So, I’m sitting here at my desk after enjoying a delicious homemade lunch of egg whites, gluten-free toast with red pepper hummus (both from the B-wood farmer’s market!), avocado and this amaze Paleo “wing” sauce (three ingredients — will share brand if you guys are interested!) from Whole Foods. For breakfast I had a bomb (and I mean bomb) “chocolate birthday cake” flavored protein bar with actual sprinkles on it… Something I never would have touched during my eating disorder days, or even months ago in one of my many super duper serious clean eating spurts.
Then I sat down at my computer & opened a newsletter email from the FAB Isabel Foxen Duke — follow her if you don’t, she’s incredible — and the email was all about food freedom. The difference between having real, food freedom style self-control and forcing self-control yet feeling like a bottomless pit of hunger all the time and/or binging your face off.
And in that very moment, just 5 minutes ago, something hit me.
I feel TOTAL, complete, 100 million percent freedom from food. Most days lately, at least — and I am considering that a major win.
Let me tell you: DAMN, does it feel good.
I’ve been on the road to feeling this way for a while. Clearly you guys know I suffered from severe orthorexia, because I was very open about it (if you don’t know, you can read all about it here… Like, ALL about it). That was now 2, 3 and 4 years ago, respectively to each stage of the eating disorder.
I’ve been “recovered” for 2 years. But I have stomach problems, and food intolerances, and have had all sort of gastrointestinal, hormone, cortisol, skin, blood sugar and SIBO issues post-eating disorder that left it pretty hard to be “lax” about food.
So even in my recovery, even with all of the food freedom I allowed myself after those strict plant-based, juice cleanse obsessed years, I struggled. Heck, I even struggled on my recent family vaycay to Kauai because it’s still hard for me to be out of my routine & maintain the food freedom I have fought so hard for… with no access to a kitchen or any restaurant that I am used to.
But guess what? That’s okay.
I know what works for me, and I know what I need in order to feel good, healthy, energized, fueled, satiated, and most importantly HAPPY when it comes to food and life overall.
And after being disconnected to that for longer than I believe anyone should ever have to be disconnected from their body, it is an amazing feeling to have that freedom. That connection between my mind and body. The confidence that comes along with treating my body well, seeing the physical results, and being so damn proud of myself for making it to this point.
My healthy, happy, active, strong, free, confident bod & self that I love so much. <3
How did I get to this point?
Well gee whiz THAT will be a book in itself… but I do believe there are a few quick things I can share with you guys in this moment that will explain how I got here, and will hopefully help you too if you’re on the journey toward freedom with food, or freedom from ANY extreme diet or relationship with food. Let’s see here.
- Paying attention to how I FEEL rather than how I look. When you listen to your body, it’s hard to go wrong. Now the working up to listening to your body and not letting all of your other thoughts and issues with food get in the way, that’s the real work. Every day ask yourself, how do I feel today? Do I need some extra energy from food to get through a tough workout? Am I legitimately hungry right now, or do I just feel deprived from all the recent deprivation I’ve inflicted on myself? Is that a real craving that I should satiate, or is that my body’s blood sugar response to the food that I ate (or didn’t eat) earlier today? Do I feel like an ultra healthy green shake for breakfast because my body WANTS it, or because that’s what I think I should be having? Those are all questions I’ve asked myself a LOT throughout my recovery… And when I am truly in tune with my body, I can answer those questions seamlessly. When I’m stuck in my head… I can convince myself that the kale salad with tempeh for every meal is DEFINITELY the way to go. The next tip will hopefully help you get out of your head, and INTO your body.
- Be active. Challenge your body’s activity level on a daily basis. Break a sweat. Set (attainable) fitness-related goals. This, I believe, is the number one thing that has personally helped me find true recovery from my eating disordered mentality. I know that everyone’s mentality throughout recovery is different, so take this with a grain of salt. I’m an active person: 4-5 times a week I do HIIT, I train for half marathons / marathons, I do a lot of yoga, I walk everywhere I can. It’s taken me years to learn and accept that that is not a BAD thing… It is not unhealthy to care and be extremely passionate about my physical fitness. Exercise makes me feel strong — mentally and physically. It’s incredible for my anxiety, it has introduced me to some of the best people in my life, and it has been the #1 factor in my journey toward food freedom because with the fitness goals that I have, I MUST feed myself properly. I must balance my meals, eat enough carbs, eat enough protein and fat, get adequate rest, take rest days, etc. Being a very active person has been a saving grace in my life… and I find that when I am less active, I am less motivated to be kind to my body. In my own ED-trained mind, being less active becomes an excuse to eat less (sometimes far less) and get really strict with myself about meals / mealtimes. Being active is my freedom; it’s opened my eyes to a world of “eating like an athlete” to take CARE of my body and do something KIND for my body. It reminds me that my body and brain are one; we are in this as a team — in it together! I love that.That one time I ran a marathon. 😉
- Finding what works for ME when it comes to balancing control, awareness, and intuitive eating. This is a controversial topic in the recovery world. Eating intuitively versus having a labeled diet versus throwing caution to the wind and giving in to anything that FEELS like a craving. I’ve done it all. I find that what works for ME personally is reeling in the control and being very aware of what I am putting into my body. Lately I have been dabbling in the “IIFYM” (If It Fits Your Macros) lifestyle, and I swear it has been the final push to my feeling truly, abundantly comfortable with and around food. I think the lifestyle works for me because I am so active — if I wasn’t, it might feel like a chore or obsession to log my daily macronutrients (protein, fat, carbs) and pay so much attention to them. Instead, it’s been so FREEING. I have been reintroducing so many new things into my diet like gluten-free bread, lots of sweet potatoes, rice cereal, quinoa, etc. I never really cut those out before, but I was just not a big carb girl. I was super into the protein life, and the veggie life of course, post-veganism. I am not attaching myself too rigidly to the “IIFYM” label — because it is NOTTT my label by any means, but it is a great baseline to make sure my protein, carbs, fat, fiber, etc. are balanced within my meals throughout the day. I have been eating MORE ever since logging my macronutrients, because I saw that I was not really getting enough calories, protein, or carbs for the amount of physical activity that I do… Which was of course leading to cravings, tiredness, and that constant wondering “I eat SO well… Why do I still feel like sh*t sometimes?”
