It's not often that I meet a woman with a truly loving and accepting relationship with food. So many women I work with have disordered eating habits, guilt, and negative emotions around what they eat.
I too had a similar story. I remember seeing a picture of myself when I was 15, and thinking, “Ugh, gross”. I saw fat calves, big boobs, and a terrible short haircut. I hated what I saw. I was so disgusted with myself.
Now, I love food. And I accept my body too. It was a long road to get here, and along the way I learned so much about healing my relationship with food. Helping women to heal theirs has become a true passion of mine. In this post I’ll share with you my story, how I healed, and actionable steps to show how you can too.
My food story
I was a pretty lucky kid. I had a happy childhood and an amazing group of friends. We had so much fun together pushing boundaries, rocking out to grunge, dressing like our granddads in second hand cardigans, flannelette shirts, knee length shorts and converse shoes. I loved life, but I didn’t love myself.
I couldn’t stand looking the mirror, so I made a new plan.
I just wasn’t going to eat.
For almost two years, I barely ingested anything. I would wake at 6:00am to do a 30 minute Elle Macpherson exercise video in the lounge room. I would walk an hour to school, and do push–ups and sit-ups when I got home. My daily diet consisted of a bowl of Just Right cereal with low-fat milk, an apple, a diet coke, and a tin of canned corn.
I ate so much tinned corn and veggies that I literally turned yellow. It’s called carotenemia, and it comes from an excess in beta-carotene. It happens when someone eats so much orange, yellow and green vegetables, that their body can’t convert the beta-carotene to Vitamin A. It accumulates in their body, usually in hands, feet, and behind the ears. My hands are still kind of yellow to this day.
A couple of days a week I would give in to my hunger, binge and then purge. You would be amazed the amount of food I was able to put away in these sessions, and I learnt very quickly which foods would come ‘back up’ easily and with the least amount of burn.
I was terrified that my family would figure it all out, but I couldn’t stop. I secretly yearned for help, but because I maintained a ‘healthy’ weight, no-one came. No-one heard.
The wake up call
About 10 months in, my periods stopped. I was taken to dieticians, gynaecologists, GP’s and more, and yet no-one seemed to get it. I was sitting in the gynaecologists office at 17, waiting for a physical examination. I was petrified and refused to get on the table, because I knew the root of the problem wasn’t physiological.
I felt alone, like no-one wanted to hear me or help me. But it was a GP that finally got through to me. I’m not sure if he knew the entirety of the situation, but he told me that if I didn’t get my period back soon, it might never come back. And that would mean that I would never have children.
Even at 17, I knew something had to change, because deep in my heart I had always wanted to be a mum. It wasn’t easy, and it took another 12 months of false starts, but I did start to eat more and purge less. Within a year I was shaky, but on my way to remission.
Throughout my teens and twenties I let go of the eating disorder, but I still had anxiety about food. I avoided “bad” foods, but I didn’t really understand the principles of healthy eating. I focused on being fit. The idea of ‘getting fat’ was the driving force behind how I ate and what I did. Being 'fat' was one of my greatest fears.
I also developed crippling anxiety and intense panic attacks. I remember sitting in my bedroom shaking, crying, and hyperventilating, and believing I was going to die. I had bouts of depression too, the darkest one spurred on by the loss of my beloved aunty, when life felt like it’d lost all it’s gloss.
I moved to London at 24 and embraced a party lifestyle. I had never felt so alive, in a city with heart beat like no-where else in the world. It was the perfect place to get lost in the hope of finding yourself. Binge drinking became my way of dealing with stress, a fun escape.
During this time my weight fluctuated and my feelings about myself were tied to that number on the scales.
Looking for answers
By my late twenties, I decided I’d had enough. I’d spent years of my life hating my body, crippled with anxiety, and beating myself up. I was tired of my shitty relationship with food, and I wanted to know the real truth about health. I began reading what I could, but there were so many differing opinions.
In search of answers, I made the decision to go back to university to study nutrition.
I was 31.
Studying health science was like roll-call for beautiful people. In those first few weeks, I felt like I didn’t belong. I was surrounded by gorgeous young girls that did yoga and ate only organic berries picked in the Himalayas by Buddhist monks.
But as the course progressed, I was exposed to some amazing lecturers. The way they spoke about food was a breath of fresh air. These women appreciated food. They loved food. They savoured food. They loved how food supported their body's. They didn’t personify food with labels of ‘good’ or ‘bad’.
They had a healthy relationship to food.
We talked about how food could be used as medicine. The chemical constituents of different foods and how they attack bacteria, viruses, and even cancerous cells. We discussed the vitamins and minerals in food. How our body best absorbs them, processes them, and plays out their roles within the body.
