My story seems pretty simple from the outside – I lost weight, I learned how to eat healthy, and now I make healthy recipes. But of course, there’s more than meets the eye. I hated my body – but I learned to love it. Self love takes time – but it works. Here’s my story, I hope it helps you feel less alone in your struggles too.
I HATED MY BODY
I always hated my body as a young girl. I cried in the dressing rooms, I stared in the mirror holding my belly thinking, “if only I could get rid of this, I would feel better.” Thankfully, my weight didn’t always reflect the way I felt about myself on the inside. I was happy – except when I had to look in the mirror or stare at photos of myself. I decided I hated my body and that feeling lasted almost a lifetime.
FOOD WAS MY COMFORT
I’m an only child and my parents were divorced when I was in second grade. While my family kept me stable, my life was constantly changing. Both of my parents moved to many different homes and, while I spent most of my time with my amazing mom, I also spent a lot of time with my grandparent, aunts, and cousins. The divorce didn’t isolate me, in fact I think it was, in some ways, a gift to spend more time with the people I loved.
For this reason, despite my battle on the inside with my body image, I thankfully had an amazing childhood. But I was still sad and lonely. Having very few friends and constantly packing my bags to spend time with my dad took a toll on my emotions. I believe that’s where food became my comfort.
Food was there for me as entertainment and for fun when I was feeling sad or alone.
CHOOSING HEALTHY OPTIONS WAS CONFUSING
Bless my mom for being an amazing, healthy cook and teaching me how to eat healthy since I was little. My mom raised me on organic baby food and always fed me healthy, home cooked meals. My favorite example of how I used to eat is when I would bring hummus and tabouli with pita bread for lunch in elementary school. Let’s just say I had an early appreciation for cultural foods.
Here’s where the problem was. While I chose the healthy options my mom had taught me, when I visited other family members, I didn’t know what to do. My dad ate at fast food restaurants and bought the sugary rainbow kids cereal that I didn’t eat at home with my mom. Spending time with my grandparents, aunts and cousins was also a sugar fest with unhealthy foods. My mom’s mom and my mom are both health conscious, while my aunts had pantries that looked like junk food heaven.
I STARTED GETTING ADDICTED TO SUGAR
I tried making the healthiest food choices from a young age – ordering the salad when my Dad would take me to McDonalds, and feeling guilty if I ordered the chicken nuggets instead. I chose whole wheat bread instead of white, and I always had lettuce on my sandwiches. But like any kid – I also loved sugar.
I was overindulging in sugar whenever I got it – eating sleeves of Oreos, bowls and bowls of sugar cereal at my dad’s, and packages of Gushers and Fruit by the Foot at my aunts. When I visited my other aunt, the excitement of the dinosaur egg kids oatmeal and Toaster Strudel had me captivated. It’s not that we didn’t have sugar at my house, it’s that ours was “healthy” sugar, and none of it was as fun, colorful, and “bad for you” like the foods my cousins ate. The one exception was in elementary school. Every once in a while my mom and I would have something we called “snack attacks” for fun – it was a night where we would indulge in snacks, candies, and desserts while we watched movies.
Sugar became my way of having fun.
I BEGAN BINGE EATING
The restriction and mental games I had around sugar impacted my whole life. I became a closeted sugar binge eater. In middle school, I would come home and eat spoonfuls of Hershey’s Syrup with whipped cream before anyone else got home (why? – it was the closest thing to “bad” food that my mom kept in the house… and “bad” food is was I really wanted).
I had this inner desire to indulge in the colorful sugary experience of “bad” foods, but I realize now I just wanted to have some fun.
During high school I worked at ice cream shops and bakeries, where my addiction to sugary foods grew even stronger, and my embarrassment of how much I was eating – because I knew that it wasn’t healthy – made me hide what I was eating. The cycle of binge eating sugar became normal from that point forward. I hated my body for looking like it did and I blamed food for my lack of self love.
I CONSTANTLY COMPARED MYSELF TO OTHERS
In high school I chose the whole wheat bread at the sandwich line and ate the salad along with the ziti at cheerleading pasta parties. I knew how to eat “healthy” – and I ate vegetables, chose whole wheat products, and didn’t eat fast food. I was upset that while I ate “healthy” – I never had the pretty, skinny body like the girls my age who ate garbage foods all the time… and I absolutely hated my body for that, Why couldn’t I have a pretty skinny body like them? Why could they eat the bad foods and not gain weight? Why could they sit down at a meal and not finish the food in front of them? I knew if I ate the same thing they ate, I would eat at least twice as much.
I STARTED EXERCISING
Freshman year of college I started an exercise routine because I wanted to lose weight and I hated my body after spending a year in college and slowly gaining weight. I used the elliptical for an hour nearly every day. And I started learning how to use dumbbells and barbells, and how to do ab exercises. I found exercise videos on YouTube and followed along.
During my sophomore year of college, I started commuting to school instead of living there. Since I was living back at home I joined New York Sports Club, my local gym. I did Zumba classes and a few other group exercises they had available and started working out with the free weights in the gym. I also had an intense motivation to practice yoga during the winter of sophomore year of college. I was taking yoga classes and practicing every day – as close to 24/7 as I could get. That winter I also started a food blog and spent more time upside down working on my handstand progression than right side up.
