How I Ditched Diet Culture

I asked one of my rockstar clients to give us a glimpse into her ditching diet culture journey. Here’s what she had to say (we’ll call her K.)

“I remember starting my first diet when I was 10. My brother and I had gone to visit my dad for 2 weeks in the summer. When we got off the plane my mother didn't give me a hug, instead she lifted my shirt and pinched my stomach while we were still in the airport.

That completely warped my perception about my body.  

While my (now ex) husband was away in basic training, my binge eating increased. It was easier to binge without anyone to hide it from. I started gaining weight. I also started restricting my calories to counter the weight gain from the binging. I was very lonely. I remember when I weighed a certain number on the scale and absolutely hated myself because of it. Hated isn't a strong enough word, I despised myself. I was 20.

I became panicky and desperate. I started ordering diet pills from the back of magazines. I tried liquid diets. I did boot camp type exercising way before it was cool. I bought a calorie dictionary and wrote down every single thing that went into my mouth. I tried Nutrisystem, Weight Watchers, and Richard Simmons. I tried the Hot Dog diet (every meal you had to eat 2 hot dogs, but no bread. I guess it was a weird version of Atkins). I took ice baths and exercised like crazy. I drank lots of water and tea to “fill up.” Finally, I settled on restricting my calories down to 1100 a day. Then when my weight loss slowed, I dropped my calories more.

I lost 55 lbs and, at my thinest, I was only eating 500 - 800 calories a day.

I hated that my body was at war with me. 

My ex was away a lot with military training. I had gone through [two] pregnancies pretty much alone. I was under extreme stress with dealing with my mother's emotional abuse. I was being abused by my ex. I took care of all of the cleaning, the animals, the yardwork, raising and teaching the kids, and doing things for other people like pet sitting. If I took a day off to rest, I was shamed and called lazy.

I was doing absolutely everything for everybody. I had no me time, unless things built up to the point where I would storm out of the house, drive a mile away, and cry in the car for an hour.

I started to lose faith. I was in a deep depression and exhausted. I knew my ex was cheating on me. His control over me was increasing. He was drinking heavily. He had PTSD. In my gut, I knew I should leave but I wanted to believe that I could help him and love him enough to cure him.

And yep, I was still filling notebooks with my daily calorie logs. 

My body started to fall apart.

I hired a nutritionist to lose weight. I followed her plan. I lost about 20 lbs, the same weight I had lost and regained through the years. I couldn’t seem to drop below a certain number on the scale. I was frustrated.

After being together for 29 years, my ex husband dropped the nuke in my lap and told me that he had been doing some soul searching. He said he realized that he didn’t love me and actually never had. I fell to pieces inside and my heart was crushed.

That weekend I thought very seriously about suicide. I decided not to do it. I wasn’t ready to go yet. I had decided to stay.

I very slowly, almost instinctually, started to take care of myself. I went searching inside for my authentic self and found her very deep, hiding behind a rock in the dark. I had hidden her away all those years ago. I had been in survival mode. It was time to bring her out and fuse both of us together. 

One month after my divorce I signed up for Precision Nutrition. I was nervous about doing it.

It turned out to be the best thing that I could do for myself. It was life changing. I started to heal. I met Coach Nicole that first year when she was an assistant coach. Her compassion and cheerful supportiveness showed through. During the first year, I had quite a lot of success. I lost 36 inches all over and I stopped binge eating. Like forever stopped. My body dysmorphia was healed. I see myself. I can finally see my beauty. I learned how to love myself. I have self esteem and self confidence. I learned how to eat mindfully. I became my own best friend. I merged my authentic self with my survivor self. I listen to my gut, it does NOT lie and never did!

I knew I wasn’t ready to go out on my own so I signed up for a second year. The second year I was focusing a lot more on healing from the abuse from my ex. I lost weight, but not like I wanted to. I had blood results come back that showed I had pre diabetes. I was able to get much better about listening to what my body needed nutritionally. I finally built boundaries for the first time ever in my life (huge win). I cleaned out all of the toxic people. I started doing daily self-care. I learned to put myself first. I found my self worth and value. I know that I matter, even if it’s just to myself, that’s enough. I took unclothed and unfiltered pictures of my belly (my least favorite body part), so I could study it, and finally learned to love it as is. 

After the second year of Precision Nutrition ended, I thought I could do it on my own but I started gaining weight back and I realized I still needed help, especially with accountability. I had maintained Facebook friends with Coach Nicole, since the first year. I loved her posts. She had a three month course that she was going to start in January and I decided that I could afford this for myself. I could give up buying something else if need be to make this investment in myself.

This third year turned out to be something different than I expected. We went much deeper. At first, it was the focus on my nutrition so we could see where I was at. She helped reframe the fruits and veggies habit. That was super helpful. She discovered that I like to experiment. I will often try something for two weeks and then I report back. Doing experiments like that helped me to see that I had demonized carbs, but I also recognized that I was doing better than I gave myself credit for. With the nutrition aspect now, it’s more like fine tuning. Through experimentation, I discovered the giant impact that my negative stress load has on my body.

I went through a breast cancer scare this summer. I did not stress eat carbs though like I had in the past. The results of the biopsy came back benign. All of my other blood work came back great, with no pre-diabetes. I had another bout of depression, but it was very mild in comparison.

Coach Nicole was supportive the whole way through. She encouraged me to not take on too much any more and to prioritize my day. I really dug deep this year and uncovered my original wound, which is neglect. I have been learning how to nurture myself and not neglect myself. I can ask myself (and answer!!) critical questions about what is best for me, regardless of what is best for anyone else. I’m back to having fun exercising. I learned that everything is a choice (huge win). I’ve stopped weighing myself. I’ve learned that I can eat a treat and it doesn’t mean that I’m bad. I strengthened my boundaries even more. After 20 years of keeping daily calorie logs, I feel more confident with my food choices than ever before (no more counting!)

I’ve signed up with Coach Nicole for another year! I’m looking forward to working on learning to unconditionally love myself as I am, right now. I want to work on giving myself permission to feel any emotion, to belong, to eat, and move instinctively, and to trust my gut for the messages it sends to me about my body. I want to learn to react less to stress. I want to get rid of feeling shame once and for all. I want to be able to eat the amount of food that’s best for my body and listen to my hunger cues.”

If any part of K.’s story resonated with you, please know that you can transform your life too - physically, mentally and otherwise. If that’s something you’re interested in doing, but you’re not quite sure how, please reach out. I’d be more than happy to help.

Eat Well. Live Well. Be Well.