Disclaimer + Credibility
I am not a nutritionist or a doctor. I do not intend to use my story as a means of entitlement to tell you how to lose weight, eat, exercise, etc. I am simply using this opportunity as a means to explore some of the reasons as to why I have struggled with my weight and eating behavior as an adolescent and adult, how I reframed my beliefs surrounding food and eating habits, and created a new lifestyle that will carry me healthily through life for a long time. If you have a history of disordered eating and believe this may trigger you, please do not read. I speak about weight loss, fasting, and nutrition in a realistic sense. However, if you are embracing the recovery process and would like some insight, this story may be useful to you. I highly recommend that you speak directly with your physician and get your blood work tested before beginning any type of change in diet or exercise routine.
My family has a history of obesity and diabetes along with immune and cardiovascular health issues. I have unfortunately experienced being on both ends of the eating disorder spectrum since I was roughly twelve years old, enduring the cycles that so many others silently suffer from. In 2016-2017, I went from 145 lbs to 125 lbs during my freshman year of college. I then began my first business owner adventure, while also becoming a survivor of a horrible domestic violence situation that lasted 8 months. This is where health and fitness took a backseat, and in 2017-2018, I gained 55 lbs. In May of 2019, I decided that I was worth living for. I took an extreme (but healthy) route to destroy an extreme cycle- and it worked for me. I am now down 55 lbs in four months, at a weight of 125 lbs once again. For reference, I am 5’6 and 21 years old.
Sitting down to write this journey out is difficult. Scratch that, it is completely dreadful. Sitting down to put every darkness and light I’ve found myself in over the past year on paper brings up things that I’ve forgiven myself and others for and pushed into the locked file cabinets of my brain that I’ve thrown away the key for. However, I feel a strong and unwavering sense of responsibility to speak about the good, the bad, and the ugly behind this process, recognizing that free information from the internet had basically saved my life and my sense of self, and perhaps if I’m lucky enough I’ll be able to do the same for others with my story and the information I’ve learned along the way. I don’t believe that “10 Tips To Fast Weight Loss” or “An Easy 5-Step Guide To Losing Weight In Your 20s” are substantial or accurate ways of describing the weight loss process, because this shit is very far from fast or easy, especially when you are attempting to reverse behaviors and habits that have been so deeply ingrained in you from years and years of subconscious learning.
When I outlined this story, I could not for the life of me, figure out where it all began. Was it growing up with a single mom who was constantly dead-tired from working two jobs and unable to afford or have the energy to make fresh meals each evening? Or was it difficult for her to make clean eating possible because she had never been taught what that looked like or how to create macro and micronutrient-dense dishes? Did we even have the knowledge fifty years ago that we have now to know what the hell macro and micronutrients were or which foods have what of which? Was I so picky as a child that I would refuse to eat unless it was boxed and processed? Thus, encouraging a sugar, fat, dairy, and gluten addiction that I wouldn’t realize I even had until I ate myself into someone I didn’t recognize fifteen years later? I came to the conclusion that our food habits and behaviors become a product of our environment.
I remember comparing my snacks at school or at youth events to that of other girls’ in my class. Some of the girls had the same snack choices as me: fruit roll-ups and gushers, chocolate pudding, and granola bars. Then, there were the girls who ate their carrot sticks, celery & peanut butter, cucumbers, and sliced apples happily. I’m not sure when or why I began comparing my circumstances to that of others’ with such intensity, but, I noticed how they paid more attention to socializing with other students than to their food, sometimes even taking one bite and forgetting about the rest of their snack. As I watched them run around, talk, and laugh with one another, I heard the sound of utensils scraping against plates into mouths, making sure to get every single last bite, and flashbacks of my strong-willed Norsk grandmother telling me to “finish my food” and “don’t be wasteful” played in my head. I realized thirteen years later that when you have people who were encouraged to ration their food consumption heavily during World War II times raising children of a much more modern era of non-scarcity, there is an enormous divide in food behavior. I would finish eating my sugar and corn syrup-filled granola bar, maybe two, or three. Part of me wondered why I wasn’t satiated and the other girls were, why I used each snack and meal time to eat as much as I could instead of using it to be social and play. Other parts of me just wanted more granola bars and fruit snacks.
