I guess you could say my story started when I was 15 years old. I was shy, dorky, and pudgy – a bit of a late bloomer, really. One day I looked at myself in the mirror, was disgusted with what I saw, and decided to pretty much stop eating for awhile. I dropped a lot of weight, my confidence skyrocketed, I started going out with my first boyfriend, and I couldn’t believe the joy of being slim. Not eating felt easy with all the stress of high school. Life felt good! After awhile I relaxed a bit, ate a lot of food with my boyfriend, and all the weight came back on fast. Before my graduation I broke up with my boyfriend, was dismayed with the weight gain, stopped eating again for even longer this time, started aerobics and was tiny again by graduation. And there you have it. I have just described the yo-yo pattern that would plague me for the best part of the next decade of my life.
Of course, back then starving myself worked. My metabolism wasn’t damaged, the cardio was new to my body, and I felt amazing. Slowly but surely, the weight started creeping back on (I am definitely not slim by nature), so I would up my cardio, and lower my calories. Over the next few years I felt like I was fighting a losing battle. I did aerobics and step classes morning and night, I didn’t eat much and had insane sugar cravings, so when I did eat it would be to devour an entire pack of lollies in one go. I tried strength training with a personal trainer with terrible results. I had no idea why everyone else seemed to eat so much and stay slim, and I was working around the clock getting nowhere fast. I would lose weight, gain weight, lose weight, gain weight, until a horrible relationship/breakup saw me through the lowest period of self-esteem I think I’ve ever experienced. Looking back on some writing I did at that time, I was in a very dark place. I had never eaten so little in my life. I started experiencing heart palpitations during aerobics, I would feel shaky all day. Things came to a head when I’d been for a huge run in the morning, consumed only one glass of no-fat milk, and fainted during a routine flu shot later that day. When I came to, the nurse told me that my pulse had been very weak, I freaked out and fainted again. I went home and cried and cried and cried. The only way I could stay thin was by starving my body so much that I was slowly killing myself. And I wasn’t even that thin, you couldn’t have even called me skinny. It felt like I was even failing at anorexia. I told myself that living was more important, and that if being pudgy meant living, then pudgy it was. I started eating again, but the relentless cardio didn’t stop. For the next five years I yo-yo’d up and down, the same five kilograms every time, on a small 5’3 girl. I would lose it, people would compliment me. I would relax, put it back on, my clothes would get tight. I would lose it again. I tried the cabbage soup diet, low carb, meal replacement shakes – you name it, I tried it. I would drop weight so quickly (fluid, obviously), stick with whatever it was for a couple of weeks, give up and binge, find another diet to try. I was totally, ridiculously stuck. Some nights I would just cry. My weight felt like the hardest battle in the world. And at the same time I hated myself for putting so much emphasis on the way I looked.
Fast forward a couple of years to meeting the love of my life. Someone who loved me and my body so wholesomely and transparently that I finally began to believe there was more to me than what I weighed. I still yo-yo’d, he still loved my body at every turn. I was coming out of my early twenties and seeing the world a lot differently. I was so burnt out after 8 years of relentless, punishing cardio, I needed a break. I took a year off exercise. For a whole year, I watched my hard bits go soft, and my soft bits get softer. But somehow I knew that if I didn’t do this, nothing would ever change. He still loved me. When I stopped fitting into my biggest clothes, I knew I was ready to go back. I started exercising again slowly. My relationship with food was still pretty crappy, but I felt better. I was still the queen of fads, however. I got obsessed with hot yoga, then obsessed with running, then obsessed again with aerobics. I found out I was going to be on TV and I knew I “had to get serious” again with my food. I went online to research rapid fat loss, spoke to people in the fitness industry who I thought could give me expert advice. I was back on super-low carb and super-low cal, but I knew I needed a way to track what I was doing. I found the myfitnesspal app, set it to the magical 1200 and knuckled-down. I was so proud of myself, I was being so strict. I would brag to my boyfriend about how healthy I was eating, but go to bed starving. Some days I was netting 700. Who cares what MFP said about this being too low, a huge calorie deficit was a huge win, right?! Wrong, obviously. Yes, I lost, but barely, enough so that I felt ok on TV, but not enough. I was had pudgy areas, the fat just wasn’t going anywhere. Something was very, very wrong and again, I just didn’t understand why it was just so damn hard for me.
I started reading the forums to get some answers and very quickly came across the EM2WL group. I read, and read and read. Read the starvation studies, read about my BMR, read about how I had been doing serious damage to my poor metabolism for the best part of a decade. Everything suddenly made perfect sense. Yes, I was terrified to increase my calories, but I knew I was ready for the lifelong change. I went straight to 1800 and in those first few days, the pure joy of eating full meals was enough to bring tears to my eyes. I couldn’t believe I could eat this much, and that it was still a calorie deficit. I realised the importance of strength training. I re-joined the gym and ordered the New Rules of Lifting for Women. I started straight away. From that very day, I knew that I had made a lifestyle change. I repeated over, and over to myself (and still do to this day): “Have patience. This is going to take time. Imagine what you’re going to look like in 3 years”. I still look in the mirror today, see the small changes that come with a small calorie deficit, and remind myself of the same things. Every day he touches my back or my leg, in disbelief of how strong and firm my body is feeling, yet I know he would love me know matter what. And I know I will too. I have come to realise, very sadly, that I abused my body relentlessly for 10 years, I am still learning to forgive myself. But I love myself far too much these days to ever go back. I’m not perfect, some days I get impatient and contemplate a bigger deficit for a quicker change, but I know it’s not worth it in the long run. Why compromise my metabolism for a short-term gain? I always want to be able to eat this much. There is no point compromise my strength training now that my muscles are flourishing.
Another huge thing that has happened to me is the focus on my macros. I used to hear people talking about “fueling” their workouts, and eating to suit their training, but I never understood how they could do it, to me that sounded like “eat cardboard and run”. Previously I’d had such a flawed relationship with food that when I was actually eating, it would be sweet, fatty and the highest of carb for instant gratification. If I wasn’t eating all day, when I did eat, it was going to be good. But I learnt through EM2WL that that if I wanted muscles, I needed protein so I started looking for ways to increase it. Some of the best advice I ever received from Kiki & Lucia was to shoot for my protein macro every day, and the rest should fall into place. This was so true!! I’m now successfully eating at a ratio of 35% protein, 30% carb, 35% fat. I never, ever thought I could be one of “these people” and still enjoy my food. Also since the day I increased my calories, I have never felt deprived again. I don’t think I’ve had a single binge since.
Some days I get a bit emotional thinking of where I’ve been, and where I am now, and just want to fly over the other side of the world to give Kiki & Lucia the biggest hug that I can possibly give. These women, through their patience, goodness and selfless enthusiasm, have undoubtedly turned my destructive relationship with food and my body into a passion for health and fitness that I’ve never experienced. They have taught me patience and given me the tools to continue eating well and getting stronger and fitter for the rest of my life. All I want to do now is help spread the word to women especially, that we don’t have to starve ourselves to lose weight. I have become so passionate about the cause. And I can finally say that my body is looking healthier and firmer than I’ve ever seen it. Imagine what it will look like in 3 years!
Have an EM2WL transformation to share? Willing to let us tag along on your journey? We’d love to see it! Be featured on our Transformation/Journey page by submitting your story to Success@EM2WL.com