Diary of a Hangry Hippo
Seven years ago I removed myself from an abusive relationship in the UK and moved to Australia. I was heavily addicted to drugs and alcohol and my life had spiraled completely out of control. I was back living with my Dad, had not a cent to my name and not a hope of turning my life into anything.. (I write about this more in my Blog Part Two - Life in London) My friend reached out to me and suggested I take some time away and spend a few months living with her in Geelong, Australia. In a last ditch attempt to sort my life out, I found myself on a plane and I've never looked back.
Six months into my time in Australia, I started training with a PT. I'd just given up smoking after 10 years addicted and was worried about getting.... "fat". In the first six months of training I never strayed from my diet and lost heaps of weight but after a holiday back to the UK and two weeks in Malaysia, it all went tits up. I ate and drank to my hearts content, gained weight and felt like hell. It was the beginning of my attachment to dieting. In my head I would "get back on my diet as soon as I got back to Aus" but this never happened. I was broken. I was defeated. There was clearly something wrong with me. Every time I tried to "get back on track" I felt even more defeated. I would binge incessantly, I couldn't go to anything with food and not over eat. Eventually I felt so disgusted in myself that I began purging. And in that, one disordered thinking pattern became another.
Then I found ketosis and that worked for a while but as soon as I smelt carbs again I was a goner. Then 80/20, cabbage soup, juice diets, cleanses, paleo, veganism, 5/2, counting calories, counting macros, high carb low fat.... And they all ended the same way... Bingeing on 'forbidden foods', guilt trips and and endless internal bashing of myself.
Somehow I eventually found the words to talk to my husband about this which I have written about in my Blog 'Disorder and Me' and I began to get help. Going through CBT really helped me clarify where my body image issues stemmed from and why I was a chronic dieter.
When I first decided to compete in the u65kg weight division it was because the u75kg weight division had been made obsolete and with the option of either competing in the u82kg division or the u65kg division, I chose u65kg. I honestly thought that I would be fine, I hadn't binged or purged in over 12 months, I was happy and healthy and wasn't focused on my body. Just moving the weights in the gym and in competition.
I was sitting up at 75kg at the time I made this decision and it was the longest I have stuck to a diet consistently because it aligned with a goal that really meant something to me. I lost 10kg to make weight for Victoria's Strongest Woman and it was the smallest I had been since gaining weight post drug rehabilitation. This time I didn't feel like I rake with my bones sticking out everywhere but I felt strong and healthy! I honestly didn't think anything would come between me and my diet this time as I loved my new found physique... but I was wrong. I just ended up back in the diet/rebound cycle.
The week following the competition I had every intention not to lose control and to keep my petite little figure but I was so drawn to food. Before I knew it I was bingeing again and this time I felt the guilt harder than ever. Especially feeling like everyone was watching me and my blow out. Week by week I just couldn't get myself back on track, eating more and more. The only thing that kept me somewhat on track was knowing there was another competition coming up that I needed to make weight for.
In the last two years I have had to make weight 6 times, meaning weighing under 65kg to compete in a weight division that allowed me to be at my most competitive. With my body weight usually sitting at 70kg, I was constantly having to watch my weight to maintain a lower body weight and then would water load the last 2kg to make weight (please don't try this unless under supervision of a coach). I was not the easiest person to deal with during these intense diet phases. I was really short tempered, irritable, stressed and obsessed.
Before I headed over to South Africa this year I had the realisation of how much dieting for competitions had set me back in my health with regards to disordered eating and dysfunctional thinking around food. The restrictions I had placed on myself had left me in a cycle of binge eating and restricting. Let alone the emphasis I placed on my body image and what would happen if I overate etc. I felt like I was back at square one and I started talking about what was going on in my head more and reaching out to therapists again in order to get some perspective and change my unhealthy thought patterns toward myself and towards food. Food was ruling over me and my relationships were suffering because of it.
I'm so glad I had come to this realisation prior to going over as I was really looking forward to being back in my home country and enjoying my time back there. My weigh in didn't go to plan and where I would usually lose 1-2kg over night in a water cut, I lost nothing and had to sauna for 3 hours to get the weight off. Only then to find out that there was a 900g allowance and I only needed to be in the sauna for that first hour. I think the only thing that kept me going in this weight cut was that I knew I wouldn't be putting my body through this ever again. I knew in my heart that this would have to be the last time for me for some time as I was truly over dieting and the yoyo effect it was having on my self worth.
On recommendation from a friend, I was directed to an e-book called The No More Bingeing Book which I started reading that day. I still had to make weight for South Africa so wasn't planning to take on anything until that was done. This e-book gave me so much perspective on how to go through the inevitable post weigh in blow out and I have never enjoyed a blow out more! Haha! Because I had decided to commit to the process of no more restrictions.
The first few weeks involved the usual over consumption post deprivation which I was quite happy to do especially being in my home country. Eating multiple times a day and fitting in as much as humanly possible. And then as the book had suggested it would happen, something started changing for me. I started to eat when I was hungry. I started to stop eating when I was full. I stopped desiring food in an over sensualised manner that made me not even enjoy that food when I finally came to eating it. I ate exactly what I felt like eating and sometimes that was cake, sometimes it was a salad.
It has been nearly 8 weeks since my SA weigh in and I haven't counted a calorie since. I haven't looked at ingredients or macros. I have allowed all foods in a conscious effort to stop binge eating. I'm very much not on a diet. I am rewiring my brain to not be controlled and dictated by food. If I am hungry I'll eat, if I'm starving I'll eat more. My weight did go up initially but stabilised at around the 4th/5th week. I'm weighing myself less now (from multiple times a day when cutting weight to maybe twice a week) and I haven't binged on food in over 5 weeks. Something is changing in me and it's hard to explain but I am enjoying this process a lot. I am learning a lot about myself, I am less emotional, less stressed and I feel more in control of my decisions around food. It is not my primary focus and that is nice for a change.
I have also signed up for daily-ish emails from Isabel Foxen Duke from Stop Fighting Food (https://isabelfoxenduke.com/) and continue to openly dialogue with my husband about what I am going through, what is happening in my head and where I'm at so that I don't feel like I'm going through this alone.
Even in going through these motions the past couple years, I always advise my clients that balance is more important that restriction of certain foods. Being accountable and aware of how much we are consuming is important as weight-loss essentially comes back to energy in vs energy out but obsessing about food and our bodies is not healthy. Creating a healthier and happier mental space when it comes to what we eat and how we view ourselves is what will impact our future health the most. I'm not sure what will be on the horizon for me but for now it is no dieting and no weight cuts unless my body chooses otherwise! Lol!