My Health Journey
Disclaimer: I am not a health professional, all opinions are my own, and if you are suffering from any health issues I suggest you consult to your physician.
First off, I want to say that writing this post has not come without challenge for me due to fear of what others might think of me, criticizing my path, and questioning how I can even tackle the last 20 years of my life in one post. However, I believe that when we share our stories, no matter how challenging and scary it might be we not only heal and grow ourselves, but we can potentially heal others and open doors for positive change.
My story is a long, windy road, and definitely has not been smooth sailing up to this point in my life. I am and have been a keep to myself person and tend to deal with all of my challenges on my own, but as previously mentioned I have realized that this does not make room for change, and therefore I am laying it all out there in hopes to help others.
Furthermore, I've learned over the years that healthy eating is about balance, making room for treats, and terms like "clean eating/real food" isn't the be all end all. I believe that if you generally look after yourself, treat yourself, and surround yourself with friends and family that love and support you it is more important than leading "the perfect diet," because I believe such doesn't exist.
To explain how I've gotten to where I am today with my health, I have to explain my past as it hasn't even really made sense to me until now and I am still learning and growing with each day. Thank you so much for taking the time to read my story, for your support, and endless love. Whatever you are going through, know you are not alone, I am rooting for you each step of your journey.
Ok so starting all the way back to my elementary school days, I was an incredibly active kid and a competitive gymnast for a greater part of my life which meant training 12 or more hours a week. Given such I always had a very fast metabolism, and ate what ever the heck I desired probably only consuming 1-2 servings of my fruit and veggies in a day. As the child of a single hard working mom I had to start packing my lunches at the age of 8, which meant lots of processed snacks like gushers, cheese whiz and breadsticks (remember those?), fruit by the foot, and often the back of the freezer pre-made dinners were on the menu in a time crunch. I definitely did not understand the concept of eating food from the earth and was completely disconnected from food.
Fast forward to middle school, which being honest was incredibly difficult period of my life. In the seventh grade I friended a girl (of which there were only 5 in my class) who was unfortunately terribly bullied. It was friend the girl who got bullied or join the bullies; I chose the former. This chapter of my life exposed me to the not so wonderful world of dieting and body image. As the friend of someone who was being criticized for her appearance, I started to take actions in fears of having the same brutish comments targeted at myself. I started running and becoming increasingly interested in the world of fitness and healthier eating. I never developed disordered eating patterns but I did become more aware of what I ate and ultimately how I looked. Middle school is that awkward time between elementary and high school where I never felt like I fitted in anywhere.
Moving onto high school, this is where diet culture became increasingly prevalent in my life. I began following fitness bloggers, eating quest bars for breakfast (obviously not plant-based/vegan back then!), and increasing my exercise. I felt uncomfortable in my body most days, comparing myself to others, and felt a strong desire for a "thigh gap," which by the way is the most ridiculous term I've ever heard and I didn't even know what it meant until a friend of mine at the time expressed the desire to have one. Therefore I got increasingly interested in the healthy eating moving and started veering away from as many processed foods. I started cooking my own food and eating lots of chicken breast for dinner, veggies, brown rice, etc., but still made room for treats, and somehow developed a sense of balance although I was not content with my body. In the later part of my high school career I became increasingly interested in a plant-based/vegan lifestyle as I started to feel more connected to my food and where it was coming from, however I never wanted to go for it in fear of what my peers might have made of it.
In my last month of my senior year I decided to give the whole plant-based thing a go which at the same time I created my food blog formerly known as "Emma Marie's Kitchen"... very creative I know. I became so passionate about cooking vegan and making dishes with new ingredients. I discovered what coconut sugar was, the difference between cacao powder and cocoa, spiralizing veggies, and so much more. I started baking treats with wholesome ingredients almost every Friday night while my peers would be partying, from Deliciously Ella sweet potato brownies to Hippie Lane's three layer caramel squares which my family and I often enjoyed. I literally would eat a tray worth of brownies in one weekend. I was so inspired by living this way and felt an abundance of energy, in which I ran almost a half marathon (10 miles) at 17.
In my first year of university I started to feel less connected with myself, feeling isolated, and lonely. One could even say depressed. As such I stopped exercising as often and when I did it wasn't out of enjoyment as I would be trying to cram it into my busy schedule between class time and studying. I was the most sedentary I had ever been in my life. I began to feel the same way I had at the beginning of high school all coupled with a close family member who had been diagnosed with a chronic illness, stuck in a program/school which I highly did not enjoy, my childhood dog who had just passed away, and the stress/sadness of my two best friends moving away in the fall to pursue different schools. I wanted to build a sense of control into my life and began to increase my exercise to 5-6 times a week.
I started running for 5 miles at a time to clear my head of what life had dealt me, restricting my diet to an oil-free and basically all fat-free diet. Even avocados were out of the picture. I became obsessed with healthy eating and developed orthorexia. I oddly consciously wasn't trying to loose weight though, but subconsciously I was. If you have ever read "You are a Badass" by Jen Sincero you'll know that what's happening in our subconscious thoughts have more control of our actions than our conscious.
Weight quickly started falling off of my body and then I started loosing muscle, energy, and my hair started thinning; even falling out. Reading the ingredients on every label even if they were considered "health foods." I subconsciously was seeking control over my life, which came in the form of diet and exercise. Whilst sticking to such a strict regime I started feeling extremely apathetic and I started letting life happen to me rather than making life happen. I felt so incredibly lost and I carried on with this low energy up until the fall of 2017 until family started noticing my weight change and my tired face.
I felt offended by the concerns of others and never noticed that I had in fact developed a problem. Then I started hating the way I had let myself loose so much weight and I had essentially malnourished my body.
I realized it was time to wake up, start living, and feeling again. That's when I started to eat fats again, you name a fat and it's in my food now. From cooking with oils again, enjoying nut butters, avocados, and so much more. I started gaining weight again, fell back in love with cooking, and exercising only out of the good intentions in my heart; to feel good. Going on a run now is my form of meditation, a time where I feel completely content and love my energy afterwards, rather than the exhaustion I felt in the past. I now feel apart of a community at my local spin studio (shoutout to Bespoke!) where we aren't about metric or "being the best." I have never felt as balanced as I do now, and sure are there days that I look in the mirror and criticize what I see? Hell yes, but I know longer let them control how I ultimately look and care after myself. I am still healing from the damage I created last year and growing with each day.
Where I am at:
Currently I refer to myself as "plant-based" which provides a base for eating mostly plants but if in two weeks time I feel the desire to eat a local cage-free egg I'm not going to make myself feel bad about it. It's about finding what works for you, establishing a sense of balance, and listening to your body when it's telling you something. I feel so incredibly grateful for my hardships in the past with eating and exercise because they have made me who I am and who I am growing into today. This new site is a place for me to be open, honest, and myself, which is something I hadn't done on my old site as I kept publishing posts out of stress and comparing myself to others. A place where I can just be. I truly have never felt so much gratitude towards this life I have been given, and I now more than ever know the importance of finding balance between diet, exercise, and work.
If you are struggling with any issues regarding mental health, diet, and exercise I encourage you to reach out to friends, family, physicians, and organizations that can help guide you on a positive path. Remember that the way that you treat yourself physically is just as important as how you treat yourself mentally! I am rooting for you and if you ever need someone to talk to I am always just a click away.