As I grew into my teenage years, I began to experience the confidence and fulfillment that being an athlete brought. However, I definitely did not embrace the healthy nutrition and workout regimen I should have possessed as a college ball prospect, but rather enjoyed the ability to “eat like an athlete” in all of its glory. I ate junk food like Little Debbie was going out of business. I was constantly on the road for volleyball, leading me to eat fast food at least three to four times per week. I also had a bad habit of eating an entire large bag of peanut butter m&ms or a whole jar of Betty Crocker Rainbow Chip frosting with a spoon before each volleyball game or track event. Obviously I knew that these weren’t the behaviors of an athlete who cares about their body, but that was the thing- I didn’t care about my body. I didn’t value my body. I didn’t treat my body with respect or care. I didn’t honor it for what it was or it’s abilities to be athletic and do difficult movements that I trained it hard for. I have to point out that the language I just used is to further explain the extreme disconnect from who I was and my body. Now, I speak of my body in terms that do not make it an independent being apart from my own. There is no space between who I am in my entirety and my body, it is me. However, while growing up, it didn’t feel like home, and I never felt comfortable in it. I couldn’t understand that the body I was in wasn’t a concrete slab waiting for me to build a house on, brick by brick, year by year, but that it was already a safe haven for me to feel at ease in. I can develop it at any time, redecorate, or add-on if I please, but my body is my home and I wouldn’t understand this until I began to believe that I deserved a home. Sidenote: you also deserve a home.
From the deep digging I had to do to understand what exactly shaped my relationship with and my mindset surrounding food, I concluded the following:
I grew up in a single-parent, lower middle-class family. Quick food, easy food, and largely- cheap food, was our saving grace. As much as I don’t want to support the idea that eating healthy is expensive, it is much cheaper to buy more of a processed food than it is to buy fresh fruits and vegetables that will likely go bad within a few days (especially with picky children who would rather eat Poptarts more than anything). Canned fruits and veggies, boxes of pasta, and frozen meals will line the fridge and cabinets of a family who has mouths to feed but isn’t graced with an abundant income or two-parent household.
Processed foods have addictive properties like sugar, gluten, dairy, salt, fats and it isn’t completely my fault that my body and mind were trained to run on those substances. Thus, creating a neurological and physical attachment to them, in turn, creating an addiction I had no choice in adopting. I don’t believe this is really anyone’s fault, except for my great-great-great-great-great-great grandparents who decided to settle in the coldest region in America, where they became accustomed to eating preserved foods themselves during our frigid winters that made it literally impossible to eat fresh food.
I live in a region that provides it’s inhabitants with five to eight months of winter, and the acres of farmland outnumber trees. There is no place to go hiking with incline or views, walking or biking outside for more than twenty minutes without getting frostbite can only take place within four months out of the year, and when you want to get out of the house and do something fun with friends and family- you go out to eat at restaurants, where we all know they use the most delicious, yet, most harmful ingredients. But truly, what else are you going to do? Drive 12 hours South to go on a walk together? Being confined to the inside of structures is extremely movement-limiting which is poor for mental health, leading to a shift in hormones and cortisol levels that can literally make it more difficult for your body to lose fat.
Along with being addicted to processed food, I was also addicted to habit and routine. For example, I used to play small roles in the school musical. Before each practice after school, students would walk two blocks to the nearest gas station and get snacks before we began. I had this idea in my head that I needed something salty, something fruity, and something chocolatey, a nice tastebud balance of sorts. So, I would pick out a bag of Cheez-its, some Reese’s peanut butter cups, and a bag of gummy bears. All of this accompanied by a Diet Coke of course. I believe that I value stability in my life more than anything else, and subconsciously crave that stability in everything from relationships to daily routine. With that, I believe that routines revolving around food gave me the sense of stability that I yearned for that I wasn’t receiving at school or at home. This became dangerous as I lost all sense of my hunger cues. It is sometimes still difficult for me to decipher if I am truly hungry or simply craving the little endorphin release from eating and feeling full. I really never remember feeling full as I grew up, unless it was Thanksgiving dinner or I was at Olive Garden. This could also be because I was constantly filling my body with foods that didn’t have much substance or fulfilling nutrients. We’ll just say that it was a mixture of both that led me to my addiction of stability (and all of God’s children of divorced parents said amen).
Once I began to pick apart my food behaviors and their origins, I finally understood one thing: its not my fault. I wasn’t just “born to be thick”. I don’t just have an insane sweet tooth. Maybe I don’t need to have the “Anderson Thunder Thighs” that my mother had once coined. I’m not going to be controlled by food anymore. With all of the information that we have access to, there is no reason to be complacent.
