So you didn’t get shredded and/or your pants are tight after 2020. *opens arms wide for a big hug * Join the club! But you know what you did do? You took care of yourself as best you could and you made it THROUGH. Hell, you’re still making it through so bra.vo. As we inch by the 374th day of March, I’ve been taking notice of a number of people sharing their struggle/experience/perseverance over the past year surrounding one of my favorite yet least favorite topics: food. But more specifically, diet and body image. I am right there with so many of these folks just stressin’, processin’, and acceptin’ and it has been therapeutic connecting with so many people who are feeling the side-effects of the worst year ever.
I’ve always shied away from harping on eating and body image because, for one, I’ve always been insanely insecure! The insecurity coupled with the anxiety of “who cares” or “don’t make it about you” has kept me quiet on the body image front for the 8+ years I’ve been doing this. But recently after reading so many stories from people I admire or care about, and I felt immensely “seen” and like I related on a level that truly helped me feel the most comfortable in my skin I’ve ever felt. So, *deep exhale*, here we are. I’ve learned a lot about myself over the past year and if there’s any part of this “story” that could help a friend feel seen too, then I’ve done my job.
LOVE & LOATHING FOOD: FINDING BALANCE WITH EATING
“How do you eat like that and not weigh 500 lbs?” – in some similar shape or form, for the 8+ years I’ve been writing/blogging/social media-ing about Los Angeles, this is the single most asked question I receive. It (usually) comes with sincerity and absolutely no ill intent. But it’s nonetheless a question that makes me feel… uncomfortable. As a person, like many, who has struggled with disordered eating and body image, that question allows many of my insecurities and anxieties around food to bubble to the surface and demand I give them reconsideration and attention.
I have always had a rocky relationship with eating.
I have been on beta-blockers for a heart condition since I was 6 years old, which “slows me down” – including my metabolism so I have always said that I had to “learn how to eat” at a young age. But really the truth is that I learned how to become food-obsessed at a young age. (Let me just say that this is absolutely no one’s fault. Not my family, not my doctors, not mine.)
I begged my mom to let me try Weight Watchers in middle school. I tried Jenny Craig in High School, and I struggled from college until my 30s with shame around my body and eating habits. And I was never happy with the way I looked. Even when I was working out 5-6 days a week, had 15% body fat, and “looked great in a bikini” (from the lens of a 30+ looking back at my 22-year-old self), it was never enough. I was never enough.
It has taken me 32 years to finally move the needle towards feeling more at peace with myself and my relationship with eating, and thus my body – and even myself as a person. I have not had an “ah-ha! moment,” nor do I feel like I’m in any way shape or form “complete” in this process. But I do feel more understanding and accepting of the sheer importance of this journey.
The answer I give these days to that question everyone asks me is the same answer I’ve always given, and that is “balance.”
The difference between the answer I give now vs even just a year ago though is that I am finally at a place in my life where it’s actually healthier. A year ago “balance” meant working out for 2 hours a day 5x a week so that I could eat pizza, ice cream, and drink a bottle of wine all in one evening, “with less guilt.”
I finally got to a point where I said, “I can’t do this anymore,” it felt like my body had betrayed me. I’m not sure if it was 2020 that brought about this sense of change or if it was truly being in the midst of my 30s (I am 32), but I was sick of feeling sick of my shit. It was time to reshape my habits and relationship with eating.
I will never ever ever “diet” or “be on a diet” ever again, but I will make a conscious daily effort to do good by my body.
These days I am focused a lot more on nourishment and eating intuitively vs other problematic behaviors. It has by no means been an overnight process. But once I actually started feeling better, and focusing on that being the goal vs looking better, was when I finally started believing I could finally find some peace. It wasn’t “losing those pesky 5-10 lbs,” it wasn’t working out harder, it was learning to listen to myself and truly connect my thoughts with my actions.
Caroline a year ago would have been like “ok ya hippie, you go enjoy your crystals and ‘intuitive eating’ whatever the fuck that means.” But all I can say is that since I’ve even simply tried to understand the way food works for our bodies, I am in a much better headspace. I love my whole foods, I truly enjoy cooking these days (something VERY new to me), but if I indulge – which I do, every single day in my own way – I don’t beat myself up about it (not like I used to with shame spirals). I simply find the healthy way to balance my bit of extra fun. Whether that be with a workout of my choice, extra leafy greens the next day, whatever, I do what it takes to maintain this healthier balance as best I can.
