War and Peace: My Battle with Control and Binge Eating

Control is a bittersweet word.

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I can either “have things under control” and feel like I’ve got my sh!t together, or I can “lose control” and the whole world can come crashing down. Control for some can mean a healthy balance and for others it can signify a daily battle of restriction.

For me, control* is twofold. When I am mentally in control, I am organised, healthy and enjoy a balanced lifestyle. When I lose control, I can find myself in a toxic cycle of binge eating, lack of motivation and poor self-esteem. This was the war I waged on myself only months ago.Bored or unhappy

*When I talk about control, I’m referring to my diet and lifestyle. I find that my health and wellbeing have a direct correlation with my happiness and motivation in everything I do.

Read on to find out how I’ve learnt to find a middle ground and get my health and wellbeing back on track.

My Downward Spiral

Scroll back a couple of months on my Instagram page and you may notice some major changes in the appearance of my body.**

Once upon a time (almost 10kgs ago) my diet consisted of multiple cups of coffee each day, excess amounts of dairy (mostly rich cheeses), high amounts of simple carbohydrates like bread, pasta and potato and masses of sugary, processed foods like chocolate, biscuits and cakes. I also had a weak spot for hot chips and potato chips and loved salt on everything I ate.

I would binge drink regularly on weekends, consuming up to 10 drinks in one night, sometimes multiple nights in a week. I would also regularly eat out and indulge in takeaway foods like pizza, burgers and Thai (up to three times per week). Worst of all I would stash bags of chips and blocks of chocolate in my bedroom and eat them in secret. This was perhaps the most dangerous habit as bingeing became a way to escape stress, cure boredom and often create happiness.

These clandestine eating habits started when I was a child. I remember sneaking back into the kitchen after dinner to devour a second ice cream or bag of chips and then desperately trying to dispose of all evidence before someone caught me. The guilt and secrecy has resurfaced many times since, but last year was my greatest downfall.

A party lifestyle, bingeing episodes and lack of exercise due to long periods of travelling and general loss of motivation caused my body to change from healthy and fit to constantly agitated, tired and bloated. I had lost a lot of self respect and found most of my comfort in indulgent food. I was caught in a toxic cycle of bingeing and guilt and I knew I that if I couldn’t pull myself out of it, the damage would be irreversible.

How I Turned it All Around

My turning point, or ‘light bulb moment’ came to me at the hairdressers. I was sitting in the chair in front of a mirror and realised how much space I took up.

For a few months, I had been growing increasingly uncomfortable with my appearance in photos. Surely I didn’t look that big in real life? It must be a bad angle. My clothes wouldn’t do up any more; they must have shrunk in the wash.

I had also visited a doctor months earlier who had forced me to weigh myself and noticing the change in my weight, suggested that I considered seeing a psychologist to discuss my relationship with food.

It took me until this moment, just me and the mirror, to come to terms with and accept the fact that I was no longer at ease with my body and the way it looked. I knew I was not treating my body with the love and respect it deserved. I was responsible for this change in my appearance, albeit gradual, and I decided that I had to change something.

I had been exercising at F45 for months and after a long break from the gym from mid December to mid February, I decided I would return to enter the 8 Week Challenge.

At first I was terrified and didn’t tell anyone that I was doing the challenge, but after returning from a holiday I took the first steps and went cold turkey on junk food. The salt and sugar cravings were intense for the first few days, but it got easier. I started to make small changes in my diet and eventually worked up the courage to confide in a trainer at my gym.

Martine (Insta @martine_westvik) was incredible at inspiring me and helping me achieve my goals. I was lucky to have her support throughout the challenge where I lost 6kgs in eight weeks. She took the time to sit down with me and discuss my lifestyle approach as well as collecting a weekly food diary from me, offering feedback and suggestions. At the gym she pushed me to my limits seven days a week, sometimes using a heart rate monitor to track my progress. She was there to support me the whole time and I honestly couldn’t have found the strength and confidence to persevere without her.