When I decided that I wanted to address the bullshit I had in my head, my lifestyle of drinking three to four days each week, and the fact that I could eat five breadsticks after a night of drinking and still be hungry, I took action quickly. I began to research the basics- human biology. Essentially, weight loss is correlated most with the calories in < calories out methodology. However, I wasn’t just in need of weight loss. I needed a complete mind and lifestyle makeover due to the fact that I didn’t just gain ten or so pounds, I had gained fifty-five pounds over the past two years of relationship abuse, multiple business-ownerships, and a lifetime of poor eating behaviors leading to a completely diseased neurological dependance on food. The extremity of my circumstances led me to taking extreme measures to reverse many years of conditioned thinking and behaviors.
I began by studying my own triggers- what events, feelings, smells, words, etc. made me want foods that weren’t healthy for me? For example, I recognized that I used to leave my boyfriend’s house and go straight to McDonald’s, even if we had just eaten. I asked myself why, and I realized that I had always left him feeling some lack of fulfillment. Due to a difference in love languages, I never felt loved and actually would feel that maybe it was because I wasn’t worth loving. Eating gave me a sense of full that I felt I needed to be okay in those moments of self-doubt. To combat, I started by cutting out fast food completely. For the first two days, I struggled a LOT. However, on day three, I didn’t feel any cravings for the greasy, fried food I once consumed multiple times a day. This led me to explore more of this psychological restriction and I decided to embark on a journey of fasting. To become more accustomed with the alternative health tool, read my summarization and highlights of recent research study findings by clicking here.
During the first month of fasting intervals, I opted for five days per week of liquid fasting, while allowing myself to drink water, green tea, black coffee, and coke zero. These periods of fasting varied depending on my social schedule along with how I felt on a cognitive level each day. Although, I realized very quickly that I began feeling more energized and my mind felt more clear than it ever had before. I was surprised by this for a multitude of reasons, the first being the fact that I used to need to stay home from high school at least once every two weeks due to being so mentally exhausted from normal, daily tasks that I sometimes became physically ill if I didn’t give myself a break. This lack of energy absolutely had something to do with my undiagnosed ADHD, however, I believe it was also the outcome of a body that has never been hungry, thus never being taught how to tap into it’s glycogen stores for needed energy. My body was so dependent on food for immediate and constant new energy sources that it didn’t even know how to perform a human biological function. The fasting process forced my body to learn a new skill and develop it into a natural and normal system of energy sourcing. Another surprising item of discovery during my first month of fasting was my newfound mindfulness surrounding my hunger. I became super aware of the thoughts that crossed my mind when I was hungry, or when I passed by a Burger King. One of these thoughts being, “if I wait twenty minutes, I know I wont feel this hunger or be attracted to the fast food because I know that my body will survive without a snack. My body does not want the fast food. Rather, my amygdala, the pleasure center of the brain, wants the neurological satisfaction that eating fast food would bring it. I do not eat for pleasure, I eat to fuel my body so that it is able to perform at its best.”.
The only exercise I partook in during the fasting period of my journey was walking my dog for at least an hour every single day. Sometimes, I would walk her for two or three hours a day, simply because it felt so dang good to move. I don’t recommend much exercise at all during fasting, however, engaging in low-intensity workouts like walking and light jogging on an elliptical. Stay far away from hot yoga, HIIT, and other activities that usually make you feel like your body is dying. The goal during fasting is to stay as hydrated as possible, so performing strenuous exercise would be counterproductive. On days that I re-fed my body, I tried my best to eat fresh fruits and vegetables, but I never restricted myself from any food group and I ate rather intuitively. Please speak with your physician before entering into any fasting period lasting longer than twenty-four hours. Get your blood work done, and evaluate your lifestyle to ensure that you’re not overexerting yourself while performing daily tasks. Seeing that only a couple of weeks of fasting intervals switched my mindset around eating and food so quickly and with so much ease was incredible and got me thinking that maybe I was onto something life-changing.
What I Gained From Losing
Throughout my intense fasting process, which lingered on for two to three months, I gathered the following knowledge of my body and effects of fasting:
Hunger comes and goes, our bodies are much more resilient than we give them credit for.
Fasting helped me to shrink my overgrown stomach and never-ending need for constant satiation. I found that our bodies get familiar with ingesting a certain mass of food each time we eat, in turn, our satiety cues can get confused with how much food our bodies truly require in order to feel content. Accepting that ‘content’ is good is also an important aspect in all of this- recognizing that it doesn’t have to be black and white all the time, that the gray area can be safe. Not going for a third and fourth slice of pizza in order to continue the high that eating provides, and that addicting full-tummy feeling. It takes being uncomfortable for a little while to get comfortable for a lifetime.
I stopped craving foods that weren’t whole. I desired fresh meals with fruits and vegetables, whole grains, etc. Fried foods, dairy, red meat, chocolate, and basically anything processed made me feel physically sick.
