In The Beginning…
If I think back far enough, I can remember a time that food and I had a wonderful relationship. I ate what tasted good, stopped when I was full, and did not use food to cure boredom, sad feelings, or measure my worthiness. Exercise came in the form of play. It was neither a torture device nor something I had to make time for. It was as natural as breathing. The world was my playground.
Name A Diet, I Tried It!
But along the way, I started to get the message that food was something that needed to be controlled or it would control me. I learned that I had to restrict what I ate and had to diet, even though I was very young and nowhere close to being overweight. How did that begin? Well, I’ve done a lot of soul searching about this and it all comes down to my desire to belong. You see, my mom and sister were very much my “tribe” growing up. With my mom always struggling with her weight and dieting and my sister also struggling with her weight and going on her first diet at age 10, I learned at a subconscious level that in order to stay connected and fit in with my tribe, I too must have a confrontational relationship with food. To diet was to connect with those I loved most, to belong. By taking on this food philosophy, I was safe, included, and it was my way to connect with two of the people I was closest to in the world. By age 9, I was journaling about my first diet and exercise plan.
Dieting was not only the norm in my home, but in my family at large…there was always talk about someone having to go on a diet yet food was always in large abundance at every family gathering, and not the most healthy kind. With many family gatherings happening on Sundays, I can remember family members saying that the diet would begin tomorrow as they simultaneously filled up with their plates with large amounts of food. I don’t blame my family for teaching me the diet mentality…no one had taught them how to have a healthy relationship with food either. And certainly the mixed and misaligned thinking of the media and diet industry didn’t help either.
Over time, I started to spend less time outdoors and more time in front of the TV. I then learned that exercise was something you went to go “do” as opposed to something that was natural and part of your every day experience. I learned that it had to be hard, painful, and repetitious to really count and be worth anything.
By the time I started high school, I had a weight problem that just kept growing. The hardest part for me, mentally speaking, was that I was doing what I the USDA and current diet craze was telling me to do. I was restricting my calories, (at one point to only 1,000 calories a day), I was eating a high carb, low fat diet, and ate everything “diet”- diet sodas, low-cal frozen dinners, low-cal/fat free ice cream, you name it. What wasn’t I doing? Well, I wasn’t indulging in the high fat foods my friends were (equally unhealthy) and so I couldn’t understand why I was gaining weight at a slow but steady pace. It came to a point where I could look at a piece of food and tell you how many calories it had. I can still do this till this day.
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This continued throughout high school. Nothing worked, not Weight Watchers, not my calorie counting, nothing. I still exercised regularly, running sometimes 3 to 4 miles a day, 5 days a week. But still I was overweight. I also had an ulcer, suffered form acid-reflux, and drank lactaid mild because I was told it was good for me and since I couldn’t digest milk, my only answer to calcium. Things only got worse in college, as I was now in carb heaven, processed carb heaven. But I still thought that low fat would be my saving grace. So, I had a diet based mostly on frozen yogurt (fat free!), cereal, Diet Coke, white rice, loads of chicken breasts, and salad with some sort of low-cal dressing. I felt deprived and confused and inside just thought it was my fate to be a little chunky. At my heaviest, I was 5’3” and 160 pounds. Then, towards the end of college, I got introduced to the Atkins Diet. This seemed like I had hit the goldmine! No longer was I confined to low fat anything! I went back to eating red meat (which I had given up at age 13) and filled my plate with burger patties covered in cheese, omelets, nuts, and drank a wide variety of diet sodas. It was great…for awhile. Eventually, I really wanted an apple and anyway, I had plateaued on the diet. I lost a little but not nearly what I wanted. I then tried the Carbohydrate Addicts diet for a stint, eventually going back to calorie counting and was more confused then ever.
No amount of exercise, not even a marathon, could help me slim down either. I was a young woman addicted to diet drinks, Splenda, Equal, low cal frozen yogurt, and diet frozen dinners who simply could not lose weight.
My weight stayed between 155-150 for a very long time. I continued looking for answers to my weight problem, trying more diets such as the Zone and Fat Flush and was at the gym 5 days a week. Sadly, the results were basically the same.
A Break In The Clouds
But something shifted in 2005, partly brought on by some good and some stressful events. The good news was that I met a wonderful guy and fell in love. The bad news was that I had a huge falling out with my roommate and had to move out. However, I had no money saved and so moved in with my grandparents. Because their home and my job were so far away, I had to depend less and less on a kitchen and more on eating out. For most people, this would spell disaster. Now, I can’t even think of it. But ironically it was the gateway to big change for me. Why? Because I had always been committed to trying to eat well, I just didn’t know how to. And sense it is very hard to find a Lean Cuisine when you are buying food on the go or eating out with your boyfriend (who loved to eat out and take me to nice restaurants), I happened to fall in the habit of eating less and less processed foods. I started eating things from the hot food bar at Whole Foods, things like roasted chicken with vegetables and some sweet potatoes, ordering fish and veggies at restaurants, and when at my grandparents, allowing myself to enjoy some homemade goodness. I was even having a bite or two of real dessert! I also stopped exercising like a maniac and being a bit more even keeled in my approach, again, not so much by conscious choice, but by default. I also was experiencing deep connection and a communal aspect to food. I was also in love, so my other needs and desires were also being fed too.
