Guess Who’s Back
Clearly, I’ve been on a bit of hiatus. Six and half years?! Where did all that time go? Since then, I’ve moved twice, finished my master’s in nutrition, and birthed two babies. Yet I essentially find myself in the same place as my last post: emerging again from shadows into light. Long story short — we moved to California and, about a year later, in the final month of my master’s program, found out we were (surprise!) going to have a baby. I was woefully unprepared for the news and it sent me reeling. Instead of stepping into a bright and shiny new career in nutrition and wellness, I chose to pivot and stay home with Arwen for a year. That turned into four plus years (and Elena). I recognize I am lucky to have had the choice to be home and be so completely engulfed in my babies for these early years, but I sacrificed a lot of myself in giving to my children. Recently I came to the conclusion that I need time to not be ‘just a mom’, time to be myself again, time to find myself. Having a little time on my own got me thinking about WHY I decided to pursue nutrition as a vocation in the first place.
Growing Into Dysfunction
Growing up, I was a supremely picky eater. Really and truly top-level. Mac and cheese, pizza, nuggets, cookies, ice cream, rinse and repeat. I remember heading home from soccer practices with my dad at night and stopping by McDonalds to get a two cheeseburger meal with fries (ketchup and pickles only, no lettuce, tomato or onion). Playing sports consistently all year round kept me ‘thin’ despite the composition of my diet, but the 90’s/00’s diet culture slipped its way into my head eventually.
In junior high, I started feeling down that boys didn’t show interest in me. My older sister was more popular and outgoing and always had a super cute boyfriend, and I made that a reflection on myself. I didn’t think I was magically going to make myself outgoing, but thought maybe there was a way I could make myself cuter. It started small, just trying to dress cuter, and I suppose that’s when I began to think my physical appearance was what would attract people to me. I “finally” got a boyfriend freshman year of high school, and we stayed together for almost three years, despite it being a dysfunctional and largely unrewarding relationship. I think it was senior year that I decided I wasn’t thin enough and I was going to do something about it. So I stole diet pills from the grocery store. They made me jittery, made my heartbeat wild and gave me an almost euphoric feeling. I would eat not-enough lunch at school, have soccer practice, then go home and run a few miles around the neighborhood. I think some of my friends may have noticed, but it didn’t go too far or last that long before I cut it off.
Out On My Own
Freshman year of college is when things truly took a turn. I was on my own, felt alone, and did not have the internal tools to deal with it. Thank all the gods, I did have a few good friends at the university who had gone to my high school. I do not know how I would have made it through that first year without them. But I didn’t make new friends. I was too insecure and shy to ‘put myself out there’. I even pulled away from my roommate, who was literally my best friend going into the year. She was one of the ones I think noticed when things weren’t right, both in high school and beyond. Without doubt, I did not want to talk about it. She always had early morning starts, and I would come in late at night, when she was already asleep. By the end of the year it almost felt like we were strangers. I started running 6+ miles a day, on top of other exercises at the gym. I started restricting my food, eventually aiming for under 600 calories a day. Looking at ‘thinspiration’ on the internet. And of course with the restriction came the binges. I didn’t have any food in the dorm, so I would take my roommate’s food when she wasn’t around. I was lost and felt like at least my physical body was something I could try to control. It proved far easier to focus on that than any deeper problems. Thankfully the restriction subsided when I went home for the summer to live with my parents and I returned to some semblance of normality. But the secret eating and binging episodes had become a part of my comfort tools.
The following year, I transferred schools to be closer to my boyfriend (now husband), hoping this would help me feel less lost. He had a lot of friends, so I had people to be around and didn’t feel quite as alone. Despite that, it was always in the back of my mind that I had not made those friends myself, a running thought I fight to this day. Still I struggled to find happiness and confidence within myself. Honestly, I can’t keep the timeline straight for the next three years. There was a period where I covertly ordered Nutrisystem, hiding it in my closet, and again sneaking my roommate’s food. (Side note – being roommates with me must have been something like living with a mouse: you rarely see me, I’m quiet when you do, and your food mysteriously disappears.) Another year I went vegan. Some periods I was smoking a metric ton of weed and just eating whatever junk I wanted. At some point I actually went to therapy for a couple of months and started medication, but that didn’t stick.
I’m an Adult Now?
Following college, out in the REAL WORLD, I got more into the philosophy behind the physical yoga I had begun practicing in college. Looking at how the way I treated my body cascaded into all other aspects of my human experience. I also started reading book after book on which way of eating is most conducive to a healthy life. I experimented with vegetarianism, tried the whole 30 diet, paleo, back to vegetarian…and each new book touted another method as the only proper way. If I learned anything, it is that there is always more to learn. So I decided I would learn. I found a semi-local integrative nutrition program. Integrative meaning they looked at a whole lot more than the way food affects the systems of the body (though there was heavy focus on that as well). They taught you the importance of looking at the whole person; the complete experience of life on this planet. How food affects the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. And how the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual experience affect the food being chosen. It is not just what you eat, but where, when, why and how you eat. What works to encourage health in one person might not work for another, and might not continue to work in a few months or years. I have direct experience of the way ignoring one area of your life can lead to issues in every other. The way we treat our bodies is inextricably linked to the deeper aspects of existence. Life can be so hard, and we can use food to numb or we can use it to support.
Even after years of study and experimentation and bouts of intense self-reflection, I felt like a fraud and worried about my ability to help other people if I was still struggling to maintain a ‘healthy diet’ myself, if I didn’t have a small enough body. That lovely niggling perfectionism lodged in the front of my brain, always at play. I think this is a large part of the reason I chose to be a stay at home mom. I felt drawn to help people, knowing many struggled understanding nutrition and how it deeply affects their health and wellbeing. But I also feared I wasn’t enough to help, and it was easier to focus on the kids and look away from those fears. Late last year, I finally started to crawl out from the shadows I had surrounded myself with and truly looked at what I had been hiding from all these years.
For me, knowledge of nutrition wasn’t enough to find a healthy relationship with food and my body. I had to reflect on all areas of my life. I needed to move my body and find my strength. To start acknowledging my thoughts, emotions and fears. To connect and be open with other humans. To accept I would not get back the years I had spent hiding. To take steps to move forward. The more I look at and confront what is going on within and around me, the easier it becomes to treat my body in a nourishing way. It took a lot to get here, and every day requires a conscious effort to fight against my habits and create new patterns. And all of this struggle is coming from my life, where I have been lucky enough to have good health. I believe it would be a true gift to help others navigate these waters. To help other humans find a path to healing themselves through food and movement and reflection. So that’s My Why and the path I will follow as the children enter school and I find myself with time.