Another inspiration has been Jessica Sepel (Insta @jshealth), a nutritionist whose own struggles with binge eating have taught me how to fight my battle with control. Her second book Living the Healthy Life (2017) has provided me with countless alternatives to my former trigger foods.

See pages 15-24 for the best tips on a better relationship with food.

Nowadays I exercise at F45 six days a week and take Sunday as a ‘rest day’ where I usually enjoy a long walk and sometimes a yoga class. Coffee is also something I enjoy as a treat 1-2 times a week, rather than a substance I rely on daily to function.

A typical day of eating now consists of:***

6:30 am Small handful of grapes/half green apple before F45

8:00 am 1 cup of peppermint tea, half cup of rolled oats with 1 tbsp white chia, almond milk, vanilla whey protein powder (optional, True Protein), cinnamon, 2 tbsp Greek yogurt, handful of mixed berries, pepitas

10:30 am 1 Cup of green tea, carrot and celery sticks with hummus

1:00 pm Salad loaded with veggies and protein (usually organic tofu, eggs or a veggie burger)

OR 2 egg omelette with smoked salmon, goats cheese, chives and salad

3:00 pm 1 Cup of green tea, carrot and celery sticks with hummus, sometimes add some wholegrain or brown rice crackers and a bit of cheese

OR Home made bliss ball (see @jshealth)

6:00 pm Dinner usually consists of protein (chicken, fish or beef), vegetables/salad and carbohydrate (such as brown rice or sweet potatoes)

8:00 pm 1 cup of peppermint tea, 1-2 squares of Lindt 78% dark chocolate

I also drink approximately 2 litres of water each day not including tea.

Finding Balance and Staying Consistent

The phrase ‘self-love’ gets thrown around a lot these days.

Do we really know what it means though? My interpretation is that we must find the things that make us feel good and practice them each day, we must set goals and strive towards them in order to feel fulfilled and finally, we should take time for ourselves to check in and re-evaluate the path we are pursuing.

I am in a place now where I can enjoy indulgences regularly and without the guilt. This keeps me from falling back into the binge cycle. I have also learnt that exercising daily makes me feel amazing no matter what! I am yet to skip a workout because I always look forward to the feeling of accomplishment and the endorphin high I experience every day. I also have major career goals that I work towards daily!

Even when I’m tired I have a reason to jump out of bed and tackle every day with all my might.

Yes I drink alcohol (in moderation) – I love a glass of red wine on the couch on a Friday night. Yes I eat chocolate every day because I enjoy it! And no I haven’t gone back to my old habits in almost four months. I might have a less healthy meal (yes even McDonalds) every once in a while but the guilt is gone. I know that I will be back to my good habits tomorrow.

Its not about the number on the scales (even though I had to start there to track my progress); health and fitness has become a lifestyle and ‘self-love’ is something I am conscious of with every action.

I’m not perfect but I have finally found my happy place with food and I know it is sustainable. This motivation has filtered into all aspects of my life!

Define Health for Yourself

Last but not least I want to stress that every body is beautiful, no matter what shape or size. The most important thing is that you are happy within yourself and you are aware of how you are treating your body, healthy or not.

In this instance, I was unhappy in my body and I knew that my habits were detrimental to my health. This is what inspired me to make such big changes. I now feel more confident, motivated and energetic than ever. Every body is unique and we must each learn what works for us. It is important to find a natural balance between exercise, diet, sleep, study and work. This is something I know I can maintain for life.

**I have chosen not to feature ‘before and after’ photos of my body in this post as I do not want to categorise or label a certain body type as ‘healthy’ or ‘unhealthy’. The photos chosen represent me at my happiest and what I perceive to be the healthiest version of myself. Again, I want to emphasise that beauty and health are feelings, not just physical appearance and every body is unique and beautiful in its own way.

***Disclaimer: I am by no means a nutritionist or dietitian. My diet is based on months of experimenting with different foods, portion sizes and levels of exercise. The only way to know what works best for you is to try it for yourself and follow regular nutritional guidelines.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an Eating Disorder please reach out to The Butterfly Foundation: https://thebutterflyfoundation.org.au/

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