- Realizing that the more I allow myself to eat foods that I enjoy and WANT to have, the more normal I feel; and the less “starving” I feel. I liked being a clean eating junkie. I loved it. Obviously, it’s still a big part of my life. But you can’t always be the girl who orders veggies and lentils when you’re out to dinner. And you can’t always be the girl who had a protein shake at home before the party and doesn’t even touch the hors devours. But now with this whole “IIFYM” thing (if you don’t know what this lifestyle is, I’m happy to do a whole post on it or even a series of YouTube vids!) I am really opening up to a lot more variety. Toast with my eggs. Sweet potatoes with my toast. Chicken with my veggie omelette. Protein bars for a snack rather than for a meal. It’s so, so, so freeing. I can’t tell you how much I enjoy it, and how much more down to earth (mentally) & satiated (physically) I have felt since beginning it. Really crazy, as I thought I already had that balance thing down before I began counting my macronutrients… but there is always room for improvement. (FYI — counting anything when it comes to nutrients, calories, macros, may be the exact OPPOSITE of what you need to find food freedom… but this absolutely did work for me. We are all so diff!).
- Feeling happy, confident, sexy & incredibly happy in my own body. This can be a hard thing to do post-eating disorder, especially if you weren’t eating a lot and got compliments all the time for “being so thin.” Well, guys, let me tell you: after the rollercoaster of eating whatever I wanted post-eating disorder, being sort of restrictive again and again afterward, and finally finding a balance in between… you CAN find a happy medium where you feel amazing in your body, HEALTHY in your body, without feeling deprived and also without feeling like a bloated whale. For me, this is where exercise, healthy choices, passion for wellness, counting macros, and eating for how I FEEL comes into play. You’re allowed to want to love the reflection in the mirror. Every SINGLE person in this world deserves that. And I can honestly say that when I look in the mirror, I love, love, love the person staring back at me. The body, the strength, the confidence, but most of all… The look in my eyes, that says, “Yeah, I’ve been through a lot. I’ve learned a lot. I wouldn’t change it for the world. I’m happy now, and I’ve got this. Not every day is perfect, and that’s the beauty of it. I trust myself, no matter the decisions I make, and I am awesome.”
Seriously. I speak to myself with that much sweetness & lovingness. THAT is the difference. I trust myself, I am so happy & never again will I get stuck in the cycle of getting down on myself for a “bad” food decision or the extra few pounds that will inevitably come and go for the rest of my lifetime.
Another thing that’s helped me with that? Seeing that some of my favorite people to be around, admire & follow; some of the most captivating, sexy, INCREDIBLE individuals that I know — do not have traditionally “perfect” bodies. In fact, they have many flaws. And in my eyes, they’re beautiful. I’d choose being around them over people with said perfect bodies any day — because what this whole LIFE thing is about, is personality. Kindness. Loveliness. Oh, and I know people with perfect bodies who are awesome too — and they too have had their roads & journeys to find their inner confidence. They don’t see themselves as perfect. Not many people do, but we all should.
One of my favorite YouTube channels to watch lately is Brittany Dawn Fitness. She has inspired me to try the “IIFYM” lifestyle and take it seriously instead of writing it off as some gimmicky fad like so many of the labeled diets are out there. The awesome thing about IIFYM is that it’s also known as FLEXIBLE DIETING… An incredible tool and resource for people post-eating disorder.
Also, as I mentioned, Isabel Foxen Duke is an incredible food freedom warrior & resource. You’ll love her stuff if you haven’t checked it out.
AND my dear friend & soul sister Emily Nolan also inspired me, with this incredible blog post about her wakeup call to find the balance between embracing body positivity & truly being, feeling, and radiating the healthiest version of herself. Ultimately, accepting that she would like to be healthier so she can enjoy her LIFE to the fullest, while also loving herself & being kind to her body through the entire process.
As you can see, I’m inspired by women from fitness competitors to ex-fitness competitors to dear friends seeking balance to people who have never set foot inside of a gym. I am attracted to passion, realness, personality, confidence, acceptance, and the road that it takes to get there. I am attracted to people who have been through something… Who don’t throw in the towel when life gets complicated AF.
You’ve got this. We’ve all got this. You deserve food freedom, and you deserve to look in the mirror and be madly in love with everything about the person staring back at you.
What do you think, loves? Happy to write more about this if it resonated with you… I hadn’t written about recovery or food freedom in a while, but MAN did I feel inspired to today! <3 XO