To kick off my new blog post series, “Keeping Kandid,” where I will be sharing the behind-the-scenes insight regarding relevant lifestyle topics, I’m starting off by sharing the on-and-off relationship I’ve had with food since day 1. Gettin’ a lil more personal beyond my usual list of recommendations this time around.
As ironic as it may seem from scraping the surface, I’ve always had an obscure relationship with food and a constant battle with body image, as we all have to some extent. We all withhold our own insecurities and handle situations differently. However, what matters the most is how you overcome them and even more importantly, what you’ve learned from such experiences.
In my personal case, I’ve dealt with the extremities of hitting my lowest and highest weight during my lifetime. Cutting straight to the chase, I’ve learned that your mentality dictates all aspects of your life, regardless of what department of your life that may entail – ex) success, career, relationships, etc. Specifically relating to body image, eating habits, fitness, weight loss, and everything else that encompasses that realm is more mental than physical, contrary to what it may seem. Ironically, body image is far more mental than it is physical.
For as long as I can remember, I had been self-conscious about my weight and appearance, and precisely because of that, my weight had sporadically fluctuated up and down and up and down, and again up and down. Coming from a family where most of my extended family is dominantly female — there was always pressure to look and act a certain way. Don’t even get me started – we all have those particular family members we see every so often at annual gatherings whom inevitably recognize you from how much weight you’ve gained or lost since your last reunion. Their backhanded mix of insults and compliments were always in the back of my head.
Remarks about my weight had always gotten to me because of how sensitive I was about self-appearance. Although I typically fell into the “normal” weight range, there was also always “room for improvement.” (Isn’t there always..) I remember the most pressure was on when I was at the tender age of good ole 16 (damn, the fact that I can say that was a decade ago is beyond me..). In fact, I had lost 30 pounds in barely 3 months. To be completely candid, at 5’9″, I had gone from 160 to 130 pounds. In terms of the BMI, I went from a normal range to merely one pound away from underweight.
Initially, it started as a goal to lose 10 pounds in a month. I developed a plan of action with a fully decked out healthy meal plan and daily workout regime. I conducted extensive research in terms of what kinds of foods and exercises I wanted to implement into my day-to-day livelihood. I also checked out the health trends that were all the rage at that time (5 smalls every 3 hours was the 2008 hype back in the day) along with a spoonful of vinegar every morning before diving into breakfast #gimmickAF..Safe to say, it’s definitely not the first thing you want to chug when you wake up.
Funny enough, around this time I had launched a blog called “Nutri Nerd” where I had shared insider tips with my daily eating and exercise regimen (#TBT to the OG blogger days). It revolved around the concept that healthy eating was not a diet but rather a lifestyle.
After the first month of seeing results and hitting my goal, that’s when obsession immediately surfaced. I consumed 5 meals every 3 hours starting from 5 am and wouldn’t eat past 7 pm. My morning typically started with 1/2 cup of oatmeal topped with a handful of mixed berries, a couple pinches of cinnamon, crushed raw walnuts, drizzled with a lil bit of honey. Breakfast was always my favorite meal of the day and I looked forward to getting up at the crack of dawn to make my favorite go-to item. I went to bed so hungry that I was so excited to wake up in the morning.
There was something about getting up at the wee hours of the morning while everyone else was still snoozing, and taking my time to get my day started. I felt at ease and productive. Three hours later, I would fuel up with an apple and string cheese as a snack then for lunch would have brown rice with protein and greens – needless to say that I had measuring cups for every food group followed by another snack and a light dinner. Obsessed was merely an understatement at this point. All that I did was extensively calculated to the T.
It got so bad to the point that I would count how many RAISINS I would eat. They’re freakin’ dried out grapes for crying out loud. It was mentally exhausting and daunting to keep up with what I was doing to myself. I would catch myself bawling if I happened to have eaten a few minutes past my “dietary curfew.” I would do this day in and day out, I thought I was being “committed” at the time. It became an unhealthy obsession.
Social functions and birthday parties were a nightmare for my “diet.” The worst was when I would go to family gatherings – where food was the main focus of every event. Particularly in Persian culture, your grandparents and relatives alike are stuffing food in your face like you’ve never tasted it before and I dreaded it.
I began to treat food as an enemy that continued to betray me. I checked the scale every morning as soon as I woke up as if it were a slot machine, anxiously anticipating the magical numerical combo. This was my unhealthy methodology of “staying on track.”
I made it a point to work out for at least 30 minutes a day every single day and if I missed a day then I would double up, sometimes even triple up just to keep up. Fast forward, my body went into shock mode with how little I was eating and excessively I was working out.
After keeping that weight off for a year, I ended up not only gaining all the weight I had worked so hard to lose physically, mentally, and emotionally, but some more – over 180 pounds. I immediately stepped off the scale and began sobbing. I felt so defeated that I let food win when in actuality, I lost to my own self. I lost having the discipline to be moderate in my efforts.
It’s still a learning process and it’s all mental. I’ve learned to appreciate food as it is and to embrace the goodness of it, the wholeness of it, the taste of it, and how it fuels us.
I’ve come a long way since those days and I’ve learned to not only enjoy my food but to eat until I’m satisfied. If we’re in the state of, “There’s always room for improvement,” we will never appreciate the now. I was so consumed by constantly improving that I never truly savored (pun intended) how far I had come already.
I shifted my mentality to wanting to become a better version of myself and consciously made the effort to do so. Now I practice hot yoga daily and take every opportunity I can to walk instead of rely on transportation, and eat when I’m hungry and stop when I’m full.
I find the yoga studio and kitchen to be my newfound sanctuaries. I look forward to putting my mind at ease and focusing on the postures during my yoga sessions. The kitchen is where I can get my hands dirty and get creative with recipes and I find the art of chopping, preparing, and plating to be therapeutic and enjoyable. I love having control over what I put in my body. As much as I have fun dining out, I always opt for healthier versions of my favorite dishes and love finding excuses to cook when I can.
Moral of the story? Small changes make a big difference in your health. How you eat is as important as what you eat. Focus on how you feel when you eat. As you become full, a gentle pressure in your stomach replaces the empty feeling but still feel light and energetic. It’s okay not to finish all of it. Nourish yourself not only on a physical level but on all levels. Turn your gratitude inward and thank your body for the beautiful task of turning food into energy for your muscles and mind.
Above all, food is fuel. Food is not the enemy. You can shift your mind to anything you want to become. Health and happiness is what I strived for not only physically but mentally as well, and that is exactly what I’ve accomplished 🙂