A New Chapter!
Some of you may have noticed that my eating habits have shifted over the past year. Most notably, since late last year I have moved toward plant-based eating, eliminating animal products entirely. Yes, I am vegan – that word that seems to rouse a particular reaction within people. I know that it may seem “extreme” to some, unimaginable to others, and ridiculous to a few. The truth is, it has been the best decision for me- after feeling it in my own body and knowing all that I have come to learn, I am very happy and proud of my choice.
This entry, as well as the following two posts, will outline my journey, openly and honestly, with the intention to help those going through similar struggles – yo-yo-dieting, fluctuating weight, eating disorders, disconnection from food, hormonal imbalances… I have been there, you most certainly are not alone. I have gone through it all, and I can honestly say that my transition to plant-based eating has allowed me to reconnect with my body – my metabolism, appetite and self-esteem – in ways that I never experienced before, from the many diets I have tried! I offer you this, believe in the power of food to impact your health. This isn’t limited to women or hormones, our diet undeniably effects men and women alike in every way.
So without further ado, let‘s get into exactly how I got here…
When I was four years old, I stopped eating meat. No, no one in my family was vegetarian, I was just one very particular little girl who knew what she did and didn’t like. I believe that intuitively, as a young girl, I knew something was wrong about eating animals – I didn’t like the taste or the idea of it. Whilst I grew up enjoying veggies, I also loooooved dairy. In fact, processed cheese and refined carbohydrates were a mainstay in my diet – hello, melted cheese on white pasta/toast…everything! Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t entirely unhealthy. Since I didn’t eat meat, I ate a lot of colourful fruits and vegetables and grew up with an appreciation of legumes and nuts.
Whilst I was always encouraged to look after myself, as a teenager I interpreted that, like many of us do, as being conscious of my weight. Thus the emphasis was on numbers, sizes, and physical appearance as opposed to nourishment. At this time, the health world was focused on quick-fixes and diet foods – particularly low-fat – with less of an emphasis on real foods. I remember seeing older females around me ordering programs like Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers, and thinking it was the coolest thing ever. I would gaze at the powders, shakes, bars and puddings like they were magic.
I believe this planted a little seed in my head, that dieting was “the thing to do”, that it was feminine, trendy, and convenient.
I don’t remember the exact moment I tried my first diet, but slowly my obsession with controlling my weight grew. At 15 I became a chronic calorie-counter, sticking to low-fat, I worked out exactly how many calories I would eat a day and would balance that with excessive exercising and other physical exertion e.g. I even accounted for calories burned during sleep! I was meticulous and stringent. A little nutritionist in the making (with not so healthy ideas of health).
I lost a lot of weight, although I definitely didn’t consider myself underweight at the time. People began to get concerned. Reluctantly, I agreed to see a dietician where I was told to lessen my strict exercise regimen and food monitoring. Eventually I complied. After all, it was exhausting! Gradually, I put the weight back on.
It wasn’t until then that perhaps an even nastier voice entered my head and I developed the tortuous eating disorder, bulimia. For years, no one knew. It was born out of pure frustration of being unable to lose weight as easily as I did that first time of rigorous calorie-counting. And yet, I didn’t lose any weight, and all I gained was a very unhealthy relationship with food and myself. It made me completely disconnected from my body and the choices I was making. I felt like I was living a double life and had completely lost sight of the big picture that I was originally motivated by, health.
Amongst all that, it makes sense that my period had disappeared. I was quickly diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) and put on the oral contraceptive pill (OCP), having only had two natural periods in my life. I stayed on the pill for 8 years and whilst I didn’t have a terrible experience on it, it is what happened after I stopped taking it that would present me with another health challenge, and inspired my interest in studying nutrition.
Thanks for reading! Part 2 coming to you tomorrow… 🙂
Love & health,