It goes without saying this is a personal experience and I am not a professional. I am just your friend who wants share a little positive “food for thought” and see you happy. I know there is a part of everyone who can identify in some shape or form with feeling insecure or inadequate. We are living in the age of social media after all, and it’s tough! So as the kids say, I don’t know who needs to hear this but… here are a few key things that I think have helped me feel that sense of inner peace:
STOP TALKING CRAP ABOUT YOURSELF TO OTHER PEOPLE
Inner negative self-talk is one thing, from experience I know how hard that is to control. I’ve found that one area I could manage was with talking poorly about myself to other people. I used to say things to my family members, friends, and especially Tommy about things I didn’t like about myself. But it hit me like a ton of bricks that perhaps that is 0 fun for anyone to hear, least of all yourself, so don’t do it! But please feel free to say something nice out loud, see how it feels!
CHOOSE NOT TO ENGAGE IN ANYONE ELSE’S SELF DEPRECIATION
For example, a family favorite of mine, “Why did we eat/drink that” – “regret, regret regret.” So what? Feel free to regret YOUR decisions, I will continue to be at peace with mine. Don’t let someone else’s insecurities let you spiral, misery loves company but you have a choice.
SCREW THE NUMBERS
From the scale (which I don’t even allow in this house because it triggers my bad behavior) to pants/dress sizes, honestly who gives a shit. It’s just a number, and whatever number that is does not make you any less beautiful than another. This is a tough one I know, but wear what makes you feel good, even if it’s “not your size” – can I get a raised hand if you own jeans from different brands in at least 3 different sizes? SEE. I rest my case.
SEEK OUT WHOLE AND NOURISHING FOODS
This was something I used to kind of roll my eyes over. For someone who lives for food, I never really looked at food like it was healing, or nourishing. Plus I’d always associated “whole” or “healthy” foods with “BORING,” but I was wrong. There’s always going to be something to be said for things that come straight out of the ground or from sustainable practices. Food. Is. Medicine.
UNFOLLOW THE DRAGS ON SOCIAL MEDIA
Follow the drag queens, unfollow the drags. Even if they’re nice people with wonderful intentions! If they make you feel like crap about yourself, go ahead and mute ’em up or hit the unfollow button. It’s ok, trust me. Not to mention FREEING AF! I had to do a lot of that in 2020 and I’m glad I did.
MOVE YOUR BODY
I used to think I had to workout an hour + 5x a week to be healthy, and that anything less would just be pointless. This has been a tough one for me to come to peace with. But I am a firm believer in the fact that even if it’s 20 minutes, 5 minutes, it’s better than 0 minutes. Move your body, and tune in to how you want to move your body. A year ago I would have never considered going on a walk a workout. But now I’ve found that somedays that’s what my head and body want and I love it. Do the workouts you love, not the ones you hate. Moving is just as much for your mind as it is for your body.
ASK THE PROFESSIONALS
I realize that professional help might not be for everyone but I have found that working with a therapist and a nutritionist to be HUGE in my personal growth. I actually owe most of the progress I’ve been able to make to the work I’ve put in with these professionals. This is certainly a privilege but if you have the means to do so and it’s something of interest, I highly recommend it.
*If you’re looking for a nutritionist – someone kind, knowledgable, fairly priced, and fun to have on your side – I would of course love to recommend my nutritionist Christina Shadle of Side Benefits Nutrition. She has been such a gift.
Since I have shifted my eating habits, I won’t lie, a part of me was hoping I’d have the weight loss I’ve been looking for all of my life. Hoping I’d finally found my “magic pill” if you will. But the fact of the matter is my physical appearance truly hasn’t changed much. Despite working out less, indulging more frequently (gin became my BFF in 2020), losing muscle definition, and wearing slightly tighter pants, where I’ve won is on the work within. There will always be a struggle. But I’m finally confident in feeling like my obsessions/negative self-talk don’t run my life anymore. I am finally confident period.
I would love to hear your story if you’re open to sharing! And if you’ve read this far and you’re still here, sending big big hugs.