Finding peace amidst diet culture - Sharing my struggles with body image.

I started this blog to share the raw, real and vulnerable musings of my heart, and while over the years it has evolved to be a faith based wellness blog, I still want to share big parts of my life. I believe God calls us to be vulnerable and share the hard parts of our lives as much as we share the good parts. So, that’s exactly what I’m going to do.

If you are triggered by food, toxic eating habits and bad body image, please stop reading. I want my little corner of the internet to be a safe space for this community and would hate for anyone to feel uncomfortable while reading this.

With that being said, let's get into it.

I have fallen into yoyo dieting, comparison traps, over exercising, under eating, eating junk food behind closed doors, restricting and binging. I have spent so long fixated + focused on my body and striving to constantly lose weight that I truly have lost sight of what is important. My weight has always fluctuated because I have always cut a specific food group out to achieve a certain body goal and every time I incorporate it back in, I’ve gained all the weight back + more.

This has been a m a s s i v e part of my journey and it’s something I have truly battled with for years. I’ve written a blog post about it before but deleted it a few days after posting because I quickly fell into old habits, but we will get to that later on.

I have struggled immensely with body image. I remember the very first moment I didn’t feel good enough because my body didn’t fit into this “worldly standard”. I was 12. 12 years old and ashamed of the way my body looked. This is where unhealthy eating patterns started, but it didn’t get worse until I was around 16, after my dad passed away. His death was sudden and it rocked my world in a way I can’t explain. The one thing I felt like I could control was my weight. After he died I lost a lot of weight due to grief. I quickly became obsessed with being small. Later that year I got glandular fever and lost more weight. I was really tiny at this point, and I knew it wasn’t healthy, but I loved feeling “skinny”. Over the next few years I gained some weight back.

I’m 18 now. It was at this age that I was introduced to macros and weight training at the gym. I had a boyfriend at the time who was obsessed with fitness and food in an unhealthy way. Unfortunately I feel like in the process I adopted a few of those unhealthy habits and a negative mindset around food. My cousin even told me a few months ago how bad it was when I was with him.

It was when I was 18 years old that carbs became my fear food and I tried to avoid them as much as possible.

The restriction began.

I then decided I wanted to be vegetarian and I gained SO much weight. During this time I didn’t nourish myself properly at all. I was filling my body with vegetables, empty carbs and very minimal protein or fat. I remember going to Hawaii for the first time and limiting what I was eating because it didn’t fit my “diet” standard. The weight gain had a really negative impact on my body image, and I returned to eating meat.

When I was 21 I decided I wanted to come off the hormonal birth control pill (I was originally on it because I had terrible acne). I ended up losing a bunch of weight and also lost my period for 3 months in that process. I was obsessed with looking and feeling small. I became more and more conscious of the foods I was eating and again tried to heavily restrict my carbs during this time. I eventually got my period back and travelled to America again that year and gained more weight. I remember being on a road trip with my Gideon, we had just started dating and I was SO self conscious in a bikini. I was the heaviest I have ever been and felt really uncomfortable in my body. I came home and tried to diet and lose the weight again.

Now I’m 22, and I’ve had some major life changes happen. I won’t go into all of those right now, but I found myself experimenting with a vegan diet. Determined to do it right this time, I was more conscious of my protein intake and thought I could eat this way forever. The first few months I felt great, but then I started to gain weight again, I felt puffy, my skin broke out really bad and my iron was the lowest it’s ever been in my life. I remember having a conversation with my mum and it being really difficult to come to terms with the fact that I couldn’t label myself as eating a certain way anymore. I wanted it to work for me, but it was so very clear that my body was telling me otherwise. I went back to eating normally but then started to experience extreme period pain (dysmenorrhea), bloating, constipation etc. I decided to cut dairy out of my diet because it can cause inflammation for some people.

My bloating and constipation went away, but my dysmenorrhea was something I was still really struggling with.

It’s now the end of the year and I have *finally* received my visa, moved to the States and married my Gideon.

A couple of months into our marriage I was still experiencing extreme period pain and I became bloated, experienced terrible pains after eating certain foods and was struggling with constipation again. I truly felt like my body was failing me and I didn’t know what to do. I love taking a natural approach to health + healing, and I have a passion for food + nutrition. I was doing some research on the paleo diet and thought it might be worth a shot to try reduce some inflammation in my body. I also really wanted to try get my dysmenorrhea under control without having to see a doctor over here in the States.

At this point I'm 23. The paleo diet I went on truly did start out with good intentions, and it did work. All of my symptoms subsided. On the paleo diet I lost a total of 6.8 kg (15 pounds). The more my body shrunk, the more obsessed I became with losing weight. I would no joke weigh myself at least 4 times a day, just to see that “ideal” number on the scale. I was only eating 1000 calories a day. WHAT THE HECKKKKKK. Even though I was still in a healthy weight range (don’t ask me how with how much I was restricting), it wasn’t ever good enough, I wanted to be smaller and I wanted to do everything in my power to achieve that. I was also walking every morning for at least an hour, doing an at home workout and doing strength training most days. While I was paleo I also intermittent fasted. I did enjoy this and found it easy because I was home and unable to work because I was waiting on my green card. But there were definitely times where I was so strict with it. I was hungry but felt like I couldn’t eat because it wasn’t in my eating window. Or I panicked if we had plans to go out for dinner because I needed to finish eating at a certain time or I would have to fast for longer the next day.

On top of all of that, because I labelled myself as paleo, I felt like I couldn’t eat rice, peanut butter or chickpeas. I felt so restricted and would often binge on those foods in secret.

