January is a funny month. As a Holistic Nutritionist, I’m so thrilled about all of the motivation and excitement people have to overhaul their diets and better themselves, be it with a detox or new positive intentions. As someone who took 10 years to recover fully from an eating disorder and disordered eating, it slightly concerns me. I want to make the distinction between eating disorders and diets, in that with an eating disorder, it doesn’t mean you just wake up one day and decide “I’m going to be anorexic.” Whereas, with a diet, it’s more so on your clock at your leisure.
While there was no specific day that my journey with anorexia began, I can recall the state of my mind at the time in that I truly thought I was being healthy. However, a 50-calorie Source yogurt for breakfast, 5 Wheat Thins for lunch and a high protein and low carbohydrate dinner isn’t exactly what I would consider “healthy”. This whole idea that decreasing our consumption is a “healthy way of living” is a common theme amongst dieters and those who suffer from eating disorders. It’s clear that our intentions towards healthy lifestyle changes is what matters the most – making sure our motives aren’t coming from a place of self-hate, but from a place of self love and appreciation for ourselves and the abilities of our bodies as a whole. I’m grateful to say my experience with anorexia was short-lived and though the disordered eating is what consumed 10 years of my life, I can confidently say it’s no longer a part of me because of these 5 things that I learned from 10 years of disordered eating.
5 Things I Learned From 10 Years Of Disordered Eating
1. Diets Don’t Work
Plain and simple. You might be consuming a deficit of your required caloric intake, leaving carbohydrates in the dust, losing weight and feeling good, but what happens when you go back to your regular eating habits and lifestyle? Certainly this isn’t a sustainable lifestyle and unfortunately, people often gain the weight back (if not more) after resuming their normal lifestyle. When focusing on weight loss, we actually want to focus on fat loss. That means getting past the glucose/glycogen burning phase (the first phase we go into for ~2 hours after eating) and into the fat burning phase (the second phase we go into ~3 hours after eating). In saying that, it means that we want to aim for 3 meals a day spaced out 4-5 hours each with minimal-to-no snacking in-between. It also means that each of those meals must contain a healthy balance of fats, proteins and carbohydrates in order to give our body the fuel it needs to thrive and withstand the 4-5 hours of fasting between meals. I’m not victimizing snacks here, but I think it’s a good reminder for us to pay attention to our body and our hunger and not just eat around the clock because we were raised or programmed to do so. Remember that losing weight doesn’t always mean losing fat. If gone about incorrectly, it could actually mean our body is digesting it’s own bodily tissues or potentially leaving us with severe health issues as a result, including adrenal fatigue, metabolic syndrome, hypothyroidism or hormonal imbalances.
2. Just eat the whole damn thing
I used to do this thing where I would only eat half of everything – muffins, cookies, pizza, you name it. In my mind, I was exemplifying so much self control. But of course, I always ended up going back 20 minutes later to eat the rest of what I started plus MORE. I mean, we wouldn’t want to leave that piece of cake or tray of brownies not looking symmetrical right? After far too many years of falling into this trap, I finally called it quits. I started taking the whole thing instead of half. But you know what? I would only end up eating just that and would feel satisfied as a result. When we snack all day, it’s difficult to see how much we consumed. It also does a number on our blood sugar levels as constant snacking causes our blood sugar levels to continuously spike and drop which leads to energy crashes, brain fog and potentially Type 2 Diabetes or Insulin Resistance (if the case is severe enough).
3. Just eat the REAL damn thing
Low carb, low calorie, low fat – it’s time to take these soul-sucking and air-filled words out of our vocabulary for good. While we might be “saving” on adding these carbohydrates, calories or fat to our diet, the truth is that we need these macronutrients and calories to survive. We were meant to put real whole nourishing foods into our bodies. Our body recognizes foods from nature and knows how to break them down properly and make use of their healing properties, whereas those 100 calorie snack packs of yogurt covered pretzels are essentially like putting air into our bodies. We end up depriving our body of vital vitamins, minerals and nutrients, causing it to go into “survival mode”. In this survival mode, we either store fat for future energy stores or affect our stress hormones by causing our adrenals to release cortisol to boost blood sugar as a safety mechanism, keeping energy levels heightened.
4. Eat for the future you, not the present you
It hurts my heart when I hear someone say they are eating a specific way (usually in a restrictive, calorie deficit manner) to look a certain way for a beach vacation, an event or in anticipation of seeing family (or perhaps an ex) they haven’t seen in a while. It hurts because when we do this, the motivation to better oneself stems from a place of self-hate, when we should be centring our actions around self-love and appreciation. Not to mention, a solution such as dieting for a specific occasion is short-lived and isn’t a sustainable long-term solution. What if we instead focused on the long-term goal, the everyday solution; a goal that is balanced and supports our health each and everyday? What if we started making health a priority so we can have the energy to run around with our grandkids when we’re 80, or so we can go on a hike on a whim and get through it with no problem? When we shift our focus, we turn this healthy way of being into a lifestyle – a life long habit, as opposed to the vicious cycle of dieting, indulging in junk and dieting again.
5. Life becomes easier
I think there’s this perception that once we reach a certain goal or look a certain way, life will become easier – more people will be attracted to us, we’ll be able to wear whatever we want without fear and all of our worries will go out the window. The truth is that none of those worries we carry with us actually go away and we end up making life much more stressful and difficult for ourselves than it needs to be. I will tell you what does make life become easier though and that’s eating wholesome nourishing foods. Suddenly when we give our body the nutrients we need through whole foods and stop depriving ourselves, nutrient deficiencies and related symptoms disappear, we learn what it’s like to feel full and understand when to stop to prevent overeating, we don’t obsess about food, numbers and self-image and as a result, life becomes that much more enjoyable and easier.
If there’s any lesson you’ve taken away from your relationship with food, what would it be?