I strongly dislike that word. I actually cringe a little inside when I hear someone mention they are starting a new diet. But I haven’t always felt this way. I’m going to open up about my own struggles with weight over the next few days. Hopefully, you’ll find some inspiration somewhere in there somewhere.
Growing Up I Didn’t Know Any Better
I’ve had an unhealthy relationship with food from early childhood. I vividly remember making my own breakfast. I’d pour a bowl of frosted flakes. Top it with 2% milk. And then add spoonfuls of PLAIN WHITE SUGAR on top of my FROSTED FLAKES. Y’all. That’s crazy by itself.
And then what would I have to drink with breakfast? A Diet Dr. Pepper. I’ll never forget the time a childhood best friend stayed over, and she looked at me with disbelief as I opened up a can of Diet Dr. Pepper for my morning drink. She incredulously asked, “Jennifer, are you really going to drink that? Right now? This early in the morning?”
At the time, I couldn’t fathom any other possibility for my morning drink. After all, it was DIET soda, which is healthy since it has no calories, right?! SPOILER: Not having calories does not mean something is healthy. It was the first time I ever had a clue that drinking soda all hours of the day was maybe not as normal as it seemed to me.
My First Diet
The summer before 8th grade, I went on my first real diet. I counted calories, still eating junky foods, but I tried to limit my junky food intake to 1000 calories a day. I didn’t count calories in foods that didn’t have nutrition labels because that was before the internet was a thing so I didn’t know how many calories those things had. And besides, most things without nutrition labels were vegetables and fruits. I figured those things were freebies anyway. I lost weight while still being very unhealthy.
I put the weight back on before 10th grade. I wanted to start dieting again. However, it never worked out as well as it did the first time. It was not healthy or fun or something I ever thought I’d share with anyone, much less on a blog for anyone with an internet connection to read. I desperately wanted to be a smaller size, to fit into all the cutest fashions, to not feel self-conscious that my clothes pulled in all the wrong directions…
I fell into a pattern of trying to lose weight by dieting, then not being able to sustain my stringent diet restrictions, and then gaining back any weight lost.
Fast forward to college. Most people gain the freshman 15, right? Not me. I already ate unhealthily, so college didn’t challenge my eating habits. I lived off diet soda and ice cream.
Sometime before my senior spring break, a friend and I decided we really wanted to lose weight and be bikini ready for spring break. We started working out first thing in the morning almost every weekday. We had a ritual at the gym of what equipment we’d use, and we had a fluffy pen and a pink notebook to record our weights and whatever exercises we did. We didn’t really know what we were doing. We kind of made everything up as we went.
I started walking to campus from my apartment. I went back to trying to cut calories in any way possible, without concern for what was actually healthy. I thought a calorie was a calorie. And eating healthily meant to eat fewer calories per day.
This time with my friend’s support, I lost weight, and I loved how I looked. I was the smallest I had ever been. I felt like FINALLY this is what I’m supposed to look like. I was only concerned with my appearance. Never mind the fact that I still had major mood swings and was excessively tired.
I gained about 10 pounds back after graduation. I was still pretty small. I felt okay with the gain even though I still had some confidence issues with getting dressed every day.
Living On My Own
After college, I met someone who is now one of my dearest friends. She was (and still is) a foodie. I am certain she doesn’t even know all the things she taught me about food.
It was at her house where I first saw natural peanut butter that needed to be stirred before eating. Before seeing her jar of natural peanut butter, I thought there were only four choices for peanut butter: Peter Pan, JIF, Skippy, or store-brand.
I gave her some of my coffee one morning at work, and she couldn’t drink it because it was too sweet. I thought sugar and cream were what EVERYONE put in their coffee. It had never occurred to me that people can and do drink coffee without those two things!
Having Children Pushed Me To Learn More
My friend was definitely the person who piqued my interest in a better way of eating. However, it wasn’t until I had my first child when I really started learning about what I was putting into my body. I met a few other new moms who were extremely knowledgeable about nutrition and cooking. I learned a lot by hanging out with them every week.
I became a member at a local farm. This gave me the opportunity to try all sorts of new vegetables. I learned how to cook those vegetables and how to cook in general.
Before this time in my life, I thought cooking meant mixing together premade items (hello, cream of something can of soup) and calling it a meal. I didn’t know about cooking from scratch and how good real food can be. It was eye-opening and life-changing.
That was about 6 years ago, and I’ve been learning and learning ever since. My weight has fluctuated over these past six years with having two additional children. I had to work hard and focus to get back down to my pre-pregnancy size. However, I have to say that I’m healthier now than I’ve ever been, and I didn’t have to starve myself to get this way.
I feel more energetic than I’ve ever felt, even though I have three little people always depending on me. What I want most in life is for everyone to feel the way I feel now. I feel like I’ve captured that little sparkle in my soul that’s been there all along, and now it’s shining brighter than ever.
Tomorrow I’m going to tell you a little more about my story, specifically focusing on how last year I healthily lost 20 pounds in three months without starving myself. This girl who started out with a disadvantage when it came to nutrition finally figured out what needed to happen in order to be at peace with herself and her health.