Ever since I can remember I loved being outside riding bikes, making forts, riding horses, and playing soccer.
As I got older I continued to be active, playing soccer in high school and making the varsity team my freshman year. I loved my teammates, going to practice, and thinking of ways to improve my performance. At the time I had no concept of what calories were or that running burned them. I ate what sounded good and in amounts I wanted, when I was done eating I stopped thinking about food. Looking back, I intuitively fueled my training pretty well without having any knowledge of general or sports nutrition.
But then one day I picked up a Health magazine at the store and everything started to change. As I began reading, I learned I should care about fat and the amount in my food. At this point I had internalized the idea that a larger body was bad. These magazines said fat makes you fat so I started analyzing the nutrition facts label for the lowest fat foods possible. I ignored my body’s cues of hunger and cravings, instead letting a random magazine decide what, when, and how much I should be eating.
What was once simple and easy, making food choices had become complicated and confusing. I suddenly felt like I couldn’t trust food or my body.
The magazines also promised I would get “lean” if I ate this way and exercised more. So of course I convinced my parents to get me a gym membership so I could stay in shape after the soccer season ended.
As I ate less and worked out more I initially got compliments on the weight I was losing (weight I never needed to lose as a growing, active teenager). That positive attention reinforced that if I was thinner and looked like the models in the magazines I would be as happy and confident as they looked on the page.
What actually happened was as I continued to lose weight I became more insecure because my body didn’t look lean and strong, it looked frail and weak. But at this point I didn’t know how to start eating more without regaining fat, which I feared happening. I was in the middle of an eating disorder that felt like it happened overnight.
My performance as a soccer player suffered, as a defender I was getting pushed around or was unable to sprint as fast or for very long. Friends didn’t know how to be around me and I started distancing myself from them. I missed out on going to parties or just being a teenager and having fun because my mind was too preoccupied with food.
I remember wishing so bad to go back in time and never grabbing a health magazine, never learning about calories or fat grams in food. But my 16 year old self didn’t know that there was a way to go back to having a healthy relationship food and my body, that way is called Intuitive Eating.
I struggled with over exercising, restricting my intake, bingeing, orthorexia, and emotional eating for 15 years until finally surrendering all my food rules.
Today, I feel like my 16 year old self before being exposed to diet culture. It never crosses my mind to read any labels, my meal choices are based on what sounds good and how I want to feel in my body at that moment. I never have anxiety for having chocolate in the house or for eating the breakfast bagel sandwich after a run.
Over the next few posts I’m going to share what Intuitive Eating is and how active women can benefit from it. In our society today, it’s nearly impossible to not be affected by diet culture in some way. Whether you have a history of dieting or not, intuitive eating can give you confidence with your food choice despite all the noise.
I’d love to hear from you, in what ways do you think diet culture has impacted your relationship with food and body?