I grew up in Minneapolis as a normal-weight, very active child who wanted to be a dancer or one of Charlie’s Angels. For me, disordered thinking about food was a learned behavior. I watched my mom sneak giant bowls of ice cream in her bedroom at night. I watched my grandma starve for three days before every Saturday Weight Watchers weigh-in. My Sito (paternal grandmother) showed her affection through her cooking, and therefore you ate whether or not you were hungry. Growing up in the 70s, you “cleaned your plate” because there were “starving children in Africa.” There was a lot of pressure to be thin and athletic in the 80s, and I embodied that leg-warmer, big-hair, dance-aerobics lifestyle. As a dancer and athlete (volleyball and basketball), I would exercise for long periods of time without proper nutrition.
By the time I was 17, I was very thin at 5’9” and 135 pounds. I liked it. It was easy to maintain until I was in college, where I drank beer every night, ordered pizzas, and had quit hours-a-day dancing. I continued to workout daily, but you can’t out-exercise a bad diet. So I started taking diet pills and starving myself. I’d go days eating only a package of microwave popcorn, drinking Diet Coke, and smoking cigarettes. I became depressed and started partying harder. I would put on 10 pounds and take off 15. This pattern of gaining and losing went on for the better part of 17 years. Even when I was at a healthy weight, I wouldn’t be happy with my body and would look for ways to restrict or control myself further. I tried every fad diet that came out from the cabbage soup diet to the South Beach Diet. I would exercise for several hours a day and reward myself with deserts or new clothes. That would then lead to days of bingeing followed by shame and giving up for months at a time where the weight just piled on. By the time I was pregnant with my first child, I weighed 190 pounds, and when she was born, I weighed 265 pounds. I was horrified and quickly lost 100 pounds on a sensible low-carb diet. I “allowed” myself one binge meal on Fridays and that kept the disordered thinking alive.
I became pregnant with my son soon after hitting 160 pounds, after which I was careful not to gain as much weight. I remained at a healthy weight for a couple years after he was born, but I struggled with post-partum depression and took several different medications that made it hard to maintain my weight. My son had special needs, and along with my two-year-old daughter, I had a business to run and a household to care for. My health was last in line. I quit exercising and would often emotionally eat. More diets, hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) injections, starvation, and binges. I had no idea what physical hunger felt like anymore. I just ate until I was sick or wouldn’t eat at all. I could not get a grip on my health or weight.
At 48 years old, I had chronic inflammation in my joints, migraines, anxiety, high blood pressure, rosacea, and very poor metabolic health. I was out of shape and desperately seeking a change in my health and wellness. I started by doing blood work and exploring which foods worked best for my body. Then I became in-tune with my actual physical hunger and how to fuel my body. I still thought of myself as an athlete, and I wanted to feed myself in the most nutritious way. I dropped sugar and grains from my diet, and I felt better almost immediately. Eliminating those foods helped reduce the urge to binge, but I still had to work on the emotional aspect. I started an Instagram account and looked for like-minded people. I read The Ketogenic Bible by Dr. Lowery. I taught myself how to honor my physical hunger and feed my body a whole-food ketogenic diet. Eating healthy fat when I was actually hungry made me feel good, satisfied, and nourished. Educating myself on nutrition and how it works in my body was a priority. Like most people my age, I was taught that fat was bad and grains were good. Soon, the inflammation in my joints went away, my skin cleared, my hormones returned to balanced levels, and excess weight was coming off. I let go of the emotional control food had over me and began to use food as my medicine. I’ve lost 60 pounds in the last six months and am on a lifelong healing journey. I just turned 51 years old, and I feel better than I ever did in my 20s!