I was trapped in the diet world: How I found freedom
Let me tell you a story. A story about my life. A story that dives into each "diet" that I followed and kept me trapped for years.... I'll be sure to let you know which diet works the best and which one you get to follow for the rest of your life (if you choose)....
When I was 16 years old I was sitting in one of my high school classes. My teacher passed out a mirror to each student and asked us to write down what we see in the mirror. As many students raised their hand and said "blue eyes," "brown hair," "glasses" I looked down at my answer and it said "I see imperfections." My brain didn't look for anything factual like saying I had brown hair and brown eyes my mentality went to a negative emotion and lots of self hate. That was the beginning to many more years of unworthiness and never feeling good enough.
I believe this moment could have led me down a number of dark roads. My path to darkness that I chose (or was chosen for me) was a life full of eating disorders. That day sitting in my class I decided that I was going to lose some weight. Even though I never had a weight issue due to being active my entire life prior. I played soccer year round, never thought about food or body image because I never had to. During this time I remember I took off a year of club soccer therefore I wasn't working out as much and suddenly my eyes opened up to something I never worried about or thought of. For some reason the realization and the thoughts that came forward that day were so strong that I had to do something about it. Little did I know that wanting to go on my first diet would lead me to such pain.
Diet #1: Eating less/ smaller portions
I remember that I didn't do anything crazy. I just starting watching what I was eating. I was eating less and making sure I was using portion control. It was actually pretty harmless physically, but what it stated to do to me mentally was the issue. I lost a healthy 7 pounds in 2 weeks. My weight was normal and I literally could have stopped there and been fine for the rest of my life at that weight. For me it was almost as if I was on a high. Stepping on the scale and seeing results made me want more. Remember I was an athlete so being competitive and pushing myself to my limits was part of my nature. I kept eating less and watching what I was eating. I ended up losing a little more weight. It fulfilled me and I wanted more of it. That's what led me into my second way of dieting.... anorexia.
Diet #2: Anorexia
At this point in my life food, working out, burning calories, dieting was the number one thing on my mind. My life revolved around my anorexia. Skipping meals, eating low calories foods, eating under 1000 calories a day, burning at least 500-800 calories a day was part of the plan. Keeping food logs, reading up on the most recent articles about Nicole Richie while desiring her body, lying to my friends telling them that I already ate, body checking and making sure my spine was visible, my hips and collarbones were protruding, seeing all the bones in my chest, checking if my thigh gap was getting bigger were daily activities to keep fueling my disorder. Not to mention I would get daily headaches, feel light headed, and I was constantly freezing even if it was summer time because my body fat was so low. Physically I was broken (in my mind I was worthy.) But nothing could be worse than how mentally broken I was. I hated every day. I just wanted the thoughts to stop. I didn't want to think about food anymore. I didn't want to workout to exhaustion everyday. I didn't want to keep looking in the mirror to make sure my bones were popped out enough. The misery was unbearable. I was suffocating, drowning.... I was stuck, I felt like I couldn't get out. I needed my anorexia, it became my identity. I needed it, it made me feel in control, it made me feel safe, it was my best friend. It was my secret. Letting it go meant change. It meant gaining weight. It meant feeling unworthy. It meant the unknown. It mean being vulnerable and reaching out for help. It meant eating food that I feared so much. To me this was a life or death type of feeling. This is why it is a disease; a disorder. It was my addiction. My body was starving... my body could only be depleted so much. This is the moment that led me to diet #3....bulimia.
Diet #3: Bulimia
My anorexia was getting out of hand. I was in a dark spiral and I didn't know how to get out. I needed to eat but I feared calories. That's when I learned how to throw up. Combining anorexia and bulimia is extremely dangerous. I wouldn't eat anything and when I did I would throw up because the anxiety I experienced was too much when I allowed food in my stomach. It was like an extreme feeling of needing to get the food out or I was going to have a mental break down. I hated it. It was shameful, it made me sad, and really dug me into an even darker place. You will never know how low your life can get until you have your head over the toilet with the water on so no one can hear what you are doing. It's lonely. You only have your disorder in that moment. Just the two of you. One of the darkest relationships you could ever have. When I went to college I brought along my disordered eating with me....at times it was more present than others physically but it was present 24/7 in my mind. If it had anything to do with food I could never just be normal..... this time in my life is when I met my next diet..... Vegetarianism/ veganism.
Diet #4: Vegetarianism/ veganism
So this was a fun one. Lasted for the next 6 years of my life. I actually love vegetarian and vegan food. I still prefer it over lots of other meals but that's not the point. It's the way I treated being in this group of eaters. When I first began being vegetarian is was pretty harmless. I ended up reading a book that turned me off of meat which would be totally fine if that was the only reason for doing it. Being vegetarian allowed me to have an excuse to not eat certain foods that were "bad." Since food was such an issue for me it made sense that I would start following diets that restrict you from certain categories. I was vegetarian for about 4 years and then I became a strict vegan. I honestly believe that I read so many food blogs, health books that I literally brain washed myself that nothing was ever perfect enough. Once I became vegan I really was able to restrict. Keep in mind I didn't really know I was doing this to myself. I didn't believe that my eating disorder had anything to do with it. I was eating more at this time but everything still revolved around food. I still was by no means healed. As the veganism got more intense I starting cutting out even more food. I experimented with eating mostly raw, no soy, juicing... pretty much reading up on the "perfect food." This is when my next diet was implemented into my life.... orthorexia.
