I feel like I’ve come a really long way in the past five years when it comes to my relationship with my body and myself. I’ve learnt over the years that in order to really move forward, you need to leave all destructive practices behind. If you can’t rid yourself of habits and adopted idiosyncrasies that you’ve held onto out of self-hatred, then part of you is always going to be bogged down.
One practice that I left behind played a big role in repairing my relationship with food. After extremely restrictive dieting I decided it was a good idea to go vegetarian. It wasn’t for ethical reasons like many of the vegetarians you might know, it was simply because I attached vegetarian food with being “healthier” and overall, lower calorie. If I had an excuse for why I couldn’t eat meat, then I could avoid the inevitable awkwardness of my strange food tendencies around others. So for almost two years I ate no meat whatsoever.
Meanwhile, I was doing up to 15 hours of cardio based exercise a week and punishing myself with late night runs after days when I thought I had overeaten.
I was exhausted.
In fact, it was only once I started experiencing a recurring dream about devouring a delicious juicy, iron-rich steak that I came to the conclusion that enough was enough. I wasn’t eating a well-rounded diet rich in whole protein sources; I was living off salads, rice and dairy products. I had trouble concentrating, I was experiencing terrible mood swings and my performance in the gym was deteriorating at a rate of knots.
So one day I expressed my concerns to my dad. You’ve never seen somebody’s eyes light up as his did. He’d been clutching at straws for vegetarian meal ideas for the better part of a year and my admission that I needed red meat in my life was like music to his ears, I’ve no doubt.
Dad cooked me a rump steak to medium rare perfection some days later and while I admit that I felt some anxiety in the lead up, I’ve never looked back.
The results of adding an iron-rich protein source like beef to my diet was incredible -the change in my gym performance was noticeable almost immediately. Going from dizziness and post-workout headaches to beast mode, my endurance, my energy levels and my strength increased noticeably. The changes weren’t just physical though. I had basically obliterated a fear. I felt more confident, I felt happier and I no longer felt this anxious cloud that had consumed me for a long time.
These days, I fuel myself for performance, for health but most of all for happiness. I love big bowls of food created for the purpose of enjoyment and fuelling an active lifestyle (zucchini noodle Bolognese and pulled beef bowls with rice and veg are two of my faves). Fearing certain foods is entirely unnecessary. Eat a diet that nourishes you; eat foods you enjoy, because honestly, deprivation is only conducive to unhappiness. You aren’t doing yourself any favours.
And as for those destructive practices, let them go. Ask yourself if the choices you’re making for your health and fitness make you happy. If the answer is no, it’s time to change your methods.