Health isn’t about how you look, it’s about how you FEEL.

I used to have a very toxic relationship with my body, with food and with exercise. Although it has taken hindsight for me to realise this, I once had zero respect for my body and didn’t treat it with love. I’d flog myself in the gym, restrict my eating, count calories, weigh myself not just every day, but after every meal and I used to hurl abuse at the person standing before me in the mirror. I used to take selfies in the mirror to watch my ab progression and make sure my ribs and hipbones started protruding a little more each day. I’d starve myself for days leading up to an ‘important event’ to make sure I was ‘skinny enough for it. I didn’t realise at the time how unhealthy it was and the damage I was doing. In fact I thought I was killing it! I was fit. I was skinny. I had abs and quads. Biceps and hard rounded glutes. I was healthy. I was disciplined. I was in control.

I was under the illusion I was healthy af. Even despite my sister coming to me from a place of love and telling me I needed to calm my farm, I thought she was cray cray. I thought she was delusional and possibly even envious that I had such discipline. Pfft! How self-righteous of me!!! But now, now I can see that she was right. I was the delusional one. It was excessive. I was excessive. I would exercise every single day, mostly twice a day, and sometimes 3 times a day. I used a calorie-counting app to track every single morsal of food that entered my mouth, down to each individual almond. It wasn’t a successful day unless I out-exercised the calories I put in. On days when I knew I’d only be able to exercise once, the only thing I would consume was a small can of tuna. Other times I even tried to be in calorie deficit (burn off more calories than I consumed.) When I discovered that, it quickly became a dangerous obsession. It was a new challenge. How does any of this sound healthy?

No part of me was listening to how my body felt. It was all about how I looked. Exercising and feeding my body wasn’t coming from a place of love but a place of fear. A fear of ‘getting fat’, a fear of putting on weight. A fear of being ugly. A fear of loosing muscle definition. A fear of being unattractive and unworthy of love. I exercised because I hated how my body looked, not because I loved the way exercise made my body feel.

I was never formally ‘diagnosed’ with an eating disorder or body dismorphia but now it’s blaringly obvious that’s exactly what it was. My earliest memory of what I now know are signs of disordered eating is age 10. 10! I was in year 6! I remember going to school with no packed lunch. Intentionally. With a busy shift-working Mum, I was expected to make my own lunch at that age, which worked perfectly for me because I could get away with not eating. I thought I was fat (at age 10! Wtf!). So not eating meant I had control over my weight. After school I would binge, out of pure starvation. This continued (and probably worsened) throughout high school. But by then it was noticed by my friends and my mum, who tried to intervene and threatened to take me to a physiologist on many occasions.

That was obviously the beginning of some unhealthy habits but the issues really peaked when I was in my early twenties. Low self-esteem was already raging and then I got into the bikini-modelling world, which I’m sure you can imagine really didn’t help my lack of self-worth and only exaggerated my ‘need’ to be ‘skinny’. I look back at photos from those days and remember exactly what I was thinking in those moments. I genuinely thought I was fat! I remember going to competitions, having not eaten all day (but still somehow having completed two hours of intense exercise), a tiny-framed 47kg girl and thinking I was huge next to the rest of the babes there. I wasn’t though. I was the furtherest thing from fat. Photo evidence and hindsight has made me realise that I was tiny! I looked fit and healthy because I had abs and defined muscles but I was verging on too skinny. What was going on in my head was the epitome of self-loathing, disrespect for my body and a completely dismorphed view of myself. I may not have appeared it, but I was unhealthy af. Every workout was fuelled by self-hatred and every meal (or lack there of) was eaten with underlying guilt. Nothing about how I approached my health and fitness was healthy! (Yes, this was about the time my sister had words).

A few years later, I went through a stage of binge-eating, purging then overeating again. It was fuelled by depression. I was living in a small apartment with a not-so-social housemate. I was lonely, I’d had my heart stomped all over by someone I trusted and things just spiraled. I still exercised, but not as much. And when I did, I felt so self-conscious and uncomfortable in my body that I didn’t like being at the gym. I knew so many people there that I was embarrassed to show face. I would lock myself away from the world and I would secretly overeat – searching for happiness through food. At this time I was the unhappiest, the unhealthiest and as a result the heaviest I have ever been. It took an eye-opening conversation with my Mum to realise I was depressed and needed to get help.

