Hey everyone! I’ve been meaning to share my food story for a while since I’d like to integrate healthy eating and lifestyle as a part of my blog. As with healthy lifestyle bloggers like Deliciously Ella they open their cook books with their ‘food story’ which sums up their general relationship with food and the impact it’s had on their health and well-being. This is my own take on this and just a quick disclaimer that I am not forcing this lifestyle on anyone it’s just what has worked for me. My food story is also closely linked to body image, something I’m sure most people struggle with at some point in their lives. I’m very passionate about the topic of body image including it’s links to food and I believe it’s important to share our insecurities in order to erase the view of body image as a taboo subject.
I was quite a picky eater when I was younger and consumed a diet mainly consisting of pasta with butter, potato smiley faces, chicken dinosaurs and pizza- basically anything resembling a shade of beige. Perhaps I’m slightly exaggerating, but as I matured, I pushed myself to try new foods and today I’m far from a picky eater I used to be. Also, I developed a sweet tooth at a young age which is something that has stuck to this day. I remember that I used to sneak chocolate and had secret stashes that I’d have behind my parent’s backs to avoid their judgement. It makes me laugh now at the lengths I would go to get my hands on sugary snacks but it also highlights the early stages of my addiction to sugar.
Up until secondary school, I was a laid-back child with more or less no concerns with my physical appearance. It was only in Year 6 when everyone started getting boobs and curves when I started wondering why my figure still resembled that of an adolescent boy. As a child I was the shortest and smallest in the class. I was a very late developer and only really started to grow and gain a more female shape at the age of 16. To this day I do have more curves but I always joke that I’m still waiting for my boobs to grow! Despite years of negativity towards having small boobs, I no longer really care and have learnt to embrace them! However, developing late meant that my height and weight (and shoe size!) rose dramatically in a very such a short space of time. Constantly, I’d remind myself that it was normal that I was putting on weight because I was growing but the fact that it happened so quickly was hard to adjust to.
As previously mentioned, for most of my life I was the ‘small’ one in my friendship groups. In the last few years, all of my close friends have gone through major weight transformations which has meant that recently I’ve had adjust to no longer identifying as the ‘small’ friend.
I quite naturally compared myself to others growing up, less so to figures in the media but more to my family members. These included my older sister, and my parents in more recent years who are now doing a completely sugar free diet. As a result of this they have both lost a lot of weight. My mum has always had a pretty restricted diet but my Dad similarly to me is a complete foodie so this diet has been very challenging for him. He chose to try it due to low energy and extreme exhaustion caused by work. As I mentioned before in the last few years I have grown a lot and therefore put on weight. I weigh much more than my mum and only slightly less than my Dad which has been a contributor to my body negativity in recent years.
Growing up I also went on beach holidays with my younger, ‘stick-thin’ cousins making me feel more conscious of my growing bikini body. I knew that they were much younger than me but still couldn’t help fixate on their slender frames.
At present, I try to condition myself to not compare my body to others. However, yet again, working in an expensive clothes shop and attending a fashion uni leads to often finding myself surrounded by lots of very slim, pretty girls which I’m not going to lie still takes mental discipline to stop me comparing.
I’ve done dance from the age of 4 and it’s been a constant up until I started uni. Since coming to London, I’ve not been able to find much time for working out and I’m not sure if I’ll ever be a gym goer. My issue with exercising is also my skin; I have extremely rashy skin that becomes hot and inflamed very easily. Therefore, when I exercise all the blood rushes to my face which can cause me to feel faint. Additionally, a well known fact with exercising is the negative consequence of losing boobs/shape which used to put me off exercising in fear of reverting back to my old boyish figure.
Clothing has always been the basis of my confidence and I enjoy finding clothing that really flatters my figure. However, in recent years, when I began to grow out of my nice clothes this saddened me. It was mainly my legs and bum that were forcing the seams of my clothes and I even ended up splitting a pair of trousers when bending over at work which was mortifying. During Sixth form, I felt conscious of my weight gain and I was also having hot flushes and constantly sweaty which meant I wore baggy, loose-fitting clothing leading my parents to think I had put on more weight than I actually had- I would never want to paint my parents as disapproving of me putting on weight but they were just looking out for me.
I often think that people must think I’m mad that I’m a UK size 8/10 and have body insecurities. I am aware that I convince myself that I’m bigger than I actually am and it’s supermodels and female celebs that circulate the media that can lead to negative thoughts towards a ‘healthy’ figure which is what I have. Moreover, I think when you’re used to being slimmer it takes time to adjust to dressing and accepting your new figure.
