EDITOR’S NOTE: This post is not an eating guide. It’s a reflection from one of our lovely trainers about how she personally stays on track given her history of disordered eating. If you feel you may be practicing disordered eating, consult a doctor or a licensed medical professional before making changes to your nutrition plan.
Hello, my name is Britta. I am a fitness and nutrition coach and I struggle with disordered eating.
My History With Food
Ever since I was pretty young, I have had a tricky relationship with food. My parents separated when I was in fifth grade and everything in my life felt out of control.
Around then was when I decided that the one thing I could control was what I put into my body. Lima beans, bananas, plain yogurt, plain baked potato, steamed broccoli. No salt or butter of course. I went from a healthy, normal 11-year-old to an anorexic girl in disguise as a “vegetarian.”
It got bad. I kept a journal of my calories. I became very weak. I would pass out. My skin started to stretch tightly over my face until there was no more baby fat left.
But these changes only made me feel better about myself. When I went for my physical that year, they informed me that my growth chart, which had always been perfectly on track, had halted. I was about 15 lbs. underweight.
The nutritionist told me that I was eating the same amount a bird eats in a day. My doctor began to insist on weigh-ins and prescribed me to drink boost everyday. This felt like a death sentence to me.
People at school started noticing and asking questions. Finally, my mom had to write a letter to the school, asking them not to approach me about it, that I was under a doctor’s care.
I will never forget, at one of my weigh-ins, I undressed to step on the scale as I always did. When they happily informed me that I had gained one pound, I immediately felt devastated and burst into tears. We got back into the car but I did not go back to school that day. Instead, I cried and I screamed at the top of my lungs. I was mourning.
It’s clear to me now that I was not only mourning the weight but I was mourning the separation of my parents. I felt so powerless and scared and alone.
Since then, I have gone through stages of my life where I fall back into this scary pattern. It always correlates with what I am going through emotionally in my life, that feeling of instability that we all feel living in this modern world and choose to deal with in a variety of ways.
I’m Not The Only One
Disordered eating can show itself in many different forms, whether it’s through binge eating, anorexia, bulimia, or orthorexia (obsessiveness about the quality of food being ingested, ensuring that its the most healthy, organic, etc).
Really, if you have ever struggled with feeling out of control and it manifests in your food choices, then you know what I am talking about.
And it makes perfect sense. Eating is a deeply emotional experience.
I’m sure you have heard the phrase “food is fuel” floating around the fitness world. And, yes, there is of course validity to that. But food is also so much more than that.
It brings people together. It’s a way to show love. It is rooted and connected with centuries of culture. And it can heal the body in infinite ways.
So, the question is, how can we find ways to change our relationship with food into a beautiful, positive one? One that we can look forward to and that will empower us to go into each day with energy, focus, happiness, and confidence to live our best lives?
Here are 3 ways I approach food to keep my mind and body on the right track.
1. Focus on Eating 80% For Your Goals and 20% Wildcard
When I focus on keeping my baseline of meals within my goals, if there is a day where my husband and I want to go somewhere and have a special or indulgent meal, I feel prepared and am able to enjoy it. It also makes it much easier for me to stay on track the rest of the time, because I allowed myself that special meal.
Avoid depriving yourself.
2. Find Ways to Make Eating Healthy Fun
But it doesn’t have to be that way. I constantly mix it up so that I am able to enjoy each meal to the fullest while staying healthy and on track.
Take a common healthy meal like chicken, broccoli, and sweet potatoes. I’ll turn the protein into a yummy chicken salad with some crushed almonds, raisins, chopped olives, mustard and light mayo.
I’ll cook the broccoli in a pan with some EVOO, salt, pepper, and nutritional yeast (an amazing powder that has a bunch of vitamins in it, but adds a nutty, cheesy flavor without any dairy included).
Then, I may chop up the sweet potato into chunks and cook it in a pan until it’s crispy like french fries and make a sauce with salsa and tahini to dip them in.
Explore new ways to make incredibly tasty, guilt-free meals to avoid boredom. A couple of my favorite places for inspiration are Whole 30 Recipes, The Minimalist Baker, Be Well By Kelly, Whole Food / Healthy Living on Pinterest.
3. Always Get At Least 8 Hours of Sleep
If I am constantly getting enough sleep, I wake up ready to take on the day without feeling overwhelmed. Also, I am more in tune with my body’s cues and I make better decisions for myself as the day carries on.
Consistently prioritizing a full night of quality sleep sets you up for success in many areas of your life, but especially in your eating habits.
We Got This
And it will look different for everyone. Maybe one day you go for the big ass salad instead of the burger or you try some greek yogurt with berries for dessert instead of that pint of Ben and Jerry’s.
Learn as you go, until one day you look up and realize that you are a little more free from those tendencies that used to rule your life.
- National Eating Disorder Association (Find a Professional)
- Precision Nutrition (Article on Disordered Eating)
- Girls Gone Strong (Information and Support for All Women)
- Rachel Mansfield (Health Food Blogger)
Want to be part of a fitness community that will support you wherever you are in your journey? Schedule a Health & Hotness Strategy Session at Mark Fisher Fitness.