This has probably been one of the most highly requested blog posts I have ever received and for good reason. So many of us have at some point in our lives struggled with obsessing over food, calories, portions, macros, our own body weight, self worth and so on. Its extremely unfortunate that it is so common but it doesn’t surprise me. Society, the media and everything in between preys on our insecurities to convince us we aren’t good enough, we aren’t thin enough, that we should look a certain way to be “valued” which is ridiculous. We are told what foods are “good” and that foods are ”bad”, there is a new diet coming out every 10 seconds, poor carbohydrates have taken most of the blame over the years so I don’t blame everyone for being extremely confused about what, how much or when to eat throughout the day. This is an area I have struggled with for many years and has recently become a strong passion of mine to spread the message that food is FUEL and NOURISHMENT, it’s not a bad thing or anything we should fear. We should be embracing all that to can do for us and all that it provides our bodies with.
On top of that we have completely become out of tune within our own bodies. Did you know we actually have signals that tell us when and how much to eat and when to stop eating?……yeah it’s called hunger! There are two main hormones that control when our bodies need more fuel (food) and when we are full. These are called Leptin and Ghrelin. Leptin is essentially a mediator of long term regulation of energy balance, suppressing our hunger signals when we have had enough to eat and when our body is fully nourished. Ghrelin (I like to remember this one by thinking of the old movie Gremlins), on the other hand is a fast paced hormone that tells our body when it needs more fuel from food, essentially increasing our appetite when needed. Overtime, unfortunately our bodies have built up a resistance to these hormones due to increasing rates of obesity, high amounts of processed, sugar, salt, chemical filled “food products” and environmental toxins.
Our bodies are confused and so are our hunger signals, we need to focus on getting back to whole, real foods from the earth to begin to regulate them and to help restore our body weight to one that is natural and healthy for all of us. Intuitive eating is a powerful thing once you learn how to do it. It took me many years to understand when I was hungry and when I no longer needed food but with patience you CAN successfully get there and leave the calorie counting days in your past. It is 100% possible to get to a point where you eat until you are fully satisfied and don’t have to worry about how much you are eating. Your body will take care of the rest, that’s what it was designed for.
A little backstory on me…..
I personally struggled with under eating, obsessive calorie counting and over exercising for many of my teen years. I have always lived a healthy lifestyle (or so I thought) but I ended up taking it to the extremes and it lead me down a dark path. After a few years of restricting the amount of carbohydrates/calories I ate per day, avoiding anything with fat in it, of punishing myself with intense workouts after eating something I perceived as “bad” I eventually reached a breaking point and had enough. I knew I wasn’t meant to feel this way for the rest of my life, I knew deep down I needed to change for both my mental and physical health. I began researching one night “ways to heal your body, ways to healthily gain weight” and all of a sudden came across an article talking about the affects of whole plant foods on your mental, emotional and physical health. This article went in depth about how food is so much more than calories, but instead a way of nourishing our bodies so we can live better lives, so we can have the energy to do more, so that our cells can truly thrive. Immediately after reading this article something clicked. For the first time of my life I realized that food wasn’t just a source of calories, it wasn’t just a number! It was SO much more than that. I felt so bad after that for depriving my body of so many years off proper nourishment.
I loved the idea of nourishing my body with an abundance of whole plant foods everyday, I had a feeling deep down that this is what I needed to do to help my body heal from what it had been through so I did it. The next day I committed to never again count another calorie, to never again restrict myself from eating, to focus on how food made me feel, the energy it gave me and to focus on truly nourishing my body and giving it what it needed to function its best. The benefits from this were IMMEDIATE, I was blown away. I felt absolutely incredible every single day. I would wake up and eat colourful bowls of oatmeal with lots of fruit and nuts, smoothies filled with nourishing ingredients, smoothie bowls, chia pudding, quinoa with berries, plant based pancakes, waffles and so much more, all made from healthy whole foods. Throughout the day I would listen to my body and what it told me, if I was hungry I ATE and until I was full. I was finally eating carbohydrates again which felt amazing, I actually had energy and wanted to do more. I would eat large plates of whole grains, beans, lentils, potatoes, sweet potatoes, vegetables, avocado, homemade soups, chilli, stews, stir fries and so much more.