Now I'm 24. Earlier this year I tried to rid myself of labels and just eat food without feeling guilty. I genuinely tried, but still felt so ashamed that I wasn’t meeting this unspoken of standard I had set for myself. It’s like I was obsessed with having a label and defined health in whatever category I was yoyo dieting in at the time.

No matter how much I tried to free myself of this obsession, I couldn’t.

Over the first month or so of the summer I did another “challenge” and went back to eating paleo. I figured it made me feel good and I lost a lot of weight the last time I did it, so I should see the same results this time around too. I didn’t. I just felt defeated, I felt like I failed and honestly didn’t feel like I had any control. I would restrict certain food groups and then binge on them later. It was truly a mess.

I then got heavily into counting calories and tracking macros. While I do believe this can be a great tool that can give you an idea of the nutrients, vitamins and minerals in the foods you are consuming, there is also a fine line where people can become too obsessive with it. AKA: Me! I was so fixated on the numbers, that I was completely disregarding my hunger and fullness cues. If I ate over my calories, I felt the need to burn them off by doing more exercise and I just didn’t feel like I could be versatile with my meals because I was weighing everything… even freaking spinach. It was just insane and this was my last straw.

I finally came to Jesus, with an open heart truly ready to make a change, a real change. I wanted a permanent change! I wanted to feel in control around my food, not have to label myself and not feel the need to always be losing weight.

Friends, something clicked after that prayer. It was like this wave of peace washed over my body and I knew something was different.

I remember the first time in I don’t know how long that I wasn’t focused on my food for a whole day. I ate when I was hungry and stopped when I was full. I ate a variety of delicious whole foods and felt completely satisfied. That was the first day I felt like food wasn’t controlling me or my mind. I wasn’t planning out my next meal, I wasn’t counting calories, I wasn’t worried if a food was going to “make me fat”. Everything just flowed. To some people this might sound so stupid, I understand that, but for me, this is a really big deal and it’s something I’m really proud of.

I know this is a journey and there are going to be days when it feels hard, but that’s part of it. I have been stuck in such an unhealthy mindset and lived out toxic habits for so long that shaking them over night isn’t how it’s going to play out every day. In saying that, I do finally feel free from something that has held me down for so long. I’m eating my fear foods, I’m not focusing on how many calories I burn in a day, I’m not weighing myself, I’m not tracking my macros, I’m not on a diet, I don’t have a restricted time frame I have to eat in and I can go out with friends and not have to worry about my food choices.

I don’t believe diets work, nor do I believe they benefit us. Speaking from personal experience, they often lead to this toxic restrict and binge cycle. I have literally made myself physically sick from eating the foods I have restricted because they were "off limits" for me and I didn’t know when I was going to be “allowed” to eat them again. One time I binged and actually threw up because I ate too much.

I understand not everyone has this experience. But for me, It has been such a tiring thing to go through.

These are just 5 of the many things I am focusing on in this journey right now:

  • Spending time with God DAILY! I am so in love with my sweet Saviour and I’m so thankful I get to experience a love like His every single day — filled to the brim with endless grace, comfort and warmth. There is nothing more important to me than prioritizing time with Him by reading His word and actually praying to Him. I have pages filled with prayers expressing my gratitude, worries, fears — all of it. Time spent with God postures my heart and keeps me grounded.

  • I do believe that food is medicine, food is fuel and food is a gift. I am trying my best to continue to honour my body with the foods God has blessed us with. For me this looks like eating whole foods. I’m not restricting any specific food groups (apart from dairy because I’m intolerant). I’m not going to lie, some days it’s a mental challenge every time I eat something I have once linked with “causing me to gain weight” but it’s really refreshing to eat all these foods again. And yes, that means curry with actual rice sometimes! This might not be a big deal to you, but it is for me. I’m embracing my small wins.

  • Listening to what my body actually wants and practicing being more in tune with my hunger + fullness cues. This is something I have been really intentional about and some days are definitely better than others. But like I said, it’s a journey.

  • I no longer exercise out of hate for my body, I excercise because I love my body. It’s been through a lot and switching my mindset to focus on how movement makes me feel, rather than moving because I HAVE to in order to lose weight has changed the game for me. I choose to move my body in a way that feels best for me. This usually looks like long walks, strength training, Pilates, stretching and bike rides. If you want to fall in love with moving your body, make sure your moving in a way that feels good for YOU! And make sure you're taking rest days!

  • Looking at food as fuel and nourishment is also an important step I’ve taken. Food is food. I’ve stopped complicating it and I actually enjoy my soul foods like ice cream, cookies, chips and chocolate in moderation. This usually looks like healthier alternatives because that's what feels good for me and again, I want to always come back to nourishment. Being able to read the actual ingredients in the foods I'm consuming is important to me. I want to make it as easy for my body as I can to digest. There is no shame in that and that doesn't mean I'm in an unhealthy cycle. I now know how to stop at a healthy serving size, instead of stuffing my face until I’m sick and bloated. It’s all about balance, friends!

Like I said before, something inside of me clicked that day, and I know that it is only because of Jesus that I am able to take this leap and rid myself of what has been holding me back and weighing me down for so long.

If you’ve made it this far, thank you. Thank you for allowing me to share part of my story. If you are struggling with body image or food, please don’t hesitate to reach out and chat to me. I know how hard it can be and I’d love to pray for you and support you through your journey.

Together, Let’s flourish, lovely!

John 8:36 - So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.

John 16:33 - “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”