How many diets have worked for you? I’ll be honest, I am not really one of those people that tries the latest diet, be it, low carb, low fat, high fat or doing two shots of apple cider vinegar, cayenne pepper and lemon juice while doing a handstand?! But when I was younger I did try a few meal replacement diets like Slimfast and Herbalife, and lets be real, there is no milkshake on this earth thats going to replace any of my meals again. The thought of having two shakes and “one healthy meal” per day, to me now, sounds outrageous! How can someone sustain enough energy from essentially one meal, even if its 1,000cal?! But my journey with food has been a bit of a complicated one. Dieting is difficult because we need to still eat food every day, its not like quitting smoking or giving up alcohol. You can’t just go cold turkey and cut it out. We still need to eat, so finding that balance can be really hard mentally, but thats exactly what you need, balance.
When I was around 22, I did a bootcamp class and took part in a 21 day challenge. Your body naturally can build a habit in 21 days. So for three weeks I was very restrictive with my food, I cut out all caffeine, alcohol, refined sugar and processed foods. I remember someone trying to get me to eat a piece of cake, and I was so determined to stick to this plan I wouldn’t do it, and got really annoyed with the person trying to make me eat it (this still bothers me actually as it makes no difference to the person trying to get you to eat something whether you do or not). This was partly because this was leading up to a photoshoot but also because I was curious to see what my body could do.
After the three weeks finished, I was the smallest and fittest I had ever been, I had been pushing myself to attend the bootcamp classes 5-6 times a week and had been eating fresh meats, fruits and vegetables. But since I had restricted myself so much, I was so ready for a “treat”. The problem was, one treat wasn’t enough, I gorged on biscuits and crisps like they were about to run out. I had take aways all the time and ate whatever I wanted, and I wanted everything; after all, I “deserved” it!
After the first photoshoot came more photoshoots, and by this time I was aware that my body was changing back to what it was before and then some. I felt uncomfortable with the weight I was putting on but kept eating the “treats”. So I went back to what worked the first time. I did another 21 day challenge but this time I cut out all sugar, even fruit, I only allowed myself, I think one banana the whole three weeks. And sure enough that worked, I curbed that weight I had been gaining and managed to take off a bit of the damage I had done for the photoshoots. But it wasn’t the same, and I knew it wasn’t right. And after another three weeks of desperate restriction I was craving sugar more than ever.
When I was done with the photoshoots, I was very unhappy with my body and my lack of will power, I had moved to London where I didn’t know too many people and amongst some other family troubles, very quickly and easily fell into depression. I would hide away at home in my bedroom with food. I would go to the shop and buy everything, I couldn’t decide if I wanted sweet or savory, so I would buy it all. Cakes, biscuits, crisps, sweets, chocolates the lot. I knew it wasn’t right so I would hide it in my bag so no one would see, and run up to my room where I would eat everything until it was either gone or I felt physically sick, and even then sometimes I would keep eating.
There was a lot of emotion involved in this eating. There was sadness, and loneliness, happiness in the moment, but then guilt and shame, angry thoughts full of self-hatred, embarrassment and misery. I felt pretty helpless at the time, but I did recognize I needed to get help, I needed to make a change. And for anyone reading this that can relate, there is help out there, and it will get better. I tried a lot of things on my own after realizing pure will-power wasn’t enough. I tried exercising more (until I realized it is impossible to out-train a bad diet), I tried buying the healthier snacks/treats, I even tried hypnotherapy which worked for me for a little while but then things went back to the way they were. I went to the doctor and was prescribed anti-depressants. I hated the thought of taking them but this situation had already been going on for long enough, so I took them. I was referred to a counselor, which I found I didn’t really gel with. But I ended up finding one of my own, which I paid for. There is a world of difference between a counselor you feel comfortable with and one you don’t. I know not everyone has the funds to do this but there ARE other ways, explore different options that are within your means or even think about if there is something you can sacrifice to be able to afford it. Is your weekly take away more important? Maybe it is, but take a look at how you can make this work in your situation. I believe everyone can benefit from therapy, if you get the opportunity to talk to someone, take it!
Ultimately, I moved to a new area and my whole world changed, I threw myself into a new job and ended up loosing weight, this really helped me with improving my relationship with food, and falling in love with exercise again. I loved it before but during that time it was more of a chore. Since starting Crossfit I really love it more than ever, it really is true that it becomes so much easier when you discover what it is you enjoy.
So fast forward to now, I go to a local Crossfit here in NYC, and I’m not on a diet. I eat what I want, when I want and if that includes cakes, ice cream and biscuits, so be it. I don’t reward myself with food, and I also don’t punish myself for having a “treat”. I’m not obsessing over it either way. As for my mental health, it’s a work in progress, I have good days and bad days, just like everyone else. But ultimately I’m doing pretty good. I have an amazing support system around me and I have a lot of love in my heart.
If you can relate to any part of this post just remember you’re not alone, and it will get better. There is no healthy “quick fix”. A balanced diet includes nutritious food, it includes protein, carbohydrates, fruit and vegetables and fat, it includes cake, and biscuits, it includes, sweets and crisps, and anything else you want, in good proportions. Life shouldn’t be about restriction, there are times when that might be necessary and thats ok, but if you’re obsessing about it, its not healthy any more, and that goes both ways; restricting and over-indulging. Being healthy is as much mental as it is physical, and if your eating is disordered you should definitely seek help about what the root cause is, and how to get a handle on it.
If you’ve overcome a battle, or are still fighting and want to share please reach out in the comments below or find me on Instagram. It all starts with a conversation.