It’s been ten weeks’ since I completed The Body Coach’s 90 Day SSS Plan, and while it feels like only yesterday that I was submitting my grad photos, it also feels like years ago. A lot has happened in that time and if I’m being totally honest with you, it’s been far from a smooth ride. If you read my latest post, then you’ll know that I’m still loving my exercise routine, but my diet is another story. We all love a positive post, but this blog was created to share every angle of my life, good and bad, and sometimes I’m sad to say that it’s not all peachy. I’ve been debating whether or not to hit share this this for a while, but after hearing that a few of my readers particularly love the fitness and food related posts, I figured there was no point in hiding the truth.
Life After The 90 Day Plan
It’s hard to get back to normality after an intense eating plan, especially one that you spent a quarter of a year putting your heart and soul into. To make it harder, my first day off-plan was Christmas Day, and I then had my birthday and New Year’s celebrations to follow. It was great to indulge after three months’ of restriction, don’t get me wrong, but it definitely took its toll on my body, which just goes to show how quickly your system adjusts to a new diet. I allowed myself a week of relaxed dieting before getting straight back on track on New Year’s Day. Despite this little break, I hadn’t undone any of my hard work, which motivated me to carry on. After all, I missed that healthy feeling! They’re not wrong when they say that living a healthy lifestyle becomes an addiction.
I didn’t intend to track calories or macros post-plan but in the first week of going solo, I felt lost, so a month or so of tracking my food to get to grips with portions seemed like the best option. I actually found it interesting to see exactly what I was eating each day! Booking a holiday for the summer was added motivation, as it gave me a target to focus on. I had six months’ to push myself that final step in order to slim down and tone up, what was stopping me? I didn’t weigh or measure myself obsessively as I have done in the past, only every couple of weeks, but I began to live and breathe calories and macros, which caused me to harass people online until I was blue in the face, desperately trying to figure out exactly what I needed to eat for success. That’s alarm bell number one. Alarm bell number two is the fact that I couldn’t eat anything bad without feeling as though I’d just sold my soul to Satan. While I stand by everything positive I said about the plan, because I genuinely did get great results, unfortunately I think it taught me to look at junk food in a negative light. Yes, they say from the get go that it is supposed to fit in around your lifestyle, however the plan doesn’t allow for any treat whatsoever, so god forbid when I did eat a bit of chocolate or drink a glass of wine, I felt like I’d sinned.
By the end of January I was working out five days a week and eating super healthy meals, but I still found myself caving to junk food at weekends. This is when everything took a nose-dive. Not only did my obsession with food test me as an individual, it also tested my relationship with Darryl. We began to argue about every meal because I had to know every single thing that I was eating, and having to choose from a menu when eating out sent my anxiety sky high. As an example we recently went out for a meal with friends and I forced myself to workout half an hour before so I could eat what I wanted, and then I spent all night feeling horrific about the food that I’d eaten. A two-course meal and a couple of drinks is not abnormal for a one-off meal out, yet I felt nothing but guilt when I got home. To make matter worse, once I have a taste of junk food, I often begin to binge eat. That same night I went home and ate and drank even more, before sulking off to bed feeling sick and ashamed, wishing I’d had some self control. The same thing happened on Valentine’s Day. I took a cheat meal to another level and finished the day on 4,000 calories. 2,000 more than I need as a 54kg, 5’3″ woman. I felt so full that I could barely make it from the sofa to my bed and woke up multiple times during the night in a cold sweat, feeling physically ill. I ate far more than Darryl, once again, and I was embarrassed. Embarrassed that I’d done it for one, but also embarrassed that I’d posted images of my food all over Instagram/Snapchat as though I was proud, when in reality I felt nothing but regret.
Acknowledging The Problem
I’d love to say that it was a blip and I got my act together, but I didn’t. I carried on the way I was, and soon enough I saw my body react. Despite my extremely clean diet, I gained weight, I suffered severe bloating, I had no energy, and I had no motivation for life. It got to the point where I despised the thought of waking up in the morning, which was a huge red flag for me. I knew that these symptoms weren’t caused by food because I’d previously had blood tests which ruled out any intolerances, but something was dragging me down, and I had to find out what, so I made a doctors appointment.
As I sat there explaining my troubles with bloating, fatigue, and mood swings, I felt like I wasn’t being taken seriously. He didn’t understand my issues with my body because I was at a healthy weight, and I felt almost mocked by his reaction when I told him that I wanted to reduce my body fat. After a bit of questioning and a quick assessment of my stomach, he told me that I was dealing with severe stress. I didn’t believe him at first, but once he got me talking about my relationship with food and my body image, it became clear that actually, stress was just the beginning. His dismissive attitude changed in a split second, and he turned to me and asked what my general mood was like day to day. “Do you feel sad? Down? Depressed?”. I completely fell apart. I’m a emotional person, I’ll admit, but I’ve never broken down like that in-front of a stranger before. Suddenly it hit me that maybe I wasn’t ok. I don’t know what I expected him to say, but I certainly didn’t expect him to recommend counselling. Talk about a slap in the face. A few people close to me had suggested it, but until you hear it from somebody who essentially sees you as a blank canvas, you refuse to believe it. The reality was that my approach to food was becoming extremely damaging, and it was taking its toll on both my mental and physical health, so is it any wonder he jumped right to counselling? Probably not.
