREE. And to this day I can honestly, genuinely say that. I felt at home. I felt relaxed. There was a sense of calm over me and there was so much stress lifted. Which is funny to me because I was living in what has been described as probably the most stressful city in the US. But, t that moment, I finally felt like I was living my own life and I was where I wanted to be. I felt like a prisoner in Michigan because I wanted more for myself and I wasnt sure how to get there in a healthy way. I was not happy in Michigan and convinced myself I was not going to be happy till I made it to NYC. So, I finally felt happiness and I had not felt that in SO long. I followed a dream of mine and made it happen. I was starting to gain my self-confidence again. I was proud of myself because I really did work so hard to find a job and make the move on my own financially independent.
While settling into NYC living, my best friend and I found an apartment we loved and moved in within a month. It was steps away from the park and steps away from our offices. However, by the time we moved in, the job I moved out there for did not work out and I was left jobless with a big fat rent bill every month. But again, I felt relieved. That job was not right for me, it was just the ticket to get me to NYC. I was done being unhappy. Life is short. I saved A LOT of money. I could afford to be without a job for a while. I was not stressed and I was excited to be free and see where life was going to take me.
After all the hype of moving and getting my apartment started to wear off, it was then I finally was able to see where I needed to improve, admit an had an issue and knew I did not want this battle with food anymore. Regardless of what others were telling me, I made the decision to finally seek help and began seeing a psychologist who specialized in eating disorders. Ultimately, it was the help I needed and was too scared to ask for before. I felt safe talking to her without feeling any judgment. It felt SO good to release all my emotions that I have been bottling up for years. This is when I started to break those restrictive eating habits. I deleted the “my fitness pal app”. I started to tone down my workouts. I started being more social. And I started talking about all emotions I was feeling ,and deal with them rather than suppressing them. It was not easy or seamless though; even after I stopped starving myself, I started overeating, which was not healthy either. I had been ignoring my body and mind for SO long that I did not know how to figure what my body needed and how much. But, once I started to be more in tune with myself, and listen, I was able to stopped fearing food and started looking at it as a way to nourish me.
Things I’ve learned through this experience:
- A lot of what we put in (or do not put it) our mouths is a reflection on how we feel about ourselves and what is going on in our lives. When people are unhappy so over eat and some under eat. I did not love myself at that moment where I developed those strict obsessive habits and I was not happy with my career or some relationships. I had no joy in my life. I talked a lot of shit to myself too. But, once I started loving myself, I stopped abusing myself.
- Do not compare! What works for one person may not work for you. This is how I got in trouble in the first place. Although my emotions and control were leading this destructive behavior, looking at what other people were eating and how other people were working out was not serving me. I was constantly ignoring my own mind and body . You have to do what works for you and never compare or try to mimic others in any aspect of your life. The only way to do that is to be true to yourself and let your intuition guide you. I am all about trying new things, but listening to my body and seeing if this is something that serves ME.
- Food should not cause stress. We have a culture that is so focused on diet and exercise and fearing sugar and carbs and fat. Rather than just listening to our bodies and giving it when it needs and enjoying. Food is here to nourish us! There should be no guilt, shame or worry around it. If you do feel that, that is OKAY and there are things you can do to create a healthier relationship with food. You are worthy and you deserve that.
- Let your intuition guide you. For so long I was going against everything my mind and body were telling me. Once I started to listen, I was able to respond and heal mentally and physically.
- Slow down. Slowing down (I was addicted to the go go go – rush rush rush everywhere lifestyle) allowed me to become more in tune with my mind and body, and helped me understand what makes ME feel best. I could hear my thoughts, listen and react; rather than suppress and ignore.
- Therapy is the bomb. I think EVERYONE should have a therapist. It is a healthy way to express your emotions and work through everything life throws at us. Therapy should not be looked at as a “weakness” or that you must have something “wrong” with you if you go to a therapist. I truly believe having a therapist can be a form a self-care.
- Be happy where you are, while manifesting what you want. I was SO focused on what I did not like about myself and my life, I was not focusing on loving myself and manifesting what the universe can provide for me.
So whether you have experienced a rocky relationship with food in the past or are currently, know you are not alone. Do not be afraid to seek help. Do not be ashamed or embarrassed. We are all human. And you are strong and supported always.
Thanks for reading and following along on my journey. I truly believe we go through these experiences for many reasons, but one is to be able to share and help others. I felt I was doing a disservice to not share my story. If just ONE person reads this and can benefit from it, then this is all worth it to me. <3
Feel free to comment below, I would love to hear from you guys!