Is hate a strong word? Maybe. But it perfectly describes the loathing I felt towards food, and by extension, myself.
If we’re going solely off the popularity of “health” channels on Youtube, social media “experts”, and click bait fad diet articles, it’s pretty safe to assume that food has become a very complicated and delicate subject in today’s world. It’s nothing new. We’ve been talking about our so-called-relationship with food for decades. Modern fad diets began all the way back in the 1930’s. Yeah, that’s a long time agonizing over every bite and morsel, and I’ve come to the conclusion that we could be spending it a lot better. Taking a hike, watching Seinfeld reruns, asking your dog who a good boy/girl/non-affiliated entity it is – any of these is better than a single second wasted on food labels and calorie counts. But so many of us get stuck on the idea of becoming pinnacles of health – and for some reason think this is the kind of torture we must endure to achieve it.
Well, no more. Like many women before me, my period decided to go AWOL. For over a year. This should have been a wake up call long before it actually was. It wasn’t until my health started declining that I actually realized I need to make some changes. I went to the doctor, only to be told a litany of things potentially wrong with my body – PCOS, endocrine disorders, autoimmune diseases, chronic fatigue, depression, underactive thyroid. And the answer?
“Let’s put you on the pill and see if your period comes back.”
“But wait, doctor, will that safely and effectively fix the underlying issue?”
“Of course not! It’s the fastest way to get you out of my office, though. Nevermind the serious potential side effects and long term risks of prescription birth control.”
Don’t worry, I’m really not here to rant about my distaste for doctors. I am here to tell you how wrong they all were, and how most of them overlooked the actual issue – which, surprise surprise, happens to be partly psychological. Oh, America, how you never cease to impress me with your lack of well-rounded medical professionals and proper holistic training.
I had something called Female Athlete Triad. This condition consists of three simple symptoms – Overtraining, Undereating, and a Loss of Menstrual Cycle.
The solution? Simple. Start eating food, and stop killing yourself in the gym, you stupid dum-dum.
I could go on about this condition and how many, many young women fall into the trap of thinking more exercise and less food equals better “health” (code for “now I’ll look like that fitspo model/actress/person I admire for their physical form!”) But for now, let me just tell you all the things that happened when I stopped hating and started eating.
I got my period back!
Celebratory fireworks, congratulatory applause, enthusiastic kazoos. Three months after allowing myself to eat over 1000 calories a day, to have carbs, and to STOP TRACKING FOOD (I see you all with your MyFitnessPal, calculating the calories in a single piece of broccoli), my body decided it wasn’t actually in a post-apocalyptic life-or-death situation and trusted me enough to give my period back. And it’s still going strong, right on schedule.
I feel awake.
When I was pushing my limits, working out for 2 hours a day and living on a quasi-keto, calorie restricted diet, I was basically the walking dead. I constantly looked like a med student in finals week. But now that I give myself proper food and rest, I finally look somewhat acceptable in the security video at the Target self checkout line.
I can sleep. Sort of.
Now that my body has enough glycogen to actually store a little bit away at nightfall, I don’t experience so many of the horrors that I usually associate with bedtime. Night sweats, sleep paralysis, anxiety-ridden dreams – all disappeared. Granted, I have always been an unconventional sleeper, so the fact that I still experience sleepwalking and the occasional hypnagogic hallucination isn’t half bad. The point is, my sleep quality has vastly improved.
I don’t despise the world.
When I was in the throes of physical deprivation, I experienced some of the worst depressive episodes of my life. I’m not saying food cured my depression, but it had a hand in changing the way I view things. i.e My outlook flipped from negative to positive. Most days, I wake up completely content. I don’t have terrible mood swings and unexpected fits of despair, and that feels pretty amazing. The fog lifted, and now I can see things without the dreary, gray filter that was over my life for so long. Cue “I Can See Clearly Now” by Jimmy Nash.
I gained weight.
I bet some of you read that and went, “I knew it couldn’t ALL be good.” And my question to you is, why do you associate the word “weight” with “bad”? When I gained weight, yeah, I was uncomfortable at first. I panicked a little bit. I thought about restricting again. But then I gave it time, and I noticed that I could actually build muscle, and that my face looked healthier, and that I had more energy than ever before. And as time goes on, the weight will continue to come off as my body changes, because all of us have a “set point” where we feel most comfortable. Even if your body needs to gain some recovery weight, it will fight like hell to get back to a place of balance.
I don’t think about food all the time.
Who would’ve thought that it’s almost impossible not to think about food when you’re literally starving?
My skin is smooth and my hair actually grows.
A few months ago I’d lose an alarming amount of hair in the shower, and no matter what I did, I couldn’t get it to grow even a centimeter. My skin was dry, my nails brittle. Let’s just say when your body has to choose between pumping blood to your heart and making you look pretty, it’s gonna choose the vital organ every time.
Okay, yeah, it’s not all good. Now that the flow is back, so are the raging hormones and that means the occasional breakout. I can live with it.
Food + Rest = Rising Hormones = Vivacity.
You guys get what I’m saying, we’re all adults here.
My parents read this blog.
I’m learning to be nice to myself.
I saved this one for last because it’s the best one, and it’s something I still work on everyday. If you’re the type of person who expects a lot from yourself, it can be difficult to ever be content with who you are. There’s always something you want to change or improve or perfect. That’s the thing about humans, we’re imperfect and beautiful, and stupid, and kinda gross sometimes. But mostly we’re just here, trying to convince all the other humans that we know what we’re doing. Watching myself go through the physical process of healing made me take a hard look at the way I was treating myself – and it wasn’t with kindness. Self-cruelty under the guise of self-improvement is never okay, so don’t do it. Love yourself enough to eat the carbs, take the rest day, and chill the fuck out once in a while.