I especially wanted to write this post during the holiday season, because I know how many of us struggle with our bodies and food during the season of indulgence. My mission on this blog and in my personal life is simple: eat real + nourishing food, move your body, try and avoid the processed stuff, but also don’t forget to live your life and enjoy it.
Having a history of an eating disorder and body dysmorphia has engulfed a passion within me to share my story even if I am recovered and time has past. Admittedly, it’s always interesting to write these Wellness Wednesday posts, as they take me back to a more difficult time in my life, one that I can barely remember anymore.
Often, my memory from 5-8 years ago often feels hazy and discombobulated. I attribute it to my brain and body starving from an eating disorder that I suffered from the age of 21-24 and while it’s certainly not something I’m proud of, it is more common that you think. If you want to read more about my eating disorder and it’s cause, you can check out some of my other posts:
1. My Wellness Story Part 1: A Story of Survival & Transformation
2. My Wellness Story Part 2: Finding Balance
3. Wellness Wednesday: Unspoken Rules I’ve Learned to Break
I used to tell myself that it was so important to live a life that only includes the so called ‘healthy’ foods and that I MUST exercise every single day to meet the ‘healthy’ criteria. I was uneducated on how to nourish my body and didn’t understand that enjoying ALL the foods out there was even a possibility.
The holidays would come around and I’d slam diet cokes to suppress my appetite and save calories for a slice of pie. I’d eat the same 5 boring things every single day, half of them full of low carb ingredients I couldn’t even pronounce. I weighed myself multiple times a day. I counted calories. I exercised as much as possible. I was thin, starving, depressed and self-conscious.
The truth is, I wasn’t healthy at all. I know now that health isn’t only about how much you are moving your body or the foods you are eating. It also includes your mental health. You could have a fridge packed full of vegetables, all the smoothie boosters, eat plant based, exercise 5x a week, but if your brain isn’t healthy, then you’ve got some work to do. I call it the fine art of balance, which seems to come from both practice and patience.
These days are brighter and easier because my mindset surrounding food has changed. I truly enjoy my time with family and friends during the holidays. I make my famous cinnamon rolls every Christmas morning and enjoy a big fluffy one. I drink about 1-2 Spindrifts a day because I love the bubbly (it’s delicious sparkling water + real squeezed fruit). I don’t count calories or worry about my weight. I have salads and sandwiches (bc a good sourdough is LIFE) but also eat dessert almost every night (hi tahini brownies). I’m not worried about what I can eat on a restaurant menu. I still workout but do more of what I love and challenge myself in the gym with fitness goals instead of weight loss goals. I’m 20 pounds stronger. I have muscle mass. I’m confident. I’m happy!
I know many of you ask how I got to this place of balance and comfort with food and my body. I get emails about it often. The truth is, it wasn’t easy, nor was there a magic pill. I didn’t wake up one day and decide to make one big change that some people say happens. It was the small little things that really started to make a big difference.
It was deciding to stop weighing myself and throwing away my scale, which offered me self-compassion and a sense of freedom. It was quitting diet coke and replacing it with sparkling water, which not only hydrated me but stopped me from trying to control my appetite. It was making sure I was eating (and eating enough) when I felt hungry, because if I didn’t, I knew I would binge later. It was nourishing myself after a workout instead of waiting hours to eat, which helped me balance my mood and helped my brain function and my body recover. It was being okay with not working out as much — this gave me more of a balance in life and taught me self care. It’s saying yes to donuts on the weekends, which was such a fun little moment I shared with my husband. It was enjoying the holidays, which sometimes included less exercise, more wine + cookies and of course, good-for-the-soul deep belly laughs!
There were all of the small little changes, that helped me figure out how much I had been missing. These positive choices gave me a sense of relief from the control, more freedom to be myself and of course, taught me both self-compassion and the ability to be gentle and forgiving. It led me towards my mission of enjoying all kinds of foods, but having a focus on ones that will provide my body with nourishment.
Bottom line: It’s important to try and not create restrictive rules around food and your body. It’s those restrictive rules that make it impossible to appreciate and relish in the life you have. There are so many wonderful things in life that we miss out on when we’re worried about having control about what goes in our bodies or the number on the scale.
This holiday season I encourage you to ignore the mentality still out there that we need to ‘get back on track’ with food and exercise with zero calorie, zero carb and zero sugar this and that. Instead of putting labels on things (good vs bad foods) or taking away the things we love (and that often help to balance us), I encourage you to ADD things that help us feel good during and after the season: making sure you are cooking nourishing meals, eating lots of veggies, healthy fats, fruit, dark chocolate and water. Personally my favorite is Spindrift because it’s naturally flavored with real fruit and helps me drink more and stay hydrated. Also don’t forget to listen to your body cues and eat when you are hungry instead of depriving yourself to ‘save calories’.
My motto: if a cookie or a donut helps you feel balanced like it does for me, then absolutely enjoy it!
If you find yourself feeling obsessive, anxious or having guilty thoughts surrounding food during the holidays, step back and take a few deep breaths and write down your feelings. Practice the greatest form of self-care: self-compassion or the ability to love, forgive and understand yourself even with any so-called flaws. Offer yourself up kindness and love and remember that you’re human.
Here’s to treating your body more like a friend, and less like the enemy today and every day no matter what the season. You’ve got this!
P.S. if you’re looking for easy ways to practice self-care, check out my 7 Day Self Care Challenge!
I love this so much, Monique! And I resonate with pieces of your story too. Thank you. <3
I love this so much, Monique! And I resonate with pieces of your story too. Thank you. <3
Thanks, Edie! A little inspiration for the holiday season <3
Monique, thank you so much for continuing to share such a personal and vulnerable side of your story with us. I originally came to this blog because it was one of the few I could find that had calorie counts for the meals, and I *had* to know the calories of everything I was eating. As I’ve gotten further along my recovery journey, I am slowly starting to branch out and cook recipes from other sites & cookbooks that don’t have calorie or nutrition information – I’m learning to look at recipes more holistically, and cook what sounds both tasty and nutritious to me. I owe a big part of my changing mindset to you and this blog! Ambitious Kitchen recipes have helped me calibrate my internal food intuition, something I drowned out for many years. I am so happy and inspired to see you living your best life, and I know I will continue to fangirl over your amazing recipes for as long as you keep creating them. THANK YOU <3
Thanks so much for your note, Melanie! I’m so happy to hear that you’re finding inspiration here, and able to look at recipes as tasty + nutritious (rather than just their numbers). Plenty of more delicious recipes to come – thinking of you on your wellness journey! xoxo
Love this, Monique. My own journey and relationship with food is so similar. Thank you for sharing!
Hi Monique, I’ve noticed a lot of your recipes are paleo/GF/DF. I know a lot of people have food allergies but I was just wondering how you approached a diet or way of eating (like paleo) wth a history of an ED. For me, these feel too restrictive and reminiscent of my disordered eating days. Curious about how it works for you.
Great post; thanks for sharing! 🙂
Was this post sponsored by Spindrift?
Thanks for this post! I completely relate to your journey and it is so great to be on this side of it now. I am truly living my best life now and I would never trade it for my former idea of perfection, which was so miserably unhealthy!
So happy to hear that, Jenny! Agreed – it’s a freeing feeling to be on the other side of these ideas. Thanks for your note!