My Journey With Food: Coach Sarah

My history with nutrition could probably take up 3 blog posts or a full-length podcast – and I promise I’m not being dramatic. 

I’m likely similar to a lot of people reading this right now – recovering from a complex and sordid relationship with food, fitness, and my body.

When I say I could ramble at length about nutrition that is what I mean. It has not been just about nutrition for me (or likely, you!): it’s been about emotional ties, mind games, self-esteem and re-wiring that I am still working on. 

My relationship with food and nutrition began early. I grew up in the 90’s so my role models were starved super models and pop stars whose weight was a national conversation topic.

I became aware of my looks at an early age (we are probably talking 1st or 2nd grade) and I realized I looked different than the “ideal” body type at the time.

I’m built like my dad-tall, naturally strong, and definitely meant to lift heavy-the other girls did not look like this. My relationship to food wasn’t exacerbated then but I know that’s where it’s roots began. 

In 6th grade I started keeping a food journal-and not the healthy kind. I’d read somewhere that to lose weight (yes-in 6th grade this was my all-consuming goal) girls should eat 1200 calories a day.

I’m sure you’ve read that in a discredited fitness magazine somewhere, too. Me, being an overachiever and always wanting to above and beyond, decided 1200 was too many and that I should shoot for 1000 instead.

This is insane. My growing 6th grade body was trying to survive off approximately HALF of what it needed simply to sustain. 

My food journal and the scale became life. I remember agonizing one night in 7th grade over if I should eat a taco shell after dinner because the extra 100 calories would put me well over my 1200 calorie goal and then I’d feel guilty for it.

I remember crying and begging my dad not to make me eat dinner because the scale showed I’d gained 3 lbs. 

I also remember thinking I was on top of the world when I’d lost 11 lbs (we are still in middle school-no one should be worrying like this) and feeling unstoppable when my mom’s friend told her I looked like I’d “slimmed down.”

The way we speak to young women about their bodies is for another blog post, but trust me I’ve got opinions on that too. 

The weight obsession and calorie counting continued through high school and into college, where I developed a full blown eating disorder. 

I decided, based on what I’d read and what my mom had told me, that some foods were “safe” and some would make me fat.

I had no real idea about what was true scientifically, but that is diet culture for you.  I decided salads and lean protein were about the only thing I could eat without guilt and I’d eat a sandwich a day or a fiber one bar, but no more carbs than that.

I was running 3-6 miles a day and trying to sustain off salad, tuna, some fruit, and maybe a sandwich. This began a very toxic cycle of starving then binging, then working out to the CALORIE how much I binged the night before and continuing to try and not eat for as long as I could.

Thank you diet culture. 

Clearly, I didn’t see food as a way to fuel my body then. The word “nutrition” meant nothing to me. I was trying to eat as little as I could to be as small as I could.

Feeding my body was not the way I saw food’s purpose, and exercise was simply a means to burn calories so I didn’t have to feel guilty about eating the food. 

It wasn’t until after college, when one of my dance teachers who was so charismatic, seemingly so confident in her body, and coincidentally also a CrossFitter, said out loud that I should feed my body after exercising because it was depleted.

I know it sounds logical but no one had ever said that to me before. My life was centered around eating celery because it had “negative” calories, or skipping out on carrots because they had too much sugar.

I’d never seen someone so strong and statuesque who also ate whole foods to fuel her body. I wanted to look like her.

Nothing happened overnight. A mind shift like this is huge. However, I did start trying to master what she said.

I would workout then choose healthy, filling foods to fuel my body-even if it made me nervous. Sometimes I would even eat carbs.

I didn’t know, however, how much to eat, or when, or how much chicken I should have in comparison to how much broccoli I was eating, but I was definitely doing better. 

Soon after meeting her I started CrossFit-another milestone in my nutrition journey. I saw more examples of strong women, more people with healthy mindsets and body types, and I wanted to be like them.

It felt so good to celebrate what my body could do-instead of celebrating minuscule wins on the scale that ultimately gave me horrible self-esteem.

I still wasn’t perfect and was still confused about how much to eat or even if carbs were fully “okay” but slowly I was inching closer to a more balanced mindset. 

I tried a few ways of eating in the next few years-low-carb, Paleo, Keto (ugh never again) and Whole30. All of these had their benefits but it was not until two summers ago when I started tracking my macros that things really started to click.

I already knew from all the experimentation what my body wants to eat. I knew I didn’t have an aversion to dairy or a gluten intolerance, so I could be flexible on those things.

I also knew I never wanted to go back to a carb-free life since I felt SO much better when I ate them. Tracking my macros (fats, protein, carbs) gave me a blueprint to eat without stress.

I didn’t have to worry about too many carbs or too much fat because I knew exactly how much to eat. THAT is what had been missing for me-the golden ticket. I already knew what to eat for my body I just needed a little structure. I could finally eat carbs without fear.

I tracked my macros for an entire summer and learned more about portions, how my body felt, which foods had high macro quotients, etc. In a very weird way giving myself those limits made me feel free. 

There’s no magic ticket, but I can tell you that a nutrition journey begins with a healthy mindset and that will take practice.

The BEST feeling in the world is having the freedom and knowledge to choose foods that will help your body perform and live the life you want. I’m certainly still on my nutrition journey but the leaps and bounds I’ve made have been worth the exhaustion.

Trying to find a sustainable way of eating, with healthy habits that can last you a lifetime? Schedule a time for a FREE Healthy Plate Intro with our Nutrition Coach to learn if our nutrition coaching program is right for you!