When was the first time you were made aware of how wrong your body was? When you were called fat? Or ugly?
I remember being in Grade 6 or 7. It was a beautiful summer day and it was getting close to the end of the school year. We were at the beach and having a little “sandcastle building contest”. As we were going from sculpture to sculpture, we were all racing to be the first. I was in a bathing suit and one of the girls was making fun of my ass “flapping in the breeze” as I ran. In those same grades, I got the nicknames “hurricane hips” and “thunder thighs” while playing sports… mostly in basketball. My coach told us to give people checking you a little bump with your hips… and I sent someone flying.
Hey, I was a “big girl” even in elementary school!
I have to admit, even with body image issues, I don’t think I ever dieted when I was in high school – not that I can remember. Shortly after I graduated, yes, but not while I was living at home. Maybe it was because I had limited exposure to magazines and TV so I didn’t get the outside influence like I did when I moved out on my own.
My first relationship with food that I recall was binging. Thankfully I never got into the purging part – by way of self-induced vomiting at least. I hated throwing up – I make, to this day, a horrible sick person! I’ve tried to make myself sick in the past (mostly because I drank too much alcohol and I wanted to get it out of my system faster) but I never succeeded, so it was probably a blessing! But I remember binging starting as early as maybe 8 or 9 years old.
I remember in Grade 11 I was in Home Eco class and one of the girls in there was a recovering anorexic. I remember her showing me pictures when she was at her lightest. She was a small girl to begin with and I think in the photos, she was about 60 lbs. She looked like something you’d see in an anatomy book – you could see every rib and every vertebrae. And the worst part of this disease, she thought she was fat and was still trying to lose weight! She was in a wheelchair because she was too weak to stand and was in the hospital in order to recover.
It’s very possible that those images early on was what kept me from that same route.
“I can’t have an eating disorder because I’m fat.”
At the end of Grade 10, I ended up getting mono. No, not from kissing someone – I wish it was something as exciting as that! I don’t even know how I got it. It was the beginning of May and I was at an archery competition. It was very hot and sunny and it was thought I got heat stroke or something. Nope. Mono. I missed the last two months of school but still passed because I was a good student and they used my midterm marks. I was so sick and had so little energy, all I did was sleep. I could barely walk downstairs without it utterly exhausting me. I had so little energy I didn’t even eat. I lost so much weight my parents became concerned – to the point that they said if I didn’t start eating, they’d put me in the hospital and I would be fed by IV. Lucky for them, I hated needles. Still do! The threat of existing with one permanently lodged in my arm while in the hospital was enough to scare me into eating. I ate fruit like there was no tomorrow. I’ve always loved fruit and my parents didn’t care what I ate, as long as I ate something! It’s probably the reason that nowadays, if I’m not feeling well, I want fruit.
Unfortunately, when I recovered from mono, I had kept a lot of the weight I lost when I was sick off. I was praised about how well I looked having lost all that “baby fat” and that was my earliest thought of being thin = being worthy.
Your weight and shape has nothing to do with whether you have an eating disorder or are prone to one. Anyone at any age can fall victim to an eating disorder. It can be binge eating, purging (which includes self-induced vomiting, using diuretics, over exercising, using laxatives…) anorexia, bulimia, or orthorexia.
What is orthorexia?
“In recent years, psychologists have recognized that people can become overly fixated on healthy eating, to the point where it could become detrimental to their well-being. A new term has emerged for this behavior: Orthorexia nervosa – literally meaning “proper appetite” – describes a pathological obsession with eating “clean” or “healthy” food.”Health Essentials
Technically it’s not an “official” eating disorder, but psychologists are recognizing this new problem. Bulimia and anorexia are linked to mental illness, so is orthorexia. The more I read about it, the more I realize that during the times of competing in physique competitions, this is where I fell; I traded one eating disorder for another.
Eating disorders have been a part of my life since I was in single digits – and I have been dieting from the age of 19 to 41 years old. When I started on the journey of self love, body positivity, and anti-dieting, I was scared. I was scared that I would put on weight – a lot of weight – and I did! But you know what? I was okay with that! I know I have the knowledge that I can find a balance that works for me between watching what I eat and enjoying life.
And let me set this straight: “watching what I eat” is not being obsessive compulsive about eating healthy food (aka, orthorexia – there’s your word for the day!) I recognize that I get triggered when I eat certain foods, specifically around sugar. Yes, I DO avoid certain foods, but I also don’t avoid them. If I want ice cream, I have ice cream! And I don’t punish myself for them! I try to eat gluten free because I react poorly to gluten, but if I want pasta, I have pasta! And not the gluten free crap as I really think it’s gross.
To eat intuitively, you need to trust that your body will give you the cues in order to provide the nutrients you’re looking for. The hardest thing is to decide if the cue you’re getting is out of necessity or out of habit. It’s taken me a long time to decipher this, but thankfully, I’ve been able to figure it out.
So how do you break the diet cycle? It’s first to acknowledge that you are on a diet. And this is how you decide:
- counting calories.
- measuring your food.
- weighing your food.
- cutting out certain food groups.
- have an end date.
- have a number attached to the food.
- have a number attached to your scale.
- weighing yourself daily – sometimes several times a day!
- eat in hiding.
- Have a name for your eating modality (keto, atkins, south beach…)
Did you answer ‘yes’ to any of the above? Then you’re on a diet. You HAVE to eat… but you also have to live! Living while engaging in any of the listed habits suck – I should know! I’ve done that for over 20 years!!!
Stop trying to trick yourself into believing what you’re doing is healthy! Dieting doesn’t work. Period.
For your mental health’s sake, ditch the diets!