Diet #5 Orthorexia.
Orthorexia pretty much means that you only eat food that is perfectly healthy such as greens, veggies, fruit, nuts. All super foods. No caffeine. You get the point. Pretty much restricting everything. This was a way to fuel my eating disorder without being too noticeable. Since I was eating throughout the day I was able to justify to myself that I didn't have an eating disorder. But literally I was having a green smoothie for breakfast, nuts for snack, veggies and hummus for lunch, big kale salad with avocado for dinner.. I would restrict almost everything outside of those foods. This was not something I could do forever, this was not living, my mind was still constantly fixated on what I was eating. Pretty soon after college I was led into my next phase. I guess I'll call it... the meal prep diet.
Ugh even writing those words triggers me. Soon out of college I became a health coach (go figure) with an incredible company, Herbalife. I love the products. They weren't vegan so I decided to stop the veganism when it came to using the products but I would keep eating vegan when consuming anything else. After 7 months being around my new healthy active lifestyle community I started eating meat again. It was just easier to eat meat again and I knew I could keep my diet clean. It took me a while to get use to it. I would say things were going better with my disorder but mentally it was present. I was body conscious and missed my skinny body with bones popping out. But I knew I didn't want to go back to starving. Plus I had learned a lot about nutrition and was working with lots of clients. The only person I ever judged was myself. I always thought everyone else was doing an amazing job but when it came to myself I was never good enough. A year into the health coaching I went through a dark breakup so I needed something to focus on. I decided I was going to do a photo shoot. So for the next 3 months I was put on a strict "meal prep" diet. Pretty much a body competition diet meaning I was drinking two shakes a day, with 3 more meals consisting of chicken, veggies, and brown rice (sometimes.) I also was working out two times a day. Although this was giving me something to focus on going through such a hard breakup it was really fueling my eating disorder. I felt like I was back into the orthorexia phase. All my meals were in tupperware. I couldn't eat out with my friends or family. I couldn't eat salt. I didn't want to go anywhere that would temp me to eat. I pretty much was a slave to my working out and meal prep. This was my experience, if someone else loves this way of eating then great. But it was really hard for me. I definitely was getting results... I was losing weight and looked fit for my photo shoot which was great but the way I was doing it was not anywhere near being able to maintain that type of meal plan and lifestyle. To me I was just back in a stage of disordered eating. After the photo shoot I still kept up with the meal prep life but allowed myself some different options. As time went on I realized I really just hated what I was eating so I decided to let go of all the rules... it took at least a year to get to a better place with what worked for me. Slowly but surely I found my "diet"....... The body love "diet."
The Body Love "Diet"
This is actually not a diet at all. This is more of a Body Love Lifestyle. It's almost as if everything I had learned and ingrained in my head to be true about health I had to unlearn. I wanted to find the freedom in food, in body image, in life. The number one thing that helped to transition into this type of lifestyle was learning to love myself. It actually had nothing to do with food. It had everything to do with getting to know myself, loving myself, acknowledging myself, honoring myself, loving my body, loving my food, and finding the beauty and love in life again. I was able to start eating foods that once scared me and were off limits. I started listening and following other body positive role models. I listened to the audio book, Intuitive Eating, which was extremely helpful. I also learned through my own experiences and came to the conclusion that obsessing over my weight, body image, number on the scale, working out, how I looked in the mirror was not worth it anymore. I didn't want to do it anymore. I wanted to live, I wanted to be free. Now, I eat intuitively. My body found it's natural weight. I listen to my body. I tap in to see what my body wants. I tap in to see what will make my body feel good. I don't make myself wrong for eating certain foods. When I go to restaurants I order what I want instead of ordering what I think I have to get. I still eat very healthy because I actually enjoy healthy food. I love the way it makes me feel. I drink my Herbalife shakes everyday because they are delicious and they fuel my body with energy and nutrition. I drink coffee sometimes but I also drink my tea and aloe. I get frozen yogurt but I also love to workout with my puppy. Chai, every morning. I make a healthy meal for dinner and sometimes have a glass of wine with it. I listen to my hunger and stop when I'm full and eat until I'm satisfied. If I want dessert I'll eat it but now I know how to stop myself. I'm not saying I'm perfect. I still can get body conscious and judge myself but I now know the tools to get through those moments. I know that I would much rather be happy and be calm around food then restrict myself and live in a diet mentality. I would rather accept my body and love my body 5-10 lbs heavier than live in an obsessive world around food and working out.
My journey is a story. A story that I wanted to share with all of you ladies because I know that we are so pressured to look a certain way. We feel the only way to be accepted is to find the newest fad diet and get results. In my case, I've tried them all and nothing ever worked. If my body was looking fit my mind was completely shattered. My mind never ever ever was able to find a place of peace when I was on any type of diet. The only diet that has shown me recovery, life, love, peace, acceptance, and freedom is the Body Love Lifestyle.
With so much (body) love, Lauren
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2016 Copyright Lauren McAulay