My relationship with food- the whole story

Hope you all had a great weekend!

This is a very personal post and I’m a little nervous to hit publish but I like to keep things real. It struck me the last few months that I share bits and pieces of my food story with health coach clients but I’ve never written it out here. (And it’s true that we attract clients who mirror ourselves- I can identify with something in every one of them!)

I think I’ve casually mentioned gaining and losing a bit of weight in college, but haven’t spelled out the highs and lows of that journey. Probably because it feels very personal and I’d rather be the girl that has always had it together.  However, I’ve always been very open about my journey and struggles (infertility, etc.) and know that many of you have likely gone through similar phases.

So it may be lengthy, but here we go… my food relationship story and how I ended up where I am now, coaching others.

Pre-college: Through high school, food was simply fuel- I ate when I was hungry and ate whatever I wanted.  My mom made mostly home cooked meals and we had a large garden, so I got a lot of good food.  She also baked a lot and I loved dessert every day, too.  I was active in sports and never thought much about how food made me feel (or affected my weight).

1st year college: I had a pretty typical first year of college with the 10-15 pound weight gain.  I wasn’t one to drink and party, but had a lot of late night snacks and ate whatever I wanted in the cafeteria.  I remember lots of bagel sandwiches for lunch and ice cream nearly every night for dessert.  Who can say no to an ice cream buffet? By the end of the first year, I knew I should try to reverse the gain.

2nd year college: This was by far my most stressful year in college.  My good friend (and roommate) had a scary brain surgery and was out the whole first semester. My new boyfriend (someday husband) was taking off for a year of voluntary service in Jamaica.  My dad was diagnosed with MS.  Looking back, I can see how all of these things led me to focus on the one thing I could control: losing the weight I had put on and being strict with my food and counting calories.  I’m Type A and having control is key for my personality! However, after getting back to my healthy weight I kept going for another few months and lost more than I should have.

3rd year college: As we started back to college for year 3, a good friend of mine told me directly that I had lost too much weight.  Thank goodness for her- I’m sure it took a lot of guts to say so, but it shook me out of my controlled eating phase and helped me look at myself from the outside and realize what was an innocent goal had become an unhealthy obsession.  I had dropped about ten extra pounds (15 pounds under where my “happy” weight is today) and was definitely too skinny.  I spent that year getting back on track, letting go of perfectionism, and trying to find the right balance (although dropping the calorie counting took time).  Things were easier – my friend was healthy again, my dad was stable, my boyfriend was back in the same city.  I also moved into Philly with friends and enjoyed off-campus life and commuting.

This is the oldest digital photo I could find, from sometime toward the end of college

This is the oldest digital photo I could find from sometime toward the end of college

4th year college: I was very interested in healthy eating and was reading everything I could get my hands on.  I became convinced that a vegetarian diet was the best for my health and changed my eating to reflect this.  I still ate plenty of processed foods and low-fat foods but my goal was to avoid meat and I did that. However, with my new diet came really intense sugar cravings.

1st year grad school My eating was healthier but still very low in protein and healthy fats. I was convincing myself that all things were permissible (no restricting) but I think this mindset combined with the missing nutrients in my diet led to a night time snacking habit, emotional eating and the occasional evening binge.  Not yet the ideal balance that I was looking for.

Skipping ahead a bit, I finished grad school, got married, and a year later we moved to Ithaca for my husband to complete his PhD.


Ithaca: This hippie town had a really positive impact on me.  I learned more about natural foods and natural health, had a garden and a CSA,  canned salsa and jam from u-pick tomatoes and berries, started to care about high quality meat and got a bit of a handle on my sugar. I also dropped calorie counting for good.

This was also where we first wanted to start a family and struggled.  I remember my acupuncturist telling me I should eat more meat, as I was still mostly vegetarian, but I didn’t buy it.  In retrospect, I do think my diet had something to do with my irregular cycle- as well as issues from the birth control pill (it took months to regain a normal cycle after going off), and running higher mileage than I had before.

Finally, more meat and fat plus some natural supplements and herbs seemed to do the trick and we got pregnant 5 years into our marriage (2 years of trying).  I did a lot of reading during this time about insulin resistance, sugar and the affects of diet on health and fertility.

