If you have followed Mississippi Hippy for a little while, you know that I have spent a lot of my life struggling with body image and disordered eating. While I began recovering from my eating disorder about 8 years ago, my body image and food issues have lasted much much longer.
This was me at 5 years old. I was 5 years old when I was first told I was fat. I remember the day. I remember where it was. I remember what I was wearing. I remember EXACTLY what the person said. Words can be so damaging. Please excuse the old, grainy pictures.
If I was to track my progression on a chart, it would look much more like a roller coaster than a straight shot up. For YEARS, my happiness has been tied to my weight and how I perceived my reflection in the mirror. I was at my absolute happiest only when I was losing or had lost weight. It’s amazing how much a number on a scale can dramatically change your mood. It changed my brain. If I didn’t see what I wanted to see on the scale every morning, I was definitely not going to see what I wanted in the mirror that day. This would lead to obsessing over everything I put in my mouth that day and logging it into MyFitnessPal. I punished myself by doing workouts that were KILLING my body and old injuries just because they burned tons of calories. I always felt so guilty if I ate bread, potatoes, rice, or anything with carbs. If I did eat them, I binged, and I would immediately start figuring up how much cardio I needed to burn it off. I lived to hear, “you look like you’ve lost weight.”
I was miserable, and this is SUCH a miserable way to live. Honestly though, I just figured that’s how I was going to be forever. I was happy enough with other aspects of my life to make up for hating what I saw in the mirror most days. I lied to myself and others about how I had learned to love myself when in reality, I really only loved myself when the number on the scale was lower than the day before. I started thinking that’s what self-love was.
Left: I remember feeling so good about myself in this picture because it was my first time to wear it and the bottoms were bigger on me than they were when I bought them a few weeks before. However, I would have never taken a photo facing the camera head on. Right: My wedding day. I felt so beautiful, but I was so worried about my dress fitting the whole morning. I’d like to point out that I was the smallest I have ever been and was still considered overweight on the BMI scale, which is a load of crock, by the way!
When I became vegan back in November, I had pretty much given up on ever thinking that one day my ultimate happiness wouldn’t be tied to what I saw on the scale and in the mirror. It was not something I thought would even change when I was standing in front of all the beef in Kroger deciding that I couldn’t eat meat anymore. (whole story here) I didn’t become vegan to lose weight. I stopped eating animal products because I genuinely don’t like meat and hate the pain and negative impact animal agriculture causes. I gave up the dairy and eggs when I began researching the health benefits. Quite frankly, I had even prepared myself to gain some weight because of all the stories and testimonies I had read online about going vegan. I did gain a little at first, but I think that was more due to it being the holidays.
In March, I decided to get more strict about avoiding oils and cutting back on the added fats like peanut butter. If you know me or pretty much any of my best friends, you know that we’ve been known to eat whole jars of peanut butter in a day. It’s my FAVORITE. Don’t even get me started on Jif’s whipped peanut butters. HEAVEN. Anyway…I had been doing more and more research on the HCLF/Whole-Food, Plant-Based vegan diet, and it really resinated with me. Fast forward 4 months and I’ve realized that I haven’t really had a negative thought about my body or what I put in my mouth since March.
WHAT? WHO AM I?
Now, to be fair, I have to tell you that I have lost about 20 pounds since I cut out oils and limited my added fats, but it’s not something I was focusing on. I stopped getting on the scale every day because I wasn’t consciously doing anything to lose weight. It has been very slow and steady. Believe it or not, I even stopped doing any type of regular workout. I had stopped my bootcamp classes that were killing my joints because they were very expensive, and I simply couldn’t afford them anymore.
I decided to give my body a little bit of a break around this time to see if my constant knee and hip pain would go away. I started doing more yoga at home because I love how it makes me feel mentally and physically, not because I was punishing myself for eating something “bad.” I went on walks around the neighborhood with my husband, and I went for runs occasionally because I felt like it. On May 14, I ran a 10k without training because some friends of mine were doing it, and I thought it would be fun. I’ve always loved the atmosphere and feeling of accomplishment when you finish a 5k, so I figured I’d walk most of it. Who cares, right? I ended up finishing in a much better time than I ever imagined I would and running a really good (for me) average mile time.
Post Magnolia Meltdown 10k on May 14, 2016
How could this be? My brain went into a tailspin trying to figure out how this could have possibly happened. I hadn’t trained or really worked out in 3 months, and I had been eating tons of carbohydrates without really thinking about it. Then it dawned on me–I had been at peace with myself since March. I was listening to my body and what it needed/wanted. I wasn’t obsessing over food or numbers. My knees and hips didn’t bother me during my run because I had been showing myself love by giving them time to heal. I was eating a diet that was made up of primarily carbohydrates without feeling guilty and being totally satisfied. On top of it all, I was losing weight without even trying or noticing.
Changing my diet to one that is high in carbohydrates, low in fat and full of whole, plant based foods has changed my life. THERE I SAID IT. I have never been happier with who I am and what I see in the mirror. I have never been more unaffected mentally by what I put in my mouth every day. I make smart, healthy decisions like it’s second nature, because it is now. I splurge with Oreos, beer, or Wendy’s french fries on the weekends, but I have still yet to feel deprived. I eat when I’m hungry, and I stop when I’m full. I am active, and I workout because I LOVE it, not because I have something I feel like I need to burn off. Very rarely do I track my food in MyFitnessPal anymore, and if I do, it’s out of curiosity–not guilt.
I know it sounds crazy that becoming a HCLF vegan did all of this. On the surface, I also know that eating this way seems extremely restrictive and difficult to maintain. It may even sound harmful to some. However, once you’ve done your research, it’s SO EASY and the healthiest way to eat.
I don’t get crazy about things when I go to restaurants or eat at a friend’s house. I actually had to ask my mom to stop telling the wait staff that I’m a “weird vegan” when I’m giving my out-of-the-ordinary order at restaurants. Without fail, the cook or manager would always come to the table to discuss my dietary restrictions, and I would feel so bad! Haha! I just finally had to ask my well-meaning mother to stop because it freaks people out. To me, it’s not worth making others uncomfortable or their life more difficult. I ask for no cheese and DEFINITELY no meat, but if it comes out looking oily or the cheese is left on my salad, I don’t worry too much about it. I pick it off or eat around it or just eat the oil. I bring my own food to friend’s and family’s houses. Not a huge deal.
I’ve listened to a lot of podcasts by Lindsay S. Nixon of Happy Herbivore and Meal Mentor, and she always says to “strive for progress over perfection.” I’ve really taken that to heart. It’s also important to remember that in social situations, like eating out or parties, that you shouldn’t be there solely for the food. You should be there for the fellowship and company of your friends and family. Also, we live in extremely advanced times. You will not die from your short term hunger. I PROMISE. (Unless you’re diabetic or something, then by all means do what you have to!) You can be hungry for a little while. You can eat after or before or bring a snack in your purse. Start scheduling catch up sessions with friends around activities like a walk or bike ride instead of food. These things have all been helpful for me.
Please note, I am not a doctor or an expert in eating disorders. Nor am I a nutritionist or certified personal trainer. I’m just sharing my personal experiences because when something makes you feel this good inside and out, HOW CAN YOU NOT SHARE IT WITH OTHERS? I am passionate about helping and inspiring others, and if my sharing can touch just one person, it’s more than worth it.
I realize this lifestyle is not for everyone, but if you have any questions about it or getting started, I would love to talk with you or help you in any way I can. Just leave me a comment, shoot me an email, or contact me via any social media outlet.
I love you all a whole, whole lot!