Yesterday I read a great post by Paige on her Food Story from high school until now and it inspired me to craft a similar personal narrative with respect to my relationship to food. It hasn’t always been a good one, and this may get wordy, so you’ve been properly warned!
When I was younger (up until middle school) I was always very active and never had a problem with my weight. My younger brother and I ate all the usual kid stuff: macaroni-and-cheese, hot dogs, chips,…we weren’t much into ‘health’ food at that time – what kid is? In the afternoon Mom would, lovingly, lock us out of the house and into the backyard to force us to play outside. After a few minutes of complaining at the door, we eventually found fun stuff to get into.
At Field Day I was always the girl racking up the First Place ribbons (that’s me up front, owning the blue polka dots).
Another picture of me in grade school – mostly included in this post because I think it’s one of the greatest photos taken of me as a kid. My brother survived his childhood despite any indicators otherwise in this picture.
By the time 5th grade hit I was officially in the midst of puberty and this may have been the first year I realized what ‘weight’ meant and that I didn’t like mine. That’s me on the far left clearly not overweight but I noticed I had put on a few pounds in the last year. The summer between 5th and 6th grade I spent a LOT of time lounging around the house and watching television. Actually, most summers in middle school were spent like that and this is where the pounds started to pile on at.
This is me in 6th grade – one of the very rare photos taken of me during middle school. Middle School was definitely a traumatic time for me (as it is for most everyone) and, while I may not have consciously realized it at the time, I likely turned to food as a source of comfort. By the time I entered high school I was officially overweight.
This photo is BEYOND tragic. This was my first formal dance and Mom told me just the other day that she remembers vividly how petrified with nerves both my date and I were. You can see it all over my face here. It ain’t cute. Neither is that busted up lip (background on that lovely story here!)
Now, after Freshman year something happened. I’m not sure what the trigger was but I cut back on food and the weight started to come off. Things really sped up when I started taking an aerobics class for my gym credit Junior year and I got a membership at a gym that I would go to after school. By the time I graduated I had lost maybe 20-30 pounds from Freshman year and actually weighed just a few pounds more than I do now. However, my diet was FAR from healthy. I wasn’t starving myself by any means – but I was just eating crap ‘diet’ food. I’d eat half a BAG of rice cakes for dinner, or a bowl of popcorn. No wonder the weight loss didn’t stick for long.
Once it was my brothers turn to graduate, 2 years later, the weight I had lost had all come back.
Shortly after this photo was taken I turned 21, and things got even worse. I started drinking and going out with friends 4-5 times a week. That is a LOT of calories from alcohol. On the way home from the bars we’d stop and get fast food, so I’d probably consume close to 2000 calories a night in just drinking and that one meal. Within 2 years I ballooned up to my highest weight – about 50 pounds more than what I was in high school.
I still remember the first time someone called me Fat. It was outside of the same bar this photo was taken at. I was walking to my car with a friend and some guys in a truck drove by and started hitting on us. I’m not sure if I ignored him or said something snarky back but regardless his reply was a very succinct “I didn’t want you anyways you fatass.”
For the next year I struggled with finding the motivation to change. I wasn’t happy, I knew that. I wasn’t sure where to start though. I decided one night to take ‘before’ photos of myself in a bathing suit. I uploaded them and the second I saw them on the computer screen I bawled my eyes out. I deleted them immediately.
Eventually, I started doing the usual diet cycle women fall into – Lean Cuisines for dinner, protein bars for breakfast, salad with low-fat dressing for lunch. Snacks of some 100 calorie pack of garbage. The weight came off, slowly, but I still felt like crap. I had zero energy so I wasn’t exercising and in the back of my mind I knew this type of eating wasn’t right.
In 2007 I decided to eliminate meat from my diet and started focusing on more ‘real’ foods. It took me about 2 years but those 50+ pounds came off through sensible eating and exercising often. There was one problem left though – the actual relationship I had with food was still skewed. I became SO paranoid after losing the weight that it would come back that I was hyper-vigilant about calories. I would feel badly if I ate to much or didn’t exercise enough. Food should never make you feel bad, or good, it’s fuel for your body. I didn’t realize that until I came across this book (click to see it on Amazon):
I remember reading it on my lunch break at work at the start of this year and crying because I finally found something that helped me realize how distorted my relationship with food was. The book impacted me so much I actually became a certified Intuitive Eating counselor mostly just so I could learn even more about the program for myself! Now, my diet still isn’t perfect, and it never will be – but I’m happy and healthy. What else matters?
Have you had a struggle with food before? What was your ‘turning point’? I’d love to find out what motivated people to change so I can help inspire my clients!