PEIFER Top50 web res-6387

Houston: Fast forward again, and we spent two years in Houston.  Our daughter was a year old when we moved and I took a break from working but found myself itching to do something.  So I started this blog (3 years ago) and continued more reading and research on what really is healthy vs. our misconceptions about health thanks to savvy marketing.  My husband’s aunt sent me a link to a health coach course which piqued my interest and this eventually led to my study at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition.

I soaked up all the holistic health information and was also especially interested in the things that I had dealt with- calorie counting, restrictive eating vs. emotional eating, sugar addiction, eating the wrong diet for one’s body type, and fertility issues.  After graduating I took on my first clients, and here I am today.

I’m finding that those experiences, however embarrassing it can be for me to remember, have shaped who I am today and the ability I have to connect with the women I work with on a personal level.  I wish I could say I never had any body issues but I am thankful that it has turned into the meaningful work that I do.  It’s hard for women to get all the way through the adolescent years without some kind of “dieting” and body scrutiny.

Fingers crossed that I can give my daughters the tools to avoid the same struggles. 🙂

What about you? How has your relationship with food changed through the years?

Did you ever struggle with calorie counting, emotional eating, or sugar addiction?


44 thoughts on “My relationship with food- the whole story

  1. Thanks for sharing your story even though it was hard! It’s always helpful for people to hear about how someone got to where they are today I think.

    Also, I’ve honestly not known anyone – female OR male, who hasn’t struggled at some point with food, weight, and/or body image. There’s a huge emphasis on it and people focus on food and weight loss to deal with life. So, although it’s personal it’s something everyone can relate to 🙂
    Michele @ paleorunningmomma recently posted..Maple Raisin Acorn Squash PancakesMy Profile

  2. There is nothing to be embarrassed about here! I think everyone can relate to some roller coasters with eating – I know I can. I definitely ate from the ice cream bar in college and I recall quite a few “loaded” baked potatoes at midnight. My relationship with food has absolutely evolved and changed with me. I think you hit the nail on the head with the more you know about nutrition, the healthier your relationship with food becomes. Thanks for sharing all of this here today Laura!
    Allie recently posted..The Rundown – It’s OfficialMy Profile

  3. No need to be embarrassed! I think you’ll find so many others have had the same course – me included! While I never restricted, I was on a roller coaster from high school to my junior year of college. I lived on bagels, pizza, ice cream and beer in college. I thought I was balancing it all by having a salad at lunch. The more you learn about nutrition the more you understand what works for you. Thank you for sharing!
    Angela @ Happy Fit Mama recently posted..Stubborn RunnerMy Profile

  4. Awww Laura, this is so brave of you! And you have absolutely no reason to be embarrassed. Any woman who says they have never had any concerns about their weight is lying. You went through some struggles, some disordered eating, and you made it out the other side to a healthy place. For that you were rewarded with the beauty of bringing life into this world. I think this is wonderful 🙂

    I would say overall my relationship is healthy, but I definitely find myself standing on the start line of a race looking at the other elite women and thinking that i should look more like them. Thankfully I am strong enough to know that I am me, and I know what works for me….I would rather be healthy my whole life, than “look” like the perfect runner, but my body crash and burn when I am a few years older.
    Tina Muir recently posted..Racing as an Elite; Crim Festival of Races 10 Mile RecapMy Profile

  5. Awesome post laura! It’s so cool to see where you were and how far you have come. I love reading your posts thanks for sharing.

  6. Stories are essential to humanity. It’s why the hub and I chose our lives as writers-teachers. Thank you for sharing yours.

    My own food/sugar/calorie relationship is being fast forwarded a bit now. While my 2014 words are Growing Beauty, my 2015 words jumped out a few months ago… Excellent Health.

    I’m integrating that now, for some changes are slow and need time. They may be our family words for 2015. I’ll be done bearing children, the hub has overwhelming projects ahead, and excellent health (mental, emotional, physical, all) is essential to our ability to Grow Beauty, Work Together, and Positively Communicate (2014 words).
    Wendy recently posted..How Do You Celebrate Milestones and Anniversaries?My Profile

  7. Laura–I honestly never would have known b/c you model such healthy, balanced behavior today. I’m so glad you came out the other end of this in a good place and wish you continued success at staying there.

