I can distinctly remember in fifth grade my best friend at the time always calling me the human garbage disposal. Why? Because I ate anything and everything anyone put in front of me. My best friend was notorious for never finishing her lunch and she would leave it to me to clear her plate for her. I never hesitated, in fact, I scarfed mine down and waited rather impatiently for her to give me permission to dive into hers. Now, don't get me wrong, I wasn't ever a fat kid or suffering from childhood obesity--I ate so much because I moved so much. I was a classified tom boy who never slowed down for anything. I would keep up with boys in my class on the soccer field, I would out-sweat every girl in gym class trying to score the most goals in floor hockey, and in the summer time I never stopped swimming. At the time, my energy input was balanced, if not less than my energy output and I was just enjoying food because it tasted good and I was chronically hungry.
Fast forward to middle school when my activity level started to decrease. Busy with school, trying to make friends, and discovering a whole new side of boys that I wasn't really familiar with--I traded the pony tail and gym shorts for mini skirts and a hair straightener. One thing didn't change though...my eating habits. I was still always trying to fit as much into my stomach as I could at every meal, snack time or social gathering. I don't think I ever went a day without eating ice cream, cheez-its or cookies. The unfortunate thing about eating that way and not remaining active though, is that my energy input and output became unbalanced and my body started showing it. I didn't really realize it was changing until way later in my life though. So I went on through the rest of middle school and high school not really caring what I ate and still remaining fairly active. I swam on the swim team until high school, played soccer year-round, ran in my free time and snowboarded in the winter. What I ate was never really a concern, I just ate when I was hungry not caring what, when or how much.
Fast forward again to college. Freshman year came and went as fast and fleeting as the money I had saved from my grad party in my bank account. I had eaten and drank my way through the year (like most freshman) and like most freshman I had gained the 15 pounds that everyone swears they will never gain. I came home that summer and for the first time in my life I was uncomfortable in my own skin. I wasn't confident in the way my body moved, in the way it looked and in the way it felt in my clothes. But it took sitting in a hospital bed for a week due to a blood clot for me to realize that I had been taking advantage of my health by putting too much crap into my body for far too long. Even in the hospital all I had wanted was Cane's chicken fingers and Adriatico's pizza (all of which I couldn't eat because I was too nauseous) and all of which I probably shouldn't have even been eating in the first place to help my body heal.
The following year when I went back to school I started making small changes to the way I lived my life. I started watching what I was eating during the week and I started spending more and more time at the gym. My energy input and output was beginning to tip back to neutral and I started noticing changes in my body I had never seen before--for the first time in my life I had visible muscles on my arms, my legs were smaller than they had ever been, and a couple abdominals even popped up on my stomach. Once the changes happened I became obsessed. And the thing with becoming obsessed is that it's never a good thing--not even when the thing that the obsession manifests from good. So I justified my obsession every time someone asked me to go out to eat with them, grab a scoop of ice cream, or do something during my planned gym time and I politely declined. Our relationship with food is social, chemical, physical and mental. It is much more complex than we tend to think it is and at this point in my life I was building unhealthy eating habits stemming from a desire to be super healthy. I felt guilty after eating certain foods and working out wasn't to improve my performance it was to look a certain way. I didn't yet realize that I could be stubborn with my goals but flexible in my methods--instead, I was stubborn with my goals and my methods and missed out on life in the process.
By senior year of college I told myself that I was better but I truly didn't know what a healthy relationship with food looked like until I found Force. With a little bit of guidance and a whole lot of knowledge I started viewing food, and health, in a whole other light. Food wasn't just something to deprive myself of, it was something that fueled my body to perform and get really strong. Between that time and now, a little over a year, throw in a bodybuilding competition prep, a bad reverse diet, a building phase, and now a slow cut for a powerlifting meet my relationship with food is still experiencing so many ups and downs and I learn something new about it almost every single week. I wish I could give everyone a simple solution to have a great relationship with food, but the truth is, it's a long process and it takes a long time and some good people in your life to point you in the right direction (hello, join my team I can help!) It also has so much to do with the environment that you are in.
Surrounding myself with people who are stubborn with their goals but flexible in their methods has radically changed my life. I am surrounded by people who know that their diet needs to consist of 80% whole, nutrient dense, real food but that the other 20% can come from Saturday morning donuts and a slice of pizza. My diet is never perfect but it's perfect for me. I meal prep a whole array of lean meats, vegetables, and complex carbs for the week and I enjoy my Friday night ice cream runs and Sunday night pasta dinners. I have learned that I don't need to finish an entire box of cookies in one sitting or polish a Nutella jar clean just because I open it. I have learned that foods are not labeled good or bad and that the way I interact with and consume food is a part of my identity, the way I celebrate, and something that brings me a lot of joy and happiness. I know what makes my body feel good and what makes it feel bad and I have finally realized that success in my fitness endeavors is not measured by how much you suffer. It's actually measured by how much you enjoy life in the process and I'll be damned if the process doesn't include a donut every now and then.