Breaking a bad habit is never easy. Breaking a bad addiction seems near impossible.
What started off as a bad habit turned into a nasty mind-game of overwhelming thoughts from a voice that I listened to far too much. At seven-years-old, I was tall for my age and maybe 5 or 10 pounds heavier than normal and most importantly, my parents were getting a divorce. Long story short, the way I taught myself to cope with the pain and sadness over my family dissolving was to eat and eat a lot. I taught myself how to make everything feel better with food.
For some context, ever since I was little I’ve always strived to make everyone around me happy. I am the quintessential people-pleaser and it just about ruined my life. See, by needing to make the people I love happy and feel better, I neglected to do the same for myself and I suffered tremendously because I pretended that I had everything together, when really I did not, at all.
So, food. It seemed simple and harmless, at the time, to use eating to comfort myself through this difficult period of time. Hindsight is always 20/20, right? Suddenly, anytime I felt sad, or angry, or bored I turned to food and food made everything better. It made me feel good.
Fast-forward to ten-year-old me where most of the girls my age were anywhere from 85 pounds to 110 pounds, but I was 165 pounds. A good fifty pounds overweight. I remember being at school in the nurse’s office with my mom and stepping on the scale to see that number. I remember, even at ten, the feeling of shame and embarrassment that coursed through my veins. And there, in that moment, was the beginning of my twelve year battle with weight loss.
I am now twenty-two years old and as I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten heavier. That bad habit of using food to cope with sadness, anxiety, and frustration spiraled out into a full blown binge eating disorder. An unyielding, take no prisoners addiction to highly processed and highly unhealthy foods.
For twelve years, I tried every.single.diet out there. Low-carb, no-carb, high fat, Paleo, Atkins, Weight Watchers, shakes, soups, and the list goes on. I would lose some weight and then I’d gain it back plus ten more. In some of my more desperate moments I tried to starve myself; see how long I could go without food on a given day. Other times, purging after a really bad binge did the trick, but that never satisfied me. It was the feeling of being so full I was going to be sick without actually getting sick that made bingeing so appealing.
I always thought that my binges were moments of being completely out of control, until my therapist explained to me that really, during a binge I had the most control. She was right. Anytime I sat down in front of the food that I had prepared for my binge, I was focused and one hundred percent conscious of what I was about to do.
My binges were always in secret, and I would lie and sneak whatever I could and it got easier the older I got. I also struggled with depression throughout my teenage years – my last two years of high school were the worst. I would isolate myself from my friends, I’d say no to social gatherings often and wouldn’t go out because I was so fat. I even missed days of school and didn’t do well in my classes because I was just living in this haze that I couldn’t get out of. And I never told anyone. That’s what kills me, looking back on those years. If I had just had the gumption to tell someone about my emotions and the struggle that I was having, maybe I could have saved myself a lot of pain. Again, hindsight is always 20/20.
Finally, at twenty years old I knew I had to take full responsibility for my actions and I sought out therapy. What a game-changer. All of my problems were mental and emotional. Everything was in my own head and finding a professional to help disentangle those negative mental thoughts and emotions and the ‘whys’ behind them brought clarity to my life.
I spent a year in therapy until my therapist told me that I was ready to do life on my own. Just a few months prior to that I discovered veganism, specifically a whole foods, plant-based diet. Another game changer. My whole idea of nutrition and weight loss was flipped on its axis at this monumental discovery. I made the change overnight and got rid of all the animal products and by-products from my life. I welcomed plants of all kinds into my life with a full embrace.
No longer did I have to restrict my calories or count points. No longer were carbohydrates the enemy. I felt free to eat potatoes without guilt- a true feat.
A year and a half later, my mental and emotional wellbeing are stronger than ever. Has it been hard adapting to this new way of eating when everyone around you still eats the way you did for more than a decade? Hell yes. Is it worth it, though? Hell yes.
I’ve made mistakes and messed up over the last year and my diet hasn’t been perfect – vegan junk food is a serious thing, my friends – but I’m learning and adapting and I have full faith in myself that I will save my own life by eating a plant based diet.
I’m so much happier and lighter than I was a couple years ago even though I’m at about the same weight. It’s all about the mindset. It’s all about getting to that place where maybe you aren’t completely confident yet, but you’re getting there in small steps and THAT’S what matters. I’m finally taking care of myself and my needs before anyone else’s. I’m no longer the people pleaser that I once was and thank goodness for that. I’ve had to learn to be selfish and say no for my own wellbeing and guess what? I’m a better person for it.
Thank you for reading and thank you to Chelsea for letting me share my story.
Carolin Linnea Tyler
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