    I sometimes have a hard time relating to people with food issues b/c I have never had them–I just don’t get it. But I certainly sympathize. I’m sure that you’ve noticed that the healthy living blogosphere is full of disorder–it’s very hard to watch, sometimes, and I do worry that all these blogs only fuel unhealthy behaviors. It’s a slippery slope.
    misszippy recently posted..Running latelyMy Profile

  8. I was interested to read your story Laura. Thanks for sharing. I also gained the freshman 15, however, I must have been super skinny before that, because I think it brought me to an okay weight. Now I’m struggling a bit with sugar cravings and the muffin top. 😉 I would hate for people to think you can’t get pregnant on a vegetarian diet, though. I have been a vegetarian for 20 years and had no troubles getting pregnant and giving birth twice. As with any diet, you have to watch your proteins, fats, nutrients, etc. I ate very healthy when I was pregnant, with no cravings for meat.


    • No- you’re absolutely right, Joann! It’s not the vegetarian diet that was a problem- but I did learn that for my body type, it wasn’t the best choice, and I wasn’t careful enough to get the protein/fat that my body needed. But many people thrive on a vegetarian diet and feel great- like you! 🙂
      Laura recently posted..My relationship with food- the whole storyMy Profile

  9. LOVE that you hit publish on this post and put it out there for us to read. your story hits home with me in so many ways. I controlled food starting when I was around 10-11 cause at the time it was the only thing in my world I could do something about when it felt everything else was failing. I still struggle with it today and pretty sure its why I can’t seem to lose weight.
    shelley recently posted..Weekly goal recap and new weekly goalsMy Profile

  10. Definitely nothing to be embarrassed about here. I totally get how different stages of life and different issues impact the way we eat. I’ve been on both ends of that spectrum, with controlling food too much in high school, then not enough later when I went through IF/loss years. Finding a healthy balance is truly a work in progress.
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  11. Funny I had a similar story! but when I lost weight (25 lbs after sophomore year) I felt like my whole personality changed and I never made a full turn around. I used to be really fun, spontaneous, etc, now everything is planned out, bad at transitions, etc.

  12. I enjoyed reading about how your relationship with food has changed over the years.
    I did the whole snacking/soda thing in college and gained 20 pounds my first semester while running competitive cross country – not good!!! I have never been a calorie counter and also never one to restrict anything completely but over the years I’ve learned what works and what doesn’t. I’m currently in a tweaking stage because what used to work isn’t these days!!!
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  13. Thank you for sharing your story. I never thought too much about what I ate growing up. I had crazy insane metabolism and was painfully thin. I actually wanted to gain weight and look stronger. I thought I ate healthy as a vegetarian. I mean, baked cheetos are, well, baked right? Those processed cheese slices only had 45 calories in them. Basically I didn’t understand about truly reading labels, understanding the concept of processed foods. If it was x calories, then that was all I knew or understood basically. I didn’t even pay attention to the types of fats, carbs meant nothing and I never thought about protein either.
    Heather (Where’s the Beach) recently posted..Lifting, Living, Decorating – Move.Eat.Live.My Profile

  14. Thank you for sharing! My story is very similar and I studied nutrition in college. But I think going for my second nutrition certification after my parasite really helped me relate to holistic healing more and clients

    Love you friend!

  15. Laura, I loved hearing your story! I personally never really worried about weight or what I ate until my late 20s when my weight started to get a little “high”. I dabbled in vegetarianism and calorie restriction but have never taken any diets to any extreme. It’s a journey and it’s been interesting learning how food is different for each and everyone of us…
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  16. Thank you so much for sharing your story Laura!! I struggled with calorie counting along with occasional junk food overloads. I feel like I have come a long way from where I used to be. Now instead of looking at how many calories are in a food I look at what ingerdients are put in the food. I don’t count calories at all now and I enjoy and value whole foods much more now that I understand more about nutrition in general. What helped me the most is Learning about the Blood Type diet and learning what works best for my body. I used to eat dairy and grains at pretty much every meal but I never felt satisfied. My skin used to break out horribly when I would train and work out and I couldn’t figure out why until I stopped taking whey protein because I’m sensitive to it(which caused the breakouts). Learning that I am a blood type O and what works best for my body which is high protein from meat and to avoid grains such as wheat and dairy have helped me a ton. I still cheat with the dairy once in awhile but I’m pretty sure there is nothing wheat that even seems appetizing anymore. I have more energy, I think clearer, my digestion has improved immensely and I have a clear complexion and hardly ever wear makeup. I still want to learn more about sugar but am hesitant since I do like a latte and some chocolate. I have gotten better because I used to have an outrageous sweet tooth but with my lifestyle changes sugar doesn’t seem to get the best of me as much. I think my concern with learning more is becoming militant about food because I feel like that can add so much stress because you start basing your life around performance and that is no way to live(plus I over analyze pretty much everything). I do want to learn more though just taking my time in the process so I don’t overload myself with information and a list of “do’s and don’ts”. It is so nice to hear your story and to learn that you had some of the same struggles as I have had. A lot of the blogs I read I sometimes feel like I will never reach the same level with meal planing and nutritional knowledge. It’s good to know that it’s a process and I will get there someday. Thanks again for sharing!!
    Kris recently posted..6 months overdue Seattle Marathon RecapMy Profile