Our lecturer had what I considered to be the ideal physique. One day, she told us that she always adds a small knob of butter to her vegetables ‘to help absorb those beautiful fat soluble vitamins’. This was a lecturer who I deeply admired, and to hear her talk about butter with so much delight - I almost fell off my chair!
This is what I wanted for myself. I wanted to have this loving, appreciative relationship with food. I wanted to understand the amazing things food does for my body, not just think about the size of my thighs. I wanted to feel thankful for all the fantastic things good food does for my body, so that I could let go of hating it.
This was a huge turning point for me.
Now, I love food.
I am no longer afraid of food, and I don’t see it as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. I now believe wholeheartedly in balance. I eat a piece of dark chocolate most days, and enjoy an ice cream every couple of weeks. I drink a glass of wine most Saturday nights.
And I love and accept my body.
As a mum, it is so important to me that my beautiful children don’t ever hate themselves the way I did. It’s become a passion of mine to encourage them to have a healthy relationship with food. I do this by providing them good fuel for their bodies and minds, and also letting them have some treats along the way.
I talk with them openly about health and nutrition, and about appreciating food. I help them foster love for their own body; by never talking badly about mine, or anyone else’s. I avoid comments or compliments based on how they look, instead focusing on their wonderful personality and character, and trying to highlight to them that those are the things that make them absolutely fabulous.
And this is exactly what I want for you too.
This desire to help my children love their relationship to food grew and expanded. Now, my passion has become helping all women (especially Mum’s) to heal their relationships too.
Below, I'm sharing with you my 5 top tips for healing your relationship with food. If you would like to get the full version of this, complete with practical steps that you can implement straight away to improve your mindset, sign up for my email list below (not sure how you have this set up)
1. Understand that Health is NOT an aesthetic
The worst thing that you can do for yourself is to compare. Looking at the flawless people on social media with chiseled abs and shapely butts can be brutal. Just don’t do it. There is so much we don’t know about them and how they live, like what they truly eat in a day, if they’re happy and balanced, or if they have menstrual cycles, food deprivation or poor mental health.
Sign up for my email list to get your health and aesthetic worksheet exercises (and get 7 healthy dinner recipes while you're at it!).
2. Accept that your body NEEDS carbohydrates, proteins & fats
We live in a 'Diet' culture, and so many popular diets demonize one or other of these macronutrients. If you cut one of these macronutrients drastically, you WILL lose weight, and fast. But it is NOT healthy. And it's not sustainable.
It's far better to fuel your body in a way that is healthy and sustainable long term.
To find out what you need each day, and for your activities, sign up for my email list.
3. Ditch the scales!!
I flat out refuse to have scales in my practice. Why? Because they don't tell me anything I can't see with my own two eyes. In fact, my eyes tell me so much more than that number on the scales ever will.
If you weigh yourself frequently you can get into the habit of fluctuating self esteem with the number, and spend your day beating yourself up. It's self-destructive and exhausting. So, do yourself a favour. Ditch the scales! If you want to measure, use the way your clothes fit, your energy levels, and how you feel within your body.
4. Understand the source of your inner voice
Have you ever told yourself you 'shouldn't' eat chocolate, donuts, ice-cream.......insert whatever your favourite indulgence food is here?
Have you ever told yourself you 'should be good' and eat more salad, vegetables, boiled chicken?
This voice has to have come from somewhere, and pinpointing where it comes from is key to healing your relationship with food. It may originate from how your mum spoke about food when you were growing up, your friendship group, or TV.
Is this voice coming from a place of loathing (deprivation), or from a place of love (fuelling and supporting your body)?
To learn where your voice comes from, using my specially crafted exercises, sign up here.
5. Be open to learning a NEW WAY
Personally, it wasn't until I started to learn about nutritional science, that I truly healed my relationship with food.
I changed my mindset from one that thought I had to deprive myself to be 'healthy', to making a choice to lovingly fuel my body. Life is meant to be enjoyed, not wasting time stressing about food.
Approach any new 'revolutionary diets' with a healthy scepticism, and be careful about the media. Many so called “professionals” are actually unqualified, and making money off young women by promoting unhealthy relationships to food.
The only recommendations you should follow come from experts in the field, and be supported by cold hard science. One study doesn't cut it. Study results need to be replicated multiple times and research conditions tightly controlled.
Ditch the bad advice, do away with the all-or-nothing thinking, and allow yourself to trust that you can be your healthiest, happiest version of you. Follow the 'everything in moderation' approach*.
Eat healthy, nourishing foods that fuel your body 80% of the time. Allow yourself some leeway 20% of the time.
*Unless you have a specific condition and your trusted health professional has advised you cut certain foods from your diet as part of your personalised nutrition plan *.
If you're ready to take control of your relationship with food and write your own story with your own voice, book one of my life changing personalised health plans now.