How I'm Stopping My Dysfunctional Relationship With Food...
... Before its too late
A few years ago I went on holiday to Spain with my boyfriend, Steve, and we were looking forward to a lovely relaxing few weeks in the sun.
However, a few days in, I had an incident.
I realised something that upset me greatly and could have easily been prevented if I had just checked earlier
But I didn’t
3 days into the holiday, I tried on not one, but two pairs of shorts from my holiday to Sri Lanka back in 2016 and was faced with that feeling we all dread; not being able to do them up around your belly. I struggled, changed positions, on my back, bent over, sucking in until I couldn’t breathe, but it was to no avail. I struggled back out of them, threw the offending items on the floor and sat on the bed in tears while trying to come to terms with the fact that I officially felt like a blob. Steve came back from his shower and asked what was wrong so I told him and, after comforting me, he decided to cheer me up by showing me that he couldn’t fit in them either (“you can’t have put on that much weight - I can still fit into your skinny jeans!”) before putting on a fashion show with the rest of the clothes I’d bought (and if that's not love, i don't know what is). HE stopped me crying and he made me smile and laugh but I didn’t stop feeling pretty shitty about myself. As much as I tried to forget about it, it was always there, lingering at the back of my mind making all of my decisions; wearing a one piece to the beach instead of a bikini because it sucks in my belly more (half way between letting it all flop out and scary Bridget Jones knickers), opting for a floaty dress rather than a tight fitting top and high waisted trousers, and making me not want to go in the pool for fear of looking like a beached whale who couldn’t swim (I know I wouldn’t and that's completely irrational, but also I’m really a terrible swimmer).
A few days later, we were going out for dinner and I was intending to wear my favourite dress; my “banana dress” from Zara which fit me perfectly this time last year but, this year, just made me look lumpy. Steve swore black and blue that he couldn’t see a difference, but I did. I don't know if my struggling with the zip gave me some mud tinted glasses and, after the Shorts Incident, it completely warped my view of myself. That evening, Steve and I went for dinner and I told myself to brush it off and not allow it to ruin the dinner for myself, but I was also very conscious of choosing (hopefully) the least greasy item on the menu that came with the most salad and, as much as I wanted ice cream afterwards, I was all too aware of the food baby I had conceived over the course of the meal to say yes to the dessert menu. Obviously that is a sucky sucky feeling to have at the best of times, let alone on holiday when I just want to be living my best life sunning myself into a gorgeous tanned goddess and looking and feeling my best.
I’m not going to lie, it knocked my confidence a lot and as soon as I got home yesterday I just wanted to starve myself while looking into how much a subscription to the gym near our new home would be. For the most part, I have always had a fairly healthy relationship with my body. I have long ago made peace with my jiggly thighs, the cellulite all over my legs and bum, my ribs that stick out much too far for my liking, giving be the 4 Boob Effect, my armpit fat (who knew that would even become a thing?) and my breasts that aren’t quite as perky as I’d like (shout out to gravity).
I got up, made myself a healthy sandwich and packed myself some fruit to take to work, booked onto a spin class on Saturday (SATURDAY?!) and a weights class on Monday and I was all ready to throw myself headfirst into my new healthy diet and exercise routine… until about midday today. Lunchtime rolled around and I was told that a few of my colleagues were ordering Mexican from the local street kitchen near the office and were asking if we wanted in. At first the big red warning signs started flashing in my brain and I though “no no no can't do that must be healthy no no no can't no thank you” but then the rational part of my brain stepped in and stamped out the disordered voice telling me that I don't deserve to enjoy my food because I’ve put on weight. But you know what? Screw you asshole brain. I’m going to the gym, I’m making a conscious effort to eat better, I’m snacking less, drinking more water and less tea, coffee, or fizzy drinks, but if I’m going to continue to have a healthy relationship with food, restricting what I’m eating and treating certain foods as forbidden fruit is not the way to do that.
I don’t want to live a life where I hate myself for what I’ve eaten, and feeling like I have to go to the gym as penance for polishing off that bag of doritos. I want to eat the food I love without feeling guilty, and I want to enjoy finding lighter recipes of my fave meals to make slightly healthier options of the food I love. I don't want to associate working out with punishing myself for what food I’ve put into my body. I want to go to the gym because of the huge release of endorphins makes me feel great, and it helps me beat down my anxiety by putting myself into new environments full of new people and being able to kick ass. But above all, I want to eat what I want when I want (in moderation so I don't make myself sick) and I want to enjoy that. I want to work out, not to change myself, but because it feels good to move my body.
If I eat 3 slices of cake in one day, I’m not going to mentally punish myself and force myself to “burn it all off” the next day, but I would usually feel my body giving my a nudge that some veggies might make me feel better - not for the outside of my body but the inside. After a gorgeous week of lying around in the sun in Spain, I’m getting really excited about getting back into the gym and moving around, because I feel very sluggish inside and I can’t wait to get my ass up and do something, and that's the mindset I want to stay in - calorie counting obsessive I was about to turn into.