I don’t remember the exact date I realized carb cycling was a serious form of disordered eating. Or that I had taken nutrition and fitness to an obsessive level.
But I do know the twisted journey that led me to where I am today.
It started around 6 years old.
When I graduated Kindergarten, I remember being really upset that we had to stand in line by height. And I was the tallest in the entire class. Which meant I had to graduate last. I wanted to be like the tiny girls in the front row who graduated first. And while I’m sure I didn’t make the connection to dieting and food at that point. I do believe that experience set the emotional stage for how I perceived smaller bodies to be better bodies than mine.
My first real memory of feeling fat though was in 3rd grade. My dance recital costume had hundreds of red and gold sequins. It was the first time I noticed the protruding roundness of my belly. Or straps digging into my shoulders and groin because the torso of the leotard was too short for me. I blamed myself for the costume not fitting. Another trigger that I didn’t easily fit into life like the other little girls.
An Eating Disorder That Was Never “Bad Enough” for Treatment
After 3rd grade, I had another growth spurt and ended up really thin. For the next 4-5 years, I would focus on staying thin and achieving the ballerina body. I was dancing 6-7 days a week. Sometimes for 2 hours per day. More if it was Nutcracker season.
Once I was past puberty, I had large breasts, long legs and a small waist. There were times I would only eat 400 calories/day. I would get dizzy a lot in the middle of dance class. Despite that, when I was around 14, the assistant director of my ballet company told me that I needed to lose weight…in my chest. I recognized the absurdity of that impossible request. And yet, it sunk deep into my adolescent soul. In therapy as an adult, I have learned that experience had a significant impact on my whole life. It explains why I have always struggled with not feeling good enough. Or like I didn’t fully earn or deserve my spot. And why I believed my body should be smaller.
I quit dancing shortly after that. I found joy and a much more inclusive experience with drama guild in high school, but a lot of damage had already been done.
I remember being excited to go to college because no one would notice or care how little I was eating. I ate grilled chicken and salad with low-fat dressing for most meals and skipped breakfast. Sophomore year of college, I made some unintentionally harmful comment to a group of girls that “wow, you guys eat so much!” It was more a reflection on how severely I underate versus their choices. But I would later learn that it wasn’t on accident they no longer invited me to the dining hall with them.
The summer before senior year, I was diagnosed with ADHD and given medication. Medication that made my hunger disappear. I took full advantage of this and lived off a handful of peanut M&Ms and a soft pretzel most days. If I did have pizza and cheesesteaks with my friends, my college boyfriend would comment how great it was that he could eat what I didn’t. An innocent comment of course, but one that supported the narrative I didn’t have issues with food.
Fast forward to post-graduation and beyond, I continued to undereat but just as I’d get “too thin” I’d gain a little weight back. I blamed myself for “lacking willpower” but it was my body’s way of protecting me from myself. It’s weird looking back on how nobody noticed or expressed concern. And it’s likely because no one called me out on it that I didn’t think it was a problem either.
As I met my husband and fell in love, I began eating more than in previous years. But still restricting to around 1000-1200 calories. He wholly accepts me unconditionally for who I am, and I think that helps me significantly through this time period. At this point, I went back to college to become a registered dietitian. I didn’t stay in the program though. I settle for my marketing degree.
From Eating Disorder to Disordered Eating
In my head, there was only two ways to define an eating disorder. You are either eating under 500 calories. Or you eat a lot and then purge. I was doing neither anymore, so I must be healed! But I wasn’t. At all. Because I was still hyper aware of what I would allow myself to eat. And how much I was allowing myself to eat.
In September of 2011, in an effort to learn how to live a healthy life without ADHD meds, I learned that I had a gluten intolerance. This began a whole new phase of eating for me where I became 100% gluten-free. I jumped in feet first. I even launched a blog called Below the Fork where I shared healthy gluten-free recipes and talked about my new life without gluten. During the next few years I would go back to school to become a licensed massage therapist, as well as get my certifications in nutrition, behavioral change health coaching and group fitness.
Turning My Disordered Eating Into a Business
After I passed my board exams, I converted my gluten-free blog, Below the Fork, into a nutrition and fitness business. I ran bootcamps promoting the 80/20 lifestyle by way of a 2-week elimination diet inspired by Whole30. I was eating around 1200-1400 calories each day. Feeling like I finally struck a mindful balance and was super healthy. I was also teaching group fitness multiple times a week. As well as promoting “non-toxic living” on my blog. This is really when Orthorexia reared its ugly head in my life. However, because it wasn’t “under-eating/Anorexia” or “purging/Bulimia” I didn’t stop to consider if I still had issues with eating.
Ironically, it was around this time I first coined “Don’t hate yourself towards skinny. Love yourself towards healthy!” in an Instagram post in 2013. (On an embarrassingly bad graphic that still floats around Pinterest to this day might I add!) And it became my personal mantra. It was a promise to myself that I will never go back to starving myself. Eating <500 calories/day to lose weight.
It made me feel empowered I had survived an eating disorder.
But I was still deep in disordered eating.
I began intermittent fasting and carb cycling in 2016. At first on my own and then through a diet program called FASTer Way to Fat Loss. It seemed so amazing because now I was eating 2200 calories each day. Compared to my past history of 500 or 1200 calories, that felt so freeing! I thought I had healed my eating issues. Because when you define “hating yourself towards skinny” as severely under-eating, it’s easy to confuse healing.
But I was still deep in my disordered eating. I was obsessed with tracking my macros. Following the carb cycling days no matter what. Bringing my own food everywhere. Measuring down to the gram. Not eating until 11:30 am and stopping by 7:30 pm. Following the prescribed workouts that align to the cycle days. Watching my body shrink. Eating the same foods week after week. I even started coaching others to do the same. FASTer Way landed me at the rock bottom of dieting.
Disordered Eating to Intuitive Eater
I don’t remember the exact date I realized carb cycling was a form of self-hate. Or that I had taken nutrition and fitness to an obsessive level. Or even where I first heard about intuitive eating. But my journey of becoming an intuitive eater is how I finally learned what it means to truly love yourself towards healthy. Working through intuitive eating and therapy to heal myself from years of dieting changed my life! I now prioritize my mental health and enjoy self-trust and confidence through diet-free living.
I quietly began the process of unlinking myself from FASTer Way to Fat Loss. Rebuilding my business to be one that was Health at Every Size-informed, anti-diet, based on the framework of intuitive eating. And rooted in actual health and wellness—not diet culture’s twisted version.
Then on February 13, 2020 I officially changed my business name on Instagram to @loveyourself2healthy from belowthefork. It was my first big step towards publicly shedding my association with diet culture. I want everything I do or say online to be connected to a gentle reminder to love yourself, as you are, right now.
If the journey is feeling long & twisty to you—trust that it was for me too!
We CAN heal from years of disordered eating. We CAN heal our relationship with food, fitness and body image by embracing our God-given intuition. I’m here to help you whenever you’re ready. Schedule a free 20-minute consult with me to get started on your journey of loving yourself towards healthy.