Over the course of 10 months, I lost 30 lbs.
A Yogic Shift
As summer arrived and I had lots of spare time, I spent more time at the gym and became interested in trying yoga again. This ignited a passion, which has been going strong ever since. I will admit that I first turned to yoga for the physical benefits but soon it become my spiritual sanctuary as well. I decided that I wanted to pass this love of yoga on to my students (I teach Kindergarten) and took different trainings so I could do just that!
Yoga also made me start to examine my diet and lifestyle more closely. I started considering vegetarianism and after doing a cleanse the following year, I decided to go for it. I was more of a “pescatarian” to be honest. This new way of eating opened up new doors for me and I became more and more interested in nutrition and food as a way of healing, I also started to let go of things in my personal life that weren’t working. I ended my long-term relationship and moved closer to the beach again. No roommates for the first time ever! I really felt like I was starting to come into my own.
Veganism and Raw Foods
About a year later, I decided to try veganism. I thought I would feel great, but didn’t. After some trial and error and educating myself further, I realized that a big part of the problem was that I was still eating lots of processed foods, especially in the form of soy products (veggie burgers, tofu, tofu dogs, etc.). However, I felt stuck and lost about what to eat. I really felt that I was on the brink of being my healthiest self but didn’t have the know-how as to how I could increase the nutritional value of my food, what to buy, and how to prepare it.
Then in the fall of 2008, I started to research raw foods. Suddenly, food and nutrition were fun again. I totally kicked my diet soda and artificial sweetener habit. I bought books, tried new recipes, and even joined a raw food community website, Give It To Me Raw, where raw foodies could connect and trade ideas/recipes. As a side note, I love this site because it not only gave me support but it also led me to my now boyfriend, Mike.
Through my raw food journey, I learned so much about the power of greens and green juices, natural remedies, using sea vegetables and an array of spices in my food, and so much more. I became fascinated by nutrition and it became my full time passion. I read and researched as much as I could. The only problem I had was that I couldn’t commit to being “100% raw” and for awhile, it bothered me. But over time, I learned that the real magic lied in incorporating as much whole, real food into my diet as possible.
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Finding The Balance
And that is where I am today. I don’t fit nicely into one box. I eat a high raw diet still, but also enjoy eating grains like quinoa, brown rice and healthy cooked foods as well. I love warm soups and root veggies in the colder months. I don’t eat red meat, but do eat fish a few times a week. I don’t drink cow’s milk or cheese, but enjoy some (usually raw) goat cheese from my local farmer’s market now and then. 99% of the time my diet is gluten free, but guess what? I had the best pizza ever in NYC a couple of years ago. My point is that I have come to place that works for me and am open to changing it as my body and I see fit. It’s a healthy diet, full of real, non-processed foods, with a strong foundation in organic fruits and veggies. It’s colorful, seasonally appropriate, and allows me the flexibility to enjoy a wide array of healthy and delicious foods. I don’t restrict foods-I enjoy foods that work for me and sometimes, I eat some foods that don’t, but I fully enjoy whatever I eat and aim to stay fully present. When I think back on where I started and where I am now, I feel so grateful to have taken this journey and to have a more loving and nourishing relationship with food. This has also translated to a more nourishing relationship with my body and myself.
Using My Journey To Help Others
My struggles and eventual peaceful relationship with food led me to become a holistic health coach through the Institute of Integrative Nutrition (IIN). Their advocation of whole, real foods and their belief that “one person’s medicine is another person’s poison” really spoke to me. I loved learning so many different dietary theories, which now helps me meet my clients’ individual needs and lifestyles. I also loved that they saw food as only one piece of the puzzle. At IIN, we learn that our Primary Foods- relationships, spirituality, exercise, and career- our just as important to nourishing us as food is. These Primary Foods also effect how and what we eat. In the end, we must nourish and pay attention to all of these things to reach optimal health.
Now, I feel that I am in such a good place in my life in terms of food, self-worth, and overall satisfaction. It was a long journey and it will never stop. But I know that wellness and happiness will always accompany me on it!
I share my story with you because I know that it can be difficult, confusing, and sometimes painful to make the changes you want to and reach your goals of total wellness. However, with the right guidance it doesn’t have to be. You can become empowered and be your own guru. Let me help you get started on your personal journey to optimal health today!
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