My digestion system has been completely transformed. I used to go two to four days without going number two. Now, my body uses what it needs from the food I eat, and then passes the rest within a few hours.
My immune system is extremely resilient since I began fasting. It has totally reset the way my immunity performs. I can fight oncoming colds within a day or two, and I haven’t been ill once in the past four months, despite living in a four-season region with extreme temperature transitions.
Any dramatic difference in diet, exercise, or lifestyle is going to bring about hormonal imbalance and changes. And oh boy, did I experience the worst of them. After about one month of consistent fasting, I began to get extreme hormonal acne on my cheeks, a place I had never gotten much acne before. I was familiar with getting the typical oily-combination skin type T-Zone pimples, but nothing like what I had experienced during this process. I spent hundreds of dollars trying to fix this issue with my esthetician, kept my face makeup-free for a majority of the time, washed my face constantly, applied expensive luxury serums, masks, and treatments. Nothing worked. I began taking supplements that I may have been deficient in, hoping to regulate whatever needed regulating in order to fix the issue that was destroying my face. They helped slightly, but my skin was still not where it should be, considering how well I was taking care of it. Eventually, my hormones began to balance themselves out once again, around month four of my weight loss journey. It was difficult for me to accept the acne issues when it began, but I knew that with time my body would adjust to my new lifestyle and that my skin would return to normal with a little extra care and attention.
Another problem that arose during the beginning stages of fasting was a newly discovered inability to fall asleep or stay asleep. In an attempt to control this, I took melatonin, tried taking lavender oil-infused baths, exerted more energy throughout the day in order to feel more tired at night, started waking up at 5 A.M every day, and once again, none of my efforts were successful. I ended up going to my psychiatrist with my sleeping complications and was prescribed a small dose of a sleeping medication that worked wonders. As much as I didn’t want to take the sedative route, I knew that my body needed eight or more hours of sleep each night and that I would be playing with fire if I hadn’t resolved the issue as quick as possible.
The last hurdle I faced while fasting was tackling the disordered thoughts that came to light every once in a while. I would sometimes find myself using fasting as a coping mechanism for when other parts of my life felt out of control. As someone who toxically used relationships and people as a means to feel in control in the past, I noticed the euphoria from this feeling immediately when I began fasting and took note of it in case it became unhealthy. As stated, it did. When this happened, I spoke to my therapist about it and she helped me to gain some clarity around my occasional disordered thinking. At that time, I analyzed where I was at within my journey, and seeing that my eating behaviors and mindset surrounding food were completely transformed, I would be able to move on from extreme fasting to the next step: reconstructing my body to fit into what makes me feel good- being active, athletic, and able.
To wrap this way-too-long story up, I’ll clearly outline my current training, diet and nutrition, and “tips + tricks” (I don’t really believe there are any easy “tricks” to weight loss or behavior modification), in the best tool known to man: a well defined bullet-point list.
I workout 6-7 days each week.
I always begin each workout with a dynamic warm-up.
Each training session includes 2-3 miles of cardio.
I incorporate abs + glutes in each workout.
I focus on resistance training, using resistance bands & gliding discs often.
I love flexibility, balance, and plyometric training to work muscles that are often neglected in strength training.
I incorporate arms, back, and shoulders 2-3 days each week.
Most of my training sessions are some form of a full-body circuit.
I increase my reps, weight, or resistance each week.
I like to aim for at least 15,000 steps every day.
Diet + Nutrition
My macronutrient intake is roughly 70% Carbs, 20% Protein, and 10% Fats, currently focusing on longevity, cognitive performance, and disease prevention.
I don’t consume dairy or gluten on a regular basis.
I have a mostly plant-based diet for sustainability, ethical, and health purposes.
I eat processed restaurant food once or twice a month for socialization purposes. I love enjoying good food with good friends while out for drinks or at an event. However, I may feel like absolute crap after these types of meals, due to my body being more accustomed to a whole-food diet.
I take the following vitamin supplements:
I rarely eat fast food, maybe once every 2 or 3 months if absolutely necessary (roadtripping, etc.).
I try not to eat after 7 pm for digestion purposes.
I like to water fast at least 2-3 days each month.
My basal energy expenditure/basal metabolic rate is about 1,600 calories/day. This means that if I were to lay in bed for an entire day, my body would naturally burn roughly 1,600 calories, so I consume around 1,500-1,800 calories each day, but I do not intently track calories or macros.
Tips & Tricks
If you eat processed foods, just read the labels. Hidden Valley Ranch is not nutritious, even if you eat it with carrots. Opt for the fat free version or Primal Kitchen's Avocado-Oil based dairy-free ranch instead for a healthier option.
