Hi everyone! Connie here, intern number 2, and it’s so nice to blog meet all of you! I can’t tell you how excited I am for the opportunity to share a little bit of my intuitive eating journey with you and to learn from Robyn. I’m currently a second year graduate student in the California State University Los Angeles Masters program for Nutritional Science and Coordinated Dietetic Program and will soon have those MS, RD letters after my name (YAY.). I would now consider myself a pretty confident intuitive eater personally, but I’ve also started to become more and more comfortable each day talking about it with other members of my cohort and in places like constancelyeating or with friends and family. It took me a while to get here though. Here’s my story!
It all started around high school, a place I actually really enjoyed! I went to an all girls private school in La Canada, California and was really active in soccer and track, the dance company, a leader of our retreat team, and several outside activities including the YMCA where I’m still active in youth development today. I was also diagnosed with anorexia my freshman year. My ED was nipped in the butt pretty fast through counseling and working with a dietitian – which I know realize is pretty uncommon. Although I was “physically healthy,” my mental health would continue to be a off balance for years to come.
Three years later, towards the end of high school, I thought I weighed too much so my mom allowed me to see a nutritionist. She practiced a lot of both mental and physical restrictive weight reduction methods. Now looking back at that time, it makes me sad that a number on the scale had so much meaning for me. Smaller equaled more valuable – something that I now realize is 100% false. From freshman year Connie to senior year Connie, there was over a 45-pound weight difference with a lot of fluctuations. And a 2-year time frame where I either didn’t get my period or it was irregular. My body went through a lot.
Amidst the joy of graduation and even a debutante ball, I left sunny LA to head to Chicago for college and surprise, surprise I was super involved. I joined a sorority, lead on the executive board of that sorority, taught Zumba and other fitness classes at our college gym, babysit a bunch, spent a lot of time with my Chicago family, and was as close to a 4.0 Health Science student as I could be. I was highly perfectionistic, which would later contribute to my continued unhealthy relationship with food.
(Two of my best friends in high school- still 2 of my main humans today!)
Early in college, my grandfather passed away around the same time I was taking the first or four challenging chemistry classes at DePaul. I had never lost anyone before and I had no idea how to grieve. With the loss of someone I loved so much and the stress of taking a class where failing was more common than succeeding I found myself in therapy for both of those things.
With time, my anxiety worsened, and I found myself controlling food to just have an ounce of calm in my life. I didn’t think anything was wrong with that and I didn’t even know I was doing it but looking back, I held back from a lot. I missed ice cream dates or late night snacks after going out just for the sake of perceived control.
To put it shortly, I ate mainly plant based because I believed that was keeping me squeaky “clean” and I overexercised.
(Sweaty post teaching Zumba. I love being a student in classes now.)
I knew things where bad when junior year winter break I started feeling lightheaded and dizzy and a close mentor at the YMCA asked me if I was sick because I didn’t look like myself. I later found out that my iron was low (wasn’t keeping tabs on that with my plant based diet) and that I did look blah since all my clothes were baggy and my face wasn’t full anymore. I felt blah too. Emotionally, I was having a really hard time with school and I cried a lot – like every day. Some days I would be in these slumps that I couldn’t get out of (partly Chicago winters/seasonal depression, partly I needed help). I tried to hide all of this from friends/sorority sisters and did a pretty good job (I think?).
*side note- I am not saying plant based diets are “bad”, however, I was using plant based as a cover for disordered eating and realized that was not heathy at all.
(Once I embraced intuitive eating, quesadillas became a regular thing.)
That same year I came back home for spring break and brought my college friends/sisters with me. My dad told me he made a psychiatrist appointment for me and that I would be attending…end of story. I appreciated that and really do attribute my change in mindset to yes, the medication I was on for anxiety that allowed me to heal, but also my dad for making the first move for me.
Upon coming back to Chicago for spring quarter after break, I had a new outlook. After a few weeks, the meds had really started helping me. The medications allowed me a little more space between stimulus and my reaction to that stimulus. Prior to that, my anxiety was just one step ahead of me and I felt so out of control in my own head with all decisions including food. I knew the meds wouldn’t be long term because I had full intentions of getting back to normal happy Connie, I just needed a little help. I thought of it as a cast to help me initially. Thankfully, I’m now off the meds 🙂
My first intuitive eating decision came soon after my return to Chicago that spring while eating dinner with my family at our favorite Italian place. Instead of believing with the voice inside my head that said “you should have the salad”, I asked myself what I actually wanted. That was meatballs, I really wanted the darn meatballs, and pasta please. You guys, I have never felt so liberated in my life. I made the choice to disobey the voice. While eating, I totally surpassed a comfortable full but I figured out how that worked a little later down the line.
After that, I started challenging myself to make small little decisions like that more often and I also started to practice more enjoyable movement. I stopped running to the lake and instead, I walked. I stopped adding on extra workouts in addition to teaching fitness classes and started doing yoga instead. I went out with my friends more and ate more food that was satisfying to me. I hadn’t had a donut in YEARS and one day I saw Stans in Chicago and was like, “yes, this is sooo happening”. I started to realize there were some negative people in my life and began the conscious effort of letting them go. I felt my clothes getting tighter and I bought new ones. I allowed my body to change instead of resisting my body changing. It was hard, really hard. By no means was this a smooth transition.
As things were just getting good, I graduated. Senior year was hands down my favorite year in Chicago and I wish I could have lived all 4 years like that but hey, you live and you learn. It seemed like that last year went so fast because I had so much more time to think about things and do more things besides overanalyze my body.
Two months before graduation I found out that I was one of a small group of people that was accepted into my current program at CSULA. Nothing had ever felt more right.
Within 7 days of graduation, I started a full time summer quarter at CSULA and it has been the most enjoyable learning experience ever since. The coolest intuitive eating principal I mastered in those early months back home in LA was finding my ideal hunger and ideal full. Learning that there will be leftovers and that I could stop at full and still have room for dessert to move me from full to satisfied was the best thing ever.
Each month I felt like I tackled one more thing. It took month and months and months but I grew more confident in my intuitive eating abilities. After about a year and a half of grad school I knew helping people become intuitive eaters and reject the diet mentality was 100% something I wanted to pursue in my future career as an RD.
Where I’m at in my story now is a really good place. It’s funny how a change in my eating led to a chain reaction in my whole life. I live more intuitively now and that mindset has brought so much good, in more ways than how I look at food! I look forward to sharing more with you guys in 2018.
And I wish you and your friends and family the happiest of holidays 🙂