Growing up in a Puerto Rican household, food was the way we shared connection, comfort, laughs and best of all, love. It was rude to say “no” to Mita’s cooking (my grandmother’s family nickname). I remember often hearing “you better finish your food or else”. Now, as a kid in this tricky circumstance, I did not want to know what was meant by “or else” so I was forced to eat all the food on my plate until it was clean. And only then- was I able to drink the juice or water that accompanied my meal. Is anybody with me here?
Honestly, though, I don’t share this to speak badly about my upbringing because I was grateful to have meals but I’m talking about this because the messaging behind food and diet was so freakin’ confusing!
If I hadn’t seen my family for a while I would get comments like “Oh you’ve gained a few since I last saw you, you should watch what you eat” or to the complete opposite extreme, “You’re too skinny- eat something”! I even had one family member tell me at 10 years old, that I would never fit into a dress I was admiring because I was “too fat”. Huh?
I always found myself trying to reach this perfect standard of what my body weight was supposed to be. I had no clue what image people had for me or what my ideal weight should be. And in retrospect, I realize that everyone is going to have an opinion, but I’ve learned that you can’t make their opinion YOUR reality (You can thank, Les Brown for dropping this little nugget).
At a young age, I struggled with an undiagnosed Eating Disorder. I would binge eat, hide food, and eat in secret. It brought me comfort and security. Food was my friend. As an only child, it felt like the only thing I had a true connection to…it was consistent.
Over the years my relationship with food changed. I went from not wanting anything to do with food and starving myself experiencing many failed attempts on fad diets to appreciating my body and honoring what it is meant to do!
Food is meant to nourish our bodies and souls. Although my 12 year old self would not agree with this idea, she quickly learned as she got older that the way I approached food was all about MINDSET.
During the start of college I was the heaviest I had ever been. It wasn’t until I saw a picture of myself in a dress that I LOVED that stirred up something in me. I was sad and quite honestly, disgusted, by the way I looked. More importantly I felt sluggish and constantly low on energy. I would often make excuses to not go out with friends for fear of having to find an outfit that I knew I wasn’t going to look good in. The ‘freshman 15’ quickly became the ‘freshman 30+’. I was NOT okay with this.
Wake up call! I slowly started to build a routine to make it to the gym on campus, although I was not as mindful about my food intake. Within 6 months I had lost 50 pounds and had reached what was then, my ‘goal weight’. Still, something didn’t feel right. Although I was consistent with my workout routines, I still made many exceptions for late night snacking. I felt lost. I thought, “I’m doing all the right things”, but I really WASN’T trying. I was drowning in excuses at this point. Moving my body was just a part of the process! However, I didn’t understand this then.
It wasn't really until grad school that I taught myself about healthy eating. Yes, I still had days where I binged on sweets (my weakness still!), but I started to practice mindful eating and listened to how and what my body needed. I found that there was a shift happening in my mind that affected my habits and choices. This new shift became my motivation… motivation turned into discipline, discipline turned into results which turned into a different appreciation for my body.
I started leaning away from what others would tell me to do to lose weight and intuitively listened to what my body wanted and needed. I started listening to motivational messages and practiced daily, positive affirmations. At first, I felt embarrassed that I was doing this and even eye-rolled myself, but let me tell you- there is something to be said about the power of repetition!
The rest is history! It felt like I was reclaiming my body, my rights as a woman without asking permission from others to tell me what was the right or wrong thing to do. It was one of the most liberating feelings that I have ever experienced. I had the power of choice all while feeling good about the skin I was in- like what?! I never thought those two things could even exist in the same place.
Granted, I still run into bumps along the road, but that’s the beauty of the journey.
The point here- YOU are the only one who’s going to make the change you want to see- no one else is going to do it FOR you! So really tune in and ask yourself, what’s getting in the way?