Pay close attention to the sugar, sodium, and fat content if you are not already aware of which foods are high in each.
No-sugar added sauces and condiments usually taste just as good if not better than the regular versions. Without the sugar, you get more of the natural flavor of whatever plants and vegetables are in them! My favorites are by Primal Kitchen.
I know you’re probably sick of hearing this, but it took me 21 years of hearing it constantly and a month-long bloat that hurt like hell in order for me to listen. DRINK WATER.
If you have a problem with overeating, I recommend putting your utensil down between each bite, chewing more than you usually chew, as well as taking a drink of your beverage between each bite as well. I found that this helped me to be more mindful and present during my meal, and also aided in my digestion. I was able to feel my fullness when it came and quit eating when I was satiated.
If you are a bored eater and are likely to mistake your boredom for hunger, go for a walk outside, go to a thrift store and see what little treasures you can find, or set up a nice candle-lit bubble bath for yourself. Tackle that “I want to eat because I’m bored” feeling by making yourself not bored. Do it while drinking water too, hunger is one of the body’s ways of telling you it’s thirsty.
Remember that you are deserving of a healthy body, a healthy sleeping pattern, a healthy lifestyle that serves you and your family fully. Exercise and nutritious eating isn’t a punishment, and it shouldn’t carry a negative weight. It is a way of life that serves as a mental, physical, and emotional enhancement. The most beautiful gift you can give yourself and those you love is a long life filled with happy moments fueled by wellness. You absolutely deserve that.
I really didn’t think that this would be eleven pages long, although, now that I’m nearing the end, I am realizing that I could write another twenty. Retraining our behavior and mindset surrounding anything is not a bullet-point checklist and cannot be explained thoroughly enough in a blog post. However, I want to end this mess by touching a bit on body positivity and diet culture. As you can probably deduct from my early habits of comparison, I’ve struggled with the way I see myself and my body. I’ve wondered why my ribcage and hips are so wide and why I wasn’t born “naturally skinny”. For starters, I really don’t believe that “naturally skinny” is a real thing at all. I believe that we grow up in different environments where we witness different eating behaviors, food choices, and activity levels, and we adopt a lot of that early on. As for my giant torso bone structure, I’ll just have to figure out how to live with that, no changing that one without surgery. On top of that, with being an athlete comes insecurities around height, muscle mass, and more. *cue flashbacks to standing in lines and huddles, standing slightly on my toes and flexing my legs for 3-5 minutes straight*. So many variables played a part in my body image issues, but what I noticed is that I thought less about my body and the way it looked when I was consumed with passion. Playing volleyball, coaching volleyball, volunteering, developing and marketing for a business and mission I truly cared for, hiking- these are all things that made it easy to not focus on the way I looked, because I was so engulfed in a beautiful cloud of significance. It is so stupid to stress about your body and not embrace it and all the amazing things it does and can do for you. The line that so many people shakily walk when discussing body positivity lies between people being overweight and obese and people who have uncontrollable aspects like being in a wheelchair, having stretch marks, etc. I believe that obesity should never be shown in a positive light. Just go up to any obese person sitting on a bench in the mall and ask them if they enjoy missing out on some of life’s greatest opportunities just because they can’t walk for more than ten minutes without needing a break to catch their breath. That statement is not fat shaming, it is a reality for over 35% of the U.S population. And that statement is not saying that obese people aren't lovely, intelligent, graceful, caring, hard working folks. Again, their obesity really isn’t completely their fault either. Food addiction is real and it is consistently fueled by our capitalist society whom's only goal is to keep consumers coming back and spending money, and the best way to achieve this is by feeding our brain’s pleasure centers which will create a craving, which then, if satiated, encourages dependence. I believe that people suffering from obesity need love, support, and understanding. Above all, they need resources for lifestyle change assistance. It isn’t easy to transform your entire mindset and habits that you’ve developed over the course of your entire life. But, with the right education and with time, reformation is so damn possible. This segways me into the topic of diet culture which I believe to be toxic and unsuccessful in the long term. I want to keep this short and sweet by coining the common phrase used by any and all health gurus and professionals- "diets don’t work, lifestyle changes do.". And to conclude, I’d like to coin my own little motto that has led me through life and saved me a lot of money as a small town athlete with dreams of playing big and few resources to help me do so, to being a nineteen year old business owner, to now being a twenty-one year old serialprenuer working to make the world a better place with healthier people.
Get yourself educated or spend your life paying someone who has.
The road is winding and bumpy as all hell, and the destination sure is beautiful, but my god, its time to pave a new freaking road.
With Love + Grace,