  17. Thank you for sharing your story. You are such an inspiration and I know that a lot of people look up to you because of it. I think anyone’s relationship with food is constantly changing and growing whether we realize it or not.
    Hollie recently posted..Lessons College Never Taught Me…My Profile

  18. I don’t think I could share my personal journey with food in one comment. It’s a messy one. But I’m so glad you had the courage to share this here.

    Thank you so much.

  19. Yay, Ithaca! I happen to be a living testament to how you can eat healthy here, and still gain weight though. Most of your lessons are things I’ve gone through too, but with a pretty heavy emphasis on emotional eating, which has made all those lessons take much longer for me to learn and incorporate into daily life. Eating wasn’t just comfort in stressful times, but it was also celebration of everything– and my family celebrates a lot! I love the celebration aspect of our lives, but it was always very food-centric. It was also a strong part of my (now ex-)husband’s Italian-American/western NY identity. As much as I still adore all those family connections that only an amicable divorce can allow, it wasn’t until my divorce, when facing lots of other relevant identity questions, that I was able to shake things up for the healthier.

    Thanks so much for your honesty, and your judgment-free zone. 🙂

    • PS – When I say “always food-centric,” I meant in my post-married life. The family I grew up in didn’t always eat in what we now consider healthy ways, but it was much more moderate, and a more active lifestyle, with my father being a marathoner and my mother always dancing. 🙂

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  21. Thanks for sharing your story. I’ve been pretty lucky with how my eating goes. I don’t gain any weight from eating a unhealthy diet so I never had any yo-yo dieting. However it took me many years to work out the other ways my diet was effecting me. Even now I have found my diet has slipped and I’m trying to eat a little more healthier.
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  22. I had a very similar wave of realtionships with food over the years. In high school and college it was much different than it is now. I also believe that the person I was dating/friends I had, were huge influences on my views of food. Those around you have more of an influence than we realize on things like that. Great post, and love how open and honest you always are Laura.

    P.S. how did I not realize you lived in Ithaca for a while! Too bad you aren’t still there, that’s only a few hours from me!
    Laura @losingrace recently posted..ROC Training 5 Weeks OutMy Profile

  23. Thank you, Laura, for sharing this part of your journey! My relationship with food has always been strained. I’ve felt fat all of my life. But when I look back at photos from my younger years I get upset that so much energy was wasted on believing something that simply was not true! However, through the seasons of life, I did gain weight. About 4 years ago I completely changed my eating, began a regular exercise program and lost weight and am now back down to my high school numbers. Yes, I use calories as a way to keep myself on track. But I pick and choose my treats with loving care :-). I’ve gotten rid of diet soda and the headaches that plagued my life are almost gone as well! It’s so fun to try new and interesting foods. Thanks for your input and encouragement!!! God bless.

  24. Thank you so much for sharing. I really enjoyed getting to know you a bit better and reading about your journey. We have all had a journey and hopefully our paths are leading to better choices. Overall, I eat less processed food and make a conscious decision about what goes into my mouth. That has not always been the case!
    Ithaca?! 🙂 I LOVE that city and if I could I would live there. I’m about an hour and a half east of Ithaca. It’s a great running community.
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  25. I’m glad you shared your story! I think a lot of people go through changes with food, I shared my story on my blog too. I definitely lost too much weight, but then running and triathlons have helped me realize that food is fuel and that restricting things too much is a bad thing. And I definitely try to get a variety in what I eat!
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