Dieting Made Me Bulimic

More accurately, dieting made me a depressed, anxiety ridden, bulimic. I dieted for years. That is, I started a diet every Monday morning and failed it before noon – or if I managed to make it through the first day, I failed by about noon the second day. I thought it was because I had no willpower. I was just a weak failure, that’s what I told myself. I got so desperate that I even tried prescription diet pills once or twice. They resulted in the same outcome as my attempts without them. Slim fast, ab rollers, diet books – you name it—I took it, tried it or used it. Then one day I finally just decided the pain of staying the same out weighed the pain of whatever it would take for me to change and I lost a lot of weight, pretty quickly. It was pretty easy because I literally ate whatever I wanted, just less of it and I was highly motivated by self loathing and the misguided notion that healing my crippling feelings of inadequacy would happen when I had a body that I was proud of. But I got to my “goal weight” and still hated myself and my body. So I hired an IFBB figure pro trainer – because nobody created more perfect bodies than those ladies. She gave me a meal plan that was so far removed from anything I had I ever done before, or was capable of sticking to, that within 4 days of white knuckling my way through it, prompted my first ever binge. A bag of jujubes. 700 calories. I remember doing the math to determine how much I had just eaten and I was disgusted with myself. Disgusted isn’t even a big enough word. The next day, I decided to get super strict and eat less to “make up for it” – two days later, an even worse binge. And it just kept getting worse. The harder I tried to “be good” the less in control I felt. I decided to do a figure competition. That would FORCE me to “be good”, right? Within 8 months or so of that first binge, I was sitting in a therapist’s office, in the middle of a competition prep, being diagnosed with bulimia. You could have knocked me over with a feather. Bulimia? Wtf? I didn’t throw up, how was I bulimic? He explained throwing up was only one of many compensatory behaviours associated with bulimia. Mine were restricting intake and over exercising. After every binge, I’d practically starve myself and exercise for an ungodly amount of hours the next day to try to “make up for it”. *Bulimia is basically binge eating followed by some type of compensatory behaviour, so you don’t have to be throwing up to be bulimic. The year following my first competition was one of the hardest of my life. DEEP in the throws of bulimia, I started noticing depression and anxiety creeping in. Before I could even think about ever doing another competition, I needed to get myself well. So, I spent a few years working on that and when I felt confident that bulimia was solidly behind me, I attempted another competition in 2012. This time I won. I had recovered from bulimia and become a nationally qualified NPC figure athlete – two pretty impressive feats for anyone to manage – but I didn’t enjoy any of it. I still hated myself and my body and while I wasn’t bulimic anymore, I was still having the odd binge eating episodes here and there. But that was the beginning of complete healing for me. After the competition, it was pretty clear that the hatred I felt for my imperfect body had nothing to do with my body and everything to do with how I felt about myself. The truth is if you love yourself enough, it doesn't matter what your body looks like, you can learn to love it. And if you hate yourself enough, it doesn't matter what your body looks like, you will never learn to love it. Read that again and let it really sink in. At the same time some old injuries that never really healed properly (because I didn’t let them) really started giving me trouble and affecting my ability to train the way I had been used to. Without the training, depression and anxiety got worse. I was in pain from my back and shoulder allll the time. ALLLL. The. Time. I couldn’t train the way I wanted to or obsess over how my body looked anymore so I was forced to learn to find happiness, acceptance, and self love outside of how my body looked or what it was capable of doing. I also started noticing how prevalent disordered thoughts and behaviours surrounding food and our bodies are among women in particular. Almost all were struggling in a lot of the same ways I had—while not to the level of bulimia but many were binge eating and/or living with some form of very disordered eating habits, damaging thoughts and behaviours nonetheless. I thought my own struggles with food, dieting, meal plans, etc were just mine – because I was weak -- so I kept them to myself for a long time. But I've spent years watching not only my clients, but women everywhere, all struggle in many of the same ways I was. Don't miss this post on the dangers of diet culture on our society & how dieting has made disordered eating normal: People failing at dieting and exercise goals is so common it’s a running joke. It’s expected that your friend will ultimately fail when she starts that new diet – because she always does – everyone always does. I was reading and learning and began noticing that as I was, parts of myself that had been broken for a very long time, started to heal and my whole life was changing. I gradually started changing my approach with clients based on what I was learning about healing my own “stuff” – and they started changing for the better, being happier, feeling more in control of their bodies & their choices, having an easier time and healing their own broken pieces. I thought I was unhappy because of my weight. I thought I hated myself because of my weight. And I thought the solution was to fix the weight problem. But the truth was, I was unhappy and hating myself for reasons that had nothing to do with my weight. Certainly it didn't help any, but it wasn't the cause--it was the symptom. Lifelong weight, food, and body image issues are merely symptoms of deeper issues and the answer is most certainly not dieting. It has never been dieting. That's why, as the diet industry keeps getting bigger, so do we. And that's why I'm so vocal now about how badly we need to kill diet culture because I know that it's NOT just me, it's an overwhelming majority. Does this resonate with you? Can you relate? Message me, I want to hear from you.

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NOTE: While counselors or therapists often use CBT to deal with mental illness or a patient’s mental/emotional conditions and/or processing trauma, MBCT & cognitive eating does not. My roll as a coach, in its most simple form, is to encourage, coach and/or act as a facilitator of a client’s self-reflection, decision making, planning for the future, and creating life changes. As an MBCT & cognitive eating coach, I am obligated to refer clients in need of mental or physical health therapy to an appropriate licensed professional.  

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