After consistently eating and living this way my weight was beginning to restore itself and balance out. My skin began to glow, people started asking me what I was doing because I began to feel like a different person. This made me think of that article I first found that started it all. Our mental health is so connected to what we are feeding our bodies with. How can we expect to truly thrive if we aren’t giving our brains what it needs to optimally function. How can we expect to perform at work, school and so on if we aren’t giving our brains proper nourishment? I felt like I was an entirely new person, more confident, more open, more ME for the first time in so many years. I was so happy and grateful for all that I had been through because it lead me to living this lifestyle and finding a passion I never knew I had. I never looked back, I only grew more and more appreciation for the human body, for educating others on proper whole food nutrition and nourishment and I could finally openly say that I loved myself, every single part of me. It takes time to build that relationship with yourself but it’s a crucial step in recovery and living your healthiest life. At this point my body was actually craving exercise and movement (while gaining weight I stopped all exercise except yoga/walking to help my body heal). I actually wanted to move because I had so much energy and this time it was from a much healthier mental state. I wanted to feel stronger and do it as a celebration for what my body was capable of.
Food is FUEL, it’s a source of physical nourishment that literally provides us with the ability to live. To be able to wake up energized and take on our day, to live out our greatest passions, to feel amazing, to love, to laugh and to embrace our most authentic selves. I used to be so caught up in worrying about what to eat, how much I should eat and tried to schedule in time to make sure I could “burn off” the calories I had eaten. How crazy is that! I wasn’t giving my body what it needed whatsoever and I was punishing it for any food that I did eat. We need to be properly fuelling our bodies so that we can deliver nutrients to our cells, so we can give our body antioxidants, phytonutrients, vitamins, minerals and so much more. Most people nowadays fill up on low calorie snacks, processed foods and items that essentially make our bodies work so much harder at giving us energy and vitality. We do this and then wonder why we are chronically fatigued, bloated, have poor skin, can’t sleep, have cravings and hate working out! It’s all in the fuel we are providing our bodies with. We need to realize that food and calories aren’t a bad thing. We need to shift our focus and mindset on nutrition and realize that it’s here to make us better, healthier, stronger and live a higher quality of life. We need to realize that yes an apple has sugar in it but its a REAL, WHOLE FOOD! Nothing to be afraid of! I am sick and tired of diets that demonize healthy whole foods because of their calorie content or because they have “too many carbohydrates” in them, that’s RIDICULOUS! No macro nutrient is bad, we need all three (protein, carbs and fats) to truly thrive. Fruit doesn’t have too much sugar, we need it to heal our bodies and provide us with antioxidants, enzymes, fibre, minerals and so much more. Its time we get back to listening to our bodies, eating when we are hungry, stopping when we are full and to stop being afraid of food because society says we need to eat “diet foods” instead to maintain our weight.
I now look at food for it’s ability to make me a happier, more energized, more productive person. I strive to include as many nutrient dense foods and colour in my diet every single day. I no longer punish myself with workouts, I workout because I love my body and I nourish it so that I can increase my workout output, so I can lift heavier and feel stronger throughout. Food is here to NOURISH us, its nothing to fear. Our bodies are very smart if we let them be. Once you get back to eating whole, real foods and ‘cleanse” your body of the junk and artificial chemicals your cravings will subside, you're natural hunger cues will begin to regulate and balance will restore within. There is a reason you crave salty, oily, sugary foods-its because that is your fuel of choice but once you begin to fill your plate with real foods you will begin to crave them too, trust me. It takes time and patience but it’s possible.
It’s also important to realize that eating this way doesn’t mean being 100% strict with yourself. Yes I live a plant based lifestyle but I also enjoy vegan treats when I feel like it. Its all about balance and finding peace within so you can enjoy your life and feel your best in all aspects, mind, body and soul. Please know you are worthy of feeling your best, of feeling your body and of being the best version of you possible.