Although I definitely do not have any form of eating disorder I think it’s important to acknowledge less serious body insecurities as well and discuss them in order to identify the route cause of why they develop. I’m a strong believer in that childhood experiences shape your adult self like I’d mentioned before about having strong sugar cravings as a young girl.
Coming to London
Leaving home September 2015, I would now have to take on the responsibility of planning and cooking my meals whilst balancing an extremely hectic lifestyle in London. I knew that I would experience fluctuations in my weight and health due to my parents no longer monitoring me. With most undergraduates, they begin consuming considerably more alcohol, eating more fast food and generally not taking very good care of their bodies. This for me wasn’t really the case since I was more or less eating the same that I had done back home, cooking fresh meals every day and my alcohol consumption had only risen slightly. I was also running about London every day and certainly had become more active. Consequently, I actually lost weight in the first few months of starting university. Despite this initial weight loss, the stresses of university, work and general London life during my second term brought about lots of comfort eating; some evenings I would eat a whole pack of biscuits or half a jar of Nutella, occasionally to the point of making myself feel sick. Whilst trying to get through masses of work, I would eat also as a form of procrastination and to motivate myself to keeping working.
Whilst I was aware of my current unhealthy lifestyle nothing could have prepared me for getting kidney stones 2 weeks before my hand-in for second term. Although my diet may not have caused this, my kidney stone medication and comfort eating around this period had led me to gain weight most noticeably on my stomach. This particular weight gain was quite an adjustment for me since I’d always had a fairly flat stomach and it really affected my confidence. At work especially I would consciously suck in my stomach and I even bought high-waisted tummy-controlling underwear- something I thought I’d never do until my late fifties!
I realise now that perhaps my relationship with food was linked closely with my mood and stress levels but at the same time I can fully admit that I’m a real foodie and I enjoy planning my day around food and I always look forward to my next meal. Whilst my meals had always been very healthy, I had to address my snacking in between meals which had spiraled out of control.
My Action Plan
Since coming to London I constantly felt sluggish and over-tired and wanted to see what I could do to solve this. So, a few months ago, I had a consultation at The Organic Pharmacy to address my health and find out what foods I should reduce or eat more of in order to improve my health and general well-being.
I was told that I had an under-active thyroid which leads to a slower metabolism, low energy levels and general tiredness. She recommended that I reduce my consumption of wheat, dairy, sugar and exercise more. This initially was very shocking and I felt like my life was over since I’m someone that regularly says ‘Food is life’. However, I’ve been on this new diet for a few months now and I’ve surprised myself in my resistance of temptation and I haven’t had as many sugar cravings as I thought I might have. Until you cut out something like sugar, you can’t fully comprehend how many products it’s in and how much temptation there is of it on a daily basis. As a consequence of my new ‘diet’ (more of a lifestyle change) and taking supplements, I have more energy and recently did lots of hiking without too much struggle on a holiday to the Peak District showing that this lifestyle change has already started making a difference.
I’ve definitely been inspired by Deliciously Ella, Susan Jane White and others who have turned their lives around through a clean diet and healthy lifestyle. My mum is the perfect example of someone who managed to tackle her Crohn’s disease without the need of strong steroids, but through the food she eats. Obviously, I’m still in the early stages of this major lifestyle change but I’ve been dedicating my summer to trying out new recipes, exercising and getting body positive. I hope to start my second year of uni a new, energetic and healthy person with a better relationship with food instead of depending on it as an emotional comforter.
When I first found out I’d have to make these changes to my diet, since I’m still really young, I thought I’d be missing out on all this amazingly tasty food. However, I’m still having my occasional cheats (mainly when eating out) and what I’ve noticed is when I do have foods I no longer eat that they taste 100% better because I hardly ever eat them; instead of them being something I have on a daily basis they are treats and I’m happy that I have the self-control to say no to chocolate if it’s offered to me (something that shocks me still!). In addition, I’m also very lucky that there are so many alternatives now to the food groups I’ve cut out since it’s now a ‘fashionable’ thing to eat healthily.
For me, this journey is not initially about losing weight and I’m not going to be counting calories. It’s about eating cleanly and getting back my energy and reducing fatigue. I expected things to change in London since my old lifestyle couldn’t be further from what it is now. It’s not going to be a temporary fad diet, this is probably how I’ll be eating for the rest of my life which seems daunting but I know it will be worth it in the long run.
So from now on, as part of my blog, I will be starting to share recipes and maybe advice on how I cracked my addiction to sugar. Feel free to give me some suggestions on what you’d like me to cover!