Following the doctors appointment I was referred to a local counselling service, but unfortunately my situation was considered too specialist for a general therapy practice, and so I was then referred to an eating disorder organisation. An eating disorder organisation!? When I hear those words I think, anorexic, bulimic etc., but I’ve since learned that eating disorders are far more advanced than that. It turns out that you don’t have to be skin and bones and making yourself sick to have one. As part of the referral I spoke to the lady who runs the organisation, and her concern for my relationship with food confirmed everything once more. It seemed I was suffering from orthorexia, which is an obsession with a healthy diet and ‘clean foods’, binge eating disorder, and on top of that, body dysmorphia. I could relate to everything she said and knew that though my symptoms were mild, they existed, and I had to take control. So, I had two choices. I could either allow myself to slip further into that dark state of mind and potentially head down a slippery slope, or I could do something about it. It’s funny because as far as I know, nobody has any idea about any of this. When I see family and friends I go about eating and drinking as freely as I can force myself to do so, so that I look ‘normal’, but what people don’t know is that I’m dying inside at the thought of filling my body with junk. Proof that you can never judge a book by its cover.
The Next Step
I’ll be honest, I’ve avoided counselling like the plague. People keep telling me that it’ll help, but I’m hesitant for two reasons. The first reason is that whatever I’m dealing with doesn’t feel extreme enough to require someone’s valuable time, and the second reason is that I feel too ashamed to talk to someone about it face to face. I’m not ruling it out completely, but it’s important to me to explore every single alternative, and so first of all I want to see if I can help myself. If I can’t? Well then I know who to talk to, and that’s a huge comfort blanket for me. This whole thing was a lot to digest, and I needed space to come to terms with everything. How had I got to this place? And how had I got there so quickly? I had some holiday to take before the end of March, so I decided to book a week off to give myself time to get back on track. As much as I like my work, I knew that my inactive desk job only makes my attitude towards food worse. No matter how busy I am, all I can think about is what I can eat, and how soon I can eat it. I needed a break to regain my sanity, and to see if I could shift the stress.
I’ve had the past six days’ off work so far. I’ve continued going to the gym, which I love, but the pressure of set meals times and a specific food structure has been totally removed. Every day I’ve eaten something that I’d consider ‘bad’ to teach myself that actually, it’s ok. As long as I keep most meals healthy, which is easy because I do genuinely love healthy food, then I can have treats. Alongside that, this time off has allowed me to understand what it is that I need to work on. Firstly, I need to work on my thoughts towards food when I eat out at a restaurant, because I go into panic mode when I’m faced with my favourite unhealthy foods. Secondly, I need to learn to only have these treat meals if I really want them, because often I’ll just eat something bad for the sake of it. Next, I need to learn when to stop. I’m always hungry, which doesn’t help matters, but I seem to treat every cheat meal as though it’ll be the last one I ever eat, and so I feel like I need to eat everything in sight. And lastly, I need to learn that everything in moderation really is ok. I can eat a balanced diet in private, no problem, but I get anxious when eating anything unhealthy in-front of others because they often react and say something like “oh are you really going to eat that? I thought you were healthy!”. They’re joking of course, but it instantly makes me want to drop the cake and run.
I think I needed this time off more than I realised, because I’ve had zero bloating, zero lethargy and zero depressive mood swings for almost an entire week. This just proves that when I begin to think about everything, those symptoms are instantly triggered. Unfortunately, writing this post has triggered it once again, because I’m sat here feeling sick, stressed, bloated and anxious once again.
What Is To Blame?
Sadly, I think that social media is to blame. I love it, I mean it’s literally my career, but I strongly believe that the images you see are often unrealistic, and it can lead you to compare everything about your life to what you see online. Comparison is the thief of joy, as they say. The truth is I have no idea about any of the people I see on social media. Did she earn that body, or was she just blessed from birth? Does she like her body, or like me, does she hate what she sees in the mirror? I’ll never know their story, but regardless, I carry on scrolling through Instagram until the negative mental process repeats itself, time and time again. It’s exhausting being like this, let me tell you. I wouldn’t wish this on anyone. I’m sick of being a negative person and feeling angry towards people who float through life without a worry in the world when it comes to their dietary habits. It’s nothing but pure jealousy, and that’s really not an attractive quality to have. I just want to enjoy life to the fullest, as I once did.
So there’s my story. Hitting publish on this post wasn’t easy, in fact, I feel horribly awkward at the thought of people reading this. The only reason I did hit publish is because I don’t want this to remain some sort of dirty little secret. It’s actually quite common to develop these thoughts towards food and body image, and really it’s no surprise I’ve got to this point given my history of dieting, so why should I hide it? Another reason I’m sharing this post now is because ironically I discovered that it’s actually Eating Disorders Awareness Week, so it seemed like a fitting time to share this information. I’m still trying to find a way out, but acknowledging this problem is the biggest and best step I could have taken to get myself back on the right path. One thing I will say is that I don’t want people to look at me differently, I’m still me, I’m just perhaps not the best version of me right now.
If you’re reading this and you feel you’re experiencing something similar, I really do urge you to take the step that I did and just talk about it to someone who you feel will listen. This is just another one of life’s hurdles, and we can’t let it defeat us.