TW - diet talk, diet culture, disordered eating


I've shared a lot of stories on this blog. I've talked about my mental health and suicidal thoughts, my experience watching my grandma die, and my spiritual journey. I like to think I'm an open book and there really isn't much I'm afraid to share.

Except for one story in particular. Today I finally feel ready to share this one. And I have to say that writing this post has been unexpectedly healing for me. 

While I'm mostly a confident person, you may not know the struggles I've gone through to get where I am today with positive body image. I've been holding back on sharing this story. I didn't feel like I had permission to when I'm not completely happy with my weight right now. 

I have finally realized that I'm allowed to share my experience with dieting and still want to lose a few pounds. For a long time, I struggled with feeling like I failed at weight loss. I know others have felt this way too. Why do we feel like we can't share our experiences until we've been what is considered 'successful' at losing weight? And if not successful at weight loss, being successful at still loving our bodies the way they are. Most of the time, we see the finished product and don't see what's behind the perfect picture we see on instagram. The person you envy could look perfect on the outside but maybe they haven't eaten much that day, maybe they think they'd feel better five pounds lighter, or maybe they spend every minute worrying or feeling guilty about something they ate. I know I've been that person before. 

Appearance is such an illusion and it can be really harmful to people. I know I've felt it. Today I'm sharing my experience because when we share our stories, it lets other people know they're not alone. When we share, our pain turns into triumph. 

I have always been a chubby girl. 

Growing up, I was bullied for being a bigger girl. I struggled with being the heaviest among my friends group. I attended elementary school in the 90s when being stick thin was at its' peak. I spent middle school and high school in the early 2000s at the peak of low rise jean popularity. And I spent all those years wondering why I couldn't look like my friends and the women I saw in magazines. 

All the women in my family are curvier. My mom's side is Italian so food was always a big part of family gatherings. I remember being seven or eight years old and telling my mom I wanted to go on a diet. When I was 13, I remember restricting what I ate and weighing myself obsessively. I hated my body and wished I were thinner. 

In high school, I made new friends and they were more diverse and inclusive of everyone, every body. I still felt pressure to lose weight and joined a gym. 

College is where the changes began. I became very busy with school, internships, volunteering, work, and a relationship. By graduation day, I had gained 30 pounds and became ashamed of how I looked. I hated myself. 
I blamed myself. Instead of feeling proud of all that I accomplished, I felt unworthy of celebrating until I lost weight. I wanted a quick fix and immediate change. I noticed a friend had posted on Facebook about a new weight loss program she was trying. I decided to try it too. I'm not writing this post to call out a single diet program but to share my experience and to call out diet culture in general. For this reason, I won't be naming any names. 

The Diet

I met with the owner of the weight loss program and she was very persuasive. Looking back, I now realize she was a sales person, not a weight loss coach with your best interests in mind. At our first meeting, she didn't provide very much information or specifics about how many calories I'd be consuming or how financially this would affect me. She explained in scientific detail how my body would begin to rely on fat for energy instead of carbs and this would cause me to enter a state of 'ketosis' and the pounds would melt off. I didn't care to hear the explanation. She sold me fast weight loss and I bought it. 

It wasn't until recently — six years later —that I began to see the word 'keto' or 'ketosis' appear again. It immediately sparked my interest since that word was repeated so many times back when I was on the diet. I also saw that Netflix released a documentary called 'The Magic Pill' which discusses the keto diet. Subsequently, I've seen a few friends and acquaintances on social media posting their meals and hashtagging #ketodiet or #ketolife. Upon further inspection, it turns out the Ketosis diet is the number one googled diet of 2018. I couldn't think of a better time to share my experience.

I was on a very extreme, strict, and expensive version of the Keto diet. I had a weight loss coach who I met with every week where I was weighed and handed in my weekly food journal. She would review it and tell me where I went wrong and what worked well. I felt so judged and whenever I "messed up", I took it hard. I was mostly eating a LOT of meat, eggs, and vegetables, in addition to protein dense, genetically modified processed foods from plastic packets. I wasn't "allowed" to eat fruit, dairy, soft cheeses, drink alcohol or milk — basically any carbs. I did this for three months. In the summer. When food brings such pleasure. In addition to feeling extremely deprived and singled out at social events, I became very obsessed with food. 