AND THEN I STARTED COUNTING CALORIES
During the same winter I started yoga, I looked a lot into healthy eating and what the best diets were. While I had tried eating even “healthier” than normal since I started exercising, I never really “dieted”. I knew I could get better and faster results if I dieted more seriously, so the winter I started yoga I also started counting calories and recording my food in a fitness app on my phone.
But that wasn’t enough to get me the body I wanted. During the spring I discovered a calorie calculator called IIFYM (if it fits your macros) – and limited my calories to 1400 a day based on my weight loss goals. The more counting I did, the more restrictive I was with my food. I also was interested in the healthiest foods – so I limited sugar, bread, carbs, and all treats. I ate tons of vegetables and even experimented going vegetarian for a brief amount of time. During the next few months (the summer going into my junior year of college) I became more obsessed with working out than I’ve ever been. Everything I did was about changing my body. I worked out regularly, most often waking up to workout before my internship. I drastically increased the intensity of my workouts, while also decreasing the calories I allowed myself every day.
I WAS STARVING MYSELF
I woke up hungry, I went to bed hungry, and I felt horrible. I was over-exhausted and I was clearly starving myself, but I refused to see it. I would break from my restriction only to devour cartons of ice cream, cookies, and any snacks in the house I could get my hands on. I felt ashamed and would hide my binges from my family. What I was doing was not sustainable, and something had to change.
But I still counted my calories and restricted myself. I would bring pre-measured bags of cereal with me to Mick’s house in fear of not having the “right” food to eat. I also continued doing a lot of research into food, fitness, and health throughout my junior year of school. While I started opening up to Mick and my mom about my binges, no one understood just how deeply my issues with food were rooted.
I GOT PLANTAR FASCITIS
While I don’t know the cause for sure, I believe I abused my body so badly that I gave myself plantar fasciitis (a debilitating foot pain that makes it nearly impossible to walk at times). I had to deal with this from the winter of junior year and struggled all the way through the summer after my graduation.
That’s almost two years of pain. The plantar fasciitis left me debilitated to the point where I would crawl from my bedroom to the bathroom in the morning because I couldn’t walk. I was depressed and saddened – to make matters worse I couldn’t work out consistently and my obsession with my health was only making everything worse. While I eventually healed my feet thanks to my family’s persistence to get me well, I had to do a lot of soul-searching to heal my body.
I TURNED PALEO INTO AN EATING DISORDER
The summer of my senior year in college I started shifting from counting calories to going paleo. I truly think the paleo diet, and understanding the role of sugar, allowed my to shift my mindset around food. Instead of counting calories, I discovered a different view on health and a gained new understanding of the role that food played in my mental ability to say no to binges. It took the blame away from me, and place it on the food. Instead of something wrong with me, I could now get rid of the food that made me feel so badly in the first place.
However, paleo turned into yet another control issue with food. Instead of feeling like I hated my body, I felt this fear of unhealthy food. Completely quitting sugar made me crazy. I would have no sugar for weeks at a time and then I’d allow myself to have a little taste of something sweet. After that one little taste, all hell broke loose and I’d go way overboard. Once again, I was back to eating cartons of ice cream until I felt sick and depressed.
I FINALLY TOLD MY BOYFRIEND
I began talking to Mick about my problems and let him in on my binge eating because, like any change, battling my addiction to sugar wasn’t easy. Binges would still happen, but I worked hard to make better choices. I started cooking for myself a lot more and poured my energy into starting a food blog. My paleo choices didn’t solve everything and I still struggled to find balance. It wasn’t easy, but I did it.
Fast forward to now and many things have changed. Mick knows everything about me and my habits because I found security in him. It old him I hated my body and what I was doing because of it. I opened up the curtain so that I no longer had the option to hide.
My life has changed a lot since the little girl that hated her body – I finally loved myself enough to stop.
I’M STILL HEALING
I have been 140 pounds, 107 pounds, 112 pounds, and now 120 pounds. I work out when I feel like it (mostly yoga at home on my mat or walking the dog) and eat a lot of delicious and healthy foods. I found passion in cooking real food that’s both healthy and satisfying. I found passion in love and healing, which is why I share what I do and spread the message of self love and self acceptance on Simple Healthy Eats.
I healed my long standing IBS and I don’t binge eat the way I used to. I can happily say the binges happen so rarely now that I almost forget I used to do that to myself. I learned to stop myself and acknowledge what’s happening when food makes me feel insecure about myself. Every day I’m healing, and every day I’m learning to be grateful for my body and the amazing things it can do.
I enrolled in IIN (The Institute for Integrative Nutrition) around the time of my college graduation to become a certified health coach. That means I can follow my passion to help people and make sure they don’t make the same mistakes I made. Every day I do my best to continue on a path of healing myself with real, whole foods, positive relationships in my life, and self love.
TAKEAWAY: SELF LOVE TAKES TIME – BUT IT WORKS 🙂
If you want to change, you have to learn to love yourself. I hated my body – but I don’t anymore. I have to tell myself I love my body – because it is capable of so many beautiful things.
Self love takes time, but it works.
Self criticism and restriction are physically and mentally exhausting. My goal is to teach people how to avoid all the issues and struggles I had – and skip to the solution of self love and self respect that works with as much simplicity as possible.