My colleagues often comment on how “disciplined” I am with my eating. I don’t consider it as such because I simply try to eat the way that I know makes my body and mind function the best.
I usually explain what sugar does to my blood sugar levels and how it affects my running (I’m prone to hypoglycemia) and most people understand then and don’t continue to push the cakes and chocolate at me at functions.
I have struggled with my blood sugar levels since I was a child. I have very vivid memories of the hypoglycemia episodes. It’s amazing though that it took me over 30 years to figure out how to get it under control, that it was only when I started to focus on exercise that I learned how my body works and what food does and doesn’t work for it.
I sort of suspected all along that sugar was the culprit but had no real reason to stop eating it. Until running came into my life, that is.
In my late teens / early 20s I ate terribly. I gained 15kg when I moved to the States at the age of 17. Then I lost some by eating very little and sweating on the treadmill every other day. Then I gained it all back. Then I lost some again and then I gained it all back again. My eating was out of control, I’d binge eat cookies/muffins/cakes/any baked goods I saw and then felt physically and mentally destroyed. And I hated myself for being so weak.
During my second year of university my doctor sent me to a support group for girls with eating disorders. Now that was an eye-opening experience. Eating disorders are serious stuff.
Thankfully for me my disordered eating was actually a symptom of my then not yet diagnosed depression and not a condition in itself. Once I started taking Prozac my eating became a little bit more normal, although I never felt I was in control. The bingeing was no longer extreme and I never again tried to throw up after eating but I definitely didn’t feel in control.
I didn’t feel in control because I had no knowledge. I had no idea about nutrition OR mental health OR how these two can be related OR how my brain cannot moderate sugar.
I lived in America during the time when everything was low-fat – even the bread that my host family bought was ‘light’. Do you know how soul-destroying light bread is?? Yikes. It pains me even now to think about it.
I really wish my current self could have sat down with my then-self and shared some food and fitness related wisdom. Here’s what I wish I knew when I was 22:
- Low fat yoghurt is terrible for you. Eat unsweetened full-fat yoghurt with some fruit instead.
- Margarine is terrible for you. Eat butter.
- “I cannot believe it’s not butter” is even worse than margarine. Eat butter.
- Avocados are not terrible for you. Eat avocados.
- Coconut oil / milk is not terrible for you. Have the coconuts.
- Eating 10 jumbo chocolate chip cookies and then bashing your soul to bits on the stair master for an hour does not make it “even”.
- Running for more than 30 minutes is not bad for your knees.
- Lucky Charms is not the smartest breakfast choice.
- Eggs are not terrible for you. Eat the eggs for breakfast instead.
- Peanut butter and jam sandwich and a banana is not a healthy daily lunch.
- Don’t mix tequila and Diet Coke.
- Don’t in fact drink Diet Coke. That stuff is terrible for you. Tequila is ok. But not daily obviously and not when you’ve just been dumped.
- Try to eat real food. Processed food with all kinds of health slogans on it are a scam. Stay away.
- And most importantly, keep trying, keep moving – one day you WILL have control of your eating and not the other way around.
What do you wish you knew when you were younger? About health, fitness or life in general…