On this diet, you expel sodium, potassium, magnesium, and water a lot quicker so I was taking and obscene amount of supplements. I was discouraged from exercise as it would be too much for my body since it was so busy being "in ketosis". 

Over three months, I lost 33 pounds. I only wanted to weigh what I weighed before college but the same weight following this diet equalled a different clothing size. Instead of returning to my former size 12, I became a size 8. This was thinner than I'd ever been or wanted to be. I no longer had my curves or felt sexy. I felt like a shell of who I was. As you can see by the fake smile in the photo below (left), I still wasn't happy. 

Why I Stopped

Diets of all kinds, including ketosis, is not sustainable in the long term. I was always anxious about what I was going to eat for the next meal or what I was going to have at a family gathering. Hanging out with friends wasn't as enjoyable because I couldn't eat the foods I used to or have a patio drink. I became really sick of eating so much meat. I began to get really bad headaches. I experienced what I now know was anxiety for the first time. I would get so mad at myself if I didn't lose any weight one week. And I hated having to explain myself if I ate something I wasn't supposed to

In addition to the headaches, anxiety, and stress, I noticed my period stopped while I was on this diet. Ketosis occurs when a person is deprived of dietary carbohydrates, causing the body to burn glycogen and fat stores for energy. This can lead to rapid weight loss, which may cause late or missed periods in some women. (source) While I agree periods are annoying anyway, they are good indicator of overall health. And I for one wouldn't trade it in for living an unhealthy lifestyle. 

When I met with the weight loss coach to tell her I was quitting, she made me feel like I was crazy and it was just the carbs making me think I needed them. She tried to convince me I was addicted to sugar and this feeling was just the addiction talking. I now know it's because she was scared of losing me as a client. I must've spent thousands on her weight loss program. I sobbed in her office and she made me feel like I was making a big mistake. 

I'm so grateful I eventually realized what was happening and noticed how obsessive I became with food. I recognized my thought patterns changing and I knew this wasn't healthy. I wanted to have my old self back, rolls and all. 

Where I'm At Today

Writing this post has made me realize how far I've come. I obviously have my beloved curves back. I got my happiness and peace of mind back too. I returned to eating how I want, not worrying about my next meal and meeting a weekly weight loss quota. I have learned to love my body. And I really do. Each day is different. Some days are better than others but I do love my body. When I look at myself in the mirror naked, of course there are things I'd change but those things are mainly dictated by what is portrayed as beautiful. I know my body is perfect as it is.  

I would be lying if I told you I don't want to lose a few pounds. This year has come with boatloads of stress and my clothes aren't fitting how I want them to. But instead of freaking out or spiralling into a carb-free river of self hate, I am approaching this life style change with self love. I make a promise to myself every morning to eat healthy and fresh foods. That is my goal. I exercise almost every day. I love the way it makes me feel. I know my clothes will eventually fit better but I am being patient and consistent. 

I want to start more conversations around body image, self love, and exposing the harmful effects of diet culture. I've been brain washed by diet culture but I now see right through it. I want to advocate for more acceptance and less judgment. I want to upload less perfect pictures and show that I can love myself as I am, right here and now, and you can too. 

If you're reading this I hope you know you're perfect right now. If you've been affected by the weight loss industry, I'm sorry and I feel you. It's not okay and nobody should make you feel less than. And I want to apologize to anyone I've made feel less than because I was eating a certain way or reached a certain number on the scale. I am no better than anyone else. 

Eating should be enjoyable. Food has the power to bring people together, to express creativity, and to heal. I am so happy I found love again in food, in my body, and in me.  

photo credits: Lisa Kidd, Rosie Waugh, Michael Tundo

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