Many people struggle with something in their lives; many people struggle with many things in their lives. I am one of those people who struggle with many things. I have anxiety, I fluctuate with my weight, I am a perfectionist, I care too much about things, and I have a complicated relationship with food. A relationship that goes deeper than I ever thought it did and something I just realized in the past year to year and a half.
I have always loved food. When I was little I don’t think I knew I loved food in the way I do now, but I knew I loved it. I loved to eat and eat a lot of different things (not exotic and scary, although before I was vegan and while living in Australia, I did try kangaroo, which to me is a little crazy!) I did not have a healthy relationship with food when I was younger because I simply didn’t eat healthy foods. I’m not saying my parents didn’t feed me healthy food. They did serve my brother and I well balanced meals, but I wasn’t one to eat vegetables unless they were from a can and loaded with sodium and butter. Yeah, butter. I had to put pure fat on my vegetables in order to eat them. I did see my mom do the same though as that’s the only way she really eats vegetables and so I assumed it was normal.
I was always an overweight child. I don’t blame my parents at all though. I think between not eating perhaps as “healthy” as I should and not being active aside from walking and gym class, it was an obvious thing for me to go down the overweight path. It’s unfortunately quite a common thing for children these days in the U.S. I don’t think it’s the parent’s poor decisions that lead the children to this way of living either, although sometimes it is. Many times kids are not as active especially today with the technology and want to food that is good which is junk food. As I got older though and went to college I learned to like food in a different way. I started to get into fitness and therefore I started to look at what I was putting into my body.
I did still eat junk food, I mean I was a college kid and lived on campus for a year, so not all of the best choices were made. It wasn’t until after
college that I complicated my relationship with food. During this time in my life, I was working out 2-3 hours a day (at least) and counting every morsel of food I put into my body. I had set macros for each day (macronutrients i.e. carbs, fats. and proteins) and I stuck to them rigorously. I weighed everything that was about to go into my body. I talked about this a little bit in my Body Image blog, I believe, but it was one Christmas when my best friend was home. We were playing Cards Against Humanity and eating chips and guac and having wine. I grabbed my phone to put in how much of what I was eating and drinking. I recall her and my other friend looking at me like, come on we’re having a girls night, its ok.
At this time, I didn’t realize I had an obsession with food. I enjoyed cooking it for the most part, but it wasn’t so much about that at the time as it was about my meticulousness with it. I had to always be looking for the healthier option, the better option and if I did have a “treat” than I thought it meant that I had to run longer later that day or the next day so that the weight didn’t come back. I lost 100 pounds, which is a lot of weight but the mindset it put me in absolutely destroyed me.
I took the past two years off of counting macros because I wanted to focus on my Master’s degree. I had given up the gym as well because I didn’t have time. I honestly stopped caring. I was eating pizza, take out, and sweets all the time. I bought them and kept them in my house, so I ate them. At the time, it was just me and even when my boyfriend moved in while he’s smaller and can get away with eating foods like pizza and hamburgers and not gain weight, it’s not something my body can do.
Last July I decided that meat and dairy products weren’t serving me anymore. I had been vegetarian for about seven years when I was younger and had only begun to eat meat again because it was convenient. I realized I had stomach issues with diary though, so I figured why not cut it all out again. I cut out all animals products from my diet and went vegan. While I’ve had a few slip ups and cravings for dairy I’ve given into, which happens sometimes when you literally cold turkey drastically change your diet, but it’s been over a year now and I feel amazing!
Going vegan made me believe that I had to be healthy because vegan food is healthy, right? That’s the assumption because vegans obviously only eat vegetables and fruits. Was I healthy though? Not so much. I found vegan junk food which while I still have friends and family say “but it’s still vegan, so it’s healthy?” it’s not the case. Vegan junk food can be as bad as normal junk food because it still has sugar, additives, and processed crap in it.
I was finding that while going vegan made me love to cook and experiment in the kitchen in ways I had never had a passion before that I was definitely not a healthy vegan. I was eating processed food every day. I started to turn this hatred of what I was eating inwards and telling myself all the bad things again. I was fat. My diet was awful even though its vegan and so on. Once again my mental state was broken down. When I initially went vegan, I thought positively because I thought it would change me drastically, but I quickly found out it didn’t and I had a lot more work to do on myself.
Lately, I’ve been trying to eat foods that are only whole foods. I feel best when I eat this way. I stick to vegetables, fruits, grains, and beans. My
whole diet consists mainly of just those four areas. The problem is that while I have learned healthy vs unhealthy my mind is still in a very negative place. Almost every time I indulge in the slightest I hear myself thinking that I shouldn’t have eaten it and I feel instantly guilty. I shouldn’t feel guilty for one “unhealthy” meal or one drink with a friend though. Life is about balance and I need to remember that having some vegan ice cream one night in the month isn’t the worst thing in the world. It can be hard to find that balance though when you are tired of feeling like you’re the fat friend or that you should be better at eating the right foods.
One thing I did to help myself is to stop distinguishing good and bad foods. Foods can’t be “good” or “bad.” Instead, I try to ask myself if it will serve me and if it will give me the nutrients I need? I want to nourish my temple and not deplete it by putting crap into it. Changing my thought process to that honestly changed a lot for me. My body is a temple and I serve it right 95% of the time, so if I’m having something off 5% of that time, I honestly think I’m doing pretty dam* good job especially as I’m still a graduate student balancing school, work, writing my thesis, friends/family/boyfriend, and home life with two cats.
I think there are so many people who have an unhealthy relationship with food. Just in the way my co-workers and I talk about food can be unhealthy and we don’t always realize it. So many people have issues with food and the way in which they think about food. We’re always so negative about ourselves when it comes to food and it’s not a healthy way to live. Just know you’re not alone and I struggle too even today. It’s something I am working on though and to allow myself to indulge if I want and not feel guilty about it.
Stay Healthy. Stay Happy. Stay Loving.