Like Oprah, my weight yo-yoed for years. (Just trying to connect myself to Oprah ya know?) I did so much damage to my metabolism that my body didn’t know what was going on. It had gone through starvation and then overeating, to starvation again. Throughout my adult years I have been as light as 46kg and as heavy as 63kg. None of these weights or any numbers in between were ever healthy. Because throughout all those years, my relationship with myself, with food and with exercise was toxic. It was based on hatred not love.

Fast forward almost a decade from those undereating, over-exercising, calorie-counting, gym junkie days, and here I am, the happiest in my body that I have ever been! But more than anything, my mind is the healthiest it’s ever been. My whole philosophy around food and exercise has transformed. I approach my health from a place of love and respect. So much so that I only want to do what’s best for it. I listen to my body. How it feels, when it needs fuel and when it desires movement. I don’t have a regimented fitness routine like I once did or plan my meals out down to the minute. I eat when I am hungry and exercise when I feel like it. I fuel my body with nutrients and nourishing foods. But I treat myself too. I don’t bust my ass in the gym daily. Gone are the days when I would approach training with the objective to look good. I no longer focus solely on aesthetics and how I looked in bikini. Now I exercise to feel good. To feel fit and healthy.

Weirdly, once I stopped acting from a place of fear (of getting fat) and started acting out of love for my health, my body seemed to find its own happy weight. Sounds strange I know. But when I used to slog myself at the gym and feel guilty about the food I was eating (especially if it wasn’t a salad), I was never happy. My body wasn’t happy. There was always something to improve or weight I couldn’t shift. But now, I’m pretty fucking happy with how I look. My body has healed itself from all the metabolic damage and within the last few months I’ve unintentially lost weight and dropped a size without even trying. (And I’m stoked about it!) I didn’t put a plan in place or start weighing my food or even weighing myself. It just happened when I shifted my focus from aesthetics to how my body feels inside. I guess there really is something to this whole ‘listening to your body’ thing.

Of course I’m not completely healed from my low self esteem, disordered eating, body-dismorphia years. Fear still rears it’s ugly head every now and then. But I tell you what, I’m pretty fucking happy to be in the place I’m at now. My relationship with food, fitness and my body has completely flipped. I may not look the fittest or strongest I’ve ever looked but mentally I’m the healthiest me I’ve even been. I’m comfortable in my skin. I eat to fuel my body now. I even eat chocolate and ice cream and other ‘no-go’ foods sometimes. If that’s what I feel like, then I have it. (I seem to do better without self-inflicted restrictions). I probably only go to the gym 1-2 times a week but still move my body most days. I don’t even own a set of scales and couldn’t even tell you the last time I weighed myself. Numbers shnumbers! When I’m hungry, I eat. When I want to exercise, I move. I understand the importance of looking after my body from the inside out. It’s the place where my soul resides so I have to and I WANT to look after it!

Health is not a number on the scales, a particular shape or a specific size. Health is all about how you feel. From within. Not how you look. Remember that.

Love Eloise x

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Food Rules To Live By

Vegetarian, Vegan, Paleo, Breatharian (yes, that is actually a thing), low-fat, low-carb, gluten-free… the list goes on! Don’t eat this. Do eat that. Reduce this. Eat plenty of that. And what about all the juice and shake diets, detoxes, cleanses and fasting? Not to mention calorie-counting, nutritional supplements, calculating macros and an endless list of fad diets.

Aghh, it’s all too much!!Screen_Shot_2015-02-11_at_11.22.29_AM

Nutrition is always a hot topic of debate. Everyone seems to have a different idea of what optimum nutrition is. Everyone seems to have an opinion. With so much conflicting information out there, it is almost impossible to know what to believe. It’s overwhelming to say the least and almost always confusing!

