- How I finally made peace with my past
My first thought about dieting was at age 13, my first diet attempt was at age 15. Nowadays, this would be considered pretty late. I hear about girls at the age of 7 wanting to go on a diet. We live in a crazy world!
In the past 13 years, I have suffered through various eating disorders and "eating-styles/life-styles" that were eating disorders in disguise. Now that I am slowly recovering and finding peace through intuitive eating, I can look back and reflect. None of these diets worked for me. I am going to go out on a limb here and say that most of them are some form of disordered eating. If you do not agree that is cool with me. But we live in a world that is obsessed with "health". All the while we forget to truly live life.
In the past 12 or so years I followed a low carb diet, the ketogenic diet, various detox diets, the Paleo Diet, clean eating and many many more.
Here are 5 diets (or eating styles) that I followed for a longer period of time and why they turned me into a crazy person.
1. Juice Cleanses and Detoxes
I attempted my first juice cleanse at a very young age. I believe I was 16, so my body was still developing. Ten days of drinking only cold pressed juice, broth and water. The cleanse brought "great" results in terms of weight loss. I had never been skinnier in my entire life and the compliments were flooding in. Everybody wanted to know my secret.
However, my body was starving and emaciated. The hunger signals my brain was sending all day long were unbearable. The juice cleanse led to my very first binge about ten years ago. After every binge I made even stricter rules about my diet to "make up for it". It consisted of only eating vegetables. Sometimes it meant going on a new juice cleanse. Sometimes it meant going on an even stricter low carb diet. It always meant exercising for hours on end. The more I restricted, the worse the binges got. Hence, I developed a pretty severe case of bulimia for about 5 years.
My body got so thin that family members started to worry. However, I managed to disguise all of my struggles under the umbrella of "just wanting to be healthy".
2. The Paleo Diet
When the Paleo diet got famous again a few years back, I latched onto it for dear life. I was desperately looking for a way to battle the idea that I was "addicted to sugar". (Side note: I do not agree with the craziness around demonising sugar. It clearly does not help in making people healthier. What it does do is cause a wave of panic for everybody. The only reason I thought I was addicted to sugar was because I could not stop my binges. But these binges stemmed from restricting foods and calories, not from sugar.)
The Paleo diet made a lot of sense to me. Hey, our ancestors lived to be 30 years old, so there must be some truth to it! 😉 Sarcasm aside, the original idea behind the Paleo diet makes a lot of sense to me. Eating less processed foods and more plants and grass fed meat is great. I still incorporate it into my daily life. With a lot of exceptions, because I am striving for balance. Unfortunately, the way the media and all the health and wellness bloggers hyped the Paleo diet up, the rules around it got pretty out of control.
All of a sudden, it was a very low carb diet. Some influencers insisted that no carbs at all were allowed. Not even plant based starchy carbs. Any type of natural sweetener or sugar was demonised. Suddenly, all of the food conglomerates started to come out with Paleo-friendly, gluten free alternatives to their treats.
Sadly, I could not control my binge eating behaviour with the Paleo diet. The reason was not the foods itself, it was my behaviour around food. Whenever I wouldn't binge, I would severely restrict and exercise excessively. My body was begging for fuel. I found myself baking entire batches of "Paleo-Brownies" and eating the entire tray in one sitting. Actually, I was standing up, in my kitchen, shoving them in my face.
3. Low Carb Diet and Ketogenic Diet
I lumped these two diets together, even though they have different principles. When following a low carb diet, there are no rules around the amount of fat and protein one can have. With the Ketogenic diet, the amount of fat you eat is very important to its results. If you want to know more about the principles of the Ketogenic diet, feel free to check out this article.
When I first heard about the Keto diet in 2015, I thought I did the low carb diet the wrong way all along. The only thing I needed to change, in order to finally "succeed" was to change it to a Ketogenic diet. Boy, was I wrong.
My stomach was not handling the amount of fats very well. The MCT oil, coconut oil and butter gave me disaster pants. I constantly felt sick. Any Keto-follower I would talk to, would insist that I am just suffering from an ongoing "Keto-flu". I stuck it out for a few months until I finally threw in the towel.
