Have you ever told yourself - “today I'm going to be really good? I'll eat even less than what I have been. That way I'll be sure to lose weight.” But it comes to 3pm, and you’re starving and struggling to find energy to get through the rest of the day? There have been numerous times when I’ve done this, and I get home, tell myself – “I'll just eat this to keep me going until dinner” - and it leads to another piece, and another piece. Ironically, you end up eating far more food than you would have throughout the day…the complete opposite of what you set out to do.... Why? Because you’re under-nourishing your body. After a day of depriving yourself of food, you get a taste of something, and your brain goes, "oh hello food, I've missed you." You’re so hungry you don't listen to your body, and you don't give yourself time to recognise that you actually have enough in your body to maintain your energy levels.
The cycle doesn't stop there, feelings of guilt take over, you feel like you've failed, you've let your will power slip and you beat yourself up for having no self-control. Sometimes it's even so bad, that you let it ruin your entire day, and make the goal to be even more strict tomorrow. You might even start weighing yourself every day, and base your food in-take on the number you saw that morning. You can probably imagine what happens next, and what kind of behavioural patterns emerge.
After hitting a plateau with weight loss, yet still determined to lose more, I signed up for a summer weight loss challenge. Like many people, I wanted to look good in my togs and wanted to be held accountable for my actions. We had a set plan to follow, measurements down to specific grams, we had to record everything that went in our mouths, and hand in a food diary at the end of each week. If something was off track - we were punished with additional physical exercise. Over the five week period, if we were good, we were rewarded with one “cheat” meal. When I was granted permission to indulge, I didn't want to because it felt wrong. But, it was okay and I could justify it, because I was losing weight and I was finally, for the first time in my life, starting to feel quite content with my body and how I looked.
One night I sat swiping through the photographs on my phone. I saw some very unhealthy patterns; between the baking snaps, fun with friends and family, and special occasions, my phone was filled with pictures of myself, but not the fun duck face pouting selfies many girls would have. Instead, pictures of my stomach, pictures standing on the scales, pictures of my side profile and collages comparing progress. I tracked from now to 2013, and that was the trend right throughout. Every single photograph I looked at, my reaction was - "I looked fat", or "I looked skinny." Absolutely nothing about how fun, or special, that particular moment in time was. Amongst these pictures of my body, I found pictures of food. It was clear that I had become obsessed with my weight loss journey.
But, this is an okay way to live right? To answer this simply, no, no it isn’t. And I learnt the hard way; because just a few months after, my health took a turn for the worse, and I was diagnosed with PCOS. I started binge eating, gained a lot of weight and lost my drive. Everything became so much harder than it should have. I started experiencing feelings of depression, social anxiety and was diagnosed with an eating disorder. I’d like to point out here, that at this point I was in denial, I would not have sought help myself, and had no motivation to make any changes…but I am very lucky to have a supportive partner and family, who saw that I was struggling, and dragged me along to some health professionals.
Between then and now I’ve fallen down MANY times and needed picking back up even more. The worst thing about these falls was that I felt so out of control and the smallest thing would upset me. I found the constant talk of weight loss on Facebook to be in my face and I felt like I was living I lie through Embracing It. At work, people would have conversations about their diet and it just infuriated me (why was the world so obsessed with health and weight loss). As I didn’t feel like I was getting anywhere I got completely overwhelmed by the whole situation and started having a panic attacks. I cannot thank my partner and family enough for sticking by my side through these dark times, they’re truly what kept me going. I was so scared that they would be judging me for my thoughts and get disappointed in my inability to snap out of things, but they kept reminding me that it was just a rough patch.
An experience which helped me shift my mind-set was attending a retreat run by Body Love NZ. This retreat forced me to face some demons!! Before attending this retreat I was at a point where, due to injury and negative thoughts I was struggling to be passionate about the things I once was (CrossFit, baking, running, yoga) and had started giving all of my time to other people, doing whatever I could to make them happy (because I didn't know how to make myself happy). But after some soul searching and goal setting, which involved imagining my ideal life ten years from now, I was reminded of what I want and what I am capable of achieving (this involves growing Embracing It, raising awareness around these king of health complexities and mentoring people through tough situations, that and to be a blog mum). After leaving this retreat I wrote my ten year vision (a short story of what a day in my life would look life), printed it on a big piece of paper and framed it. Whenever I’m feeling upset or lost, I look at this and remind myself of what I’m working towards. I’m surprised by how powerful it is, and the funny thing - in this vision there is nothing is noted about how I look or the size of the clothes I’m wearing.
Many bloggers, and health professionals, remind us that the number on the scale does not define us. Yet for so many of us, it does. And it will continue to – I want to break, and help others break that cycle. I am NOT going to be the girl that dies, and has “Emma Golebiowski, lived an unhappy life, but only wore size 10”, as the tagline at my funeral. So what's my philosophy? I've also realised that that my size doesn’t determine what I do with my life or the memories I create. I'm done wasting my time wishing I looked different. I want to focus on feeling good, being happy and enjoying food for what it is.
Photograph taken by Thomas Kay.