So who and what should we believe? How do we decipher fact from fiction? And how on earth do we decide which advice to follow?

What I have learnt over years of trying a bunch of different approaches to diet and nutrition is that nutrition is not one-size-fits-all. It is not the same for everyone. What works for one person might not work for the next. But no matter your individual dietary requirements and food choices, there are some simple rules that everyone should adopt when it comes to nutrition.

Here are 5 of my golden nutrition tips.

  1. Eat To Fuel Your Body

Start thinking of the food you eat as fuel for your body. Just like a car that needs petrol to function, your body needs fuel to keep it running smoothly and performing at its best. You wouldn’t put diesel in a Ferrari, you’d only use the top-notch premium unleaded, so if you want your body to look and feel like a luxury model, you have to fuel it with the good stuff! Opt for lots of fresh fruit, vegetables, lean meats and whole grains. And ditch the processed foods, refined sugar, saturated fats and artificial ingredients.

  1. Balance is Key

A well-rounded, well-balanced diet is one that contains Protein, Fats and Carbohydrates. Balance is key. Physiologically speaking, your body needs all three to function properly. Your muscles need protein for maintenance, repair and growth, your body uses carbohydrates as its main energy source and fats are required on a cellular level.

Not to mention, protein keeps you full for longer so you are less likely to overeat or snack throughout the day and slow release complex carbohydrates (such as fruit, vegetables, and whole grains) keep your blood sugar and energy levels stable. Australian nutrition guidelines recommend a daily dietary intake of 45-65% carbohydrates, 15-25% protein and 20-35% fats, with no more than 10% coming from saturated fats. A great rule of thumb for a well-balanced meal is to load up half of your plate with plant-based foods (leafy greens and vegetables), a quarter of the plate with complex carbs (e.g brown rice, quinoa or sweet potato) and the final quarter with protein. Add some avocado or cook your veggies in some coconut oil for those healthy fats.

  1. Keep Your Portions Under Control

You’ve probably heard it thousands of times before, but portion control is one of the most important things to master. Even if you are eating all the right foods, if you are overdoing the portions, you aren’t going to see any shift in your weight – at least not in the direction you probably want. Don’t overdo it. Stop when you are content, not when you are full to the brim, stomach bursting with a food baby. Know your portions, prepare your meal accordingly and don’t go back for a second helping.

  1. If You Can’t Pronounce It, Don’t Eat it

Start reading food labels and learning what ingredients are actually in those so-called ‘healthy’, ‘natural’, ‘low-fat’ or ‘organic’ food products you have been eating all this time. You’d be surprised at just how many unrecognizable ingredients, chemicals and preservatives manufacturers sneak in to food products. Simply, if you don’t recognize something on the label, put it back on the shelf and walk away. It’s important to know what you are putting in your body, and I can guarantee, those weird 24-letter words are not natural. The benefit of following this rule is not only that you’ll soon have a broader awareness of food products, but also that you’ll end up eating mainly fruit and vegetables anyway. There is only one ingredient in a carrot. (It’s carrot by the way).

  1. Everything In Moderation

You are going to like this one. As much as food is fuel, it is also for pleasure so don’t be afraid to treat yourself every now and then. If you are craving chocolate, have a couple of squares of chocolate. If you feel like some carbs, allow yourself to eat some. Just don’t overdo it. The key is to know when to stop. Completing restricting yourself from certain foods is a sure fire way to make you crave it even more. When you’re ‘not allowed’ something, you think about it more, want it more and therefore you are more likely to have a massive food-coma-inducing binge fest. So as long as you are able to remain in control of the situation, don’t feel guilty for giving in to those little cravings every now and then.

So with these 5 basic food rules as a great starting point, remember to eat to fuel, eat to nourish and eat to keep your body functioning and running at its best.

Ultimately, no one knows your body better than you. Find out what works for you and stick to that. Listen to your body, take note of how it responds to certain foods and if/when you find what works well for you then continue to nourish your body in that way. A healthy outside, starts with a healthy inside.

Love Eloise xx

***DISCLAIMER: This article was originally written for and posted on the Pilot Athletic blog