My obsession around food got worse than ever before. I felt way too restricted. For people with a background in eating disorders, I would NOT suggest ever going on this diet.
In my opinion, the craze around the Keto diet will not last forever. The original Ketogenic diet has been used for over 100 years to effectively treat people with epilepsy. It is also very effective in treating diabetes and pre-diabetic people. However, I see no reason to follow it when you are healthy.
I would like to refer to Stephanie Ruper, that spoke about the term "Keto Freedom" in one of her blog posts. My most valuable take away, and I quote, is: "There is almost nothing less free than having to pee on a stick to determine if your diet is “pure” enough."
4. Clean Eating/Bodybuilding and competition diet
I followed the principles of clean eating for a very long time. It started out very innocently. My goal was to "clean up my diet" and eat less processed foods. Over time, as I lost more and more weight and looked leaner and leaner, my rules got stricter and stricter. Towards the end of it, my eating disorder was at its height. I would only allow myself to eat 6 foods. Broccoli, chicken breast, brown rice, oatmeal, protein powder and egg whites. If you want to read more about my full story, click here.
I had never looked more shredded in my life, yet I had never been more miserable. I was constantly anxious, hungry and grumpy. All I thought about was my next meal. All I thought about was my next workout and how I could finally "reach my goal". This goal changed every time I would hit a new goal weight.
Obsessed would be an understatement. Clean eating turned me into a crazy lady, that lost her period, sex drive, hair and joy of life. I was a complete mess, yet everyone around me looked up to me for inspiration. Everybody would ask me how they, too, could get a body like me. It was so messed up. I have way too much self compassion to ever put myself through this again. I am taking my healthier, fuller looking body any day over this mess.
5. Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting was one of my last attempts in feeling in control around food. It was my last attempt, before I finally let go of dieting. After I did a lot of research on the benefits of intermittent fasting, I convinced myself that I found the solution to everything. Do you see the pattern here? Every diet and eating style I ever went on was a desperate attempt to finally find peace with food. Yet, I was doing the complete opposite every single time.
I tried eating in a 4-hour window, in an 8-hour window and just having one big meal per day. All three attempts led to falling back into binge eating and restriction. I even tried to follow a very low carb diet during each window, to "cut cravings". All day long, I would look forward to my eating-window. I'd plan out all the meals I would have and put my entire energy into meal planning and food.
With every beginning of my eating window, I would overeat until I physically couldn't stand up anymore. The shame, the guilt and the self-hate was exactly the same as in all previous years or anorexia and bulimia. I hated myself and I hated even more that I had still not found the magic kool-aid.
Here is another great article on how intermittent fasting might not be reasonable for women.
Stop dieting and start living
Setting all these strict rules around my food intake with every new diet only made me feel even crazier. Which diet was the best? Should I go back to the low carb diet? How can I get my highschool-body back? Which food groups should I cut out next? I lost more and more trust in myself around food. I dieted, restricted and sabotaged myself for half of my life and only recently found peace through intuitive eating.
Allowing myself to eat ALL foods and as much of any food as I truly want. Ditching the guilt and self-hate is very important. I am still working on eating more mindfully. Nonetheless, I have managed to really allow my body to send out cravings and honouring them most of the time.
I have never felt more peaceful around food and it allows me to truly live my life. It has freed up so much energy in my brain to put towards helping others, going on new adventures without food anxiety and making new friendships. It has improved all of my relationships, and most importantly, the relationship to myself.
More About Rini
Rini Frey is a personal trainer, group fitness instructor and online coach. She is also a wife and a momma to the best rescue fur baby in the world – her Boston terrier Bruce. Rini loves Lindt 90 percent dark chocolate and yes, you can call her crazy.
You'd probably see her wearing yoga pants and workout clothes day in and day out. Some of her talents include napping, spilling on her shirt and making big yummy smoothie bowls with all of the toppings.
Connecting and talking to people is Rini's passion. Being on a recovery journey from years of disordered eating made her very passionate about sharing her struggles and helping other women move away from the hell of dieting and obsessing over their bodies.