A few years back, when I was still in school as a nutrition student, I made a resolution: I would make extra efforts to eat well and exercise. You’re probably telling yourself that this is a pretty typical goal for a nutrition student and you are probably right. When your whole life revolves around food and nutrition, this seems like a pretty normal response. So far, so good. So I started going to the gym more often, tracking what I was eating using an iPhone app and controlling my energy intake. It didn’t take long before I started seeing the number on the scale drop. I was ohhh so proud of myself for being so disciplined and motivated. Every week, I would become more and more restrictive, allowing less calories to be consumed and adding extra exercise.
Weeks and months went by and this became my new normal. Of course, with this came the immense sense of guilt whenever I went over my calorie allowance or skipped a gym day. I would beat myself up and got lost in a world of self-criticism and self-hatred. At that point I had lost weight, but I had gained so little in happiness. If anything, I was more miserable than I had ever been. Every decision I made about food was based on numbers: the one on the scale, the ones on my calorie tracker, the calories burned during workouts… Numbers had taken control of my life.
I would weight myself every morning and the number on the scale determined what kind of mood I would be in. To put it simply, I had become obsessed. Very little made me happier than that number on the scale going down. I remember sharing a picture of my weight loss on social media. My friends were liking and commenting my “willpower”, not knowing they we’re actually encouraging my disordered eating. This lasted for a good year, until I finally woke up.
I had always been interested in eating disorders, but of course, had never believed for one second I was at risk of developing one. Through researching this interest, I stumbled upon a link to a short test that told you if you were at risk of developing an eating disorder. I didn’t think much of it, believing I was fine and that my behaviour was completely normal, but I decided to take the test anyways. Needless to say, I was pretty high on the risk scale and this was a huge eye opener for me.
I finally realized how self-destructive my behaviour was. I finally realized I needed to change. And this time, it wasn’t my body I would try to change. Going against everything I had done for over a year was extremely difficult. I deleted my food tracker application, forced myself to take days off from the gym and ate the foods I wanted to eat without looking at calorie content. Every day became a battle. Resisting the urge to weight myself drained my energy. I worked extremely hard to change my thought process. I still need to work on this every day, as old habits want to creep back into my life.
Although my battle will never be completely won, I can honestly say I am comfortable in the skin I am in today. I do not own a scale anymore, but I do still have a hard time resisting weighing myself when I see one. I have put on quite a bit of weight since then. Even though there are days where I hate myself for it, most days, I realize that those kilos probably saved my life and sanity, and for that, I am eternally grateful.
My struggle with food and body image is the reason I am the dietitian I am today. It’s the reason every time I work with a client, I do everything I can to promote a healthy lifestyle without creating feelings of guilt, restrictions or deprivation.
Although those were some of the hardest moments of my life, I would never change what has happened to me. I have gained so much love and self respect from it. I have started to notice my inner qualities. It has also changed my perspective of weight loss, realizing that weight does not equal health, and that there are much more important things to focus on.
Most importantly, I have learned that I am so much more than my body, and I make it my mission to help others learn this too.