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.
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.
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?