I don’t post a lot about personal stuff… mostly because I think "who the hell cares", and I usually convince myself that my life stories are not something others may be interested in or should know.
But here we are today, getting personal and sharing a bit of my journey through intuitive eating. A few days ago, I had a dream when talking to someone I said: “I am in recovery from disordered eating”. It felt good, even if it was just a dream to say it out loud. It felt good to acknowledge this to myself. The road hasn’t been easy, but worth it.
It’s hard to pinpoint where this all started, but the first memories I have of the chase for the thin ideal were in my late teens. Severely restricting food followed sometimes by the expected binge, then hours of exercise to 'burn it all off' while wearing a waist trainer belt of course (hello 90's). By the age of 16 I was severely anemic, and at some point, I remember having blood work that showed my kidney markers were not good either.
With time that changed, but not for the better. Most of my life, I had many different ways in which my disorder eating manifested. Some of the different phases I went through included:
Eating only 1 or 2 small meals per day, but mostly living off coffee and cigarettes (both appetite suppressants).
Eliminating food groups or certain foods because “they are not good or healthy”, without me having an allergy or an actual sensitivity.
Juice cleanse. I can push through the massive headaches - I told myself - "after 24hrs I shouldn’t feel hunger anymore".
Often skipping meals… I’ll just call it intermittent fasting I said.
Then there was the obsession over 'clean eating' and thinking everything had to be cooked from scratch, because "chemicals". I giggle at this a little now, but the thing is, the more I hyper-focused on single ingredients the scariest it all seemed.
Shame, guilt, constantly overthinking my choices. Constipation, hiding to eat some foods. Calorie counting at some point going as low as 800/day... The worst part? Much of this happened while being complemented by others for making those "healthy" choices, or at the lowest of my weight, also for my looks. Yikes!
Add to all that the weight-centric and culturally insensitive nutrition training I took, combine it with a long history of anxiety, and things only got more complicated as time went by and I learned more things.
Most of my life I actually daydreamed of that 'perfect body' I'd have, and it even stopped me from doing things, "I won't go on this trip until reach this weight", "I won't do X or Y" until I loose weight, etc… I am sure some of you can relate to this.
While I may still grieve that body from my twenties or the one I never even had, my body has changed through time to protect me and adapt to its needs. For example, trying to maintain hormonal balance with some added adipose tissue. I have not always been kind to my body, and yet it has always been working hard for me. So, even though it took me a long time to see that, now I can show appreciation and kindness to my body.
And I do acknowledge that I still hold a lot of privilege, while its hard to find clothes that fit, traveling or sitting at a theater is not an issue, nor do I have to inhumanely drag my body out of a plane. Because the world is still somewhat accommodating of my body type. Diet/wellness culture has taken so much from me that I won’t get back. But in the end, I am looking forward to the next decades of being unapologetically ME. And to keep reminding those around me that until every-Body is free, no-Body is.
Turning 40 I didn’t anticipate feeling as good as I do starting this new decade. When I entered my 30’s certainly felt that life must have been playing a joke on me, how can this be?! And here I am, a whole decade later, feeling the best I have in a very long time and ready to take anything that comes my way.
But after all this, you are probably wondering how do things look when I feed myself now?
Well first of all, with the understanding that I don’t have to earn my food and that my body needs food no matter what it looks like, or what I ate the day or the meal before.
One of the biggest things I’ve worked on (and continue to) is listening to my body's signals. Trust me this is easier said than done. As a grown human, I had no idea what my hunger and fullness ques were.
Changing my mindset around foods: all foods fit, fed is best. Here is the thing, although I’ve never been one to go around the grocery store pointing at people how “everything is poison”, there were still so many judgements I made about a lot of foods and the carts they were in.
The words I use to describe it: nourishing, nutritious, fun foods, satisfying. Satisfaction has been a big focus for me, and I will never force myself to eat salmon or kale again. This satisfaction also includes eating more of my cultural foods that I had deemed less than. Arroz con leche is back on the table!
Adding 'trigger' foods with my meals and snacks. Instead of always telling myself I shouldn’t eat this or that, only to eventually eat the entire chocolate bar or bag of chips and start the cycle again, they became part of my meals. This is basically leveling the field and promoting neutrality of foods.
My nighttime binging has pretty much stopped because I am actually feeding myself throughout the day now. And this includes having full snacks, not just an apple and wondering why I’m hungry an hour after.
This is just an example of how I have added things like oreos, cheese popcorn or chips to my meals / snacks. White bread simple sandwiches also hit a special part of my Corazón sometimes.
Now, it is also not just about the way I feed myself. The way I see myself and treat my body is just as important. Accepting my body and treating it with respect, has also helped me rediscover a part of me that I hid for years. This is not to say that studently I love everything about my body, to me that's unrealistic, but I have gratitude for what it does for me, and most importantly, I don't insult nor demean it anymore.
I am still also working through my relationship with exercise. This was damaged because mostly ever saw it as a tool for shaping the body – even while having the knowledge of its health promoting benefits beyond that. You have to understand that we live in a society that equates health to thinness, so I couldn’t have one without the other.
My clients know that I have never been someone to provide restrictive nutrition information, but now I am even more careful with my suggestions, and cognizant to meet the client where they are, not where I think they should be. Oddly enough, I always tried to promote body positivity for others too; it was just me that wasn't deserving of it apparently. Though I have switched this more towards body neutrality rather than positivity.
I could keep writing and sharing a lot more, this journey has been a lot and it's still a work in progress. But this is getting long enough for today... the last thing I'll say, it's how glad I am to have started this journey before perimenopause is in sight - a huge target for the wellness industry right now. But that's another story.
Please know that everyone’s intuitive eating journey and ED/DE recovery looks different. This is just a small snapshot of what mine looks like over a couple years of work. But there is still much more not shared here. I am not an IE councilor, nor an ED specialist. If you need help with this, please see some of the resources listed under links or reach out to your healthcare provider.