Like so many women I know, my relationship with food for most of my life was a little complicated. Although I’ve now settled into my own balance with nutrition — and even started out in life eating home-cooked meals around the family dinner table every night (bless my sweet mom) — it wasn’t enough to protect me from what so many women experience with food. Ambitious from the start, it wasn’t long before I came to know food as another thing that I could quantify, achieve, and perfect.
I still remember the moment things changed for me. It was a blip in time, something I’m surprised I even recall, but a lightbulb moment that changed the way I looked at food. A well-intentioned relative made a casual remark about needing to be careful about what I ate now that I was a teenager, probably noticing I was growing into hips and wanting to save me from their own struggles with weight. But it was the first time food became more — or maybe less — than nourishment, family time, and enjoyment. It became something to watch out for, something I could and maybe should control.
I escaped eating disorders, but my eating was disordered at best. There was always a pendulum, and I rarely found myself in the middle.
On the better end, I forgot about food. I joined the swim team in high school, and relished that no meal could keep up with my voracious metabolism; occasionally a girlfriend and I would grab dinner at a Mexican restaurant, enjoying a big plate of enchiladas, rice and beans, then follow it up with a Blizzard and fries at Dairy Queen. (Oh to be 18 again, right.) Freshman year of college, I found myself in the middle of the Santa Monica Mountains, hiking hills to and from classes, and accidentally lost the Freshman 15. I experimented with veganism a bit later and was surprised how lean, clean, and effortless it felt.
But every positive has its negative, and the pendulum swung with equal and opposite force too. In college, I experienced my first bout with emotional eating, and boy did it hit hard. I gained and lost 40 pounds on my petite 5’1” frame in matter of months. I recall being able to eat an entire white-sauce pizza and pint of Ben and Jerry’s, and not feel a hint of fullness. Food numbed my emotions, but it trapped me in my body. I’d fervently exercise before school breaks, hoping that my family wouldn’t notice the weight I’d gained when I saw them, and breathe a sigh of relief when my sweet dad would always greet me saying I looked great. I didn’t feel it, but I’d lost my control, and for a little while, I wasn’t sure how to get it back.
One thing I’ve come to know about many women, especially those who’ve struggled with their weight, is that there’s no lack of knowledge about food. I committed diet books to memory, and dutifully memorized the calories in every snack, every serving size, every apple. But the more information I absorbed, the further I felt from food. Low-fat, sugar-free, natural, organic, artificial, pasture-raised, cage-free, conventionally grown — it all just became a calculation, and I wasn’t sure what added up to true health anymore. I’d lose a little weight, then gain it back. I’d be so precise about eating that I’d count every single calorie, ensuring there wasn’t a single one above the deficit I created exercising. It worked, but it was no way to live, and it inevitably rebounded when I stopped.
Well, it took me a little while, but I got there. I started adding up the pieces — how I’d bizarrely lose weight whenever I wasn’t so dang obsessive about it; how when I ate based on what my body felt like, it felt easier, more enjoyable, and I had more time to think about the things that I actually cared about in life; how when I indulged a craving with a healthy, sneakily similar alternative, I felt satisfied and the craving would dissipate without a full-fledged dive into a pack of Oreos.
Another part of the puzzle came when I became certified in nutritional therapy. What began as a curiosity given my own history with food, flamed into a realization that these were the pieces I’d been looking for, and the pieces so many women are looking for. I finally felt the pendulum settle.
Throughout my journey, I’ve learned how food can be healing. How it can be satisfying. How it can be simple — like 10-minute dinner simple — but no less healthy. How it can be fuel. How it can be satiating. How it can be its own form of medicine, if I let it. How it can be beautiful and enjoyable and reminiscent of what it started out as for me: nourishment around a table with the people I love; laughter; peace; happiness; taste; delight; joy. So many of the foods I’d prohibited myself from, and I’d watched women my entire life avoid, I learned to welcome again. Butter. Whole milk. Steak. So many of the things I used to be at the mercy of, lost their power over me. Diet soft drinks. Sugar. Even bread. And so many of the things that I used to accept as just part of life — anxiety, restless sleep, the 3 p.m. slump — they all began to disappear. I learned, through nutritional therapy, how to understand what exactly my body needed, and be an active participant in my healing.
Looking back now, I feel compassion for my younger body. Poor thing; all that time I was trying to be perfect, I was just hungry. I understand now why I couldn’t keep up with my mind’s orders to cut sugar, avoid all fat and stick to this or that diet. My body was craving things because it needed them, or what they represented. Cookie cravings weren’t really for cookies; my body just wanted energy. Chip cravings weren’t really for chips; they were for healthy fat that my body desperately wanted when living off a diet of chicken and broccoli. And so on. The cravings that I begrudged were actually my body’s only shot at keeping up with what I asked of it. If only I had used food as my partner — if I had supported the organs and systems that were trying to support me — both my mind and my body would’ve had it so much easier.
What I know now, and what gets me up in the morning, excited to do this work, is that I can do the same for you — and not just because I’ve been certified for it, but because I’ve lived it. I know it works. Working together, we can understand the exact symptoms your body is surfacing — where it needs a little backup, and the subtle ways we can shift what you eat so you actually love food again, feel full, get healthy, and still get to indulge in nutritious versions of your favorite foods. You’ll lose that persistent weight, but you’ll do so while nourishing your body with foods you love. You’ll break the frustrating yo-yo cycle of dieting. You’ll see clearer skin, brighter eyes, longer hair, better sleep, and more balanced moods. And you’ll get to spend less time thinking about food — and more time thinking about what sets your soul on fire. More time for your passions, your loved ones, and the ways you want to make a difference in this world. More time to feel READY for anything life has to offer, and less time waiting for when you feel good enough for that vacation, that photo, that date, that half marathon with your girlfriends, that job, and that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It’s what I got back as I healed my relationship with food, and it’s what I’d love to give to you.